Yum: Almost-No-Bake Berries & Cream Cheese Pie

082a Summer berries are here, huzzah! To celebrate, I was going to make a typical fruit tart with cream cheese filling. But then I remembered this wonderful berry pie recipe from Cooks Illustrated and decided to combine the two. It takes some time to put together, but if you like berries and the tangy richness of cream cheese, this pie's for you!

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I went with a graham cracker crust because they're easy and I secretly think they're the best part of cheesecake anyway. This is the only part that requires baking and if you use a store-bought graham cracker crust, you won't have to turn on your oven at all!

Beryr Pie Collage

Once the crust is baked and cooled, in goes a berry puree that is thickened with cornstarch and simmered briefly on the stovetop. I used frozen berries - they're cheaper and why not if you're just going to blend them all up!

Beryr Pie Collage 2

After the berry puree has firmed up in the fridge, a lemony-sweet cream cheese layer is spread on top. I found "Greek Cream Cheese" at the market (a combo of cream cheese and greek yogurt) and it tasted great! But you can also use regular or low-fat cream cheese.

Beryr Pie Collage 3

And finally, the fun part - decorating with whatever fresh fruit you like! (I realize mandarin orange segments aren't berries, but they're happy and yellow so whatevs.)

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Berries & Cream Cheese Pie

Crust Ingredients: 10 full graham crackers 1 tbsp granulated sugar 5 tbsp melted butter

Berry Filling Ingredients: 2 cups mixed frozen or fresh berries (I used strawberries and raspberries) 1/2 cup granulated sugar 3 tbsp cornstarch 1/8 tsp salt 1 tbsp lemon juice

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients: 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (for a healthier version, use neufschatel or Greek Cream Cheese) 1/4 cup granulated sugar zest from 1/2 lemon

Directions:

1. GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Break graham crackers into big pieces and place them and 1 tbsp of sugar into a food processor. Process about 30 seconds or until you have fine crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate using a spoon or measuring cup to get the crust even on the bottom and up the sides. Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes; transfer to wire rack to cool while you make the berry filling.

2. BERRY FILLING: In a food processor, puree 2 cups of the mixed berries until fully smooth. Press the puree through a mesh strainer and into small saucepan. Reserve a couple tablespoons of this puree to glaze the fruit which will top your pie. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt, then whisk this mixture into the saucepan with the puree. Cook the puree over medium heat, stirring constantly until the puree has thickened to the consistency of pudding. Stir in the lemon juice, then let the puree cool slightly. Pour the puree into the graham cracker crust and refrigerate at least two hours or until the puree has set. (If you're in a hurry, you can stick the pie in the freezer for 20 minutes).

3. CREAM CHEESE FILLING: In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, combine the softened cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest until smooth and well mixed. Once the berry puree layer is set, spread the cream cheese filling carefully over the top until it is even with the top of the graham cracker crust.

4. DECORATE! Slice up your favorite fruit. Toss red or darker colored fruit with the reserved berry puree to give them a nice shine. (Lighter colored fruit may look discolored when combined with the berry puree). Decorate the top of your pie and refrigerate for a few hours to set before serving.

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Yum: Vietnamese Summer Roll Party

Ever notice that customizing your food makes it taste better? There's something about being involved in the process and making choices for yourself... it's no wonder places like Chipotle and Yogurtland are doing gangbusters. So why not use this basic human psychology for your next lunch party? After the jump, see how to put together a Vietnamese Summer Roll spread so people can make their own, maybe learn something new and definitely have a blast! Summer Rolls / FuzzyCloudDesigns

First, you'll need to assemble your ingredients, most of which you can buy in a regular grocery store except the wrappers and rice noodles.

The Foundations:  Spring Roll Wrappers, Rice Noodles Summer Rolls / FuzzyCloudDesigns

The Vegetables:  Lettuce, Carrots, Cucumbers Other options: spinach, tuscan kale, bean sprouts, pea shoots, snap peas, zucchini, bell peppers, radishes, basically...infinite!Summer Rolls / FuzzyCloudDesigns

The Herbs:  Green Onion, Mint, Basil, Cilantro Other options: chives, parsley, perilla leavesSummer Rolls / FuzzyCloudDesigns

The Protein:  Pork, Shrimp Other options: chicken, beef, salmon, white fish, tofu, seitan, Japanese-style omelette Summer Rolls / FuzzyCloudDesigns

The prep involves a lot of chopping and cooking different components, but is pretty straightforward - just boil the noodles per the directions on the package, julienne the vegetables, rinse and chop the herbs and cook the protein with simple salt and pepper seasoning.

Put everything out in pretty bowls on a long table. At the head of the table, set up two pie pans filled 3/4 full with hot (but not boiling) water and the dry spring roll wrappers. It's helpful to have a kettle of simmering water going so you can top off the pie pans when the water cools to lukewarm.

Here's how to prepare the wrappers for wrapping! 

1) Fill round pie or cake pans with water that is very hot but that you're able to put your fingers in without getting burned.  

2) Submerge each wrapper in the hot water for 20-30 seconds until it just starts to soften.

3) Use both hands to carefully lift the wrapper out of the water and transfer immediately to a flat dinner plate. Don't worry if there are a few stiff areas, the wrapper will continue to soften as it sits on the plate.

Summer Rolls Collage2

Now it's time to wrap! I like to put EVERYTHING in my summer rolls but here's where you and your guests can go crazy with your customization. Just pile everything near the bottom of the wrapper, roll up tightly halfway, fold the sides in and continue to roll (just like a burrito). I like to start with the shrimp, then follow with herbs and lettuce so that the shrimp shows prettily through the wrapper. Your first few rolls may not look perfect, but they'll taste great =)  Summer Rolls Collage

Finally, put out some hoisin sauce and spicy peanut sauce (recipe via TheKitchn) to dip your creations. Encourage your guests to try different combinations of meats, vegetables and herbs. Hold a little contest for the prettiest and ugliest summer rolls. Have fun!

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Yum: Quick n' Easy Toaster Oven S'mores

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I discovered toasted marshmallows fairly late in life. Another one of those all-American things my Korean parents had no idea about. Serving raw crab to their five year old? Yes. Burning marshmallows? Uh... why?

But once I had a taste of a perfectly browned, crispy caramelly outside, meltingly sticky inside toasted marshmallow, there was no going back. If toasted marshmallow is anywhere on a dessert menu, I'm getting that dessert.

My love of toasted marshmallows is so great that I've even attempted to toast them over a gas burner on my stove and it kinda worked but it was also a little tough and gas-y flavored which was no good.

Thankfully I now have access to a toaster oven and making toasted marshmallow s'mores in there is so easy and fast it's dangerous.

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I used mini marshmallows and jumbo semi-sweet chocolate chips because that's what I had on hand. But it ended up working really well. The big chips create a structural base to keep the mini marshmallows from rolling around. And the layer of mini marshmallows browned more evenly than one big marshmallow would have.

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I moved the toaster oven rack to the highest position and set it to broil. The marshmallows browned so quickly that you really have to sit and watch them so they don't burn. It will depend on your toaster oven but my crappy little one only took three minutes or so.

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Pop on the top graham cracker and just like that, you have a sweet and satisfying dessert.

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And they're so easy to make, you might just find yourself repeating the process.... a couple times. It's okay - a little s'more never hurt anyone ;)

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Yum: Bread Crust Stuffed Pork Chops (on the cheap!)

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This is budget cooking that kicks ramen noodles' ass(es?). Don't get me wrong, I love me some instant ramen but this is so much better and still super affordable. See how I combine inexpensive pork chops with leftover bread crusts to make this tasty meal after the jump!

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First up - these guys are always on sale at the grocery store. And three good-sized pork chops for a little over $5 is too good to pass up. But grocery store pork can be pretty lean and flavorless and after cooking to the recommended 145 degrees, I often had tough, boring pucks of meat on my hands.

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But this time, I had a bag full of pesky bread crusts and those end pieces that no one likes. Because I abhor waste, I thought I could turn them into a stuffing that would add flavor and moisture to my pork. And huzzah! The sum of the two was greater than the parts.

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To add lots of flavor to my stuffing, I diced up some onion, garlic, celery, mushroom, scallion and sage and browned them well in butter before tossing in my bread crumbs and some chicken stock for moisture.

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Then I cut a pocket into each of my pork chops, and in went the stuffing. As much as I could get in there without it all spilling back out again.

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Next, a good sear on each side in an oven-proof skillet (except for that guy on the right, I don't know why he's so pale). And finally, into the oven to finish cooking.

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Bread Crust Stuffed Pork Chops

Ingredients: 3 pork loin chops (1-inch thick) 2 celery stalks, diced small 1/2 medium onion, diced small 1 clove garlic, minced 1 cup small diced button or cremini mushrooms 3 leaves sage, finely chopped 2 tablespoons butter 2 cups fresh homemade breadcrumbs (see note below) or 1 cup dry store-bought    breadcrumbs 1/2 cup chicken broth salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until just translucent. Add the celery, mushrooms and sage and cook for another five minutes or until the celery is tender but still has a little crunch. Season with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add in the breadcrumbs and mix well. Pour in chicken broth a little at at time until the stuffing is slightly moist but still fluffy. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

3. Cut a pocket in each pork chop by slicing carefully into one side. Smoosh as much stuffing as you can into each pocket. Secure with string or toothpicks (or if you're lazy like me, skip this and just be really careful when flipping your chops). Season generously on each side with salt and pepper.

4. Pour 2 teaspoons of oil into an oven-proof skillet and sear the chops on high heat until well browned (about 3 minutes per side). Cover the skillet, pop in the oven and bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the pork chop registers 145°. Rest 5-10 minutes and remove string or toothpicks before serving. Thicken pan juices if desired.

NOTE: To make homemade bread crumbs out of bread crusts -Toast the breast crusts in a toaster oven until they are golden brown and crusty. Break into large pieces, then whiz them in a food processor until you have coarse, chunky crumbs. For this recipe, don't worry about getting your bread crumbs too small or uniform.

 

Yum: Chocolate-Raspberry Crepe Cake with Whipped Cream

Blog - Crepe Cake 063b One day I had way too much leftover whipped cream (you know, it happens sometimes..). See my spoon drowning in the excess? My roommate suggested I just throw it away to which I gasped audibly and dramatically. WASTE this heavenly, pillowy goodness?

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Instead, I decided to make a crepe cake - I had been wanting to try one and this was the perfect opportunity. See how I punched up the flavor after the jump!

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I knew I wanted rich chocolate-y flavor and a fruit filling to add a fresh tartness. Naturally, I wanted to use what I had on hand. Which happened to be Trader Joe's hot chocolate powder and raspberry preserves. Of course, if you're legit and have real unsweetened, high-quality cocoa powder on hand, your crepe cake will be slightly better than mine. But I'm perfectly happy with my lazy version =)

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I used raspberry preserves on every third layer, so I had twice as many whipped cream layers to balance out the tangy berry flavor.

Oh and here's a helpful and probably unnecessary hint - don't water down your raspberry preserves so that it will spread easier. 'Cause I did that and then the extra water just seeped down and pooled at the bottom of the cake and made things all soggy. Lesson learned.

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One other thing, since we're being honest: turns out crepe cake isn't my favorite dessert ever. I prefer a good fruit pie or fudgy brownie. And it's a lot of work. But I brought it to a party and everyone was super impressed and it was gobbled up immediately. So I figured I'd share... you know, just in case you have a ton of whipped cream and a few hours on your hands =)

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Chocolate-Raspberry Crepe Cake with Whipped Cream:

For the Crepes:

2 cups milk

3/4 cup water

4 eggs

6 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tbsp sugar and 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or 1/2 cup hot chocolate powder if that's all you have on hand)

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1 tsp butter or oil, to grease the skillet for the crepes

For the Filling:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup raspberry (or whatever flavor you like!) preserves

Make the Crepes:

Mix the crepe ingredients in a blender until just smooth, making sure to scrape down the sides of the blender to incorporate all the dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Chill the crepe batter for at least an hour so the glutens have a chance to relax and the air bubbles dissipate.

Put a little oil or butter in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Raise the skillet off the heat, ladle in some of the crepe batter, then quickly swirl the skillet around so the crepe batter distributes evenly. (It should take about a 3 tbsp of crepe batter for a 9-inch skillet.)

After about a minute of cooking, carefully lift the edge of the crepe and use your fingers to carefully flip the crepe over. Cook another 30 seconds on the second side.

Repeat until all the batter is gone, stacking crepes on a dinner plate as they cook.

Assemble the Cake:

Whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks form.

Place one crepe on the bottom of a cake stand or flat plate, then spread about 1/4 cup of the whipped cream over the top. Repeat with one more crepe and whipped cream. For the third crepe, spread a couple tablespoons of the raspberry preserves over the top. Continue layering two crepes with whipped cream and one with raspberry preserves until all the crepes have been used up.

For the top, spread with a generous layer of whipped cream and decorate with chocolate shavings, chocolate chips or whatever else you have to make it pretty! If you have any whipped cream remaining, save it to serve alongside slices of the cake.

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The Best Way to Store Fresh Herbs

Gold Rim Bowl 013 My friend came to visit recently with bunches of fresh-cut herbs from her backyard. Instead of hiding them in plastic bags in the fridge like I usually do, she treated them like flowers and put them in a glass containers filled with water.

Herbs via FuzzyCloudDesigns

They kept fresh for two weeks this way! All I had to do is change the water every few days when it started to get cloudy.

These herbal displays added such a vibrant, natural touch to the kitchen (even the curly parsley looks gorgeous!). And since they were right in front of my eyes, I used them all up instead of letting them go slimy in the fridge.

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This is so perfect for me because I've never been a huge fan of cut flowers. They're beautiful for special occasions but then they die and go in the trash and I can't help but think about how much land and water it's taken to cultivate them, just to be looked at for a few days.

But herbs! They're so wonderfully useful and flavorful and nutritious. They're key to the culinary identity of so many cultures. I heart them. And I can't think of a better way to store them than this natural, low energy, beautiful display.

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Yum: Korean BBQ Pork & Beef Sliders

074a I'm so proud when I can draw on my Korean heritage to make something epically awesome and yummy. Which these sliders are: plump, juicy, full of salty/sweet flavor and so so good on lightly toasted Kings Hawaaiin Rolls. Seriously, these will make you the hero of any party. Get the recipe after the jump!

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To make these sliders extra juicy, I used a puree of onion, apple and ginger, just like I do when I make traditional marinated Korean short ribs. Just a few dashes of soy sauce and sesame oil and some chopped green onion and you have truly flavorful patties so moist they make a bit of a mess when pan frying. Well worth it, I say!

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For the pork sliders, I used the exact same recipe and process but added some red pepper flakes to make them spicy, just like traditional Korean BBQ pork!

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The Kings Hawaain rolls were a blessed accident. They were the only rolls available at the Korean market and I was too lazy to go another grocery store. Turns out my laziness paid off once again (huzzah!) because these squishy, sweet rolls compliment the patties beautifully.

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To garnish, I used sriracha mayonnaise and lightly pickled daikon radish strips that I got at an Asian market. But you could use regular cucumber pickles to equally awesome effect.

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This next pic makes me hungry every time I see it. EVERY. TIME.

korean bbq PicMonkey Collage

 

Korean BBQ Pork & Beef Sliders

Ingredients for Beef Sliders:

3 lbs ground beef

1/2 large apple (or asian pear)

1/2 large onion

1-inch piece of ginger root, trimmed

3/4 cup finely chopped scallions

4 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Pork Sliders:

Same as for beef sliders, but use ground pork and add 2 tsp red pepper flakes

Garnishes:

Kings Hawaiian Rolls

Pickled daikon (if this is hard to find, you regular cucumber pickles also work great)

Sriracha Mayonnaise -- stir 1/2 tsp sriracha hot sauce into 1/2 cup mayonnaise; add more sriracha if you like it spicy

Lettuce leaves

Directions:

Place the apple (or asian pear), onion, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and black pepper in a blender or food processor and puree. Add the puree and the chopped scallion (and red pepper flakes, if using), to the ground meat and mix until just combined. Make a small test patty and cook to make sure your meat is seasoned properly. Adjust seasoning as needed, then shape meat into small patties and fry in a cast iron skillet or on a grill. Cook for about 3-4 minutes per side over medium-high heat for medium rare sliders.

To assemble, slice King's Hawaiian rolls in half horizontally and lightly toast in a toaster oven. Add sriracha mayonnaise, pickles, lettuce and patties and dig in!

Lunch for One (Starring Leftovers!)

These days, I usually eat lunch by myself at home. Which sounds sad at first, but is actually blessedly peaceful compared to how I used to eat lunch - hunched at my desk, shoveling food into my mouth from a container pinned between my arms and my keyboard as I furiously typed emails and reviewed contracts. And that lunch was often an overpriced salad or soggy leftovers from the dinner I had delivered to the office the night before. Not that it really mattered because when I ate that way, I never really appreciated or truly savored my food. So these days, I look forward to my lunch for one, usually made from leftovers and random ingredients from my various cooking forays that week. I enjoy cobbling those bits and bobs together with things from my pantry to transform leftovers into brand new dishes. See some recent lunch creations after the jump!

~~Pasta with tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese~~

Leftovers: cooked linguine

Fresh Ingredients On Hand: tomatoes and basil

Pantry Staples: garlic, olive oil, grated parmesan cheese008

 

~~Soba noodle bowl with kale, chicken and egg~~ 

Leftovers: teriyaki chicken with onions

Fresh Ingredients On Hand: kale (see my recipe for two-minute kale here)

Pantry Staples: soba noodles, egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, ground gingerBlog - Kale Three Ways 046

 

~~Turkey burger sandwich with broccoli~~

Leftovers: turkey burger patties

Fresh Ingredients On Hand: broccoli, lettuce, tomato

Pantry Staples: whole wheat bread, mayonnaise, dijon mustard 001 (3)

 

~~Chicken salad tartine with soft boiled egg~~ 

Leftovers: chicken salad

Fresh Ingredients On Hand: a loaf of really good multigrain bread

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Yum: Gourmet(ish) Sandwiches

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A friend gave me this gorgeous, seeded loaf of bread and what can you do with really wonderful bread except make a really wonderful sandwich?  And that doesn't mean going out and buying $20 of prosciutto (although that would be divine). You can elevate almost any sandwich with some humble ingredients.

See what they are after the jump!

It's onion and avocado!Blog - Sandwich 003Balsamic Onions: Slice a small onion thin, then sautee for 10 minutes with a tablespoon of butter and a splash of vegetable oil. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar and sautee for 5 minutes longer until the onions are tender but not mushy.

Smashed Avocado: Smash a medium avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper until you have a chunky spread.

Blog - Sandwich 019All I had was some sauteed chicken breasts, but that onion and avocado sure make it look fancy. In fact, these two condiments will make ANY sandwich better (except maybe tuna salad... but now that I think of it, that might still be pretty good.)

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So next time you're looking ahead to a week of dry, boring sandwiches in your lunch bag, try making a batch of balsamic onions and smashed avocado and see if you can't liven things up a bit. Happy Sandwiching!

 

Yum: Two-Minute Kale (3 Ways!)

Kale is amazingly nutritious, but it's hard to love when it's all raw and sturdy like this:Blog - Kale Three Ways 002Fortunately, all it takes is two minutes and a few ingredients to create tasty, tender kale that you can use in a variety of ways. And since pre-washed kale is available everywhere, there's no excuse not to add veggies to every meal. Learn how after the jump!

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Step 1: Put kale in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle with oil, salt, pepper and whatever other herbs or flavors you like (I've included some options below). Add a teaspoon of water.

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Step 2: Cover and microwave for 1.5 minutes.

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Step 3: Oh yeah, that's it, there is no Step 3. You're done!

You can have this easy kale as a side dish, add it to noodles or soup or instant ramen, or use it as a base and top it with stew or eggs or bolognese for a low-carb meal. It only takes two minutes and one bowl to add some super tasty and super nutritional veggies to your meal. And now that you can buy bags of pre-cut and pre-washed kale, why not try it?

To add to the versatility, you can use different oils, spices and ingredients to customize your kale, so it goes with whatever dish you're having. Here are just three options:

1) The Classic: Olive oil, salt and pepperBlog - Kale Three Ways 034

2) The Sophisticate: Walnut oil, lemon juice, salt and pepperBlog - Kale Three Ways 029

3) The Exotic: Sesame oil, ground ginger, salt and pepperBlog - Kale Three Ways 017

I used the sesame oil combination above to add some much-needed color and virtue to my soba noodles and leftover chicken. Go kale!

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Yum: Oreo Mini Icebox Cakes

icebox cakes PicMonkey Collage2One day my friend told me about icebox cakes and then I couldn't get them out of my head until I tried them. Icebox cakes are one of those classic American treats that I never knew existed because to my Korean parents, dessert is cut up fruit. Fortunately, they're dead easy to make so I was able to go home immediately to try it. See a step by step how-to after the jump!

Oreo Mini-Icebox Cakes

Ingredients and Supplies:

One package chocolate sandwich cookies

3 cups heavy whipping cream

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Foil cupcake liners (paper liners can soak up the cream and get soggy)

~Step 1 - Place whole oreos in the bottom of cupcake liners. Separate the rest of the oreos into halves (I removed the cream center but you can keep it if you like).~Blog - Icebox Cake 002

~Step 2 - Whip cold heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla extract until soft peaks form (leaving whipped cream a little loose will make assembly easier)~Blog - Icebox Cake 022

~Step 3 - Drop about 1 tbsp whipped cream onto whole oreos, then top with a half oreo~Blog - Icebox Cake 032

~Step 4 - Repeat two more times or until the stacks are as tall as the cupcake liners~Blog - Icebox Cake 040

~Step 5 - Finish with a dollop of whipped cream and crushed oreos~ Blog - Icebox Cake 062

~Step 6 - Chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours so the cookies soften (be patient!)~Blog - Icebox Cake 068

~Step 7 - FINALLY...DIG IN!~Blog - Crepe Cake 012

I also made a few raspberry-flavored icebox cakes by mixing a dollop of raspberry jam into a separate smaller bowl of whipped cream. The jam makes the whipped cream a little lumpy so they don't look quite as polished as the plain ones, but they taste divine!Blog - Icebox Cake 065

I just assembled these lil' guys in a deep baking pan, covered with saran wrap and they traveled easier-than-pie to a party. Where they were a big hit, of course =)

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They're easy, cheap, portable, adorable and delicious - give 'em a try!

Yum: Easy Peas-y Chicken Salad

picmonkeya025 (2) I'm a practical cook. I abhor waste and I love transforming ingredients. So most days, my recipes are fueled by whatever is in my fridge. This time, it was half a roast chicken leftover from last night's dinner. We also had waaaay too much sliced bread on hand. So chicken salad sandwiches just made sense. At the last minute, I threw in some sliced snap peas for crunch and they added such a lovely texture that they're totally invited to my next chicken or tuna or potato salad.

Read on for the recipe and more!

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With only a few ingredients, this chicken salad comes together fast and makes a satisfying and zippy sandwich.

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Oh yeah, a little drizzle of olive oil on the outside of your toasted bread gives your sandwich a subtle extra layer of flavor (especially if you're using whole grain bread because white bread makes you feel guilty).

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This chicken salad also loves entertaining - make little tea sandwiches or just put it in lettuce cups or on top of crackers for some satisfying party fare.

OR, pile it high on a a toasted slice of thick, hearty bread with a soft boiled egg sliced on top, finished with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Now that's a grown-up lunch.

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Easy Peas-y Chicken Salad 

Cooked meat from 1/2 chicken

1/2 c snap peas, sliced thin

2 stalks celery (including celery leaves), sliced thin

2 scallions, sliced thin

3 tbsp mayonnaise

2 tbsp whole-grain dijon mustard

2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 tbsp white balsamic, red wine, champagne or other mild, light colored vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 tbsp chopped parsley or 1 tsp chopped tarragon, dill or thyme

Pull your cooked chicken off the bone and shred or rough chop. Slice your celery, snap peas and scallions thin and throw it into a big bowl with the chicken. Add your mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, poultry seasoning and whatever herbs you are using and mix this all together. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Yum: Turkey Burgers (good ones)

I've mentioned before that I tend to cook without recipes - I'm a dash of this, pinch of that kinda girl. But I made turkey burgers the other night that turned out so yummy and moist I thought I'd make a stab at writing a recipe. Get it after the jump! Turkey Burger Collage2

Really Good Turkey Burgers

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground turkey (I used 85% lean)

1 small shallot (or 1/2 large one), minced

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. dijon mustard

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

1/2 c. panade (find the recipe here)

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

Directions:

1) Saute the minced shallots in 1 tbsp. olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper, plus 1/2 tsp. each dried oregano and thyme, for 5 minutes or until shallots are translucent. Let cool slightly.

2) Add the cooked shallot mixture, 2 tsp. mustard, 2 dashes Worcestershire, 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, 1/2 c. panade, 2 tbsp. parsley, and 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper to the ground turkey. Mix with hands or two spoons until ingredients are just combined.

3) Form 4 large patties or 6 small patties. Add oil or nonstick cooking spray to a cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a thermometer reads 165°.

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You can eat these on a bun or over a salad with avocado and tomato for lunch. Or with mashed potatoes and broccoli for dinner. I suspect you can also shape this into a loaf and bake with strips of bacon or sauce over the top to make a fantastic turkey meatloaf. In any case, happy cooking!

Burger Collage

Yum: Homemade Girl Scout Cookies

NOOOOOOOOOO! Blog - Panade 005

The last Girl Scout cookie and the selling season is over! What's a girl to do? Well, this slightly crazy one spent a few hours trying to recreate my favorite Samoas (or Caramel DeLites or whatever they're called now).

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Luckily there are plenty of recipes out there and I followed this one, which calls for a simple shortbread base and melted store-bought soft caramels. And because I was feeling lazy (relatively speaking), I took a few shortcuts like rolling the shortbread dough into a log and cutting discs instead of using cookie cutters. I figured solid circles instead of rings just gives you more of the good stuff in each cookie right? I also melted the caramels and chocolate using a microwave (carefully) instead of a double boiler. Have I mentioned I was feeling lazy?

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Would I do it again? No way, it took too long and was kind of a pain in the butt. But was it worth doing one time? Absolutely - and you can brag to your friends or bribe them 'cause who could turn this down?

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I've also decided I don't like things that require dipping in chocolate - I can never get it runny enough and it always ends up thick and goopy. Too bad, otherwise these homemade Thin Mints would be next.

 

Cooking Without a Recipe (or Attack of the Honey Bees)

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to have access to good ingredients and time and loved ones to feed and, most importantly, Food Network. So I've gotten pretty good at sensing food, knowing how much salt and pepper are needed, what flavors go well together, how long to let things simmer - basically I can cook without a recipe. It's not always a success but, honestly, I don't remember the failures. They settle deep in the mind as lessons that eventually manifest as cooking intuition. Unless they're spectacular failures, in which case they become funny stories to tell at a party. Like the time I spawned a fearsome creature of the deep while trying to make caramels. iPhone 043

And then turned from my monstrosity to realize six bees had gotten in, drawn by the smell of cooking sugar. I am irrationally afraid of bees so six angry, confused ones zooming around my tiny apartment induced a minor panic attack. I immediately went to go hide in my bed then realized after ten minutes that no one was going to come save me. I lived alone and I had things to do and I couldn't hide forever. By then, the bees had congregated near a window and I was able to kill them pretty easily, one by one, with a rolled up magazine.

iPhone 047It was sad - honeybees clearly aren't houseflies, they don't expect to be smashed from behind and I could see them wiggling and touching each other, probably trying to figure out how to get themselves out of this dodgy situation. But I didn't know what else to do and I didn't want to get stung. I still feel slightly guilty about it...

All this to say, you should try it some time! Try cooking something you've made a few times before, glance at the recipe to remind yourself of the ingredients, then put the recipe away and see if you can cook without it. Add seasonings slowly, tasting as you go. The more you practice, the better you get. And eventually you get in a zone, where you're really in tune with your food and your gut and your senses instead of glancing at instructions every two minutes. You may come to enjoy cooking more, who knows?

This ABSOLUTELY does not work with baking, by the way, that's all about science and chemical reactions. I always meticulously measure and follow the rules with baking, which is probably why I don't enjoy it as much as I do cooking. Too bad I enjoy the results of baking so much...

 

Yum: Stale Crackers (trust me...)

I don't like to waste food. Armchair psychology tells me this goes back to my grandparents making me finish every single grain of rice in my bowl because they had lived through the Korean War. But I digress.... Suffice it to say, when I discovered an old box of stale crackers in the back of the pantry, I tried to use them instead of just throwing them away. And, huzzah, turns out they make an excellent PANADE.

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Panade is just a fancy word for a thick mix of starch and liquid. You can add this to your meatballs, meatloaf, and turkey burgers to make them beautiful and moist. Usually panade is made with bread but who wants to waste perfectly good bread? Just crush up your stale crackers, add a little milk and mix until you get a paste like the texture of thick, coarse hummus. It doesn't look pretty but, trust me, your ground meat will thank you.

Some other ways to use stale crackers:

1) If they're not too far gone, they can be revived for use as actual crackers by throwing them in a 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes

2) Crush and mix with melted butter, throw on top of a casserole and bake for a yummy crunchy topping

3) Crush, add salt, pepper and dried herbs and use to coat chicken or fish for pan-frying

4) Throw whole stale crackers in a frying pan with some butter to make delicious faux croutons for salad or soup

5) Crush and use to make stuffing for mushrooms, pork loin, etc.

My grandparents would be so proud =)

 

Yum: Lentil Stew with Sausage (or Leftovers Magic!)

I had a hankering for something healthy and warm and hearty so I made this lentil stew with sausage and it was perfect. Perfectly satisfying with a side salad for dinner and again for lunch the next day. But the real magic happened on the third day when I got bored. To mix up my leftovers, I put some Trader Joe's tuscan kale in the bottom of my bowl, added a dash of salt and pepper and a healthy sprinkling of olive oil and microwaved for 1 minute.  Then I added my lentil stew on top and microwaved for a minute more. Meanwhile, I made a sunny-side-up egg to go on top. MAGIC in three minutes, I tell you! The egg yolk adds a velvety richness and the kale adds freshness and the textures go beautifully together. You could do this with almost any kind of leftover stew or thick soup - beef stew, chili, curry, even Indian food!

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Lentil Stew 1 via FuzzyCloudDesigns

Boring leftovers be banished!

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