Jap Chae

If you’ve ever eaten Korean food, you’ve probably enjoyed the delicious side of glass noodles, slippery and sesame-flavored, studded with sautéed veggies. It’s one of my favorites, and after I bought the “Lucky Peach Presents: 101 Easy Asian Recipes” cookbook, I had a recipe to try. I made this yesterday, altered it a bit, and wow. Delicious!

Here’s what you need:

10 ounces sweet potato/cellophane noodles (I bought mine on Amazon)

3 tablespoons neutral oil (safflower, vegetable, grapeseed), divided

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 bell pepper, thinly sliced

salt & pepper

2-3 medium carrots, peeled and julienned (or at least cut into long rectangular pieces)

8 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup mirin

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons sesame oil and 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds OR 4 teaspoons sesame oil (I didn’t have sesame seeds, so just did all sesame oil, and it was great)

Here’s what you do:

1. Boil a pot of water. Prepare an ice bath. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain. Plunge in the ice bath. Drain again. Place in a large bowl.

2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the oil, red onion and bell pepper, and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

3. Season the onions/peppers with salt and pepper. Then add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the carrots, mushrooms, scallions and garlic, and cook until all veggies are softened and slightly golden, about ten minutes.

4. Pour the veggies into the noodle bowl. Then pour the mirin into the pan to deglaze and boil off the alcohol, about 3 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Combine for one minute, then remove from heat.

5. Pour the sauce over the noodles, add the sesame seeds (if using), and stir to combine.

Allow to cool slightly and then enjoy!

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Spaghetti alla ceci, aglio y olio (or just Fancy-Tasting Pantry Pasta)

Last night I was craving some flavorful, fancy-tasting pasta (probably because I’ve been marking interesting recipes in an Italian cookbook), but didn’t have man fresh ingredients. So, I came up with this recipe that’s heavy on stuff-on-hand, and it was so delicious. Think creamy olive oil and garlic meets alfredo, but without all the fat, and plus protein.

Here’s what you need:

12 ounces spaghetti (or any other pasta of your choice)

1/4 cup olive oil (quality helps, but doesn’t have to be fancy)

6 large garlic cloves (or the equivalent if using smaller ones), sliced

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1.5 cups milk, divided (I used 2%)

1.5 cups shredded parmesan, or Romano, or grana padano, or whatever you have that’s similar

generous salt and pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over low heat. Add the garlic. Turn up the heat a bit until you see the garlic begin to sizzle a little. Then turn back down and allow the garlic to cook. Make sure the heat doesn’t get too high or the garlic might burn. Stir occasionally.

2. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box. When finished, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain and rinse the pasta and place it in a large bowl (or back into the pot you cooked it in, to cut down on cleaning).

3. Add half a cup of milk plus the garbanzo beans to a blender or food processor. Blend until smoothish.

4. Once the garlic has softened and turned slightly browned (about 15 minutes, but taste if softened to your liking), stir the garbanzo bean mixture into the pan. Then add the reserved pasta water. Turn up the heat, and stir to combine. Next, add the remaining milk, and the cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to cook until warmed through and the cheese is melty, about 4 minutes.

5. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed, and more cheese if needed.

(And I probably don’t need to mention that the variations are endless. I had some fresh parsley from my dad’s garden, so I threw some in. Basil would be great too. Or some chopped up tomatoes. Some chicken or sausage…)


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Corn, Onion & Cheddar Chowder

Everyone raves about Ina Garten’s soup recipes, so I decided to make her corn and cheddar chowder. But, as I’ve found with many of her recipes, the ingredients are a bit fat and starch heavy, so I used her basic premise to turn this into a lighter–but definitely delicious–version of my own.

Here’s what you need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

something salty and umami: Ina suggested 2 ounces of bacon, chopped. I used a hot dog, chopped. Or, try a veggie hot dog, a handful of mushrooms with some salt, or some chopped up salami. Or you can skip this ingredient.

2 yellow onions, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon red miso paste (or any other color you have, or a tablespoon of soy sauce)

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup miso broth (if you have it, or skip it)

4.5 cups corn kernels from fresh ears of corn (about 4-5 ears)

1 cup milk (I used 2%)

1/4 pound cheese (Ina suggested sharp white cheddar, but I had medium cheddar slices and a chunk of Cambozola, so I threw that in)

Here’s what you do:

1. Add your olive oil and hot dog to a large soup pot over medium high heat. Cook until crisp and flavor released. Remove the hot dog with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add your onions, butter, and miso or soy sauce to the pot over medium heat, and cook for about ten minutes, until the onion is translucent.

3. Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water. Cook your corn kernels in the water for 3 minutes. Then drain and set aside.

4. To the onion, add the flour, salt, pepper and turmeric, and stir occasionally, cooking for 3 minutes.

5. Add the chicken stock (and miso) to the onions and bring to a boil.

6. Stir in the corn. Then stir in the milk, and the cheese. Turn down the heat and allow to cook for another five minutes, until the cheese has melted.


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Caramelized Cabbage

This recipe is great, because other than the cabbage, it uses ingredients that should be mostly available in your pantry or fridge. Patrick and I ate this mixed with rice and sour cream, and it was a delicious bowl. Feel free to also throw in some protein, like some ground beef, a fried egg, or some hummus. This recipe is adapted from one of Bon Appetit’s top recipes of 2020.

Here’s what you need:

1/4 cup double concentrated tomato paste

3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced

1.5 teaspoons ground coriander

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (this will bring the heat, so feel free to decrease, or leave out, if you don’t want it)

1 head of cabbage (green or savoy, about 2 pounds)

1/4 cup olive oil


about 1.5 cups of water

Optional: rice, sour cream/greek yogurt (for serving)

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the tomato paste, garlic, coriander, cumin and red pepper flakes.

3. Cut your cabbage in half, through the core. Then, cut each half into four pieces, through the core.

4. Heat half the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place the cabbage wedges, cut side down, into the pan, and season with salt. Allow to brown, turning occasionally, about 5-8 minutes. (Work in batches if necessary.)

5. Remove the wedges to a plate. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, add the spiced tomato paste over medium heat, and stir frequently for about 2-3 minutes.

6. Pour enough water into the pan so it comes up halfway (about 1 1/2 cups), season with salt, and bring to a simmer.

7. Once simmering, nestle the cabbage wedges back into the tomato broth.

8. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 40-50 minutes, turning once, until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the cabbage is caramelized around the edges.


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Honey-Date Bran Muffins (a la Mimi’s Cafe)

About a year ago, Simon and I went with my best friend, Nicki, to get our nails painted. (Yes, he loved it, and also got a sorta-shady kid riding a light up bike toy that may have been a secret spying machine, but that’s a story for another day.) Afterwards, Simon and I picked up some lunch, and ate a delicious honey bran muffin. It reminded me of the ones they used to serve at Mimi’s Cafe, hot and delicious, and alongside their corn chowder (which was also one of my favorite things to eat after my braces were tightened because it still tasted yummy after being blended). I’ve seen a lot of copycat Mimi’s recipes online, and decided to try one. The muffins turned out delicious–but full disclosure, I turned the butter content way down. They were still great, and offer the opportunity to add another smear of butter or cream cheese–or not–as you prefer.

Here’s what you need (to make 2 dozen muffins):

3 cups dates, or a combo of dates, prunes, and/or golden raisins (I did a little raisins and the rest dates/prunes)

1/2 stick butter

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons boiling water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup oat bran (or wheat bran)

3 cups flour (I did 2 all purpose, 1 whole wheat)

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Here’s what you do:

1. Place your dates/prunes/raisins in a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to soak.

2. Make your “glaze”: In a food processor, combine the butter with the sugars until smooth. Then add the 3 tablespoons honey and the hot water. Mix to combine.

3. Grease 2 muffin tins with cooking spray (or you can do one at a time if you only have one tray). Place a dollop of the glaze into each tin so it’s divided evenly among the 24 muffins. (Note: I tried making these as regular-sized muffins and mini-muffins, and found that the mini-muffins dried out a bit, and didn’t get that same gooey glaze on the bottom.)

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

5. Drain your dates/prunes/raisins, and blend in a food processor until smooth.

6. Pour the pureed fruit into a large bowl, and stir in the oil and 1/2 cup honey. Then, beat in the eggs. Finally, stir in the buttermilk and bran.

7. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into the wet mixture. Stir just to combine.

8. Pop your muffin tins into the oven for about 1 minute so the glaze melts. Then spoon the batter into the prepared tins (mine were pretty full).

9. Bake for 25 minutes.

10. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a couple of minutes before removing from the pan and inverting to cool completely.


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Pantry “Eggplant Parmesan”

It’s weird when you feel like ever word in a recipe should have quotes around it. During the pandemic, my niece, Julia, ate eggplant parmesan. My son, Simon, saw it on FaceTime, and requested that I too make eggplant parmesan. I was happy to oblige, but have never been one for breading and deep frying eggplant. Also, I am always looking for ways to make my cooking a one-pot meal. And finally, when I made this the first time, it was the height of the pandemic and empty-shelves grocery stores, so I had to improvise. Thus was born what Simon calls eggplant parmesan, but what is really a beefy, tomato-y, mishmash of deliciousness. And I call this “pantry” because there are lots of ways to vary this given what you have on hand. One fresh item you will need, however, is eggplant.

Here’s what you need:

2-4 eggplants

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 yellow, or white, or red onion, diced

a few cloves of garlic, minced, or a couple tablespoons garlic paste, or some garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried basil and 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or you could do parsley, or you could use some fresh herbs if you have them, or even a few scoops of pantry or frozen pesto)

2 tablespoons tomato paste (or not, if you don’t have it)

1.5 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey, or ground chicken, or a little more or a little less)

1 can diced tomatoes and 1 jar tomato sauce (or 2 cans, diced or pureed or whatever, or two jars)

1 cup parmesan cheese (and/or some other cheese, like shredded mozzerella, or toss in some ricotta or mascarpone or even cottage cheese)

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Wash your eggplants and slice them in circles or cut them lengthwise, about 1/2 inch thick. Brush a large baking sheet with one tablespoon olive oil. Lay the eggplants out in a single layer, spray the tops of them with cooking spray, and bake for about 20 minutes. Check them, flip them, and give them another ten minutes. They should be softened and a little golden, but it’s okay if they aren’t 100% cooked.

3. Lower the heat in the oven to 350 degrees.

4. In a large, oven safe pot with a lid, warm the remaining olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and herbs, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions start to soften.

5. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute.

6. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost fully cooked.

7. Add the can of tomatos, or a jar of tomato sauce, and stir.

8. Turn off the heat. Layer the eggplant pieces on top of the beef/tomato mixture. Top with the remaining jar of sauce. Then top with whatever cheeses you are using. (Or, if you are using some creamy cheeses, like ricotta or cottage cheese, put that on top of the beef, and then layer the eggplant over it.)

9. Baked, covered, for about 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake another 10 minutes or so until the cheese is bubbly.


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Baked Peanut-Lime Tofu, Coconut-Cilantro-Lime Rice, and Peanut Green Salad Bowls

This recipe is a variation of one I saw in the NY Times Cooking Section. It uses lots of flavorful, fresh ingredients to make a delicious combination. If you don’t want to assemble all the parts, the tofu is great on its own! And it’s versatile because the marinade is slightly altered to turn into the salad dressing. So don’t be deterred by the long title–all the parts share ingredients and lead to a great combination.

Here’s what you need:

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (or any other oil of your choosing)

1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, drained and sliced in 1/4 inch slabs

1 cup creamy peanut butter

6 tablespoons lime juice, divided, plus zest from one lime (about 4-5 limes)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon red miso

1 teaspoon hot sauce, or a chopped jalapeno, or skip this

1 tablespoon grated ginger (a great trick is to buy fresh ginger, cut off the skin, cut into 2 inch pieces, and freeze; then you always have “fresh” ginger on hand, and it’s super easy to grate when frozen)

3/4 cup water

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 cups white rice

1 can full-fat coconut milk

salt to taste

bunch of cilantro, chopped

1 green onion, thinly sliced

as many handfuls of greens (spinach, arugula, spring mix) as you want for each bowl

Here’s what you do:

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Pour 1 tablespoon peanut oil on a large baking sheet and spread around.

3. Prepare the tofu. First, slice into 1/4 inch slabs. Then, allow to sit on paper towels, with more on top, and something heavy on top of that, for about 15 minutes, to drain.

4. Make the marinade: Whisk together the peanut butter, 4 tablespoons lime juice, honey, red miso, hot sauce, ginger, remaining 2 tablespoons peanut oil, and water.

5. Lay the drained tofu slices out in a single layer on the oiled baking sheet. Spoon 2 tablespoons of sauce over each one, allowing to drip down the sides. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until browned on the bottom and baked in on the top.

6. Turn the remaining marinade into dressing by whisking in the rice vinegar and sesame oil.

7. Make the rice: Combine the rice, coconut milk, remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice, a teaspoon of salt, and half of the cilantro in a rice cooker or pot. Add water as necessary to get the correct ratio (per the package, or per your rice cooker). Cook rice according to package directions/rice cooker.

8. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the lime zest, remaining chopped cilantro, the sliced green onion, and additional salt as need.

9. To assemble the bowls: Place as many handfuls of greens as desired in the bowl. Drizzle with dressing. Top with a scoop of rice and two slabs of tofu.


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Apple Fritter Cake

If the title didn’t make you run to your kitchen, I don’t know what will. This recipe was featured in the LA Times Thanksgiving Food Section this year as an alternative to traditional dessert. I can’t say it tastes exactly like an apple fritter, but I can say it tastes ridiculously delicious.

Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

1 cup white sugar

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus a bit more for dusting)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch pieces (or enough apples to make a heaping 2 cups)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze:

1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)

2 tablespoons white sguar

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Here’s what you do:

To make the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8×8 inch pan with butter, lay a piece of parchment paper across the bottom and up two sides, grease the paper, and then dust the entire pan with flour. Tap to remove excess.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth. Then, whisk vigorously until pale and thick, about 20-30 seconds. Then, whisk in the butter until it emulsifies and takes on a hollandaise-like sheen.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another small bowl, mix together the apples, lemon juice and cinnamon.

4. Putting the batter together: Add the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, using a spatula to mix until halfway combined. Then, add the apple mixture and stir until the apples are evenly coated in the batter.

5. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out on the top. Bake until brown on top, crisp on the edge, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 minutes. (Rotate the cake halfway through.)

To make the glaze:

6. When the cake has 15 minutes left, make the glaze. Combine the sugars, cream, butter and salt in a small saucepan. Place over low-medium heat, and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts.

7. Turn up to medium-high heat, stirring occassionaly. When the entire surface bubbles, set a timer for two minutes, stirring often.

8. When two minutes are up, remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and keep covered and warm.

Putting it all together:

9. When the cake is done baking, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Then spread the glaze over the top. Allow to cool completely.


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Blueberry Muffins, How They Should Taste

Little Flower in Pasadena has always been a favorite cafe and bakery of mine and my sisters. We used to enjoy food and treats there when they both lived in Pasadena. While I don’t make it out there much anymore, I did buy the cookbook, and when my son requested blueberry muffins tonight, I thought to myself, let’s just see if the Little Flower cookbook has a recipe. Lo and behold, it did. While these didn’t look exactly how I thought perfectly-tasting blueberry muffins would, I took a bite and knew they were just right.

Here’s what you need:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar, divided

2 eggs, separated

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon cake flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a regular muffin tin, or mini-muffin tin.

Bowl usage note: This recipe required called for a lot of mixing bowls, but I like to be economical about how much I get dirty, so the below will help you use the least amount of dishes possible. To plan, you will need the following, in this order: one little bowl, one big mixing bowl, one regular cereal bowl, a 2-cup measuring cup, and a tablespoon.

2. Separate your eggs, placing the yolks in the little bowl, and the whites in the bix mixing bowl.

3. In the big mixing bowl, use an electric mixer on high speed to beat together 1/2 cup sugar with the egg whites until they are stiff and glossy (a few minutes). Transfer the egg whites to the cereal bowl.

4. In the big mixing bowl, beat together the butter with the remaining sugar until pale. Add the egg yolks and vanilla, and mix to combine.

5. In the measuring cup, stir the 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.

6. To combine the batter: beat 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, then add half of the milk (4 tablespoons). Repeat again. Then finish with the last of the flour. Finally, gently fold in the egg whites.

7. Fill your muffin tins 3/4 of the way.

8. In the measuring cup, mix your blueberries with the last tablespoon of flour. If doing mini-muffins, place 2-4 blueberries on the top of each muffin. If doing regular sized, place more. (The cookbook said they would “sink” while baking. I didn’t find that mine sank very much, but they were still perfectly placed.)

9. Bake your muffins. If mini-muffins, start checking them at 10 minutes. The top won’t be golden, but they should be cooked through so a toothpick comes out clean. Mine ultimately took about 13 minutes. If doing regular sized, the cookbook says about 25 minutes.

Cool and enjoy!

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Indonesian Chicken

Last weekend, we spent a couple of days at my parents’ house. While there, I saw that my dad had the Barefoot Contessa cookbook and asked if I could borrow it. Of course he said okay, and, much to my surprise, when I opened it, there was an inscription to Brock. Guess it was part of my dad’s “inheritance.” I’ve already tried a few recipes that I’ll add here. This one was a hit. We ate it with steamed rice, and some roasted veggies I’d made the other day (brussels, green bell peppers and zucchini).

Here’s what you need:

2 pounds chicken (I did one pound drumsticks, one pound boneless/skinless thighs)

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and diced small

6 garlic cloves, minced

Here’s what you do:

1. In a saucepan, combine the honey, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Heat over low heat until the honey is melted.

2. In a baking pan, arrange the chicken skin side down. (Mine didn’t really have a skin side to go down, so I just placed them in the pan.) Pour the marinade over the top, cover tightly with foil, and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight (or two…).

3. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.

4. Increase the temperature to 375 degrees, remove the foil, flip the chicken, and cook another 30 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce becomes a bit thick and sticky.


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