Friday, May 30, 2014


Let's get the tough stuff out first.  This post will be a bit on the serious side for a moment and then I'll be sure to enlighten you on the funnies of being and Asian-American kid growing up in Central Pennsylvania.

Photography by Chhun Lee Photography 

Pictured above is my adorable, six year old cousin from Cambodia, Sea (pronounced "See-Uh").  He recently was diagnosed with Brainstem Glioma.  The tumor is covering about 90% of his brainstem causing him to have trouble walking.  He is currently receiving radiation treatments in Thailand.  The cost is astronomical considering health insurance is unavailable to my family.  We, my family here in the states, have started a fundraiser for him via Give Forward.  Please take the time to read his story here and support him by sharing and or donating.  Every little bit counts!  Thank you to all my readers in advance!!

So in honor of my cousin, who is a veggie lover, I thought a twist on one of my favorite farmer's market buys would be nice.  Do I think Sea will be eating/liking these hoisin glazed roasted radishes?  Probably not, but I don't know how many six year olds would.  Anyhow, here's how my palate has evolved thanks to my Asian-American upbringing (more Asian than American).

Dinner time at our house was a family affair.  Whether we were all quickly eating before my sister and I headed off to dance class or we were eating leisurely, we all ate together.  White rice was the constant and most often accompanied by stir fried vegetables and some type of protein.  Soy sauce and fish sauce were the main ingredients for seasoning while hoisin sauce was a rarity on table but definitely my favorite.

I learned to eat with chopsticks at a young age and when we actually had an "American meal" of spaghetti and meatballs, which was almost never, I used those chopsticks instead of a fork.  Dessert after dinner?  Yep, not happening at our house unless you wanted fruit.  My obsession with dark chocolate happened way later in life as an adult.  As a kid I thought that my parents were keeping me from experiencing the deliciousness of "American food."  In the end I am forever thankful that I don't have an addiction to Velveeta.

Once I moved to California a whole new world of food and flavors were brought to my attention; squash blossoms, smoked salmon, kale, Mexican everything and radishes.  Now I don't mean radishes chopped up on a salad, I mean roasted radishes which take on a potato like texture once perfectly roasted.  So here I am in my sunny California kitchen with my farmer's market radishes thinking "Ok Asian-American girl, you know you want to drench them in hoisin sauce, roast them, and eat the whole plate on your own."  So I did.  I hope you all do the same!

Hoisin Glazed Roasted Radishes

12-15 small radishes 
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 lime wedge, juiced
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
pepper to taste

Preheat the oven 400 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl combine the radishes, hoisin sauce, lime, vegetable oil and pepper.  Toss until well coated.  Place the radishes on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Remove the radishes from the oven and place back into the mixing bowl.  Add the green onions and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.  Makes about 2 servings.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

#cantcook, #help!

One of my oldest and dearest friends from my hometown Hershey, Pa has been cracking me up via her Instagram posts on her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes.  Amy's pictures of her weekly vegetables are amazing, which is to be expected since she's a photographer (check out her website here).  However, it's her hashtags that have me laughing out loud!  She often claims she's #juicing her veggies because she #cantcook or making veggie bouquets, pictured below, as #methodstoavoidcooking.  However, my all time favorites are #nowonderimnotmarried and #help.  Well Amy, I'm here to #help!  
Photography credit: Moonrise Rebel
I have created a simple and delicious recipe using 3 of the 6 items from her box.  Now, it does require turning on the oven, but I promise it's not as difficult as you think.  Besides prepping your vegetables for juicing is pretty much the same for making this salad.  Oh and the honey glazed roasted beets are like eating candy.  I know you can't pass that one up, Amy!  

Collard Green Salad over Honey Glazed Red Beets and Burrata Cheese

3-4 small to medium red beets
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup collard greens, tough stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup spinach, chopped
2 - 2 ounce fresh burrata balls, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper, whisk to combine and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl place the collard greens in and pour the dressing over top.  Toss to coat.  Massage the greens for 1-2 minutes.  This breaks up the greens a bit making them easier to eat and digest.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight to marinate.  The salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using a vegetable peeler, carefully peel the skin from the beets.  Cut the beets into 3/4 inch slices.  Place the sliced beets on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Brush the beets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven for 40 minutes turning them over halfway through.  Drizzle with the honey and bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove the beets from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Remove the collard greens from the refrigerator.  Add the chopped spinach and shredded carrots to the collard greens and toss to combine.  

Assembling the salad:
Place the honey glazed beets on a medium plate or platter.  Place the sliced burrata on top of the beets and then top with the collard green salad.  Makes 2 large servings or 4 small servings.

 Notes: Amy receives her CSA box from Spiral Path Farms and I receive mine from Farm Fresh To You.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sweet Fridays

My husband has been feeling a bit nostalgic about our recent trip to Italy (which I promise to write about someday).  He's found himself in the kitchen whipping up fresh pasta, bolognese sauce and recently this amazing gelato.  With summer around the corner for most or knocking down our door here in Southern California, gelato is the perfect cool down dessert.  

A recent trip to the farmer's market delighted us both with beautiful organic red ripe strawberries.  Of course my first thought was to make a cocktail with them.  However my husband had other plans.  So to make us both happy he mixed up the perfect boozy summer time dessert.  It's fresh, sweet, and creamy with just the right amount of kick.  

As we head into the weekend, I think everyone could use a little something sweet that can also double as a cocktail(ish).   Enjoy!

Boozy Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Gelato

3 cups hulled and sliced strawberries
1/2 cup Tito's Handmade Vodka
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 vanilla bean
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Place the strawberries into a food processor and blend until pureed.  Add the vodka and pulse to combine.  Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl place the sugar and cornstarch.  Stir to combine. In medium sauce pan add the sugar and cornstarch mixture with the whole milk and heavy whipping cream.  Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  Scrape the beans into the sauce pan then drop the whole bean into the mixture. Whisk all ingredients together.   Over medium heat cook the mixture until it begins to bubble and thicken, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.

Transfer the gelato into a mixing bowl, discarding the vanilla bean pods.  Place the mixing bowl with the gelato into larger mixing bowl filled about 1/3 with ice, allowing the mixture to cool to room temperature.  Stir occasionally.

Once cooled pour the strawberry vodka mixture into the gelato mixture.  Stir to combine.  Pour the gelato into your ice cream maker.  Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your ice cream maker until your gelato is ready.  Makes about 1 quart.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Me, my sister and Ina

I've been trying to get this recipe out and perfected for a while.  After many attempts to make the perfect looking cake I realized it's not always about the way it looks but really about the way it taste.  Right? I can't say how many times I've put a disclaimer on my baking.  Ok, I'm not the worst baker, (actually my dance students think I'm pretty amazing) and I can follow a good recipe.  However, my sister the baker would never call me to decorate or ice a cake and maybe not even a cookie for that matter.  So with a little help from my sister sharing her dark chocolate ganache recipe and one of our favorite chefs, Ina Garten's amazing chocolate cake, I was able to put my savory-sweet tooth balsamic strawberry compote recipe to good use.

Now, like I said I tried really hard to make this recipe look good so please don't judge my photos in this post.  I know my sister will be making this for Mother's Day so I'll be sure to post her masterpiece on my Instagram!

There are three different ways this dessert can be made; an 8-inch round layered cake, 4-inch round mini cakes or my favorite, layered parfaits.  I wish you luck and enjoy!

Dark Chocolate and Balsamic Strawberry Compote Cake

Chocolate Cake
Follow Ina's famous recipe here for the cake.

Balsamic Strawberry Compote

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons high quality balsamic vinegar
Dash of sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium high-heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring.  The compote should be syrup like.  Transfer the compote to a bowl and allow to cool. Refrigerate and store for up to two weeks.  Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Dark Chocolate Ganache 

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 teaspoons light corn syrup
1-1/3 cups dark chocolate chips

Place all ingredients into a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until the chocolate chips are melted and the heavy cream is mixed in.  Pour over the dessert immediately.

Assembling 8-inch Round Layered Cake

Ina's Chocolate Cake
Balsamic Strawberry Compote
Dark Chocolate Ganache
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

Follow Ina's directions for baking the cake mixture into two 8-inch round cakes.  Once the cakes are cooled place one cake onto a pedestal.  Carefully slice off the top part of the cake to make it level if needed.  Spread the fresh strawberries on top of the cake.  Pour the balsamic strawberry compote on top and spread evenly.  Place the second 8-inch round cake on top.  Pour the dark chocolate ganache over the cake.  Using a spatula spread the ganache evenly making sure to cover the sides.  Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes allowing the ganache to set.  Makes about 8-10 servings.

Assembling 4-inch Round Mini Cakes

Ina's Chocolate Cake
Balsamic Strawberry Compote
Dark Chocolate Ganache
1-2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Bake the chocolate cake in an 11x15 inch baking pan.  Allow the cake to cool completely.  

Using a 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out about 6 round mini cakes.  Place the excess cake into a container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze and store for up to 3 months if desired.

Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the mini cakes in half horizontally, creating a top and bottom.  Line each bottom half with fresh strawberries.  Spoon about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the balsamic strawberry compote on top and spread evenly.  Place the top half of the mini cakes on top.  Trim any excess cake along the sides to make the cakes more round if necessary.  Carefully pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the dark chocolate ganache over each mini cake.  Using a small spatula spread the ganache evenly over each cake making sure to cover the sides.  Place the cakes in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes allowing the ganache to set.  Each mini cake serves 2.

Assembling the Parfaits

Ina's Chocolate Cake
Balsamic Strawberry Compote, double recipe
Dark Chocolate Ganache, double recipe 
2-3 cups chopped fresh strawberries

Bake the chocolate cake in an 11x15 inch baking pan.  Allow the cake to cool completely.  Once cooled cut the cake into small 1-1/2 inch cubes.  

Using 6 ounce jars, place 3-4 cubes of cake into the bottom of each jar.  Next pour in 1 tablespoon of the balsamic strawberry compote.  Place about 1 tablespoon of fresh strawberries on top of the compote.  Drizzle in 1-1/2 teaspoons of the dark chocolate ganache.  Repeat with all 4 layers.   Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Makes 20-24 parfaits.