Friday, January 31, 2014

Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookie Bars

It's a 9x13 of delicious cookie!! Like a cookie cake but better than any cookie cake I've ever had. Granted, I wouldn't be surprised if every cookie cake I ever had was from Giant Eagle. 

The blog I got this recipe from calls it a Lunch Lady Bar, but I don't think my school had these - although I guess I might not know since I always packed my lunch. Maybe all the other kids were eating these every day.

Cookie Bar
Adapted from Taste and Tell

I added the peanut butter and marshmallows - it's good with them but I'm sure it's good without them, too.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (or mix of semi-sweet and white chips)
1 cup mini-marshmallows

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lo Mein Noodles

Like the dumplings that I make pretty often and like to have in the freezer, I also like to have fresh noodles from Lotus around to make lo mein. It's very quick, filling dinner that's easy to have on hand and fun to make different variations of based on what's in the fridge. Britt likes lo mein but does not want to learn how it make it because apparently she would rather I make it for her. However, she is very good at baking blondies!

1 package fresh noodles 
4-5 tbsp soy sauce (just squirt in as needed)
2 tbsp sesame oil
2-3 tbsp hoisin 
1 tsp + Sriracha
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
2-3 cups chopped veggies (peppers, onions, bok choy, spinach, carrots, brocoli...)

Do you want to add in...
2-3 chicken thighs, cut up and sauteed with a little soy sauce and sesame oil
1 cup bean sprouts

Friday, January 24, 2014

Eggs Florentine

The first time I made this dish, it was the coldest day we had in Pgh! So we decided not to go out to brunch but rather make food at home. It was complete with cranberry compote and brie french toast and homefries. Nom.

Today is the last day we're working before the Tet holiday. Technically we get a 10 day holiday, but since my Vietnamese is ridiculous I accidentally told my cousin we could go on a beach trip with her family which means 12 days for us!!! We're spending time with my grandparents closer to the city center. Out here, we're on the outskirts of the city and it takes about 40 minutes to get there. We want to go to the center because there's lots of options for food (found French, Italian, Japanese, and even Mexican food) and an organic market. I'm going to gather some ingredients to try and make my grandparents brownies with no measuring cups and basically just a rice cooker, ha. It's supposed to be possible since I read it online anyways...

For each person:
1 egg muffin, split in half and toasted
1 egg, poached
1 slice swiss cheese
few leaves spinach
ground black pepper

Hollandaise sauce:
3 large egg yolks
1 stick butter, melted
1-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
pinch cayenne pepper

Whisk the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl until light in color and frothy. Boil a small pot of water and turn off heat. Place the bowl on top of the pot of water and whisk the egg yolks until thickened (about 2-3 minutes). Make sure the eggs don't cook. Whisking constantly, very slowly add melted butter, then whisk in lemon juice, cayenne and salt. If not serving right away, keep the sauce nearby a warm place (like on the stovetop.  You may need to add 1 drop of boiling water at a time to the sauce if it solidifies.

For a crowd, I place the egg muffins cut side up with a slice of the swiss cheese on each in a 300 degree oven to keep them toasty. Then I make the hollandaise sauce and set it aside while poaching eggs. To poach the eggs, bring a small pot of 2-3 inches of water just barely to a simmer. Lower the heat a bit and add a splash of vinegar to the water. Crack the egg into a small bowl. Using a slotted spoon, swirl the water and add the egg to the middle. Let it sit for about 3 minutes then when it looks done use the slotted spoon to take the poached egg out.
Place a couple spinach leaves on the toasted egg muffin and then place the poached egg on top. If waiting to serve until all the eggs are assembled, you can leave the finished ones in the oven to stay warm. Right before serving spoon a generous tablespoonful of hollandaise right on top of the poached egg. Then garnish with freshly ground pepper and serve!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Just Straight-Up Brownies

I've got nothing against a good box of brownie mix, but it's good to have a basic brownie recipe from scratch around for a slightly more ambitious chocolate craving. There are about a billion ways to mix it up, but it's always good as is, too!

Want to increase your brownie repertoire?? Try the strawberry jam and dark chocolate ones, swirl in some dulce de leche, cross-breed with pumpkin pie, switch to almond flour, or transform them into gluten-free cup versions. Sometime soon I want to make this ones: Peanut Butter Kahlua Brownies from Cheese and Chocolate! And definitely these Biscoff Brownies from Bake at 350. Also, a good trick to making great brownies is to UNDERBAKE!!!!!! Trust me.

From Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers, by Nick Malgieri

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter 
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces 
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 cup all-purpose flour

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Eggplant Yogurt Pomegranate Goodness

This was one of our last meals in the states, made at Caitlin's apartment in San Francisco. The recipe is from the cookbook, Plenty. Right now, I'm in the Pharmacy taking a little break.

We've been LOVING our time in Saigon so far. We work from 8-4:30 with lunch from 11-1:30 so it's a pretty good life. We do also work on Saturdays but we're volunteers and learning a new language so it's so much more fun than regular work. I had no foresight in coming here since I thought Nick and I would be alone all the time. I had forgotten that there are constantly volunteers coming in from Europe. Right now there's 2 French ladies, 1 lady from Switzerland, 2 dudes from Belgium, and Nick and meeee. So it's a fun group, and the staff and patients here do a great job of integrating us into the community (and it is a great community). If you want to know more about Maison Chance, look it up! It's a pretty amazing story.

Anyways we've been really busy just getting to know everyone over food (everything in Vietnam revolves around food). Then during our days off, we visit family. We have 10 days off for Tet and we're headed for the beach for 2 of those days. The most exciting thing that's happening is that Nick is learning to ride a motorcycle and we're going to illegally rent one for a month. Yesssssss. (Don't tell our parents)

You will need:

2 large eggplants
1/3 cup coconut oil
few sprigs thyme
1 pomegranate

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into the eggplant. Brush all of the oil over the cut sides until absorbed. Season with salt and pepper and thyme, then roast for 35-40 minutes until tender.
Meanwhile make the sauce. Mix the yogurt, some lemon juice (add to taste), a drizzle of olive oil, and 1 clove of minced garlic. Once the sauce is done, seed the pomegranate. Careful- it stains.
Take the eggplants out of the oven and generously spoon some sauce over the surface of the eggplant. Then sprinkle lots of za'atar and fresh thyme over the yogurt sauce. Then drop some handfuls of the pomegranate all over the place. Everything tastes wonderful together--enjoy!!

Tortilla Soup

Souppppp. Yay for easy, hot soup.

Haircut boy!! Skinny again!
Warning! I used tomato sauce this time since I didn't have paste, and it doesn't work as well. I think the paste is supposed to deepen the flavor and sauce isn't strong enough to do that. Also, when I've made this soup in the past I've used a stronger flavor of salsa and that makes a difference too! Basically, it was good this time, but when I've made it with better ingredients, it's been better!

Tortilla Soup

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, sliced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 jar salsa (Normal-ish size, whatever salsa you like. Spicy if you like spicy.)
4 cups chicken (or veg) broth
2 cups water
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cup black beans
1 1/2 cup corn
1 tbsp lime juice
2-3 corn tortillas, sliced (look at the pic below)

Monday, January 20, 2014


Mexican food! We've been eating lots of it in California and surprisingly in Manila. Currently we're at the airport waiting to head out to Saigon.

As soon as we got to Manila we were exhausted, and therefore were perfect targets for the taxi drivers to rip us off. I have to say that was our only barely negative experience. I say that because we had no idea we were being overcharged by 1000% (not exaggerating) until today. So we were blissfully ignorant. Otherwise we've been perfectly happy. Everyone has been very kind to us and a lot of people here speak English which makes it easy. In fact, all of the signs are in English. I think the American occupation had a large impact on the country.

We rented an apartment in a high rise right near a park and overlooking the Manila Bay. Right by our apartment was Starbucks, Seven Eleven, McDonalds, etc. I couldn't believe the amount of chains around us but they're pretty popular here. We did our research and found some great Filipino food (also spaghetti is popular here) which is similar to Vietnamese cuisine. You can basically find whatever food (like cupcakes and Mexican food) you want here at any hour of the day since it is the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world. This also means traffic all the time.

Guacamole, at last!

3 ripe avocados
1/4 red onion
1 small tomato
1 lime
1 clove garlic
1 pinch cumin
1 jalapeño
1 small handful cilantro

Cut the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh using a spoon. Reserve one of the pits for storage (I once heard it helps keep the avocados from browning). Mash the avocados using a fork until they meet your desired consistency. Then juice the lime and add half the juice to the mashed avocados. Then dice the onion, tomato, garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro. Add to the avocado and season with more lime, salt, and pepper.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Noodle Salad Bowl

It's way too cold today, so I tried to counter all the never-ending wintery terribleness with this light summery noodle-y salad bowl. Like the even simpler Rice Noodles, Fried Egg & Stuff that I posted almost a year ago, this is based on my favorite dish at Tram's, a Vietnamese place in Bloomfield. It's cheap and easy and full of great fresh flavor. 

Also, Michelle & Nick are in Vietnam!!!! They are probably eating the actual authentic version of this right now. 

Noodle Salad Bowls
(Serves 3-4)

I'm listing all the ingredients that ideally I would use to make this dish. I always seem to be missing a couple things, but this is what I aim for. This time I was missing thai basil, cucumber and peanuts, and it was still great.

2 handfuls rice noodles (when I buy them at Lotus, they normally come in bundles within a package)
4-5 cups romaine lettuce, roughly chopped 
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup diced cucumber 
1/4 loosely packed cup mint - roughly chopped right before serving
1/4 loosely packed cup thai basil - roughly chopped right before serving
5-6 frozen egg rolls, baked and cut into about 1" thick slices
hoisin sauce & Sriracha (for squirting on top)
1/4 cup peanuts, crushed into little pieces (put them in a bag and smash with the bottom of a mug)
Nuoc mam cham for dressing (see below for recipe)

Prepare the rice noodles - I usually boil a pot of water, pop the noodles in for just a couple minutes and then turn off the heat. Drain the noodles and run cold water over them. 

Build the bowl - start with a base of romaine lettuce, then top with the noodles. Pour a couple tablespoons of nuoc mam cham on the noodles. Then add the other toppings (bean sprouts, carrot, cucumber, mint, thai basil, egg roll slices, peanuts, hoisin and Sriracha). I usually spread them out on top and them mix it all together when I'm ready to eat.

Twilly's "Before" pic - he got a haircut yesterday! I need to take a picture of his new look.
Nuoc mam cham (dressing or spring roll dipping sauce)

1 ½ cup water
8 Tbsp fish sauce
6 Tbsp fresh lime juice
6 tsp rice vinegar
6 Tbsp sugar
1 deseeded and finely chopped fresh red chili
4 cloves of finely chopped garlic
¼ cup finely sliced carrots (optional)
  1. Combine water, rice vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil.
  2. Remove from heat and cool.
  3. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, chili, garlic and carrots.
  4. Note: If you have any leftovers, just put it into a container and freeze it for another meal.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Meyer Lemon Tart

Being in California, it seems natural to take advantage of the abundance of citrus around here. By chance, one of my favorite bloggers posted an Instagram picture of the lemon curd she was making. Since I'm staying at my friend's apartment in San Francisco this week, I figured I would make a lemon tart in return for her hospitality. Nick and I picked up some organic meyer lemons at the Ferry Market near the wharf. The marketplace is entirely indoors and consists of only the most delicious food stands. I picked up some local lavender honey and a zester for the recipe there too. We also got to try HOMEMADE yogurt plus granola! There was so much goodness at the market, we just wandered around for a couple of hours staring at food and sampling olive oils and other tasty treats.

What else have we been doing in San Francisco? Mostly eating and recovering from the stomach flu that my whole family got over Christmas. I'm trying to eat as much American food as possible (pizza, any mexican food, ice cream, etc). Some highlights were the lavender banana date smoothie I got, all of the most delicious espresso drinks made with almond milk, nachos from Tacqueria Cancun, and all of the French pastries I could ever want. Oh and $2 warm ice cream cookie sandwiches from a place called Cream.

If you're less interested in the food, we also saw some historical things. We went to City Lights Bookstore where Allen Ginsberg did a reading and we stayed at a quaint little hotel where he stayed at too. There was a Beat museum dedicated to him and his friends too. Nick was excited. I wanted more food. Sunset from the Sunset neighborhood while meeting Sylvia for Chinese yesterday.

Tomorrow night we leave for Manila, so we're spending the day hiking with our friends Cate and Sylvia in SF. I made a picnic and we got beers! Though we're having a blast and I love not working, we miss everyone and Twilly!! Hope you all are staying warm : )

Tart (from Ina Garten):

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
pinch salt

Meyer Lemon Curd:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup lavender honey
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
2/3 cup meyer lemon juice (5-7 meyer lemons)
1 tbsp meyer lemon zest

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Carrot Couscous Salad

I've been really terrible at remembering to bring a packed lunch to work, so this salad was supposed to inspire me to actually take it with me to the office. It worked! This couscous-based mix is so flavorful and definitely exciting enough to look forward to for lunch. And it holds up well in the fridge since there's no lettuce involved. 

 I made this salad after looking at a few recipes for Moroccan carrot salads. My version is nice and simple and does not include a dressing since I wanted it to be able to sit in the fridge for a couple days. Here are two other examples of Moroccan carrot salads: Smitten Kitchen's carrot salad and a couscous carrot salad from The Wright Recipes. And I just saw (after having made this salad about a week ago) that 101 Cookbooks posted an amazing-looking Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad yesterday! 

I have a bunch of lunch salads bookmarked to try in the next few weeks. I also have a lot of recipes for thing I made in the last few weeks when my camera was MIA (like a raspberry jam and brie pizza and a caper and rosemary focaccia-type bread), so hopefully I'll be making those thing again soon! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Green Smoothies

It's our second last day in Orange County. We're staying with my aunt Theresa in Westminster which is where little Saigon is located. It's basically like a warm-up to Vietnam with more space. Every morning we wake up, drink Vietnamese coffee that my uncle makes, eat Vietnamese pastries from the French bakery down the street, and drink a green smoothie made for us by my cousin, Kevin. He got a Nutri-blend (magic bullet on steroids) and it liquifies almonds. Pretty awesome. Just because it's your lucky day, I'll be blogging 2 of my favorite green smoothie recipes that he has made for us.

We've been spending a lot of time with my little cousins and my aunt. The thing about not having a job is that it leaves time for other things like extra eating time and daily mass. All in all, it's pretty amazing. Everyone in our family has been taking us out to the best Vietnamese food in town (which by deduction via my uncle is the best Vietnamese food in America). We've had pho, crawfish, a 7-course spring roll dinner, French-Vietnamese pastries by the dozen, and so many other treats. I'm grateful for the green smoothies so we have some small amount of healthfulness going for us.

Also, my aunt lives just 15 minutes from the beach! We rented single speed bikes that were the heaviest things in the world and biked 14 miles from Huntington to Newport beach and back. We were fueled by ham and cheese croissants, poke bowls (like a Hawaiian sushi bowl) + a spam roll, and banzai bowls.

This is not a picture of the smoothies Kevin made for me, but rather a failed attempt by me to replicate him by not using any part of his recipe.

So back to the recipe (each recipe makes enough for you plus a friend.)


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