Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pho - yes it can be quick and easy too - 30 minute

I admire people, like my mom and sister, who can cook everything and anything from scratch, that's the best and most original way to cooking. But cooking for two, I'll just stick to my quick and easy cooking philosophy, which involves alot of Lee Kum Kee sauces, and other alikes. What can I say, I am a fan of the ready made sauces !! Sometimes I feel so fortunate to be living in So Cal where there's an abundant supply of these, so many, and so many varieties to choose from.

So I was planning to make Pho and went grocery shopping for the ingredients. I picked up 1 lb. thinly sliced beef eye round (yup, they slice it for you at the Asian grocery store), a package of beef ball, 2 packages of fresh pho noodles, some bean sprout, green onion, basil, and sawleaf herb (ngo gai). AND the most important ingredient is the canned Pho broth :-) This saves me hours cooking the broth from bones and meats and daikon, onion, etc...

Make 6 servings (yup, that's 6 steamy slurpy bowls of pho, all made in 30 minutes! Impressed? :-)

+ 2 cans (size 28 oz.) of Pho Tau Bay beef broth
+ 1 lb. beef eye round - thinly sliced
+ 1 package of beef balls, washed and cut into halves
+ 3-4 stalks of green onions - cut 3-4 inch from the root and use the bulbs to cook. The green part is chopped.
+ 2 packages of fresh noodles (banh pho) - NOTE: this is the fresh, not the dried noodles
(each noodle package makes 3 servings)
+ 2-3 tsp salt
+ Dash of sugar
+ (Optional) 1-2 small pieces of ginger, slightly grilled for more flavor
+ Prepare other pho's essentials: bean sprouts, basils, sawleaf herbs, plum sauce, chili sauce, a few wedges of lime/lemon
Cooking instructions:
+ In a large pot, pour in 2 cans of Pho broth. Add an equivalent of 3 cans of water. Let it bring to a boil.
+ After slightly grill/burn the gingers, add them to the broth pot.
+ Add beef balls
+ Add green onion bulbs
+ Add salt and sugar, to taste

+ In another pot, boil some water to blench the noodles. Don't need to cook long, just blench for about 30sec to 1 minute should be enough. Drain and put into bowls for serving.
Serving instructions:
+ You can either place the rare beef on top of the noodles and pour hot soup over, or you can blench the beef in the Pho broth, then place onto the noodle bowl.
+ Add beansprout, herbs, some chopped green onions, squeeze 1 wedge of lemon/lime
+ In a seperate dipping dish, give yourself as little or as plenty of plum sauce and chili as you please. Use this as dipping sauce for the beef balls and beefs.

I usually mix up the plum sauce and chili sauce well together, then scoop some into my pho bowl and mix well to add to flavor to the broth base. The rest, I use as dipping sauce.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Spinach ravioli in red sauce with shrimp and basil - 30 minutes

I bought the spinach and cheese ravioli dual pack from Costco (I also like their chicken ravioli). These are great because you can store them in the freezer, and it does not require defrosting before cooking. Perfect for unplanned dinner making last night.

+ 1 pack of ravioli, either frozen or defrosted (I bought from Costco)
+ 1/2 jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Francesco Rinaldi brand bought from Target - see picture)
+ (Optional) 1-2 fresh tomato, cut into chunks
+ 10-20 shrimps - peeled and deveined (I bought the already peeled and deveined frozen shrimp package from Asian grocery store)
+ 20-30 basil leaves
+ 1-2 tsp oil
+ 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
+ Dashes of salt and sugar to taste

Cooking instructions:
+ Boil the ravioli per instructions on the package (cooking time for frozen versus defrosted). + Drain ravioli and set aside
+ Heat up 1-2 tsp oil in a sauce pan over low to medium heat, then add the chopped garlic for a quick 30 sec
+ Stir in the tomato chunks and shrimps quickly for 2 minutes, then take the shrimps out into a seperate bowl
+ Leave the tomato chunks in the sauce pan, add spaghettie sauce.
+ Reduce heat to low and stir often for about 20 minutes to let the sauce heat evenly and to avoid splatting, cover if you want.
+ Add back the shrimps and add basil into the sauce for a few minutes before serving.
+ Add salt and sugar to taste, if needed.

Serve 3 servings (for us! you may be hungrier)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Steamed Napa cabbage stuffed with ground pork

Stuffed cabbage is a simple southern Vietnamese dish that my Mom used to make. My family likes it in a soup, so my Mom usually made the cabbage rolls, and then dropped them into a chicken or pork bone broth that she prepared seperately and garnished with chopped green onions, and served as hot soup. Another comfort food for me as a kid.

It has been such a long time I haven't had it, and have actually forgotten about this popular Vietnamese dish. Until recently I came across ShavedIceSunday's entry on stuffed steamed cabbage, it was like a suddenly awaken childhood I figured I would make this dish myself.

I followed her recipe pretty closely so I won't repost a recipe here. I didn't have time to try making the sauce, however, so I just used soysauce to dip. The trick is to blanch the cabbage leaves and onions, it makes it much easier to roll and wrap.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ginseng chicken soup


+ 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
+ Soak 3 ginseng roots in hot water, while waiting for water to boil
+ Optional: about 1 tsp worth of ke-ji (a chinese herb, dried small red fruit, seedless)

+ Boil 1 pot of water (about 5 small bowls of water)
+ Pour boiled water into slow cooker
+ Add whole chicken breast
+ Add sinseng roots (and ke-ji if you have) into the slow cooker
+ May leave in slow cooker over night, or for at least 2-4 hours.
+ Add 1 tsp salt, or to taste

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bitter melon soup

I remembered hating bitter melon as a kid, I couldn't stand the taste. And I forgot what triggered me to try (probably it was because my Mom just insisted and made me try ? hahaha I dunno) but I became more accepting of it, and now as adult I just love it. Bitter melon is a very healthy vegetable, good for lowering cholesterol, it's considered "cool" (leung) for your internal body. It is one of those that you don't like don't like it....and then once you get used to its taste you love it.

Cooking dinner for two, I usually make some main dish (meat or fish) or some stir fries to be eaten with rice, and then either steamed/stired vegetable or soup. This usually feed us dinner, and then lunch/dinner the next day. Not too bad, so I cook one day, then we eat left-overs for the next day. This works out ok. I usually try to cook at least 1 or 2 times a week. In between, we may eat out with coworkers at work, and usually we eat out on weekends, and grocery shop for the following week.

+ Boil a pot of water (if you have chicken broth, you can use them)
+ Wash 3 medium sized bitter melons. Half them, scoop out the seeds.
+ Cut bitter melon into thin slices as shown in picture (or you can cut them into squares)
+ 1 stalk of green onion, cut into pieces of length 1/2 to 1 inch
+ 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin slices

+ Once water is boiled, add the bitter melons into the pot.
+ Add chicken (not particular any time, you can add right after or wait 1-2 minutes)
+ Let it cook for another 5-10 minutes, then add the green onions.
+ Add 1.5 tsp salt, or to taste. (I also add 1/2 tsp of the vegetable seasoning powder for better taste)
+ If you like pepper like me, add some ground black pepper into the pot right before turning off heat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another rice porridge recipe - with chicken

I made rice porridge (jook) quite often lately, I guess due to the colder weather, plus my tired appetite after looong *rough* days at work (that's another whole topic in itself which I may need a vent blog to write about, but I'll keep this blog strictly to food :)

I was blogging about plain jook with salted eggs before. Here's another jook recipe, I like this jook more because it is more tasty but it takes a teeny tiny more work since you'll need to prep the meat.

Here's the steps:

+ 1 cup of rice, washed and drained (I add about 1/3 tsp of olive oil and mix well into the damp rice)
+ Boil a pot of water ( ~ 1.5-2 quarts)
+ Add 1 can of chicken broth and let boil with the water.
+ Add rice, reduce heat to medium-to-low and stir every once in a while to avoid boil over.
+ Scoop off the foam occasionally
+ Add additional water as needed (depends on how thick you want your jook, I usually like my less thick and more silky, so I just add more water and cook longer)
+ Add 2/3 tsp salt, or to taste.
+ Let simmer for 45 min to 1 hr

While letting jook simmer on the stove, prep the chicken and ginger as following:

+ 1 chicken breast, boneless skinless, cut into thin slices, put in a large bowl
+ Add the following ingredients, and mix them all well with the chicken pieces
1 tsp of cornstarch (can be skipped if you don't have it)
1/2 tsp of salt
Ground black pepper to your liking (lots of pepper in mine - I love that challenging hot AND spicy feeling)
A small dab of sugar (optional)
+ Cut ginger into thin threads as following:

Add the chicken and ginger into your pot of jook about 1/2 hr before turning off heat and serve hot.

You may cook the chicken in your jook longer, it may make the chicken overcook and drier (that's why I add cornstarch to help moist the meat).

Serve very hot, add ground pepper and chopped green onion as desired.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Braised Pork with Eggs (Thit Heo Kho Voi Trung)


I was making Braised Pork w/ Eggs (Thit Heo Kho Voi Trung) for dinner last week, thanks to Wandering Chopsticks' recipe. I didn't have CocoRico, nor any Seven-Up, so I used some beer instead! LOL!

My Mom and sister usually use the pork belly to make this, but I don't want too much fat so I used pork butt instead, and follow the above recipe, with little bit of modifications on ingredient measurements to fit our own taste.
+ 2 lbs pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
+ 8 hard boiled eggs, peeled
+ 1 cup of beer (I wanted to follow WanderingChopsticks' CocoRico recommendation, or Seven-Up, but didn't have either one around my kitchen, the only thing available in stock is beer!)
+ 4 cloves of garlic, minced
+ 3 tbsp soy sauce (instead of fish sauce)
+ 1-2 tsp salt or to taste
+ 1/3 bar of palm sugar, crushed a little for easy dissolve (or 1-2 tsp sugar to taste)
+ 1 tsp caramel (WanderingChopsticks makes her own caramel)
+ 2 cups water (or more)

Heat 1 tbsp oil on medium heat, add minced garlic. Then add the pork cubes, stir around a little so the meat can brown a little bit. Add caramel, and stir around alittle bit more.

Add beer (better if it's CocoRico coconut juice, or Seven-Up).
Add soysauce and palm sugar.
Add 2 cup water. Let it all simmer on low heat for 15 minutes
Add in the eggs (I like the eggs to absorb more taste, so I add them in at the beginning - if you don't want your eggs hard cooked you can add them in later).

Watch your sauce amount, it should level around where it can cover the meat and eggs. Add more water, add salt+soysauce+sugar to taste, and let simmer more as needed. Stir the meat and eggs around occasionally so they can be evenly marinated in the sauce.

This is excellent eaten with hot white rice.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Roasted Duck In Thai Green Curry

I was reading WanderingChopstick's entry on duck curry and it got me craving for one. We were in Monterey Park area over the weekend, so I did our grocery shopping and conveniently picked up some roasted duck from Sam Woo.
Today I got home from work a little earlier (well, 7pm, but that's relatively early compared to my schedule lately), so I felt like doing some cooking and would save up the left-over for tomorrow as well. Looking around the kitchen, the only kind of curry paste I have on my shelf is green curry, so I just made up a dish with it :-) Have to admit, it turns out surprisingly tasty, exceeds my expectation.....haha I'm just easily contended like that.

Here goes the recipe and easy cooking steps:

1/2 roasted duck, chopped into pieces
2 tbsp green curry paste (I buy the paste from asian grocery store)
3 small tomato, cut into medium small wedges
1 small green bell pepper, cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick
1/8 of a small cabbage, cut into pieces of size about 2x2 inch squares
6 oz can of coconut milk
1.5 tbsp oil
1/4 bar of palm sugar
3 tbsp water
~15 basil leaves

- Heat up the oil in a sauce pan, medium heat.
- Add the green curry, slowly stir for 1 min. Add the coconut milk and palm sugar, slowly stir for another 1-2 min.
- Add water (note: the curry paste is already salty enough for me, but if you want you can add some fish sauce or salt to taste)
- Add the pieces of ducks.
- Make sure the sugar dissolves, if it gets too hot you can remove the sauce pan from the heat while stirring so that the curry/coconut won't burn.
- Add all the prep'ed vegetables, and slowly stir for 2 min. Add the basil leaves for 30sec-1min
- Turn off the heat, but leave it on the stove, stir slowly for another 1min .

Served with hot white rice. Got 2 thumbs up from the Hubbie !!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Homemade plum jam + plum juice

This was old...but since I'm blogging on my easy cooking recipes, I thought I would go back and document about my plums as well.

We have a Santa Rosa plum tree, and this past summer it had an incredible crop. We gave bags and bags to family and friends, still had alot left over so I decided to make jam and juice with them. Santa Rose plums are very sweet, fragant, and have lots of meat. Funny thing is last year we barely had much fruits at all, this year there was sooo much that we became a plum victim :) hahah . We didn't want to leave them on the tree because they would fall once too ripe, and that would be such a waste. To get an idea, this was about how much plums we had at one picking.

So here goes the easy steps to make jam and juice and preserve them for later consumption (refrigerator and its freezer is the best invention ever!)

1. Wash and de-seed about 30-40 plums for the jam, and 30-40 plums for the juice.

2. Cut them into pieces depending on how chunky you want them. I like mine jam a little chunky, so I cut the raw pieces into sizes of about 1/2 inch cubes. For the juice I leave the pieces as-is because they'll go into a blender anyways.

3. For juice: blend in the blender, adding 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water.

4. (Optional) Add a dab of salt if prefered. When I mix something sour with sugar, I usually add a tiny dab of salt to bring out the two contrasting tastes.

5. Sample the juice, add sugar and water to taste. I like my somewhat thick, almost like a smoothie

6. Pour the juice into bottles and store in refrigerator for later consumption. You can even freeze them.

7. For the jam, I follow this recipe.

8. I also added some fresh mint leaves from my herb garden. I used ~30 leaves, coarsely chopped into size of about 1/4 of the leaves.

9. This plum jam is excellent with waffles. They make very quick and healthy breakfasts. In the morning, I usually just throw 2 pieces of waffles into the toaster while I'm getting changed for work, then come back to add butter and the plum jam, then....tahdah!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

porridge (jook) and salted egg

I always love porridge as a "cleansing" meal. I remember my Mom used to make the best porridge (jook) for me when I was sick. Sometimes, she'd add ground pork, ground shrimp and other ingredients, or sometimes just plain jook with side dishes like salted egg, dried shredded pork, or pickled radish (dua mo'n). Porridge is my comfort food, it is the equivalence of the chicken soup for me. Hot, light, non greasy, it totally cleanse up my system, works well for a healthy diet every once in a while :) hehe.
Porridge is extremely easy to make. All you need is about 1 cup of rice, or if you have left-over cooked rice, that would do too :-) Both the hubby and I have been a little bit under the weather lately, its usually dard and cool when I get home from work, so "jook" sounds like a good slurpy dinner recipe. I made a pot of just plain jook to be eaten with salted eggs (I also like to keep in stock either salted egg or dried shredded pork for rainy "jook" days like this)

Here's the simple steps to make plain porridge:

1. Wash 1 cup of rice, and drain (I add about 1/3 tsp of olive oil and mix well into the damp rice)
2. Boil a pot of water
3. Turn heat down to medium, add rice, watch and stir every so often to avoid boil over
4. (Optional) I also add some sweet corn, because I had some left over in my fridge.
5. Scoop off the foam if any
6. Add additional water as needed (depends on how thick you want your jook, I usually like my less thick and more silky, so I just add more water and cook longer)
7. (Optional) Add a dab of salt

As for the salted eggs, I've tried several brands from the Asian grocery stores, but this brand is so far my favorite. I don't really like the ones made in China, they seem overly salty. These are made in Taiwan, the eggs are not too salty, individually wrapped and that somehow gives me a warm assurance of quality. Now, as biased as it sounds, the kind I like best is still the ones my Mom makes herself (she does that once in a long while).

Recent OC wild fire

As most of you have already heard about the Diamond Bar, Anaheim Hills wild fires last weekend. We were in North OC on Saturday, and definitely could smell the smoke, not only that we could actually see pieces of ashes falling down our windshield. It was sad to see the thick layer of black smoke layer, and hearing about it on the radio at the same time.
I'm posting a couple pictures I snapped while we drove on freeway I-10 later that evening. The sunset was especially glowing red, wonder if that was because of the contrast from the dark smog layer?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vietnamese lemongrass porkchop

I usually visit my Mom and oldest sister on weekends and go grocery shopping together. They usually insist that they'll make some foods and pack it for me so that I'll have something ready to eat for the week :) My Mom and sister always worry that I don't have time to cook and eat healthy. Aren't they the cutest?

One of my favorite and most convenient is the lemongrass porkchop. I'd store the marinated meat in a container and keep it in the freezer. I'd bring it down the eveing before, and the next day after coming home from work it's already defrosted and ready to be cooked. This can be grilled or panfried, though I love to grill for a couple reason: 1) no frying oil 2) quick and easy, we all own some type of grill right? (I remember my first George Foreman grill, I still miss it). Then all I need is to cook some rice, and perhaps some quick steamed vegetables.

Ingredients and Instructions:
- 6 slices of porkchops - washed and drained
- 5-6 tbsp of ground lemongrass (we buy the already-ground lemongrass from asian grocery store)
- 1 tbsp of ground chili garlic sauce
- 2/3 tbsp of salt (sprinkled 1/3 tbsp on one side of the porkchops, then flip and sprinkle 1/3 tbsp salt on the other side)
- Rub all ingredients well onto the pork chops.
You can let it marinate for at least 1/2 to 1 hour before grill. I usually let it sit overnight, or as mentioned above, leave it in the freezer and defrost prior to cooking.