Thursday, February 25, 2010

burger and brownie

awhile back GQ came out with their best burger list. i've tried to get to all of them, but time (and money) make it hard. however, one of the places on that list is houston's. they have a fabulous california burger. i order mine medium. i like my steaks rare, but i prefer my burgers a bit more cooked.

their california burger is topped with monterey jack, avocado, arugula and red onion. the first bite is the best. the bread is so soft, and the meat just melts in your mouth. i love having their shoe string french fries as my side.

for dessert, my friend and i split the brownie sundae. they drizzled caramel over the plate. i love the presentation of the dessert. a very nice way to end the meal.

sorry.. no picture of the burger. i was too hungry to take a photo. you'll just have to go enjoy a burger yourself.

Monday, February 22, 2010


it's always an adventure trying out new restaurants. last time when i was at the dumpling house in arcadia, i noticed this other restaurant, noodle island, next door. i picked up a menu so i would remember to come and try it. i got a chance to go this week.

right off i loved the ambiance of the place. it doesn't feel like a hole in the wall restaurant. they have beautiful lights that hang from the ceiling. they had a nice mural painted on the walls. we were seated very quickly, and then the server started speaking to me in chinese. (this does happen to me often. ) in my minimal amount of chinese, i told him i said, "han gwuah ren" (korean). then he went away, and another younger guy came to take our order.

my friend asked if they had other things besides noodle soup. the server seemed a bit confused. so my friend asked if they had noodles without soup. the server replied that they could do that. i think they misunderstood, but my friend basically got the same dish as me, but the noodles came separately (see photo on the left).

the menu itself was very interesting so i had to take a photo. you can choose from being a certified student to champion. for the items you can choose from:

-cuttlefish roll
-pork meatball
-fish fillet
-sliced pork
-sliced beef
-shredded chicken
-squid roll
-cuttlefish ball
-fish ball
-shrimp ball
-lobster ball
-fish tofu
-beef ball
-fried fish cake
-meat loaf
-quail egg
-oyster mushroom

my friend and i both ordered the crossing the bridge rice noodle in soup, certified student (2 items). i chose the sliced pork and shrimp. my friend ordered the sliced pork and shrimp ball.

the broth is a chicken broth, very nice and clean. it wasn't too salty. it was topped with mushrooms, cilantro and sliced green onions. i enjoyed the texture of the rice noodles. it wasn't too soft or chewy. it tasted perfect. it tasted very healthy, and i really enjoyed it. i think it's a nice alternative to pho which tends to have a lot of MSG.

with tax everything was $6.50 per person. not bad for a great bowl of noodle soup.

i would definitely go back to noodle island especially on a rainy day. a nice bowl of crossing the bridge rice noodle soup will hit the spot on a cold and dreary day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

so easy!

i was helping a friend get ready for a baby shower. she showed me how to make chocolate covered strawberries. and it is soooo easy...

1. put some chocolate chip morsels (either white or dark) in a microwavable bowl. 2. add about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
3. microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each time.
4. let the chocolate cool a little bit. if you dip in the chocolate too soon, the chocolate doesn't stay on as nicely and drips off more easily. you can add food coloring to white chocolate to give you the desired color.
5. dip the strawberries into the chocolate. let them cool on some wax paper.

(if chocolate gets too hard, just put back in the microwave for 15 seconds.)

and you're done! so easy... i'm gonna have to make them for my next party.

if you want the striping like i did, just lift a spoonful of a different color melted chocolate above, and run them across the strawberry.

seriously.. one of the easiest things to make. but i think clean up is not so great.

Friday, February 19, 2010

homemade congee

this morning i got to have homecooked congee (chinese rice porridge) for the first time! my roommate's mom who comes from taiwanese descent wanted to make congee for breakfast for their family. it was interested to see how she made it.

first she boiled water in a large pot, then she added the already made brown rice we had leftover. then she added sweet potato that was thinly sliced to the rice. after cooking it for about 10-15 minutes, she set the pot aside to let it cool.

for sides, we had dried pork, nori (seaweed), and gluten all shown in the picture. the gluten reminded me of fried tofu skins. it's got a sweet taste to it. she also made scrambled egg with green onions. and we had pickled cucumbers and bamboo shoots in chili sauce.

i've had congee like this at lu's garden in san gabriel, but it's always nice to eat homecooked food. my first time! i liked it. i may have to go back to lu's garden again when i'm craving congee.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

more scones

my friend had one of orange cranberry scones, and she passed along another scone recipe. it's a lemon pecan scone recipe that doesn't use butter but instead uses heavy cream (both of these recipes are not for those watching their weight. honestly, when i cook, i use the real thing.)

she prefers this recipe b/c you don't have to cut in the butter.

since i'm visiting a friend today, i decided to try this recipe out. i didn't add the lemon extract, and i just added the zest from two lemons to give more a lemon flavor. also i used a bit of the cream to lightly coat the scones, then sprinkled raw sugar on top.

here's the recipe.

Lemon Pecan Scones presented by Galena Street Mountain Inn

2 cups unbleached white flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Grated zest of one lemon

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Add the lemon zest and pecans. In a measuring cup, stir together heavy cream and lemon extract. Stir into dry ingredients until dough holds together in a rough mass.

Do not overmix. The dough will be quite sticky.

Lightly flour a board and transfer the dough to it. Knead the dough 8 or 9 times.

Pat into two circles about 6 inches round.

Brush melted butter over the top and side of the circle of dough and sprinkle the sugar on top.

Cut each circle into 6 wedges and place pieces on an ungreased baking sheet, allowing about an inch between pieces.

Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

overall, i liked the texture of the scones. however, i wish it was a bit more fluffy. i wonder if i could add some baking soda and see if that makes it rise more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

pasadena fish market

i went to lunch with two friends, and we tried out this new place, pasadena fish market on orange grove blvd. it's definitely more of a whole in the wall kinda place, but those kinds of places are such hidden gems.

their motto is "u-buy, we fry."

and that's exactly what you do. you pick your fish, and they fry it up. i chose the filet of sole with a side of hush puppies and cole slaw. the cole slaw was so fresh! and c'mon.. can fried food really be bad? the fish was very light, and it was nicely coated with a light bread crumb seasoned with salt and pepper. not too much.

my lunch platter was $5.50. not bad for fresh fish, fried on the spot.

definitely want to come back to this place.

korean tonight

my roommate's family is visiting from bolivia, philadelphia and taiwan. they are a very international family. :) last week she says to me, "so... i was wondering.. if you.. could make korean food for my family when they visit?"

i smiled and replied, "of course!"
she then had a big smile.

hey.. if you have a roommate who can cook, why not ask her to cook? also, i do love to cook.
so what's the menu?
kimchi chigae (kimchi soup)
shrimp pa jun (korean pancakes)
green beans with oyster sauce and garlic (something a little chinese)
(sorry, no photos. i was too busy cooking. and i can't really post a recipe for them b/c korean food doesn't really follow recipes. you just watch and learn. if you really want to learn, youtube "korean cooking". there's this korean lady who i hear is awesome on youtube.)

her sister was my sous chef, helping me prepare the ingredients. (i need to get me one of those...) she enjoyed watching me cook.

as i was chopping an onion, she said to me, "i can tell you can cook. "
i ask her, "why?"
she said, "you know how to cut an onion."
i told her, "i've cut many onions."

everyone enjoyed everything. they loved the kimchi chigae. kimchi is such a love/hate relationship with people. but they enjoyed it all. it made me so happy to see them eat so much and enjoy it all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

happy valentine's day

in honor of valentine's day i made the orange cranberry scones but shaped them into hearts. b/c i didn't use a cookie cutter but my own hands, they were made with love.

happy valentine's day!

just got a new recipe for lemon pecan scones. i'll have to try that one very soon.


this weekend i was supposed to be in MD with some girlfriends. one of their outings was a visit to volt in frederick maryland. volt is the restaurant of bryan voltaggio, one of the participants on this past season of top chef. his brother, michael, won top chef.

anyways, my friends sent me photos of the food as they came out in real time. i can't post them all, but here's one of the pork loin with cauliflower puree. i asked them about the food, and they said it was excellent. the service was impeccable. everything looked beautiful. they have an open kitchen, but you don't hear any clanging. they said it's very calm and peaceful in his kitchen.

the waitress knew that they were all top chef fans as they oooed and ahhed over their food. as they were about to leave, the waitress comes out and stop them to see if they want to say hello to bryan voltaggio. so they went back and got to take a photo with him! i scolded them for not asking in the first person. they said he was so nice and cuter in person!

thanks, ladies, for sharing the experience with me. i will have to try to go myself. hm.. maybe i'll go to the langham hotel (which is in pasadena) and see how his brother fares in the kitchen! the langham is much closer than frederick, md. who wants to go with me?

happy chines new year

happy chinese new year! this year is my year, the year of the golden dragon. how is that different from a regular dragon? i don't really know. i don't really celebrate chinese new year b/c well, i'm not chinese. i did go eat dim sum yesterday to show my support of chinese new year. the parking lot was packed! i had never seen the parking lot so packed. i realized later on it's b/c everyone was grocery shopping for chinese new year. it was crazy.

i wanted to post some photos of these chinese cookies that my friend makes every year for chinese new year.

they look like mini wonton cookies! the filling is chopped peanuts and sugar. they look so yummy! she makes these with her boys. i like how they create their own version.

i told her the next time i'm home, i want to learn how to make them. they're so cute and they look so good!

happy chinese new year, everyone!

korean desserts

after enjoying our pork meal, we went to a korean cafe for ee cha (2nd meal) at cafe galleria in the galleria mall in koreatown.

i introduced two new friends to fruit bing su, a korean dessert. it's shaved ice covered with fruit syrup, mochi (sweet rice), sweetened red beans and fresh fruit.

i could sense my friend's hesitation when i said the words, "red beans." she replied, "i'm thinking of kidney beans.

i said, "trust me, kara. try it. you'll like it."

she scooped one spoonful of the fruit bing su, and she was pleasantly surprised. she couldn't imagine sweet beans. fruit bing su is such a refreshing dessert. it's not overly sweet, but naturally sweet. and you don't feel completely full after finishing it off.

plus, we always share it. you can get fruit bing su at almost any korean cafe. but it's also really easy to eat at home. just need something to make shaved ice. crushed ice is too big. then get some condensed milk, little mochi (found at korean grocery store), sweetened red bean (also found at the korean/asian grocery store) and fresh fruit.

place the shaved ice at the bottom, then add your fruit toppings along with the red bean. pour on some condensed milk, and you're done! and you can feel creative with toppings. try gummy bears, whatever you want.

i just like the fruit and mochi. i'm happy with that.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

the other white meat

i've always been a fan of meat. i'm a fan of it all: beef, chicken and pork. as a korean, i am definitely a fan of pork. in korea b/c beef is so expensive, a lot of korean dishes incorporate pork into the meal.

one of my favorite pork dishes is pork bo ssam (pork wrap). it's steamed pork wrapped in steamed napa cabbage with pickled turnip and salty shrimp. you can add other things as well.

where can you get the best bo ssam? kobawoo house in korea town. my friend introduced me to this place recently, and it's been awhile since we've been there so tonight, it was a kobawoo night!

and we brought four new friends to experience bo ssam. after the plate came out, i took a piece of steamed napa cabbage, and i laid it on flat on my plate. then i added a piece of sliced steamed pork. after i topped it with the pickled turnip. i grabbed it between my chopsticks, and i had my first bite. oh.. the pork is so flavorful and juicy. how do they keep the pork so juicy? the pork is so good you can eat it alone. (yes, that is a layer of fat, but it's not oily and greasy like fat on bacon. trust me. it's good.)

our four other friends totally enjoyed it! for three of them it was their first time having anything like this before.

why did i stay away so long? i need to go back more often and savor the taste of the other white meat.

but the best bo ssam is the one made by family. my aunt makes really good bo ssam. the next time i'm home, i need to ask her how she makes it. maybe i can even watch her prepare it. when i learn, a recipe will be posted.

more photos from kobawoo house on facebook.

Friday, February 12, 2010

my own shepherd's pie

sometimes someone can mention a food, and then i crave it. and my craving isn't satisfied until i have it. do you ever get like that?

well, last week my friend mentioned that she was making shepherd's pie, and i thought, "hm.. shepherd's pie? i haven't made that before.

so i did a search for shepherd's pie. okay, there's like over 100 recipes for shepherd's pie. some easy, some hard. some easy, some complicated. some with cream of mushroom, some with ketchup! i didn't know what to choose so i just did my own thing. and yes, i made my own mashed potatoes. so this recipe isn't exact but i'm estimating:

4 potatoes - peeled and cubed
1 cup of milk
3 Tbsp of butter
1 1/2 cups of frozen vegetables (peas and carrots)
1 pound of ground beef
1 small onion chopped
4 Tbsp of tomato paste
3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Boil the potatoes until tender.
Drain and place in mixing bowl.
Add butter and slowly add milk and mash together. if you want creamier, add more milk.
Add salt to taste.

preheat oven to 425.
then brown ground beef in a pan. drain any oil. flavor with a bit of salt and pepper.
add onions to beef.
while browning beef, boil the frozen vegetables for 5 minutes.
drain vegetables, and then add to the beef when done.
add tomato paste.
mix well.

layer the beef at the bottom of a casserole dish.
then add the mashed potatoes.
cover the top with shredded cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned.

i like to enjoy my shepherd's pie with some sriracha hot sauce and a nice cold beer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

first time porto's

have i written about porto's? this is my favorite bakery in southern california.

it's this amazing cuban bakery located in glendale. they make the most amazing food from delicious pork sandwiches to beautiful desserts. the first time i had a porto's cake was at a wedding about 5 years ago. i still remember the flavor. chocolate raspberry devil's food cake. chocolate with a hint of raspberry jam. and what's even better are their prices. very reasonable.

one year for my birthday i requested this cake. i would accept nothing else. usually i never want leftover cake. but this cake, i brought home and ate it for the next few days. and it was still moist even after three days! okay, that sounds gross, but trust me. you want a slice every day.

we recently enjoyed this cake last saturday for a friend's birthday, and they let me have the leftover cake! some of us enjoyed it during the superbowl. my friend, nelson, heard of porto's but never had their desserts. he helped himself to 3 servings of the chocolate raspberry cake.

i told him that i'd take him to porto's one of these days. well that day arrived today. he let me choose all the food.

we ordered:
1 pan con lechon (pulled pork with garlic sauce on a cuban bread)
1 feta cheese sandwich with tomato
1 garden salad
6 potato balls
4 meat pies
1 quesadilla (their version of a corn cake)
2 tamales

and then came the desserts (shown in the picture going clockwise starting at 12:00)
1 lemon mousse cake
1 napoleon
1 leche napoleon
1 fruit tart
1 cappuccino mousse
1 chocolate mousse
1 pineapple cake
1 opera cake
1 cappuccino cake
1 creme brulee
1 flourless chocolate cake
1 cheesecake
1 lemon mousse
1 mango mousse (i avoided this one b/c of my mango allergy. they actually packed it in a separate box.)

my favorite is their creme brulee and their fruit tart after their chocolate raspberry cake. i love breaking the creme brulee on top. always reminds me of amelie.

nelson had a sampling of almost everything. okay, i did help him too. i was so stuffed afterwards. i sent the rest of it home with nelson so that he could finish it off which he can afford to do as he doesn't gain any weight. so jealous....

i think nelson enjoyed his first porto's experience. next time... order less desserts.

but you can never go wrong at porto's. but don't try to go late at night. they close by 7pm on weeknights and 8pm on the weekends. and no matter what there's always a line. but don't fret. the line goes pretty quickly.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

cranberries, cranberries, cranberries

as my roommate was cleaning out our snack basket, she found three bags of dried cranberries!

so i did a search for a scone recipe using cranberries. i found this recipe for cranberry orange scones. one tip. if you don't have a pastry blender, you can use two knives to cut up the butter. i did make one adjustment though. i sprinkled the tops with raw sugar. it gives it a more crystal look.

it smelled like butter and orange in the house as the scones were baking. i had one immediately after it was done. spread a bit of butter. very nice! it wasn't too sweet either which i prefer. i definitely plan to make them again.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1/2 cup butter, cut up
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine first 6 ingredients; cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Add
buttermilk and dried cranberries, stirring just until moistened.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 5 or 6 times. Pat into an 8-inch circle.
Cut into 8 wedges, and place 1 inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with milk,
and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until scones are golden brown.

Yield: 8 servings
Southern Living, FEBRUARY 1997

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

banh mi!!

when i used to live in new jersey, my friend introduced me to banh mi, vietnamese sandwiches. we found a great place who makes the best banh mi sandwiches.

banh mi is a sandwich made on a fresh french baguette. the sandwich contains cilantro, jalapeno, cucumber, pickled carrots and radish and some kind of meat. my favorite is bbq pork. i've even seen egg as the "meat". make a great breakfast sandwich.

what i love is how the bread crunches in your mouth as you take a bite. in the past i was fan of lee's sandwiches, but the bread would always cut up the roof of my mouth. then our friend introduced us to saigon bakery which still has the flaky bread, but the bread is so soft inside!

if you can't find a vietnamese bakery, you can make your own! just get some skinny fresh french bread, get some meats, add cilantro, jalapeno, pickled carrots and radish (don't have to add those but it does taste good) and a bit of mayo.

found this recipe on foodnetwork to make your own banh mi if you don't have a vietnamese bakery near you. the recipe for the pickled carrots and radish looks good. don't know about everything else.

the key is fresh french bread!

and the best part.. the price! only $2.25!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

superbowl sunday

i learned this recipe from my friend, liz, and now it has become a superbowl tradition to make mexican independence day. it's basically a mexican style casserole. it's so easy and a great potluck meal for groups.

Mexican independence day
1 1b of ground meat browned with goya adobo (red)
1 can corn (drained)
1 can peeled tomotoes chopped (drained)
1 can refried beans
1 jar salsa (12 oz)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
combine all

1 packages of corn bread mix
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
spread corn bread mix and sprinkle cheese over mixture
1 chopped jalapeno (be careful when handling not to get in contact with the seeds.)

bake with cornbread directions.

serve with tortilla chips

Saturday, February 6, 2010

more oranges

i hosted a stampin' up party at my house this morning, and i generally like to make some kind of dish for my guests.

since i've been in the orange mode, i did a search for a french toast recipe that i could bake.

i found this orange pecan french toast recipe on it's nice to be able to prepare it ahead of time. i prepped it all last night, and baked it this morning. and voila! this is definitely a sweet breakfast treat. i don't recommend eating an orange afterwards. the french toast is so sweet that you can taste the orange at all.

this recipe was so easy! i definitely recommend it if you have to make something for a brunch or a large group.