New Year, New Goals

Each year I take a look at what I’ve cooked/baked and what I’m hoping to learn in the future. This year I was unpleasantly surprised to find that I barely made any of my 2018 goals.

  1. Pulled Pork
  2. Roast Chicken
  3. Sourdough
  4. Quesadillas
  5. Scones
  6. Trifle
  7. Madelines
  8. Quiche
  9. Cocktail
  10. Salad with Homemade Dressed
  11. Cinnamon Rolls
  12. Steak and Mashed Potatoes
  13. Frittata
  14. A Homemade Condiment
  15. French Press Coffee

Out of these fifteen goals, I made roast chicken, quesadillas, scones, and mashed potatoes. I’ve never met every single goal in a year, but I’m usually more dedicated to my goals.

This year I’ll be trying something a little different. Keep following and I’ll be less mysterious! Updates to come soon!

Korean Beef Meal Prep

In my junior year of college, my best friend announced she was moving to South Korea. She didn’t speak the language and knew a little about the culture, but it was still quite sudden. When she came back, she could fluently speak Korean. She also came back with an extensive knowledge of Korean food. She started taking me with her to local places, ordering food that I hadn’t heard of in a language I can’t understand. Needless to say she helped develop a love of Korean food.

Every week I make a recipe to bring to lunch for work. When I found that one of my favorite bloggers had a recipe for Korean beef, I knew I had to try it. It’s a mock-bulgogi that has quickly become one of my favorite recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chopped spinach (I bought 2 bunches, but 3 might have been better.)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp Sriracha (I actually used gochujang- a Korean fermented chili paste.)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef (I always use venison of course)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp sesame seeds

You’ll need more spinach than you think.

Instructions:

1. In a large saucepan, cook rice according to the package. Set aside.

2. Boil the eggs to desired consistency. I prefer medium-hard boiled eggs.

3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the spinach until wilted.

 

 

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and Sriracha (or gochujang).

This sauce is super sticky. It will congeal if you don’t stir it every now and then.

5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Make sure it crumbles, then drain the fat.

 

Basically up until you add the meat, the steps are the same as how you prepare the spinach.

6. Stir in the soy sauce mixture and green onions, allow to simmer for about 2 minutes.

I stirred the sauce prior to adding it into the meat.

7. Place the rice, eggs, spinach, and ground beef mixture into meal prep containers. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds if desired.

I left the garnish off of the food, but added a little extra gochujang to the meat. It was the perfect meal.

Final Thoughts: My dad said this was his favorite lunch I’ve ever made. I was disappointed that I didn’t make enough spinach, but since I doubled the recipe, we had plenty of food. I could eat this every week for lunch. Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, all delicious.

Hearty Beef or Venison Stew

Fall is around the corner, which gives me an excuse to start fall recipes. Stews and soups are one of my favorite types of dishes, because they’re simple to make. There’s also an incredible variety of flavors for the same basic idea. Throw a bunch of food and spices into a pot and you’ve made something tasty! I tend to eat lots of gnocchi so this beef stew recipe looked to good to pass up!

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 lbs. chuck roast, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup Italian parsley
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart warm water
  • 3/5 cup frozen peas
  • 1 package gnocchi
  • 2 carrots

Instructions:

1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Coat with the olive oil. Brown the meat in a pan over medium heat. Transfer the meat to a bowl.

 

 

2. Add 2 Tbsp butter and some olive oil to the pot. Saute the onions for about 5 minutes, until they’re translucent. Add the garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for about a minute.

3. Stir in the flour and paprika. Cook about 1 minute. Be careful not to let the flour burn!

4. Pour the water into the pan. Bring the water to a simmer. (This is called deglazing the pan.)

5. Add the beef cubes, bay leaf, cloves, and thyme. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer 2.5 hours.

6. Add the potatoes and carrots. Turn the heat up to medium low. Simmer partially covered for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through. Add the gnocchi 5 minutes before the end of the cook-time, then remove the pot from the heat.

You can test the potatoes by pushing a fork through them. If they’re relatively soft and easy to puncture, they’re ready.

7. Add the peas and stir. Cover the pot with a lid and let sit for a few minutes.

8. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Final Thoughts: This was such a hearty and delicious stew. I looked forward to eating leftovers every day. This recipe may be more suited for wintertime, but I truly enjoyed the mix of textures and the strong flavors. The cloves in particular were a nice surprise! Give it a try and comment with your results!

Venison Roast with Mushrooms

Have you ever watched a movie or a TV show where the family sits down for dinner, so they can feast on a beautifully cooked roast? I was always a little envious of the giant home-cooked meal. My family saved those kind of meals for holidays like Easter and Christmas. Sundays were usually what my mother called “scrounge night,” which meant we plundered the leftovers from the week or enjoyed a bowl of cereal. My father made simple meals of spaghetti and steam broccoli. I wanted to have a classy home-cooked meal like the Sunday roast.

I found this recipe for a roast. I used venison, but this recipe was originally designed for beef. Don’t be daunted by the thought of cooking a giant hunk of meat. It’s actually simple and amazingly delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (4-5 lbs.) whole beef tenderloin
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 16 oz. cremini mushroom, halved
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp chopped thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • kosher salt and pepper

Instructions:

1)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2) Rub the beef with the mustard, and season with salt and pepper.

3) Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.

I cut the mushrooms incorrectly! This is why you review your recipe. Cutting them this small made them shrink. There was definitely a smaller ratio of mushrooms to meat, which was unfortunate since the mushrooms were so delicious.

4) Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and into a cast iron skillet.  Place the roast over top of the mushrooms. Add butter to the top of the beef.

5) Transfer to the oven and roast for about 35-45 min. The roast is finished when the internal temperature reaches 120-125 degrees.

 

6) Remove the beef and mushrooms from the skillet to a serving plate. Cover with foil and let rest about 10 minutes.

Resting is super important! If you cut into the meat right after it’s been cooked, you’ll lose all of the juices that keep the roast moist.

7) Place the same skillet over high heat on the stove. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pain. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add butter and thyme, then continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

See how much thicker?

8. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Removing the skillet from the heat when adding cheese keeps the sauce from breaking.

Final Thoughts: I was shocked at how simple this was. The idea of a roast always seemed like a time-consuming, daunting task. It’s a beautiful looking dish. Also, smother that amazing sauce over everything. I need to get my hands on another roast. Just typing this made me want to make it again.

Chicken Picatta

The first time I ever had chicken picatta, I was at California Pizza Kitchen. I had no idea what capers were, but it was chicken, lemon, and pasta, so I figured I’d try it. I instantly loved the flavors. Moist, dredged chicken over thin angel hair pasta is drenched in a bright, zingy lemon sauce. Capers add a pop of brine to counter any sweetness from the cream-based sauce. To this day, it is still my order of choice at CPK.

Trying to make it at home seemed daunting, probably because I was worried about making a chicken picatta that would meet the same standards as the restaurant. The lemony chicken pasta I’ve made before is similar, but heavier than this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in half
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced shallots
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley leaves

Instructions:

1) Salt a pot of water, and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to the directions on the package.

2) Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Dredge the chicken in flour.

IMG_1539

Don’t let the chicken sit too long with the flour before cooking. It won’t be as crispy.

3) Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, flipping once, for about 4-5 minutes per side.

IMG_1543

 

IMG_1545

4) Melt 2 Tbsp butter in the skillet again. Add the garlic and shallots. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.

IMG_1546

Don’t wash the pot! The brown stuff from the chicken will help flavor the sauce.

5) Stir in the chicken broth, wine, and lemon juice. Cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

6) Slowly whisk in heavy cream until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the capers.

IMG_1553

I don’t think I let my sauce thicken enough, but at least the flavor was good.

7) Serve pasta with sauce and chicken.

IMG_1555

Final Thoughts: There are a few food bloggers whose recipes I will always recommend. Chungah of Damn Delicious is one of those bloggers. Her recipes never fail to be delicious and easy to execute. I wish I had let my sauce thicken, but it had a strong lemon flavor. Boyfriend dislikes capers, but I love the “pop” of brininess. Any tips on improving the consistency of the sauce?

 

 

5 Ingredient Strawberry Breakfast Pastries

When I first started cooking I began listening to the advice of the pro chefs. There’s a general disdain for products like pie crusts or processed cheese. I made my own pastry crusts, my own chicken broth, and tried to make everything from scratch. Naturally this led to several #foodiefails .

One day while watching Jacques Pepin’s cooking show on TV, I saw that he was using Sara Lee pound cake from the freezer section. He was cooking with his granddaughter. They made a lovely fruit compote from scratch to go with it. Since then I’ve questioned my prejudice toward more convenient options, especially when you’re just getting started in your cooking journey.

I will never shut up about how amazing recipes with less than 10 ingredients are for beginners. There’s less prep, fewer preps, and lower cost. Everything about these recipes is easier, and often you don’t sacrifice flavor. Puff pastry is available in the frozen food aisle. It is incredibly difficult and time consuming to make from scratch.  On a particularly productive Sunday morning, I bought some pre-prepared puff pastry for these strawberry breakfast pastries. It’s almost like making homemade toaster strudels.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp strawberry jam
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 large egg
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silipat (re-usable silicon baking covers for pans).

2. Cut the puff pastry into 6 rectangles by following the folds in the dough. First, cut the sheet into 3 long rectangles, then cut each rectangle in half.

3. Transfer the pastries to the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.

4. Lightly score a 1/2 inch border around the edge of the dough. Prick the center of the pastry with a fork.

Scoring means lightly marking the dough with a knife.
5. In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese and strawberry jam. Place a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in the centers of the pastry and spread it. Top with slices of strawberry.

 

Make sure your cream cheese is close to room temperature or else the cream cheese and jam will not mix easily and consistently.

6. Whisk together the egg with 1 Tbsp of water. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden and puffed.

 

I think it might be easier to put on the egg wash before the cream cheese. Also, I didn’t use all of the egg wash.

7. Remove the pastries from the oven. Dust with powdered sugar over the pastries if desired.

 

The best way to deal with powdered sugar is to use a sieve. Pour it in, then lightly tap the sieve over the pastry. It spreads a light layer with less mess.

 

Final Thoughts: These were a lovely sweet treat that I would consider serving for brunch or breakfast with friends or family. The best part is they look so fancy! They may not taste like the most incredible pastry in the world, but I was still impressed with the results. I would recommend these be eaten within a few hours of being baked.

Mushu Asian Grill: Stir Fry Destination

If there’s one type of cuisine I’m picky about, its Chinese food. Since I lived there for over a year, I learned about and ate many, many Chinese dishes from a variety of cuisines. China, as a large and ancient nation, has dishes varying by region. Traditionally there are 8 major cuisines: Anhui, Fujianese, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuanese, Zhejiang, and Cantonese. Each correlates to a specific geographic region; furthermore, each area has unique flavor profiles and ingredients. Sichuanese food (or Szechuan in the US) is well-known for fiery, tongue-numbingly spicy dishes, often deep red in color. Fujian province is located on the coast, so seafood is highlighted in this region’s dishes.

Most often, I eat Asian food in East Mesa, where I can read Chinese menus and speak Chinese to my servers. However, recently I started taking a summer class (ugh OChem) at Phoenix College. My high school football team used to play their Friday night games at the stadium there, so I had frequently visited Hamburger Works. Across the street is a small tan building with a bright red door. I had passed by Mushu Asian Grill for several years, but never actually stopped in to try their food. Boyfriend and I took the opportunity to test it out.

The restaurant is a member of the Arizona Chinese Restaurants Association, often supporting local Chinese organizations and events like the Dragonboat Festival. Their Yelp reviews are consistently positive. Pictures online showed fresh food. Apparently, their menu changes occasionally to maintain variety.

IMG_1644

The inside is clean and organized, thankfully not kitschy. It was also empty. Boyfriend and I were the only diners seated at a table. Though several people came in, they ordered stir-fry to go. We enjoyed a very quiet meal on an early Thursday evening at a small table in the corner. The only noise came from the boss, who sat at her desk in another corner jabbering away in Mandarin.

IMG_1645

We started off with some potstickers, a light appetizer to give me an idea of what kind of flavors to expect. I enjoyed the crispy dumpling skin (the result of the dumpling sticking to the pot). The inside flavoring was juicy but a little bland. This was easily improved with some soy sauce or chili oil.

IMG_1646

I chose a classic dish often mistaken for “Americanized Chinese” food: Kung Pao Chicken. I used to eat it fairly regularly at a small cafe near my campus in Nanjing. You should expect a chicken and vegetable dish with thick sauce, slightly spicy, and topped with peanuts.

Boyfriend does not particularly care for Chinese food. Fortunately, Mushu is well-known for their Make-Your-Own Stirfry. You have even turn your stir fry into a burrito. Choose your protein and sauce. Step up to the vegetable bar, take a bowl and stack your bowl with fresh, bright vegetables. They’ll cook your stir fry, then serve it to your table.

Without any other guests in the restaurant, I was surprised it took as long as it did to serve us, but I assume that was from the different cook-times between a main dish and a simple stir-fry. I did appreciate that our food was served at the same time. Stir-fry is served in an individual bowl, while the food on-menu is served traditional Chinese “family-style.” Our waitress disappeared once she served the food, only to return once it was time for the bill.

IMG_1651

The Kung Pao Chicken was served on a larger platter with a side of rice. I served myself some food onto a small plate. I was surprised at the appearance of the dish. All of the components were there, but the sauce was thin and light as opposed to the dark, thick sauce to which I’ve become accustomed. Each common ingredient was present: chicken, spicy peppers, bell peppers, various veggies, and peanuts. The celery seemed as if it hadn’t been cooked, only tossed in at the end. Though this added crunch, the raw celery flavor didn’t seem to mesh well with the other components. Perhaps this is a lighter version from a different area.

The DIY stirfry was the star of the meal. Though my boyfriend chose fewer vegetables than I would, the meat, noodles, and sauce were all flavorful. There were a variety of options for noodles. We opted for a thin wheat noodle, and we were given plenty of it. The noodles and other ingredients were all well-coated with a thick, garlicky, savory sauce. Next time I’ll make my own packed full of the fresh veggies, and maybe try another sauce.

IMG_1647

Overall, the place has a nice atmosphere where you can work on homework or read while you enjoy a quiet meal.  Take-out is, of course, an option – and apparently quite popular based on the number of people who left without ever sitting at a table. While it’s not the best Chinese food I’ve ever had in the Valley, the stir fry is a quick, delicious option, especially if you’re attending classes at Phoenix College. Check out their website for more information.

Service: 3/5

Price:  $10-$15 per person

Food: 3.5/5

Chocolate Chip Scones

I have a feeling that many of my blog posts are going to start with talking about Boyfriend. I love feeding him, my friends, and my family. That’s how I take care of the people I love. When Boyfriend and I first started dating, I took him to Wildflower Bread Company, where we shared my favorite treat – a chocolate chip scone. He had never had a scone before, but now we get it every time.

I try to save money by making my favorite foods at home. One Sunday morning I decided to try my hand at homemade scones. I used a recipe from Truffles & Trends.  She always posts amazing pictures of her scones on her Instagram. I’ve been dying to try making my own! (And she even commented on my Instagram picture because she’s a sweetheart.)

IMG_0418

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 cups cold heavy (whipping) cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, for brushing
  • Raw sugar for sprinkling

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a “silipat”.

2) Stir together the dry ingredients (flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt). Mix in the chocolate chips.

IMG_0407

3) Make a well in the center of the mixed ingredients. Pour in the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Stir everything together.

IMG_0408

Scones need to rise when baked. If you mix or knead too much, then the scones won’t rise properly. You want to mix or knead until just incorporated.

4) Spread flour over a counter or other flat surface. Dump the dough onto the work surface. Knead until the ingredients are just incorporated.

IMG_0409

5) Shape the dough into a flattened round disc and divide into equally portioned triangles.

IMG_0410

IMG_0411

The original instructions say to make two separate discs, but I like the way my scones turned out this way.

6) Place the triangles onto baking sheets. Brush the tops with the beaten egg, then sprinkle the sugar on top.

IMG_0414

7) Bake for 20 minutes.

IMG_0416

These are without the sugar glaze.

Final Thoughts: I’ve actually made these a few times now. They taste best with the sugared glaze on top. I’ve been using plain granulated white sugar, but I think it might be a good idea to try turbinado sugar. I found this recipe fairly forgiving even with slightly overworking the dough. Try out the recipe and let me know how they turned out!