I’m not going to vouch for the authenticity of this recipe–even if the original author has dubbed her recipe “Taqueria Style Tacos.”   For one, the recipe contains soy sauce.  I wasn’t too keen on trying it…and I moved my mouse to close out the recipe–but how do you ignore a recipe that has 4.5 stars out of 5 and has close to 600 reviews.  So I begrudgingly gave it try…and you know what?  It’s pretty darn good!   Mike had no idea I used soy sauce in the marinade (to be fair, i cut down the soy sauce–i couldn’t bare to use that much!) and he loved it.  We both came to the conclusion that this definitely wasn’t the authentic dry rub flavors we associate with carne asada.  BUT in the end, we both really enjoyed it and would definitely make it again.  While not Mexican, there’s something great about the marinade.

That being said, if you make some pico de gallo and throw on some avocado or guacamole–you’ll find life is good all the same.

Carne Asada

3 pounds flank/skirt steak
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce (*original recipe called for 1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (original recipe called for 2 limes, juiced–but my coworker swears by OJ–as that’s how his family has made it his entire life)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika

Pico De Gallo

1 white onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno, diced–seeds removed
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Lay the flank steak in a large glass baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, 4 cloves of garlic, juice of two limes, and olive oil. Season with salt, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin and paprika. Whisk until well blended, then pour over the steak in the dish. Turn over once to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate for 1 to 8 hours.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together 1 chopped white onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and the juice of 1 lime. Set aside to use as a relish for the tacos.
  3. Grill steak to your liking
  4. Warm tortillas (corn or flour) and serve with your favorite garnishes.  I threw on freshly sliced avocados.
Carne Asada Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Pico De Gallo recipe is my own.
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You love garlic?  You’ll certainly LOVE these noodles.  I was on Yelp one day looking for some ideas.  The fiance had just finished a rough week of midterms and I wanted to take him out to dinner.  Searching for anything scrumptious from OC to LA I came across a familiar name–Crustacean.  Yes, I’ve heard of the famous Anh family.  An establishment so secretive, they have trap doors or whatnot that guards the real kitchen, guards their precious recipes.  No doubt, their most famous dish–garlic noodles.

I’m Vietnamese and I  love Vietnamese food, but I simply can’t justify spending that kind of money on food that’s classified as Vietnamese fusion–yet shares little or no resemblance to the food I ate growing up.  I don’t know if that makes sense…but it’s just principle.  Again, I’ve never eaten here…but would be open to do so if anyone were to treat me to a meal 🙂

Either way, I was still quite curious about the noodles and searched the web for copycat recipes.  Lo and behold–tons of similar recipes from foodies alike.  All the recipes were rather plain–so I decided to forgo creating a copycat dish–and instead just create a dish inspired by the famous garlic noodles.

First time?  I followed the oil/butter ratio called for in one recipe and found it to be WAY too oily. No bueno.  Second time? AMAZING.   So good Mike had a huge bowl of noodles after his Chipotle dinner.

As far as the recipe goes–bear with me.  I didn’t really take exact measurements and did a lot of adding as I went along.  My mom would be so proud of me.


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh (not dried) Asian yellow noodles (you want to use something like pancit)
4 tablespoons butter
8 cloves garlic, minced (I put mine thru a garlic press)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning sauce
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 cup reserved pasta water (I always save 1 cup–just in case)
salt and pepper to taste
up to 2 teaspoons of sugar
***optional–you may want to add some vegetables that when sauteed, cook rather quickly (I used baby bok choy)

For Shrimp:

10-20 uncooked shrimp, shell removed and deveined
1-1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to thoroughly coat shrimp)
3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons of paprika
2 teaspoons of dried basil

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cayenne pepper, paprika, and dried basil. Mix to combine.  Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Let marinate for at least an hour.

In the meantime, cook the noodles.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water (as you would with pasta).  Add the noodles and a dash of oil to keep them from sticking.   Pancit noodles cook much quicker than italian pastas–so keep you eye out for them.   Noodles are generally cooked in about 5-7 minutes.  Once cooked, drain the noodles and set aside.  Do not run under cold water and make sure to reserve up to 1 cup of pasta water.

Now, in a large skillet–saute the shrimp until just barely cooked.  Remove shrimp from heat, but reserve oil.  (If adding vegetables–saute them now and remove from heat)

Add butter to reserved oil from shrimp. Once melted, add garlic and saute until cooked and fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add 1/4 cup pasta water, oyster sauce, Maggie Seasoning Sauce, and sugar.  Mix thoroughly.

Throw in noodles and toss to coat evenly.  Allow to cook for a few minutes.  Add Parmesan cheese and toss to coat evenly.   Now–this is where the recipe becomes all you.  Add more oyster sauce/maggi if you’d like it saltier.  Add more pasta water to make the mixture creamier.  Add a tad more sugar, if too salty.  Once you taste test and flavor the noodles to your liking, I like to let the noodles cook a tad longer–tossing the noodles every 2-3 minutes–for about 5-6 minutes.

To finish, throw shrimp and vegetables back in and mix well.

Enjoy!

While many people like to turn their nose up at casseroles, I’m a bit intrigued by them.  Why, I have no idea–since casseroles are really just meant to be quick thrown together meals.  Maybe it’s because I’m Asian and I didn’t grow up on dishes like this–can it be?  That a casserole is…I’m going to say it…just a tad exotic to someone like me?  The very thought makes me giggle.  But do keep in mind, that I’ve only had meatloaf 2 years ago.  Come to think of it, what many people deem to be classic American comfort food, I’ve really never had.  This sounds like a challenge, no?  I think I might have to find time to make some meatloaf or pot roast in the near future!

Anyhow, after some blog surfing I found this gem!  Was i dying to make a casserole…not especially…but if you’re going to make a casserole, chicken tortilla is certainly the way to go.  And boy, was I happy I gave this recipe a chance–it’s absolutely delicious!  To be honest, I felt as thought I was having a wonderful plate of chicken nachos.   I gave my sister’s boyfriend the first taste, and he gobbled it right up.  This is seriously one tasty dinner if you’re short on time.  Bonus?  Leftovers are delicious!  I definitely had a few people at work do the sniff and double take.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, butterflied into halves (4 halves total)
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp. minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I used 2 peppers–I like my spice!)
1¾ cups chicken broth
5 cups tortilla chips, broken into large pieces
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Dash of Paprika (I love paprika…so I use about 1/2 tsp)
Dash of Pepper
Salt

Directions:
Pat the chicken halves dry and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 10-12 inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides.  Chicken may not be thoroughly cooked at this time.  You will be cooking it completely later.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, shallot, garlic, chipotle, dash of parika, and ¼ teaspoon of salt.  Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the chicken broth, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a simmer.

Stir in half of the tortilla chips.  Nestle the chicken into the broth and cook over medium-low heat until cooked through in about 10 minutes.  Transfer the cooked chicken pieces to a cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces.  I use two forks to pry the meat apart.

Return the shredded chicken to the skillet with the tomatoes, ½ cup of the shredded cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, and a dash of pepper.  Stir in the other half of the tortilla chips until they are incorporated and moistened.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese is melted and browning, about 2-3 minutes.  Top with remaining cilantro and serve, allowing the casserole to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Voila!

Adapted from Pink Parsley

I’ve never had Hamburger Helper.  Not for any health related issue really, but because there was really never anything too appealing about it.  Why pay to toss your food into dehydrated cheese powder, loads of sodium, and who knows what?  Okay, okay…I still like Mac and Cheese from a box.  It’s a childhood thing…but even then, I probably have it once a year at most…with lots of sriracha.  Any how, I was at Ralph’s the other day stocking up on some butter and cream cheese (got hired to make cupcakes for a 4th of July Party!  But more on that later!) and the woman in front of me had a cartful of Hamburger Helper!  I think she must have seen the shock/curiosity in my face because she chuckled and told me, “When you have kids, you’ll understand.  And just so you know, I have 4 boys.  And it’s actually quite good.”

4 boys?  I could feel my ovaries shriveling.  Yikes.

Funny enough, I was looking for some ideas for dinner last night and came across a very Hamburger Helper oriented recipe that was rather interesting.  I don’t know what compelled me to Google “Homemade Hamburger Helper,”  but I did.   Homemade, yes.  Unhealthy? I’m thinking very much so.  But I was curious and Mike has a strange affinity for foods like this.  What do I mean?  I mean when there’s a sale on Banquet frozen foods, he gets excited.  And no matter how much I try talking him out of eating crap like that, he manages to win me over with his nostalgic references to his youth and how much he loved them as a child after having lived in Africa for 8 years.  Yes, when he wants something…he’s quick to talk about living in Africa.  I’m weak.  He talks about his life in Africa and I melt.

I digress. Where was I?  Oh right.  So after finding the recipe online, I thought it would be fun to give it a shot.  Plus, I’d we’d both have some to bring to work the next day.

Creamy Taco Mac

Ingredients:
1¼ lbs. lean ground turkey
12 oz. dry rotelli pasta (anything with grooves is nice–catches all sauce!)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. of your favorite taco seasoning
4 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
dash of Tapatio
chopped cilantro

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Prepare pasta as directed on package.  Once al dente, drain, and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat.  A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through (no longer pink), add the chopped onion to the skillet.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and stir until the cream cheese is melted and the everything is well blended.  Season with salt, pepper, and Tapatio to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Serve with chopped cilantro (makes all the difference!)

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Sometimes you come home late at night, you have hungry, unexpected guests (you guessed it, my sister and her boyfriend) and you’re just tired.  Exhausted even.  And well, that happens to me quite often.  This time, I gave the pantry and fridge a good look over and was fortunate enough to have some great ingredients on hand.  And we all know that when you’re tired and have a limited amount of energy, pasta is always a lifesaver.

Spinach, Bacon, and Tomato Farfalle

Cooked farfalle
4-5 slices of bacon, coarsely chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
handful of fresh basil, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of salt
dash of pepper
dash of favorite italian spice
dash of cayenne pepper

In a heavy sauce pan, cook bacon.  Once bacon is cooked, place on plate lined with paper towel.  Reserve 2-3 tbsp of bacon grease  for the dish.  If you want to be healthier, save the bacon grease for another day, and use olive oil instead.  Throw in tomatoes, spinach, and garlic.  Saute until vegetables are cooked.  Will take no more than 4 minutes.    Season with salt, cayenne, and italian spice.  Add farfalle and toss until evenly coated.  Add pepper.  Once dish is ready, throw in sliced basil and combine.  Cook for about another minute, remove from heat, and ready to serve.  Top pasta with Parmesan, if so desired. I prefer a dash of crushed chili peppers!

Simplicity can be good!

I tried--but I'm just not a food photographer 😦

I don’t say this too often–but man, am I sick and tired of meat.  My sister brought home a family meal from a local Hawaiian BBQ restaurant…and while it was quite nice of her…it made me feel a bit nauseous.  She complained that I wasn’t eating much of it (to be honest, I’m just not too fond of Hawaiian BBQ) but I’m sure Mike ate more than enough for the two of us.  The end result however, was really the same–we both felt like crappola that night.  I don’t know how long this “No Meat” movement is going to last–because I am a carnivore at heart and Memorial Day BBQ’s are only a few days away–but I can tell you that that my dinner last night was absolutely delicious!  So good, that Mike had a huge slice 5 minutes before bed.

Want to hear the kicker?  This is actually a quite healthy Vegetarian lasagna.  I know that most people tend to label anything Vegetarian as healthy–but that’s simply not always the case (especially with lasagna).  Face it, if you make a lasagna with gobs and gobs of cheese and saute everything with loads of butter–you can’t exactly feel good about eating something just because it lacks meat.  That’s part of the reason why I love this recipe so much (mucho thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law for sharing this recipe with me).   This is a wonderfully light dinner–and part of the reason lies with key ingredient–brace yourself, because it’s very anti-Italian–TOFU.  Yes, I said it.  TOFU.  Stop grimacing.  Tofu serves as a fantastic substitute for ricotta.  It adds a great lightness to the dish–and I promise you won’t miss the cheese at all. And it’s not to say that there’s no cheese in the dish–bc there certainly is.  There’s a fair amount of Parmesan and I like to throw in some Mozzarella (optional).

This is a super versatile recipe–I chose to use Italian squash, grape tomatoes, spinach and basil.

First layer

Zoomed in so you can see all the ingredients

Ready for the oven

There you go!

Vegetarian Lasagna

1/2 to 2/3 pkg. lasagna past (I use the no boil variety)
Jar of Marinara or spaghetti sauce
1 pkg. regular tofu drained
2 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 medium sized Italian squash, thinly sliced.
2 cloves garlic, diced.
1 cup of basil
1 cup grape tomatoes
Mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
White Sauce
5 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
2 cups baby spinach (optional)
More parmesan cheese for topping
Olive oil

Drain tofu by placing it on a colander; put a small plate on top as a weight. Let it sit about 30 min.  Crumble tofu with a fork; mix in an eggs and parmesan cheese.  Add ground black peppers.
To make white sauce, melt butter in a saucepan.  Once melted, add flour and whisk frequently.  Add milk and whisk evenly blended.  Remove from heat.  The mixture will be thick.  Stir in spinach and set aside.
In a pan with some olive oil, throw in the diced garlic and saute until fragrant.  Throw in squash and saute until tender (5 minutes).
Grease baking dish with olive oil.
Cut basil into thin strips. Cut grape tomatoes in half.
Build lasagna starting with marinara sauce, pasta, tofu mixture, white sauce mixture, squash, basil, mozzarella, marinara sauce……and repeat.
End with marinara sauce.  Top with layer of Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. I like the randomly throw in the grape tomatoes all over.
Bake at 400F for about 1 hour until you start to see some bubbling on the surface. (Cover with foil for the first 30 min.)

I need to work on my plating...

Pasta! Pasta?!  A savory dish from me?  A person can’t live off cookies and cake alone…at least I don’t think so…

I think I’ve gotten to a point where I’m pretty confident in my baking abilities, but I’m starting to realize that my cooking skills have been lacking.  I don’t really have any cooking instincts and that concerns me a bit.   As I was thinking about the next dessert I was going to make for this blog, Mike offered his two cents– “Does it have to be a dessert?  I’m kinda hungry.”  I have to admit, I like cooking, but my cooking instincts are a bit off.  I know Mike would love nothing more than a few traditional Vietnamese dishes a week, but at this point I’m a bit incapable.  Asian spices and sauces just don’t register with me.  So with a promise to delve into some of childhood dishes as a later time, I did however agree to make something we could take to work the next day.

So, after looking around in our pantry and taking a look at our fridge, it’s pasta time.  Sitting on my counter:  Rotelli pasta, mozzarella, Parmesan, butter, spinach, and basil.  So…what to do.  I didn’t want to just throw these in spaghetti sauce.  Not really blog worthy…and then a bell went off.  Mike’s cousin made a great vegetarian pasta casserole at holiday get together last year using similar ingredients.  I was missing some fresh basil, but I was far too lazy to head to the grocery store so dried basil would have to do.   Either way, this casserole is just delicious!   The whole idea behind this dish is very versatile–if it had been earlier in the night, I would have made a dash for Trader Joe’s.

I will say one thing–this recipe contains soy sauce.  I know, soy sauce.  I winced a bit when she told me that was one of her key ingredients…soy sauce and mozzarella or pasta?  I just don’t know…but, having tasted the pasta, I will vouch for it.  It just adds a great layer of flavor, and I guarantee you, that know one will ever guess that there’s soy sauce in the dish.

***Next time I make this dish, I think I’ll try a combination of asparagus and pancetta!  I’m thinking I’ll in all likelihood cut down or omit the soy sauce all together.  Pancetta is so wonderfully rich and salty, I think soy sauce may over power it.

Portobello Pasta Casserole

1 (16 oz) package of pasta (something fit for a casserole–penne or rotelli–not spaghetti, linguine, etc)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 4-5 leaves of fresh basil, sliced) *IF using dried basil, toss in with garlic and butter in the beginning of recipe. If using fresh, follow instructions below.
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 1/2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup light soy sauce  (I like to use a European Maggi)
1/4 bread crumbs
1/2 Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan.  Set aside.  Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place pasta in the pot, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, cook 1 minute, and set aside. Melt butter in the saucepan. Mix in flour and garlic. Gradually mix in milk until thickened. Stir in 1 cup cheese until melted. Add soy sauce and mix thoroughly (that way you don’t get patches of pasta that has too much of a soy sauce) .   Remove saucepan from heat, and mix in cooked pasta, mushrooms, basil, spinach and remaining mozzarella.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.  Top pasta with Parmesan/Bread crumb mixture.  Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until bubbly and lightly brown.

Enjoy!