Friday, January 30, 2015

Abalone Congee

Abalone is not the most common ingredient you'd see here in the US. In Korea though, it's very popular. Well they're sort of pricy so you wouldn't eat it everyday but it's on their menu occasionally. If you like clams, you'll probably like it. I like grilled version of it too. Mmm yum. 

I love this type of congee(rice porridge) any time of the year but especially when it's cold. I've had this craving for abalone congee for a couple of months now and I finally got some frozen abalones when I went to a Korean supermarket. Fresh ones definitely have a different depth of flavor but I will take whatever I can!

My tot loves congee with lots of veggies. And he gobbled up a whole bowl of this, including abalone. It's actually the first time for him to try abalone and I was pleasantly surprised that he didn't mind the different texture of abalone. It's got a little bite but not too chewy if you cook it right. He said he enjoyed his lunch so much. Haha. My little adventurous eater. It's funny how I am on more adventurous side when it comes to food but I am definitely more open to seafood than anything. I think he's the same way. 

 Even just a few pieces of abalone gave such nice flavor to the congee. I used frozen vegetable mix for convenience but you can use any vegetables you like as long as they're not mushy type. I personally think carrots, corn and peas work great in congee. If you're not a seaweed lover, it still tastes great without it but I find it gives another layer of flavor. Are you ready to be adventurous and try abalone if you haven't already? =)

Abalone congee

*Makes 2-3 servings

Ingredients :

1 cup rice(I used 1/2 cup sweet rice and 1/2 cup short grain like sushi rice)
2 pieces medium to large abalone, cleaned and diced - defrosted and prepared if frozen
1 cup diced vegetable of your choice(or frozen vegetable mix)
1 tsp sesame oil
5 cups dashi stock or water
1 Tbsp fish sauce
soy sauce to taste 
1-2 Tbsp roasted seaweed, crushed

Directions :

1. Wash and soak rice in water for at least 30 minutes. Depending on how starchy you want the congee, change the sweet rice and regular rice ratio. 

2. Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in a pot and saute diced abalone on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add vegetables and drained rice and saute until rice is half translucent.

3. Add stock or water and bring it to a boil on high heat. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and let it cook stirring occasionally about 20 minutes or when it reaches to consistency you like.

4. When it's ready, stir in fish sauce and soy sauce to taste. Add a few drops of sesame oil if you like. Garnish with crusted roasted seaweed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Zin burger - Garden state plaza, Paramus, NJ

 Really?  Yet another new gourmet burger joint!  Its amazing how many of these seemingly endless new gourmet burger restaurants can manage to screw things up...not Zinburger.
Energetic, modern, and upbeat, Zinburger offers a mouthwatering selection of gourmet burgers, salads and sides, shakes and desserts, and a selection of beer and wine.  The setting is sleek, contemporary, featuring rich wood and earth tones and stylish, comfortable seating.

We were impressed from the start with attentive, friendly service.  Instead of buzzers, the hostess keeps you up to date via text messages, which provide updates as to wait time, and let you know when your table is ready.    While the menu is full of a great selection of burgers, what we loved was that any substitution is possible, alternatively you can create your own burger.

We were starving after a movie, and were quick to get in our order.  First came the onion rings, which are served in a basket with barbecue sauce.   The rings are not too thick, and were perfectly crispy, and delicious on their own.

Our burgers were quick to follow.  They are served on a brioche like bun that was very soft, and was not oversized relative to the burger.  This is a subtle detail that is often overlooked.   In our humble opinion, the bun is perhaps the most important part of the burger. You are given a choice of angus or kobe beef for each burger (a $5 upcharge). For our first visit we decided to try the angus. The double cheeseburger came with two 3.5 oz patties, minced onions and cheese.  The inclusion of 1,000 island sauce made for a high end Big Mac minus the sesame seed bun!  It was absolutely delicious, and as I type this, I crave another bite, and am seriously contemplating going back for dinner tonight.  Christine had the Zinburger, which came with manchengo cheese and Zinfandel braised onions. She loved it, and devoured every bite. 

  This is a great place for a date, a family dinner, or to watch a game.  The service was great, as everyone was attentive and friendly. I can't wait to go back and try the hand cut fries!

Xteve rating: 4.0 ****
Website : Zinburger

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mini corn dogs

Last couple of weeks, I have been craving fried food. Churros, fried chicken, tempura, you name it. Of course I didn't get to have any of those because I don't like frying at home. And my cravings tend to turn to different directions if I'm at a restaurant. Then for some reason, I remembered wanting to try homemade corn dogs recipe I found from one of my favorite bloggers, damn delicious. When I first saw this recipe, it immediately brought me back my childhood memory. If you remember from one of my previous posts, my mom rarely let me eat street food. Corn dogs were always very tempting at fairs and when I ask her, majority of the times, she would redirect me but sometimes(but very rarely)she gave in and let me have one corn dog. To this day, I still remember enjoying every bite of the slightly sweet, fluffy, corn bready goodness hugging the savory hot dog. Mmm.

As I was frying these, my tot woke up from his nap and was looking for me. Before he got grumpy, I went to attend him and I asked Steve to watch the stove for a second. And Tada~ we slightly burnt a couple of them. Haha. Oh well..We had some good ones too. I actually made them smaller. Instead of halving the hot dog, I cut them into three pieces each so it's the right size for my tot. Surprisingly, it tasted exactly like how I remembered. I have tried mini corn dog muffin trying to make healthier version but it had obviously different taste. It was good but not for my cravings. A lot of times I like baked version of originally fried dishes but unfortunately some things just have to be fried. It was such a quick process with not too much oil, thankfully it didn't make my whole house smell like frying. Phew! If you ever have cravings for corn dogs, you can simply make it at home with very little effort!

Mini corn dogs

*Makes 8 mini hot dogs

4 hog dogs, halved(I use uncured organic hot dogs)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Directions :

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.

2. Put lollipop sticks in the cut hot dogs. 

3. Combine flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Whisk together milk and egg, add the egg mixture to dry ingredients. Whisk until combined. It's easy to dip the hot dogs if you make the batter in a tall narrow vessel. 

4. When the oil is ready dredge hot dogs in the batter to cover completely and fry each one until golden grown, about 2-3 minutes. 

5. Place them on a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately. 

*Recipe from Damn delicious.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ham & kimchi fried rice

 Being in a half Korean household, my tot loves kimchi. One day, he just stared at me eating some kimchi dish and said he wanted to try it. As it's spicy and salty, I washed it and gave him a tiny little peace and he absolutely loved it! He does have Korean in him. Haha. It's funny, when it comes to food, he's just like me. Not afraid of trying new things and he likes things I like. I remember my mom saying she's so lucky I am a good eater when I was young. I hope I can always say that about my tot. 

Kimchi fried rice is one of the most popular comfort foods for Koreans. If it's just me, I would make it with spicy kimchi with a drop of gochujang(red pepper paste) but since I was sharing with my tot, I thoroughly washed kimchi and cooked it. Sometimes I like that mild flavor. My gosh, just writing and thinking about it makes me hungry.

If you can't handle spicy food but want to try it, washing it is the way to go. It still doesn't lose the flavor but it's mild enough for a 3year old to eat. A lot of times, I have uncured ham at home and I like the flavor combination between kimchi and ham. And the sunny side up egg completes the dish. Even though I love sunny side up eggs, I rarely eat them but when I know the egg is fresh, I sometimes indulge. =)

Flavor/quality of kimchi really determines the taste of the dish. If you want to buy kimchi, any Asian markets will have it and I have seen it at wholefoods and some local supermarket too. BUT you have to be careful if you're buying it from a non Asian supermarket. Not to bash a product or anything but this brand Mother in law's kimchi or something that I got from wholefoods was so bad. It's far from the actual kimchi taste. Usually "mother in laws' dish" reminds you of good food in Korean culture but oh boy that was the worst I've ever had. If you see that brand, do not attempt. Usually ones at Korean/asian markets, you can trust. If you haven't tried yet, buy a small jar and take a little journey to Korean comfort food. =)

Ham & kimchi fried rice

*About 2 servings

Ingredients :

2 cups cooked rice
1 cup kimchi
1/4 small onion, diced
1/4 cup ham, diced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs(optional)
1 scallion, chopped for garnish

Directions :

1. Roughly chop the kimchi. (If you're making non-spicy version like I did, rinse the kimchi thoroughly before chopping)

2. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet and saute onion until translucent. Stir in kimchi and ham to it, and saute for 3-4 minutes. 

3. Add cooked rice and sesame oil. Make sunny side up eggs at this point. Stir the rice constantly so that it doesn't stick too much to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

4. Plate the rice and top each bowl with a sunny side up egg and chopped scallion. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sausage stuffed spaghetti squash boat

Steve and I love spaghetti squash. Not because it's healthy, we just love the texture. Low in calories is definitely a bonus. We used to eat spaghetti squash dish at least three times a week a few years ago. From yaki squash noodles to the most predictable, tomato sauce spaghetti. Before we got married, as our wedding's coming close, Steve went on a strict diet and spaghetti squash made a huge difference because he LOVES pasta. All the noodles he loved were switched to spaghetti squash. Then somehow we don't cook it as often as before. Well, it's still the first month of the new year. Still not too late to get the spaghetti squash back on the menu! 

This is a very satisfying meal. Even with regular pasta, this is our go to quick meal when we are all out of ideas or simply lazy. With or without tomato sauce, fennel flavor from Italian sausage gives a lot of flavor to the dish. Texture and the look of the squash really doesn't make you miss the actual pasta. Topping with cheese doesn't necessarily make it the healthiest but it's still got less calories than pasta! I am really not a calorie-counting person but it's good enough to make you feel better. My tot always cleans the bowl spotless when I serve him this. He loves the whole squash family just as much as we do, so it's not a surprise. This is..I would say, a 40 minute meal but not all hands on. Not too bad for a week night meal. =)

 Sausage stuffed spaghetti squash boat

*About 2-3 servings
Ingredients :

1 spaghetti squash(about 4 lbs)
1 lb Italian sausage, out of casing
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
24oz marinara sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella
parsley for garnish

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Microwave a whole spaghetti squash for 3 minutes and carefully cut it in half lengthwise. Microwaving makes it so much easier to cut it.

2. Using spray oil, lightly grease a baking sheet and bake spaghetti squash cut sides down for 30-40 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and saute diced onion and garlic. Add sausage and brown it while crumbling it. When sausage is all cooked and browned, add marinara sauce and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste

4. When spaghetti squash is done, let it cool to temperature you can handle and carefully scrape it off with a fork, so the flesh comes off like spaghetti. 

5. Stir the "spaghetti" into the sauce. When all mixed, fill the squash shell with it. Top with mozzarella cheese, parsley and pepper. Broil for 7-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned a little. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hash brown breakfast pizza


Every morning, my tot tells me what he wants for breakfast as if he's been thinking about breakfast all night. He wakes up, runs into my room, lays next to me and while cuddling, he tells me he wants this and that for breakfast. It's so funny. Sometimes he demands something that I don't have time for and I make something else thinking he wouldn't care much. But no...he would eat what I give him but he would talk about the menu of his choice until he gets it. So usually have to make it the next day at least. I have to admit he probably got it from me. When I have cravings, until I actually have whatever it is, I can't stop thinking about it.

And the other day, he asked for pizza for breakfast. He was half joking but I wanted to deliver his "vision" because it actually sounds like fun. And I found hash brown crust breakfast pizza. Its got all the elements he loves. Crispy hash brown crust with ham, eggs and cheese. So yummy and easy to serve and feed. I have not used frozen shredded potato before and I bought a bag of organic shredded potato for the first time. These are great! Works better than home shredded potatoes for hash because it's not moist like home version so I find it easier to make it crispy. And most of all, it's quick. Of course you can shred the potato at home but that needs to sit in a strainer for a little bit to get rid of liquid from potato. You can certainly top it with anything you like and make different versions. My tot absolutely loved it and devoured it. And left the sweetest comment, "Thank you for the yummy breakfast mommy!" That's my fuel that enables me get up and make breakfast even on a lazy morning. =) 

Hash brown breakfast pizza

*About 2 servings

Ingredients :

2 cups shredded potato(frozen or fresh-frozen works better though)
1/4 cup ham, cubed
2 eggs
1/4 cup cheese of your choice
spray oil

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, spray a little oil. Spread shredded potato and press it down. Spray oil on top and bake for 25 minutes. 

2. While hash brown's cooking, scramble eggs and heat cubed ham.

3. When hash brown's done, top it with eggs, ham and cheese. 

4. Put it back in the oven and bake 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted and top browns a little. 

5. Serve immediately. 

*Adapted from the gunny sack.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sticky garlic chicken

First week back at school for my tot after the break. He seems to be adjusting pretty quickly. But Steve had a work trip for a few days right after staying home for a long time, I didn't find it easy. It was just a few days but I really missed him! During the holidays, our tot kept asking us to take him to a Korean restaurant and as Steve isn't a huge fan of Korean food, he told our tot that he can have Korean food as much as he want when daddy's away. So of course, while he was away, we ate plenty of Korean food. I couldn't believe my tot actually asked for Korean food so often like that. Anyway, the night Steve's coming home, tot ironically asked for one of Steve's favorite chicken dishes. It worked out for everyone. 

When you make the sauce, you should definitely use light soy sauce(low sodium soy sauce). Otherwise sauce will be way too salty. I usually like to eat plain steamed or blanched broccoli with saucy dishes. And that's how it was served as well. I changed the original recipe very slightly. I think balsamic vinegar adds extra sweetness to the dish and I love it. It might sound odd to use it in Asian inspired dish but it really goes nicely with Asian dishes. I sometimes use balsamic vinegar alone for dumplings instead of dumpling sauce. 
This can be made in half hour. You bread the chicken, put them in the oven, make the sauce and prepare the sides. I love dishes like this. Got complex flavor yet, simple to whip up. =)

 Sticky garlic chicken

Ingredients :

1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut to chicken tender size
1 cup buttermilk(or 1 cup minus 1 Tbsp milk and add 1 Tbsp vinegar)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

chopped scallion for garnish

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 Tbsp honey 
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chili garlic sauce

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Soak chicken in the buttermilk. Grease a foil lined baking sheet.

2. Mix panko, cornmeal, olive oil and salt and pepper. Remove chicken one at a time and coat with crumb mixture. Place them on prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, flip and bake another 10 minutes.

3. While Chicken's baking, mix all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan. Heat it over medium low heat and simmer until slightly thicken. Dunk the chicken in the sauce one at a time and put them back on the baking sheet, bake another 5 minutes. 

4. Either drizzle some sauce on top or dip the chicken in the sauce again and sprinkle scallions. Serve it over rice and steamed vegetable of your choice.

*Recipe slightly changed from Pinch of yum.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bang bang shrimp taco cups

Have you been to Bonefish grill? Last year, I've been to one near me for the first time and I completely fell in love with their bang bang shrimp. Love the crunch from lightly battered fried shrimp and the sauce is so yummy, it can actually go with anything. And recently I discovered they have bang bang shrimp taco now with crispy wonton wrappers. Man..those are good, every time! A little messy to eat as any tacos but that never stops me. 

Since Steve and I entertain a lot, we thought, why not try that combo in a bite size form so it's easy to serve and eat. But who wants to fry stuff right before guests arrive? We'll go the easy way. 

I've made bang bang shrimp before and it is very easy to just make everything from scratch. Just toss in salt, pepper and starch and fry 'em up. But the time, cleaning up and the smell keeps me from doing that when I'm entertaining. Frozen popcorn shrimp works perfectly in this case. They're surprisingly very crispy. And baked wonton wrappers will make this appetizer look so cute yet so easy to eat. 

I find it interesting how most of the times, guys would just pop the whole thing in as one bite snack but girls, two bites. Either way, they're always popular whenever I serve them. You can make the wonton cups ahead of time. I've made them a day ahead and kept them in an air tight container and it was perfectly fine.

Bang bang shrimp taco cups

Ingredients :

1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
2 Tbsp sriracha (less or more to taste)
3/4 cup iceberg lettuce, shredded
12 oz frozen popcorn shrimp  - or fry the shrimp at home
24 wonton wrappers - preferably round  
Spray oil
2 Tbsp chopped scallion or chives for garnish

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lay wonton wrappers on a cutting board and grease one side of wonton wrappers lightly using spray oil. Place the wrappers in a mini muffin tin greased side down and press gently so they fit nicely. If using square wrappers, fold the sharp edges.

2. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Let it cool in the tin for a minute or two and transfer to a cooling rack.

3. Heat frozen pop corn shrimp according to package direction. Usually 425F for 10-12 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Mix mayo, Thai chili sauce and sriracha in a bowl. 

5. Toss the shrimp in the sauce. Place shredded lettuce evenly to all wonton cups and top with shrimp. Sprinkle spring onion or chives and serve immediately.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Creamy parmesan and spinach orzo

Long holiday's over and it's almost time to get back to reality. Having Steve home for over a week totally put me in a vacation mode and I think I'll have a hard time getting back to normal life. Especially my tot. He absolutely enjoyed having daddy around all the time. About 50 times a day, he says he loves daddy so much and he's sad when daddy goes to work. Sweet boy. 

We hosted Christmas and cooked a lot of stuff but as most people's Christmas dinner especially involving kids, it was so chaotic by the time food came, I had no chance to take pictures. It's a shame because Steve cooks this killer prime rib every year that I wanted to share. We made a few veggie side dishes and my favorite side was prosciutto wrapped asparagus. Super simple and yummy. 

Anyway, after a few heavy meals over the past week or so, we got to the point where we wanted to whip up something simple and enjoyable. Like our normal week night meal. I've always wanted to try this recipe ever since I first found it. I love every element of this dish. Orzo, spinach and who doesn't love cheese? It's a great side for a nicely grilled steak or chicken. It's somewhat like a marriage of creamed spinach and mac and cheese. I added more spinach than suggested amount to trick myself to think it's healthy. Haha. And we love spinach. If you put cubed grilled chicken or something, it can very well be a quick week night dinner on its own.


Creamy Parmesan and spinach orzo

Ingredients :

1 cup orzo pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 - 2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain well.

2. Heat olive oil in a pan and cook garlic and onion until onions are translucent.

3. Add flour and stir until lightly browned about a minute. Whisk in milk and cook while stirring constantly until slightly thickened. About 3-4 minutes.

4. Add spinach to it and cool until just wilted. Stir in Parmesan until melted. Add drained orzo, salt and pepper to taste and toss gently. Serve immediately.

*Recipe from Damn delicious.