Friday, June 27, 2014

Brazilian cheese bread(Pão de Queijo)


When I visited São Paulo for work years ago, I fell in love with this cheese bread at a corner cafe. Until that discovery, I've never even heard of this. My co-worker's mother recommended me trying this and I was like, why hasn't anyone told me about this chewy, cheesy goodness? It's savory yet goes perfectly with a nice cup of coffee. It immediately became my go to breakfast in Brazil after that day. 

I've tried many different recipes to recreate this bread, they were OK but not a good match to my memory. I was about to give up when my Brazilian friend told me even she buys it frozen as she couldn't recreate it. Then I found this recipe. With just a few ingredients, I could bring back the memory.

You can just tell how chewy it is from the picture. I love it! As much as I love it though, I'm warning you. If you haven't tried this and you don't usually like chewy stuff, you might not like this. And I don't know what the secret is to keep those little balls so yummy for long at those cafes but in my case, they were the best right out of the oven. So I definitely recommend making small batches as I did.

Brazilian cheese bread(Pão de Queijo) 

Makes 12 little bites
Ingredients :

1/2 cup whole milk(I used 2% and was fine)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup tapioca flour
1 egg, room temperature
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Combine milk, oil and salt in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. Remove from the heat.

2. Add tapioca flour to the pan and stir well. Dough will be grainy and gelatinous at this point.

3. Transfer the dough to a bowl to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. At medium speed, beat the dough for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and cools off a little.

4. Scrape the bottom of the bowl, mix the egg in until well incorporated.

5. Mix in the cheese. Batter will be sticky and stretchy. Scoop the batter with a medium cookie scoop, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, it made 12 balls with my scoop. 

6. Turn down the heat to 350F and bake the balls for 25-30 minutes.

*Recipe from The kitchn.                                                                                                     

Monday, June 23, 2014

Korean fried chicken with garlic soy sauce


 Is everyone watching the world cup? I am a huge soccer fan. Especially when it comes to international games. I think wings and football go perfectly together whether it's American football or English. We all know some people get annoyed when they hear the term 'soccer' but I recently learned that it also started from England. Anyway, last Sunday, there was Korea's game against Algeria. As the tradition goes, I put my team Korea uniform on which I comfortably wore during last world cup but not so much now. I think shirts shrink in the drawer as they age. Yep, definitely. =P Well, even in that shirt, I had to have my Korean garlic soy fried chicken and beer(Chi-Maek; came from chicken and maekjoo which means beer in Korean). That is the tradition amongst many Koreans and it gives me a perfect excuse to FRY those wings!!

I don't think I had ever fried anything in my apartment back in NYC. Now that we have a burner attached to the BBQ, I can fry outside when I come up with an excuse and that's the best thing. No smell in the house, just delicious food.
Oh, so back to the game. Algeria killed it. So sad. SO SAD! I was ready to scream, GOAL!!!! And jump up and down with excitement(well I did twice) but instead I screamed something completely different my hands wrapping my head(FOUR TIMES!). And then..the game for team USA was just one minute too long! So close to win. Can't believe within less than one minute, game's changed. Great game to watch though. Speed and skill on both teams were all fantastic. It would have been absolutely fabulous if any of the two teams I support have won but I am still a happy girl since I got to have these delicious fried chicken. 

Korean fried chicken with garlic soy sauce

Ingredients :

2.5 lbs buffalo cut wings(One I bought made 24 wings)
1.5 - 2 cups corn starch
Oil for frying(peanut oil or vegetable oil)
2 scallion green part, chopped for garnish

Garlic soy sauce
1 Tbsp any neutral flavored oil(vegetable, canola, etc)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
ground black pepper to taste

Directions :

1. Heat enough oil to fry until it reaches 360-370F. In a large zip lock bag, place wings and corn starch and shake well to coat evenly.

2. While oil is heating up, make the sauce. In a small sauce pan, heat the oil and saute the garlic. Add rest of the ingredients, bring it to boil, turn off the heat and set aside.

3. Fry the wings(I did in two batches). Fry each batch for 10 minutes and fry the second time for 2-3 minutes or until they turn nice golden brown. - I find it crispier this way but you can just fry once for 10-12 minutes altogether if you want. 

4. Immediately toss in a large bowl with prepared sauce. Garnish and serve.

River palm terrace - Mahwah, NJ

Having passed by the River Palm Terrace almost every day for a year, we finally decided to check it out. For starters, we went to their website, where we were excited by the following statement "The River Palm Terrace has been consistently rated as New Jersey’s top steak house and one of America’s top restaurants." Having moved from Manhattan, we were excited by the prospect of a great steak house, right in our backyard.

We decided to try the Mahwah location on a Friday night, and were pleased to get a reservation with only 20 minutes notice. The restaurant provided valet parking, and there was a bright red Ferrari that had just pulled up in front of us. My expectations for the meal went up even higher. 

The menu was what you would expect from a steakhouse, and except for the steaks (which are on the higher end) the prices were reasonable.   We were promptly given an assortment of bread, and our drink orders came quickly.

We decided to try the coconut shrimp spring rolls and the house salad to start, followed by the porterhouse for two. The spring rolls came out fairly quick, and were distinctive. They had a nice crisp, but the inside was a bit mushy. We were expecting a full shrimp inside, but it seems that the filling consisted of some chopped up shrimp mixed in with other fillings. All in all, the spring rolls were OK. Next came the house salad, which was mixed together in a wooden salad bowl. We were quite disappointed with the salad, it seemed like something cobbled together by someone who is not skilled in the kitchen. It was a mixture of iceberg lettuce, tomato and onion, over dressed in Italian dressing. We may have just ordered wrong, as we saw some other salads that looked better, albeit, they were not the "house salad." 

At this point we were very disappointed with the first course, but were optimistic that we were still in store for a great steak dinner. The steak came out, and was of a high quality and cooked perfectly. It was not seasoned as well as we like, but that was an easy fix. We ordered two sides, which was the perfect amount for sharing. The hashed browned potato and the sauted spinach were exactly as expected. 

All in all, we were highly disappointed with the meal.  While the steak was good, the place felt a little "tired", and at the price point, there are definitely better options out there.  We do not anticipate going back anytime soon.

Xteve review : 2.0 *****

Website : River palm terrace 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Soy braised chicken(Jjim Dak)


This is one of my favorite Korean comfort foods. Chewy glass noodle with tender chicken with lots of veggies. Salty, sweet and spicy sauce. So flavorful. You probably noticed a different name for this dish in brackets. That's the name for this dish in Korean. Jjim means steamed or braised and Dak means chicken. This dish is not usually served at most Korean restaurants outside of Korea and even in Korea, there are specialty Jjimdak restaurants that only sell this dish. Just one thing on the menu and these restaurants are usually packed.  

I always scoop my portion when it's close to be done and add crazy amount of red pepper as I usually leave out red pepper for two of my loved ones who can't handle that level of spiciness. I use drumsticks or thighs as that is my preference but usually it's made with whole chicken cut up. Strangely, this dish is served with rice. Yep, there's noodle but you still eat it with rice. Well you don't have to but the sauce is so yummy drizzled over warm steamy rice with soft veggies mixed in..Irresistible! It's comfort food after all. =)

 You really don't have to sprinkle anything at all as garnish but my tot insisted on "helping" me and he wanted to add a little bit of his touch so i let him do what he wanted, and this happened. A big pile of sesame seeds. Thanks for the "help" sweetie.

Soy braised chicken with glass noodle (Jjimdak)

Printable recipe 

Ingredients :

1 lb cut chicken part of your choice(I used 5 drumsticks)
1 large potato, large dice
3 Medium carrots, cut into large rounds
1 medium yellow onion, large dice
4 cups baby spinach
6 oz Korean glass noodle(or other glass noodle like mung bean noodle)

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp cooking wine
2 tsp oyster sauce
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp red pepper flakes(optional)

Directions :
1. Boil a pot of water and cook chicken for 15 minutes or so.

2. Meanwhile mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl. In a large skillet with a lid, add all the cut vegetables and cooked chicken and pour the sauce on top. Bring it to boil. Cover and simmer for 40minutes or so. 

3. Soak the glass noodle in hot water completely covering the noodle while simmering the chicken. When ready to serve, add noodle and 1/2 cup water to the skillet and cook on high for 4 minutes or until noodle's ready to your liking. 

4. Turn the heat off, add spinach and stir. When spinach is wilted, plate and serve.

Fig and frangipane crostata


 Fancy name but it's really a very simple, rustic fig and almond tart that doesn't even need a pretty little pie pan. But it sure tastes gourmet. The other day I bought some fresh figs because they just looked good. Then I was like, should I wrap it with bacon? Fig salsa? Fig bar? Jam? So many options!! And the winner is...tart!

I love figs but at one point, I had broken up with them. One day in high school,  I snacked on a bag of dried figs while doing homework and my jaws were locked the next day, I had to see a dentist. I mean seriously, who does that? Eating the figs till your jaw locks. Crazy..So I did not touch any form of fig for a long long time. I have been reconciled with them some time ago only in soft forms like jam or fresh figs.

Soft, sweet figs taste so lovely with nutty, delicious frangipane and crunchy crust. If you own a food processor, this is really a piece of cake. Uh..wait, it's really a piece of pie. ;)

Fig and frangipane crostata

Ingredients :

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, diced
1/4 cup ice cold water 

Frangipane(Almond filling)
1/2 cup ground almond meal
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
3 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp all purpose flour

8oz fresh figs(about 8), sliced
1 Tbsp granulated sugar to sprinkle(optional)
1 egg + little water mixed for egg wash.

Directions :

1. Make the crust first. In a food processor, add flour,salt and butter and pulse until it becomes coarse bread crumbs form. Add water little by little and pulse until mixture forms a ball. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or over night.

2. Add all the frangipane ingredients to food processor and pulse till it becomes a smooth paste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll out the dough on a slightly floured surface and transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread frangipane to about 1.5-2 inches in from the edge. Top the frangipane with fig slices and fold the end of the crust.(At this step,you can make one big tart or divide the dough into two and make two small tarts.)

4. Brush the egg wash on the dough and sprinkle sugar on the whole tart. Bake for 50minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes and serve. It's delicious either way but especially yummy when it's still warm. 

*Crust recipe -allrecipes, Frangipane- Rebecca Franklin

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

One skillet baked ziti


When in doubt, make one skillet pasta! Sometimes I am very prepared for meals with plans way ahead. Sometimes, my day just goes so quickly that I would only try to decide what to cook for dinner half hour before dinner time. Then one skillet pasta comes to rescue me and it's always a hit. "Baked ziti" is one version of them.

 You can basically add whatever you like and pasta to liquid ratio is usually 1:3. And the fact that I don't have to wash more than one pot is fabulous. Enough reason for me to be obsessed with all kinds of one skillet pasta dishes. =P Original recipe for this one used water but I find stock a lot more flavorful as pasta absorbs all the flavor while simmering. But if you don't have stock handy, it's not THAT big of a deal.

Cheesy goodness.

One skillet baked ziti

Ingredients :

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lbs italian sausage, casings removed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1 can(28oz) crushed tomatoes
3 cups low sodium chicken stock or water
12 oz ziti pasta
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella
4-5 basil leaves, chiffonade

Directions :

1. Heat the olive oil and brown the sausage while crumbling it as it cooks. (3-5 mins) Add garlic and red pepper flakes.

2. Stir in pasta, chicken stock(or water), and crushed tomatoes. Bring it to a boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Remove from heat, stir in cream and Parmesan cheese. Top with mozzarella and cover until cheese is all melted. Garnish with basil and serve.

*Recipe adapted from damndelicious.

Homemade graham crackers


S'mores season is back. Time to bake graham crackers. Graham crackers are relatively healthy snack option, so while my older nieces and nephews eat up the full on s'mores, I am happy to let my tot grab graham crackers. These tastes just like store bought, if not better. I don't usually like whole wheat's rough texture but for graham crackers, it just tastes so great.

I sat at the table with some coffee and a magazine, and my tot with his graham crackers and his book "the cat in the hat", it was a happy mid morning. Listening to him reciting his book is such a joyful thing. He's almost 2 1/2 and clearly he doesn't know how to read yet but he remembers the lines accordingly as he looks at each page. Some pages, I ask him what it says. He gives me this cutest look and says, I can't read, mommy. Haha. Kids are amazing.

Homemade graham crackers

Ingredients :

2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

2. Mix all the wet ingredients together and add dry ingredients. Mix well.

3. Roll it out on a cookie sheet very thin. I recommend as thin as you can make it, if you want it more crispy. Move the cookie sheet carefully onto a baking sheet. Cut into shapes you want. I used a pizza cutter to make lines. Pierce with a fork.

4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges start to brown.

5. Cool on the baking sheet and enjoy.  

*Recipe from servingjoyfully

Friday, June 13, 2014

Broiled lobster tail with garlic sauce


 Steve has been working late lately and since I didn't want yet another leftover dinner for lunch, I asked him if he'd be coming home early enough to have dinner at home. He said probably not. I said aww..poor you working late again. But "Oooo, seafood dinner!!!!!" was what was going on in my head.(As some of you know, Steve doesn't eat seafood.) Sorry hun. =P

I know traditional way is to serve the lobster tail with clarified butter but since I was sharing with my tot, I wanted to go a little easy on the butter. Plus I just never dunk my crab or lobster in butter for some reason. This garlic sauce is what I use for a lot of simple and quick seafood dish. Like when I grill or broil shrimp or scallops. Lobster looks lonely on the plate but I really just made one. Haha. I served it with one skillet spinach orzo pasta which is so easy, I will post the recipe some time soon. 

Broiled lobster tail with garlic sauce

Ingredients :

1 lobster tail
1 tsp chopped chives for garnish

Garlic sauce
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
fresh ground black pepper   

Directions :

1. Using kitchen scissors, cut the lobster tail front and back shell lengthwise. Carefully open up the shell slightly, separate the meat from the shell then place it back in the shell.

2. Mix the garlic sauce ingredients in a little bowl and drizzle between the shell and the meat and on top.

3. Broil for 10-12 minutes depending on the size of the lobster tail.(If you have a very large lobster tail, it could even go close to 20mins)

4. When done, sprinkle chopped chives and serve. 

Salted chocolate shortbread cookies


Last Saturday, my town had a community festival and there were all kinds of events. One of them was bake sale to fund fire department and ambulance corp. You submit your cookies to cookie bake off and they will be judged and they will give prizes to 1,2,3rd places. Sounds like fun, even if you don't win, you're still part of a good cause. But I had no idea who the judges would be. The day of, I submitted the cookies and waited around enjoying the beautiful day and events. Later I found out that you pay $10 and sample all the cookies submitted, then vote. I could have given myself tons of votes if I wanted to donate tons of money. Haha

The first place went to a local cupcake bakery owner. Oh, come on, I didn't know I was competing against professionals! It's funny how at first, I was like, it's for the good cause, I don't care about the prize. After I tried these cookies, it gave me some strong hope! These are that good. Crunchy texture with chocolatey flavor with a hint of saltiness. Best supporting role definitely goes to the salt. I have made three batches in one weekend. And I have a feeling I'll be baking these a lot.

Salted chocolate shortbread cookies 

Ingredients :

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
11 Tbsp(1 stick and 3 Tbsp) butter, softend
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt plus for sprinkling
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions :

1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and set aside.

2. Cream butter and add both sugars, salt and vanila and beat for another 2 minutes.

3. Add dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

4. Place the dough on a work surface and make two 9 inch logs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.(Dough can be refrigerated for 3days or frozen for 2months - when frozen, defrosting is not necessary, just bake for 1 additional minute)

5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325F. Slice the logs into 1/2 inch thick rounds and place them on a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a small amount of salt on top.

6. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool them on the sheets as they're very soft when warm. Serve or store when cooled.

*Recipe from browneyedbaker.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Grilled honey balsamic chicken


I hate to admit but I am not a huge fan of chicken breast. I mean I eat it, sometimes like it but never really love it. I much prefer wings or legs. But with this honey balsamic marinade, I actually loved this meal! Balsamic vinegar truly does the magic here.

I served it with some grilled zucchini(my family's absolute favorite vegetable which you would see in almost every savory dish) and spaghetti with pesto which is a fantastic match for balsamic.

I am so glad I found this recipe, this made me realize I, a dark meat gal can actually love chicken breast. =)

Grilled honey balsamic chicken

Ingredients :

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp onion powder

Honey balsamic sauce
2 Tbsp honey
2 balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 tsp garlic, minced

Directions :

1. In a ziplock bag, add first 6 ingredients and coat the chicken well.

2. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for honey balsamic sauce and pour half of the sauce over the chicken in the ziplock bag. Marinate for at least 30minutes.

3. Grill the chicken 3-4 minutes per side or until temperature reaches to 165F or no longer pink. Once cooked, brush remaining sauce on top and serve.

*Recipe from therecipecritic

Asian spaghetti and meatballs


A while ago, I fell in love with this one hoisin meatball recipe. Fabulous appetizer. Then I thought, why not use these flavorful little guys in a weeknight dinner?

I used meatball blend meat(beef, pork & veal blend) simply because my mom always uses pork and beef mixture for her Asian meatball dishes. Just something I'm used to and I think it actually makes the texture a little more tender. But Steve prefers simple beef meatballs. So It's simply up to your preference.

Recipe makes plenty of meatballs since it's intended to be an appetizer/cocktail food. If you have too many meatballs because you're make a smaller portion meal(which happens to me a lot), you can cook meatballs a little less than suggested time and freeze them. When you need them, pop them in the toaster oven and make half the portion of the sauce and enjoy. 

Asian spaghetti and meatballs

Ingredients :

1 lbs thin spaghetti
1 bag of baby spinach leaves (12oz)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 lbs ground beef(or meatball blend)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup panco
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
sesame seeds for garnish

Hoisin sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

2. Add all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well combined.

3. Make them into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch meatballs and place them on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until cooked through. 

4. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti as package instruction.

5. Add all the ingredients for hoisin sauce in a bowl and stir well.

6. Heat up olive oil in a skillet and saute garlic and spinach.

7. Add cooked spaghetti in the skillet and add half of the hoisin sauce.

8. Toss well and add meatballs. Drizzle sauce on top of the meatballs, garnish with green onions and sesame and serve. 

*Hoisin meatball recipe from damndelicious

Friday, June 6, 2014

Garlic and herb smashed potatoes


This is such an easy side dish for steak, chicken or anything. My usual potato sides were roasted cut up potatoes, basically like potato hash but these little potatoes are so cute and I love how creamy yet crispy it turns out. 

This is one of the favorite side dishes of my tot's. If I let him, he would just sit there and snack on them. You can make them with rosemary or any kind of different herbs you would like. I made it with thyme today as my tot said we should use some thyme for the "Ittle potatoes". He still has a hard time with the L sound with some words, it's so cute. He used to call our dog Chloe, "Ko-ee". =)

Anyway, accompany this easy "ittle potato" side with any of your meat dish, you will be satisfied.

Garlic and herb smashed potatoes

Ingredients :

24oz dutch yellow baby potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic,roughly chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 450F. 

2. Place potatoes, some salt and enough water in a large pot and cook the potatoes. About 15minutes. Drain well.

3. Smash the potatoes with a bowl or a masher and put them in a bowl, add olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper and mix gently.

4. Place them on a baking sheet in one layer and bake for 20-25minutes.

* Recipe from damndelicious.

Grilled balsamic skirt steak with chimichurri

With our herb garden getting fuller and weather getting warmer(more like hotter), I've been feeling the urge of using a whole bunch of herbs for dinner lately. Chimichurri is the perfect fit. I am loving this weather that enables the use of BBQ, because the whole house won't have to smell like steak or whatever I am grilling, with the dog running around the kitchen area as if she saw some kind of madness happening.

My little helper helped me getting some parsley and oregano from the garden. The big leafy stuff on the right corner is called perilla which is commonly used in Korean cuisine. They're very fragrant and delicious, fantastic with Korean BBQ. But you can only find them at Asian supermarkets so even in NYC, I planted some of them in the roof top garden. They are getting big, I should cook with them soon too.

Skirt steak can be very tough when they're overdone(like any steak) but when it's done perfectly it is amazing. With flavorful chimichurri adding freshness to the tender steak, it is just so delicious. 

 Grilled balsamic skirt steak with chimichurri

Ingredients :

Steak marinade
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dark or light brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb skirt steak(or flank steak) 
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup fresh parsley, tightly packed
2 Tbsp fresh oregano, tightly packed
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes(add more for more kick)

Directions :

1. Mix all the marinade ingredients and marinate for at least 30minutes.

2. For chimichurri, place parsley, oregano and garlic in the food processor and pulse. Put them in a bowl and add oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and mix well.

3. On a heated grill, cook the steak to your liking. I like mine medium and it takes me about 3minutes per side. When done, cover with foil and let it rest for about 10minutes. 

4. Move the steak to a cutting board and slice against the grain. Otherwise you'll be left with tough bites.

5. Top with chimichurri sauce and your choice of side and serve.

Recipe from chimichurri-kitchenrunway, steak marinade-pointlessmeals