Monday, December 11, 2017

Quinoa-Stuffed Eggplant

Sometimes, you tire of heavy Holiday foods. I mean...not really a lot. But there's gotta be like, ONE, meal where I don't crave thick slices of ham and full-fat egg nog. Spiked with a bit of rum.

...anyway. I was NOT referring to my own holiday let-loose diet. But on the off chance you want some veggies. And if you can get your hands on some eggplants still good from fall harvest then this recipe is a winner. winner. Eggplant dinner.

I wrote this post SO LONG AGO that I'm not sure where I sourced the original recipe or idea. Possibly Martha Stewart Living subscription circa 2011? 2012? I stay on top of my blog, as you can see ;)

Quinoa-Stuffed Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

Serves: 2


  • 2 large Eggplants
  • 1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage
  • 1 quart baby bella or white mushrooms, cleaned
  • Italian parsley, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Set aside to drain.
  2. Remove sausage from casing.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook sausage until no longer pink.  Add sausage into a large mixing bowl to cool.  In wiped out pan, sautee mushrooms and then add to mixing bowl with sausage.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 375*F with grill shelf on top 2/3rds.
  4. Cut eggplants vertically (hamburger style) and scoop out about 1 c. of flesh with seeds.  Roughly chop eggplant flesh.  Wipe out previously used large pan and set on medium-high heat.  Cook eggplant flesh for about 5-10 minutes.  Add to mixing bowl.
  5. Combine quinoa into mixing bowl and stir all contents together.
  6. Set up a sheet sheet and place eggplant halves cut side up on the sheet pan.
  7. Spoon in contents of mixing bowl into eggplant halves.  Bake for 20-40 minutes or until lightly brown on top.
  8. Serve with chopped Italian parsley on top.
Optional: yogurt dipping sauce:
Mix together:
    • 1 c. greek yogurt
    • 1 tsp. dried dill
    • 1 tbs. finely chopped cucumber
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • squeeze of lemon
    • 1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pho Tai Chin Recipe, Brisket and Eye of Round Beef Pho

I have only made pho on my own a total of two or three times ever.  Mostly because making it means committing to having a giant pot's worth and babysitting the broth either overnight or the entire day.  But, it was starting to feel like fall recently and so, I bit the bullet.  Plus, we had help in town to finish up some of it!

Pho bo, or beef pho, is relatively simple to make.  Probably the hardest part is acquiring all the ingredients and scheduling some time to make the broth.  And having a giant pot.  I bought all the ingredients at my local Vietnamese grocery store and it costs less then $30!!! Can't beat that.  Although braving the parking lot and streets in Chinatown are no joke.  I literally had to translate Vietnamese/English for a lady who hit an old man's car while trying to back out of her parking spot. They were trying to file a police report as I was walking into the grocery store and flagged me down to help.  Thank goodness APD has a translator on staff because my Vietnamese ain't thaaaaat great.

-side note-I bet you pictured the lady being the Asian one...but you are wrong.  It was an African-American young woman who backed into an older Vietnamese guy. Who did have insurance.

Simmering beef bones and brisket with charred onions and ginger plus some key Vietnamese herbs and spices is the key to a flavorful broth.  And it made the house smell amazing.  Why hasn't anyone thought of making a pho-scented candle?
J/K, someone has thought of it: Pho Scented Candle

  • 1 onion
  • 1 5" piece of ginger
  • 1 pre-made spice packet like Old Man Que Huong Pho Bac Spice Seasoning 1.5 oz or:
    • 5 star anise
    • 6 whole cloves
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 1 tbs. coriander seends
    • 1 pod cardomom
    • 1 tbs. fennel seeds
  • 5 lbs. beef bones (knuckle and leg bones)
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 tbs. salt
  • 1 chunk of rock candy*
  • 2-3 tbs. of fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • stems of cilantro (see below)
Arranging bowls:
  • vermicelli noodles (look for "banh pho" on the package), prepared as per package directions **
  • eye of round beef, thinly cut across the grain ***
  • reserved brisket from broth, sliced thinly
  • salt and pepper
  • white or yellow onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water, then drained
  • shallot, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water, then drained
  • fish sauce, if needed
  • green onion, chopped
  • cilantro, leaves roughly chopped
Let each eater personalize bowls with:
  • thai basil
  • culantro (ngo gai)
  • fresh bean sprouts, washed and dried
  • lime wedges
  • Sriracha and hoisin sauce
*rock candy can be found at an Asian grocery store.
**if available, I prefer fresh noodles, sometimes found at select Asian grocery stores
***if you cannot find this or ask a butcher to do it for you, freeze the meat to enable thinner slicing

  1. Grill or broil the onion halves and peeled ginger.  You want a nice char around the outer layers of onion and the ginger to be slightly soft to touch.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.  This is essential for imparting that distinct pho flavor.  I had Reid do this on our outdoor grill, but I also did this on the top rack of my oven, in a top rack sheet pan for about 5 minutes on broil.  I've also done this on the naked, clean stove grill, but that works better if you have a gas range (works well on electric, too, but grilling or broiling is easier/less likely to set off your smoke alarm)
  2. In the biggest pot you have (no really, I use my crawfish boiling pot...needs to hold at least 8 quarts of water),  parboil the beef bones.  That means bring the water to a boil, then dump everything over a strainer and run a little cold water over it.  This helps get the 'yuck' off the bones and make the broth taste cleaner.
  3. After you scrubbed the pot out a little, place bones, onion, ginger, and brisket in and add about 5 quarts of water and 1 quart of chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.
  4. While you ware waiting for that, in a separate large pan over medium-high heat, roast the contents of the spice packet or actual spices.  Tie in included bag or in cheesecloth and place in large broth pot.  Add rock sugar, salt, and fish sauce
  5. Bring to a simmer.  Skim off scum from top of broth every ~30minutes to an hour.
  6. After 1-2 hours of simmering, remove brisket and spice packet.  Reserve brisket for later.
  7. Continue to simmer broth for an additional minimum of 2 hours.  Sometimes I let the broth simmer all night.  Continue skimming off scum.  Remove all large bones (you can reserve to eat if people like to eat marrow or cartilage/ligaments). Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large (but not humongous) pot.
  8. Cool slightly before refrigerating for minimum of 5 hours.  Remove most of fat solidified at top.  I like to save about 1-2 inches diameter worth of fat for flavor.  
  1. In each bowl, layer vermicelli noodles, sliced brisket, and raw eye of round.  Add a shake or two of pepper and a dash of fish sauce if desired.  Add sliced onions and shallots and green onions.
  2. When ready to eat, ladle over broth and SERVE IMMEDIATELY.  This keeps the vermicelli noodles from expanding too much and becoming soggy.
  3. Serve alongside bean sprouts, herbs, lime wedges, and Sriracha and hoisin sauce.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Slow Cooker Chex Mix

So, in my previous Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie post, I gushed about how much I love my slow cooker. And it's because of genius things like being able to make Chex Mix in it!

And then you get a house that smells of Chex Mix. MMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmm!

As if the microwave method of making homemade chex mix isn't easy enough, you can now make it in your slow cooker. In all honesty, making it in the microwave is way easier but like I said before, you can make your house smell like chex mix!

You can customize this recipe to any version of Chex mix you prefer, but I like the OG recipe that comes right off the back of the boxes of Chex.

I, personally, really like my Chex mix to have only Chex pretty much. I really don't much like the pre-made bagged versions of Chex Mix because it just doesn't taste as good. And I end up picking out all the Chex to eat first anyway. Then I have a sad bag filled with rye chips and pretzels and weird bagel chip things.

Ok, the cheddar bagged Chex Mix is pretty good

Slow Cooker Chex Mix

  • 6 c. various Chex cereal (corn, rice, wheat)
  • 1 c. pretzels
  • 6 tbs. softened butter
  • 2 tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt (I make my own*)
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder

  1. Combine butter, sorcestershire, seasoning salt, garlic powder and onion powder in the ceramic, removable portion of the crock pot and microwave until butter melted, 30 seconds x 2 OR turn slow cooker on low and stir until melted.
  2. Fold in Chex cereal and pretzels
  3. Cook on Low setting for 3 hours or until browned, mixing every 15-30minutes to prevent burning.
  4. Cool in a single layer on parchment paper laid out on the counter.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Brownies

So, as previously mentioned I'm totally Basic and love PSLs (pumpkin spice latte's for those of you without an addiction). Fall is my excuse to get fat and eat pumpkin spice errrrrrrthing.

Without further explanation, here are AMAZING PUMPKIN SPICE BROWNIES!!!!!! Of course, you could just buy a box of brownie mix and add pumpkin pie spice but what would be the fun of that? Especially when you are juggling your 11 month old alternatively on your hip and handing him wooden spoons and bowls and letting him open all the cabinets so you don't burn him with a double boiler? --that's has recently come to my attention that sarcasm does not come through on texts, after offending multiple people : |

This recipe was adapted from the Cook's Illustrated Classic Brownies recipe

Pumpkin Spice Brownies
Makes about 24 brownies
Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated Classic Brownies recipe

  • 1 1/4 c. cake flour (5 oz)
  • 1 tbs. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. all spice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 12 tbs. butter, softened
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 oz. dark (about 60%) chocolate chips
  1. Line an 8x10" baking dish with parallel sheets of aluminum foil and grease with a non-stick spray.  Pre-heat oven to 325*F.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, and ground ginger.  Set aside.
  3. Take a medium glass bowl and add butter and chocolate chips.  Boil a small amount of water in a small to medium pot.  Place bowl over pot and stir until melted.  Alternatively, microwave chocolate chips for 30 seconds at a time. Stir after each microwave time.  Continue microwaving in 30 second intervals until melted.
  4. Off heat, add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition.  Add vanilla.
  5. Fold flour in thirds into chocolate.
  6. Spread brownie batter evenly into pan, shaking or tapping edges to smooth out top.  Use a spatula if needed to get into corners.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove brownies from pan by the aluminum foil 'sling' and cut into squares.  Eat immediately or cool completely over wire rack.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie

I stumbled upon this idea a few years ago while I was surfing the internet for good slow cooker recipes. I can't remember the original source for the inspiration, but I think it was a blog that featured a slow cooker recipe for every day of the year! It might have been this one? A Year of Slow Cooking

Anyway, it was chock-full of awesome slow cooker ideas and recipes. I fell in love with my $20 CrockPot in Veterinary school. I bought a cheapie on sale at Target and started using it for the typical chilis, stew, soups, pot roasts, etc while I was stuck in class or clinics. It was so revolutionary for me to be able to come home to a hot dinner that was already made! It was fan-freaking-tastic!

So as I got a little more comfortable with the CrockPot I started to look for other was I could use it. Jambalaya, creamed corn, mac n' cheese, chex mix! The possibilities were pretty much endless. There were totally a few flops, but for the most part I was pretty happy with this new cooking tool.  So much so that I have yet to jump on the InstaPot craze (pressure cookers legit scare me).

One of my friend's Dad didn't quite understand the appeal. I remember when we were both talking about the awesomeness of slow cookers she mentioned her dad asked her why she needed one and what was the difference of just leaving a pot on the stove on low. Well, I think I feel a little more comfortable leaving the house with the slow cooker running vs. the stove or oven on. So there's that. And also, if you get a slow cooker with a removable ceramic insert, you can go straight from the fridge to the countertop cooking in the morning. And you won't have to worry about your house catching on fire. Or your dog or cat knocking a pot over while trying to sneak food.

I last made this slow cooker chicken pot pie a long time ago and one of my old roommates told me I needed to post the recipe. So here I am, a short 5 years later, posting it.

The key to this is to keep the moisture from building up in the pot. Otherwise your biscuit top will get soggy. This was a trick I learned from the Year of Slow Cooking blog: Place a kitchen towel under the lid and a wooden spoon between the pot and the lid to allow some steam to escape or get trapped. Now you don't have to do a separate step to bake the crust/biscuits! I hate additional steps when it comes to slow cookers. I mean, it kind of defeats the purpose of the slow cooker when I have to braise meat before-hand, or finish something off in the oven, etc!

Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom condensed soup (8 oz)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced*
  • 2 carrots, diced*
  • 1 c. diced onion (about 1/2 a large yellow onion)
  • 1 c. frozen green peas*
  • 2-3 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 7 oz. mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 16 oz. can of refrigerated biscuit dough (about 8 biscuits)
*If you didn't want to cut up vegetables yourself, you can totally use frozen vegetable medley's in place of those
  1. Combine chicken, all vegetables, cream of mushroom, and spices in crock pot
  2. Layer biscuits over the top.
  3. Wrap the top lid of the slow cooker with a kitchen towel and prop it open over the pot with the handle part of a wooden spoon.
  4. Cook on low for 5-8 hours.
  5. Optional: if you like your biscuits extra crispy, you can toast those up a bit in a toaster oven or oven for about 3-5 minutes at 350F; or if you are super lazy like me and your whole plate got cold while you were trying to feed/clean-up your toddler and distract your dog, stick the whole plate of stuff in the toaster oven for a few minutes.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tyson's Tacos

I made it back to my first Austin Food Blogger Alliance Happy Hour since having John and it was at Tyson's Tacos! One of my favs and I was able to make it because it's just down the street from work and home.  It was such a wonderful experience I thought I'd blog about it, even though I'm mostly just a recipe blogger.

Tyson himself hung out with us and told us his story and the story of Tyson's Tacos.  Tyson and his family had run a restaurant in Mexico, but left when Mexico city was starting to get a little too dangerous.  He opened Tyson's which was a bit of a strange idea coming from Mexico as tacos aren't a restaurant food in Mexico, it's more of a drunken late night street food indulgence.  Another cool thing about Tyson's Tacos is that the menu is customer-driven.  Taco combinations are made after customers who are able to rack up enough of the reward points.  And he won't say no to a weird taco combination, even if he would never have thought about offering a weird cheese-type substance you would've never found in Mexico (apparently nobody appreciated Tyson's legit quest flamed so it was replaced with a more Tex-Mex version).  And if you want Takis on a breakfast taco of eggs, cheddar, bacon, potato they'll do it! I learned about that whilst pregnant with John!

Reid and I used to stop by Tyson's Tacos as a reward for me after our OBG appointments.  And I weirdly craved fake cheese/spicy foods like no other when I was pregnant.  I couldn't get enough hot Cheetos or spicy Funions or Takis! And adding something crunchy on a B is for Bacon was just amazing.

So thank you Tyson's Tacos for hosting an incredible AFBA happy hour.  Everyone needs to check out them and their super creative menu, awesome outdoor patio, dog-friendly neighborhood place.  Oh, and did I tell you that musicians play a tune on their mandolin you get a free taco?!

Oh, and they are now TWENTY-FOUR HOUR!

I love this place!
The Prince Taco
Tex-Mex Style Queso and Prince Tacos, served with their awesome sauces
Their sauces are fiery! Take this stuff seriously
Brisket Taco
Unfortunately, I didn't snag a picture of my favorite taco of the night, the Crispy Duck. I guess I was too busy stuffing it in my mouth!
Pay Tyson's Tacos a visit at
4905 Airport Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751
Tyson's Tacos
so good...ate all the tacos!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Super Easy Ravioli Lasagna

I was perusing Food & Wine or maybe it was Epicurious...or Food52...who knows.  Anyway, it was one of those foodie websites/e-mails that I torture myself with every day when I came across this ravioli lasagna idea.  I had seen something similar on Pinterest but sometimes I don't trust Pinterest.  Those beautiful pictures of food are sometimes very deceiving.  I've been burned before with what looks like awesome recipes on Pinterest turning out as complete flops.

Has this ever happened to you?

Well, this ravioli lasagna is NOT the case of the Pinterest fail.

It was a recipe win!

A weeknight, super easy, semi-homemade winner winner ravioli lasagna dinner.

A kind of feel guilty posting the recipe here because it's not really a recipe...
More like some instructions on layering store-bought stuff.
Well, the roasted vegetables I made.  But I think the recipe I originally looked at also said you could purchase these from the deli area of the grocery store if you wanted to even skip that step.

Super Easy Ravioli Lasagna

  • 2 cups diced roasted vegetables (I have used half a red onion, 1 c. butternut squash and 2 small zucchinis one time and another time I used half a yellow onion, 2 small sweet potatoes, and 1 small zucchini)  You can use your imagination/whatever is in your pantry or you can even buy roasted veggies from the deli/prepared counter of the grocery store)
  • Three 9 oz. packages of refrigerated spinach and ricotta ravioli
  • One 24 oz. jar of marinara pasta sauce
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • optional: 1 tbs. grated parmesan cheese and 1 tsp. dried oregano
  1. Roast vegetables-(Skip this step if you bought your veggies!) Preheat oven to 425*F.  Toss vegetables with 1 tbs. olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast on a pan for 20-25 minutes, turning the vegetables half-way through roasting.  Set aside as you prepare the lasagna
  2. In the bottom of a baking dish, spread a thin coat of the pasta sauce.
  3. Layer ravioli, about 1 c. pasta sauce, 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese
  4. Then layer ravioli, pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese, and the roasted vegetables
  5. Finish with a final layer of ravioli, pasta sauce, and mozzarella cheese.  Top with optional parmesan cheese and oregano
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350*F oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot throughout and cheese has melted.  Remove foil and allow to bake an additional 3-5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and further melted.
Note: you can also freeze the lasagna before baking and keep on hand for a quick freezer meal

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's fall! It's fall! It's fall!

That means now I have an excuse to drink/eat ALL the pumpkin spice flavored things like your typical basic B and wear sweat pants.  But lets get real.  I wear sweat pants year-round.  And also drink pumpkin spice everything.

Fall also means squash season.  And apple everything.  And warm goodness.  And casseroles.  So basically fall is like my favorite season.

Until the next season hits :)

So why not combine my two favorite things? Pumpkin + Chocolate Chip Cookies!!!!

Yum Yum Yum Yum <------my Cookie Monster impression

In all seriousness, I would say these turned out a bit more pumpkin bread-y than cookie texture.  Or at least that's what the discerning Cookie Monster living in my house decided.  But that didn't stop us from eating all 48 of them.  In one day.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe adapted from Food Network Recipe

  • 1 lb. butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 & 1/2 c. canned pumpkin (about 3/4 of a 15 oz can)
  • 3 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. all spice
  • 2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. In a mixer, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy or until sugar is completely dissolved
  2. Mix in vanilla and canned pumpkin
  3. In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and all spice.
  4. Slowly combine the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well incorporated.
  5. Preheat oven to 350*F and line 2 cookie sheets with non-stick silicone liner or parchment paper.
  6. Scoop heaping tablespoon of cookie dough onto pans.  I fit about one dozen cookies on each cookie sheet and was able to make 2 batches of 24 cookies each.
  7. Bake for 14-16 minutes, rotating mid-way through baking time.  Cool after cookies become lightly browned at edges.  Move cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Chicken Noodle Soup

It's that time of the year again! FALL  FLU SEASON!

I'm not sure how it's happened so early, but hubby has some how managed to get sick already.  Well, I guess it's not that surprising.  Baby John is in daycare and he carries the plague home to us probably on a daily basis.  Last week I started to feel a tickle in my throat and immediately reached for the Emergen-C (that stuff works, I swear!)  Was in a little bit of denial at first, and thought it was just some allergies, but it must've been some kind of bug because it hit the hubs full force on Friday night.
He sounded like crud and has been super congested.  So yesterday afternoon I made some chicken noodle soup.  I know, I know.  I deserve the wife/mommy-of-the-year award! Thank-you, thank-you! (that was total sarcasm; as the hubs pointed out yesterday, I'm sometimes not very nice).

Didn't have carrots on hand but lucked out and had everything in the house.  Bonus! No grocery trip!

Also, usually I also put in mushrooms, but I was doing this off-the-cuff.  So give me some slack.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves: 4-6 people
Time: About 2 hours

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast and 2 BL/SL chicken thighs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • half a large yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 tsp. or cubes of chicken bouillon or 1 tbs. 'Better Than Bouillon'

  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped into ~1/8" cubes
  • 1 carrot, chopped (I didn't have this on-hand for the photos)
  • second half of a large yellow onion from broth, chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbs. of fresh minced herbs (Italian/flat leaf parsley or dill or rosemary), optional
  • 12 oz. bag of wide egg noodles
  • the reserved chicken from broth, chopped into ~1/2" cubes

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. I used an 8 quart pot and filled it up to the handle screws.
  2. Add chicken, allow to return to a boil, then reduce to medium heat.  
  3. Add bay leaf, garlic clove, onion, celery and chicken bouillon.  
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, remove chicken breast and allow to cool in a medium bowl.
  5. Simmer rest of broth for an additional 10 minutes (or until chicken thighs cooked through and no longer pink in center) and remove chicken thighs into same medium bowl containing chicken breast.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and allow to cool about 15 minutes.
  7. Strain over a fine mesh strainer into a very large bowl or second pot.  Discard stuff in strainer.  Wipe out the large pot and replace the broth in the large pot (or put the second pot on the stove).
  8. Once chicken has cooled, dice the chicken meat.
  9. Return the broth to a boil over medium-high heat.
  10. While you are waiting for that, add butter and olive oil to a large pan over medium-high heat and saute the chopped onion, celery, and carrots.  Take off heat and add lemon juice and optional herbs.
  11. Pour the sauteed vegetables into the large pot and add back in chicken meat.  
  12. Cook egg noodles in the soup for 1-2 minutes less than directions, or until al dente.
  13. Scoop into bowls and serve with rolls, sandwiches, or croutons.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How to Fancy Up Instant Ramen

Sometimes you don't have time to plan dinner and so it's great to have some quick dinners on hand in the pantry.  Like boxed mac 'n cheese or better yet, ramen.  Although probably not the healthiest of choices, it;s quick and fulfilling and with some additions, can be a really great meal.  Here's how I usually fancy up ramen to make it more satisfying and filling.

  1. Start with really good instant ramen.  Try to get one without MSG.  I like this Korean version because the noodles are nice and fat and juicy and it's really spicy and flavorful.  I would advice NOT using the whole spice package-it's really hot! And you can get it at HEB, or at least it's at my HEB.
  2. If you have some leftover chicken broth or vegetable broth, use it in place of water.  Otherwise water works just as well.

  3. Throw some frozen or fresh veggies in along with the noodles while you're boiling them.  I like to use fresh spinach or frozen green peas or frozen corn
  4. Add some protein.  If I have a link of frozen lap suong (Chinese sausage), I'll slice that up and fry it up to add.  Sometimes I'll put leftover chicken or pork in there.  Chinese bbq pork is also delicious.  When I took these pictures, I had some frozen pork belly in the freezer so I used that.
  5. Throw an egg on it! 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kitchen and Cooking Tips

I hate to call these kitchen 'hacks' because I've had failed tries of using internet famous internet 'hacks'.  So these are just a few handy tips and tricks I've picked up over the years that I find handy and that actually work in streamlining cooking or kitchen organizing.  Some of these tips I picked up from my mom.  Some of them I picked up from roommates or friends.  Some of them I found on the internet and found useful.

  • sharpen your knife before each time you use it
    • I picked this up from an old roommate of mine.  He would sharpen (re-align) his knife before he used it every time.  It only takes half a minute, but makes a world of difference.  I mean, you get that stick thing sharpener in most knife blocks and sets anyway, so use it!  I try and do 10 alternating strokes on each side of the knife. Also, contrary to what most beginners think, a sharp knife is much safer to use than a dull knife.
  • use the back of a spoon to peel ginger
    • way easier than using a knife or vegetable peeler and saves more ginger
  • store Silpats (silicone baking sheets) rolled up in an empty paper towel roll
John helping
  • dunk boiled eggs in ice cold water to make peeling easier
  • line your toaster oven tray with aluminum foil
    • cuts down on clean up
  • use the refrigerator crisper drawers correctly
    • set one on 'high' humidity and place things that would wilt in there
    • set one on 'low' humidity and place things that would rot in there
  • freeze chicken bones and vegetable scraps in gallon bags in your freezer
    • once they're full, place in a slow cooker or large pot and fill with water, add salt and pepper and a bay leaf and make stock
  • keep a used produce back on your counter or in your sink for trash/scraps
    • this limits times you have to walk to your trash can.  Also, for any stinky stuff, if you tie a knot at the top of it after you're done, it cuts down on smell and the number of times you have to take your trash out
  • to peel garlic, cut the ends of a clove and then smash it with the side of your knife
  • when scooping things off your cutting board, use the back of your knife
    • this won't dull your knife blade and you won't accidentally cut yourself

Friday, August 25, 2017

Chicken Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is usually Japanese-style fried pork.  I use the same technique for chicken breasts.  This is super simple and, like all fried things, delicious.  I have made this with pork; a more traditional tonkatsu.  This usually requires frying twice to ensure the pork is cooked through.  I have also experimented with baking in an oven at 425*F on a wire rack after misting the coated chicken with oil with good success.

Chicken Tonkatsu
2 servings, Estimated time ~30 minutes

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • canola oil for frying
  • Tonkatsu sauce*, shredded green cabbage, and sushi rice to serve

  1. If chicken breasts are thicker than 1/2", pound slightly until uniformly about 1/2" thick
  2. Set up small separate bowls for flour and salt, beaten egg and 1 tbs. water, and panko bread crumbs. 
  3. Dredge the chicken breasts in flour, shake off any excess.  Dip in egg wash. Press into bread crumbs on both sides.
  4. Once oil is medium-high heat, fry chicken breasts about 2-3 minutes each side.
  5. Drain on a cooling rack.  Slice into ~1/4" slices.  Serve with rice, tonkatsu sauce, and shredded cabbage.
*Tonkatsu sauce is available to buy at Asian grocery stores and in some international aisles of grocery stores.  I generally make my own because I hate buying something I won't use all up and will take up room in my refrigerator.  And I usually have all the ingredients for making it on hand.

  • 1/3 c. ketchup
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs. mirin
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 2 tbs. Worcester sauce
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
Directions: Whisk together all ingredients.  Adjust if necessary

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Shrimp and Grits

You know how you throw out or give away all the food in your fridge before you go on vacation? Yea, well it's a necessary evil of making sure you don't come home to a stinky house.  The problem with that, is it leaves you with no food when you come home from vacation and you're tired. And you have to unpack. And need to do 5 loads of laundry.

Going grocery shopping is one of the last things on my mind when I come home from a trip.

So I usually have a few things stocked in my pantry or freezer that I would consider 'staples'.  This is also helpful for if you have a baby and don't have time or the effort to have perishables.  And hate food waste.  I usually have some oatmeal and/or grits in the pantry for breakfast.  And I usually have some kind of seafood, ground beef, and chicken thighs or breasts in my freezer.  And I usually keep some parmesan cheese in my freezer.  So I happened to have some frozen shrimp in the freezer when we came home from our trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Hence....shrimp and grits for dinner!

Now, I did cheat and used some cherry tomatoes in my fridge that were a little bit less-than-fresh.  And green onions from my backyard garden (the only thing besides rosemary that had survived my year of gardening neglect).  So this meal is not entirely from the pantry/freezer.

Shrimp and Grits
2 portions, approximately 20-30 minute cooking and prep time

  • stove-top grits for 2 servings
  • 1 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 tbs. butter
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 green onion,sliced


  1. Prepare grits according to directions for 2 servings, stove-top.
  2. Remove from heat.  Fold in parmesan cheese and cover with lid to retain warmth.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Melt butter and oil until browned, about 1 minute.
  4. Saute garlic and tomatoes until tomatoes blister about 2-3 minutes
  5. Add shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until cooked through and starting to curl. Season with salt and pepper
  6. Plate grits and add shrimp and tomatoes.  Pour sauce over shrimp and grits.
  7. Garnish with green onions

Monday, July 31, 2017

New Momma Cooking

I took a little hiatus from blogging because I had a hard time figuring out how to cook the time-consuming, challenging recipes and meals that I was used to once baby John showed up and I no longer had help from my mom and went back to work.

But now that John's a little better on a schedule and I've figured out how to compromise my cooking with some shortcuts, I'm back.  Recipe and posts will be a bit simpler than before, because I don't really have hours of free time anymore.  Those are taken up by baby snuggles!

I've never been great at super meal planning where you cook everything one day of the week, but I have found a few things helpful.  Some of these tips are from a book my friend gave me, Parents Need to Eat, Too
So here are a few tips and shortcuts that I've found useful as a new mom:

  • buying prepared produce is OK.  Save time, but splurge a little for those already washed and cut veggies.  I now buy at least one bag of sugar snap peas or broccoli or the like to make for dinner.
  • casseroles and freezer meals are your friend
  • divide up prep for a recipe into 15 minute blocks.  Example: wash anything that needs washing, dry, and cut up stuff. Then, when your baby hopefully naps again, mix or layer things or continue the recipe as needed.  And right before dinner, cook/bake/etc.
  • stock up your freezer and pantry.  I foolishly signed up for a CSA box around the time John was 3 months old and ended up giving away most of it because I never had the time to use it all before it went bad
  • try a meal delivery mail service.  My sister-in-law gifted one free box to me and it was pretty great.  No thinking about what to make. There are so many services where the first box is free.  I tried Hello Fresh and liked it
  • UberEats!!!!
  • Instacart!!!!
...and it will get better! I still have lots of kinks to work out, and it'll be some time before I'm baking bread or making ice cream again, but every week I'm able to accomplish a little more with my cooking! Last week my kitchen looked like a wreck, but I made zucchini bread!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017 Austin City Guide: Vietnamese Restaurants

When I moved to Austin over 10 years ago from Houston, finding Vietnamese restaurants helped me with my homesickness.  When I don't have the time to cook or want to eat out, some of these places have been solid!  I think the Austin Vietnamese scene has really blossomed over the last few years as Vietnamese food has become more mainstream.  

Vietnamese food in Austin is plentiful! Sometimes, you just need to know where to look.  Here is just a SAMPLING of a few popular places around town.  The hours and addresses are listed and website linked when possible.  If I left out your favorite, please comment below!

In an effort to keep this post from being repetitive or way too long, I left out places my fellow food blogger over at The Smoking Ho has included in his Banh Mi roundup

2400 E. Oltorf Suite 1A, Austin, TX 78741
M-Sat 11:00 am-2:00 am
Sun 5:00 pm-11:30 pm
Like the name says, this is pan-Asian cuisine, so you can also enjoy Thai and Chinese dishes along with the typical Vietnamese fare.  A great thing about 888 is the late night/early morning hours.  So if you are craving Asian food at 1:00 am after partying all night, or need somewhere to eat New Year's Day, this is the place.

13000 N IH 35 #102, Austin, TX 78753
Sun-Th 11:00 am-9:00 pm
F-Sat 11:00 am-9:30 pm
Cyclo offers Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine.  Upon recommendations by the owner, I tried the banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe), salt and pepper fried shrimp and squid,  Cyclo Special Seafood.  We also ordered the mi ax xiu (egg noodle with bbq pork).
Cyclo Restaurant

Dong Nai
Lakehills Plaza, 4211 S. Lamar Blve #E1, Austin, TX 78704
Mon-Sat 11:00 am-9:45 pm
Sun 12:00 pm -8:45 pm

Duy Vietnamese Restaurant
10901 N Lamar Blvd Suite A-101 Austin, TX 78753
M-Sun 10:00am-10:00 pm
Located in the spacious corner unit of the Chinatown Center, Duy offers Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.  A friend of mine recommends the non-pho dishes such as bamboo duck with pork blood.  I am a fan of their congee!

500 E. Ben White, Suite D-200, Austin, TX 78704
M-Sun 10:00 am- 9:00 pm
I haven't had a chance to try Hea cafe since it's in South Austin, but hear it offers good Chinese dishes alongside the typical popular Vietnamese dishes such as pho and vermicelli bowls.  No tipping necessary which is interesting.

Multiple locations, check website for locations and hours
Lots of different Chinese/Vietnamese dishes offered here.  Get the hu tieu ap chao, crispy pan fried wide rice noodles stir-fried with your choice of protein (vegetarian option also available)!  They also offer pho, vermicelli bowls, and other pan-asian favorites.  The Spicewood Springs location is very family friendly.

Pho Dan
11200 N Lamar Blvd, Ste 200, Austin, TX 78753
Mon-Thurs 8:30 am- 9:00 pm
Fri-Sun 8:30 am -9:30 pm
Come for the pho; they even have vegetarian broths and options.

Pho Hoang
2521 Rutland Dr #400, Austin, TX 78758
Mon-Sun 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Casual setting specializing in pho.

Pho King
1021 E. Parmer Ln, Austin, TX 78753
Mon-Sun 9:30 am-9:00 pm
Best thing about this place is the cheeky name.

Pho Lee
2601 IH 35 Frontage Rd, Round Rock, TX 78664
Mon- Sun 11:00 am -10:00 pm

10901 Lamar Blvd, A108, Austin, TX 78753
Mon-Sun 8:00 am - 9:00 pm
This is my personal favorite place to eat beef pho in Austin.  Their broth is not too fatty, and is very flavorful.  Service is super fast but friendly and the place is always clean.  Located in the Chinatown Center.  This place is more consistent to Vietnamese restaurants in Houston that I'm used to, and they have locations there, as well. They specialize in one type of dish, and do it well.  

Pho Thai Son*
Multiple locations, check website for locations and hours
Pho Thai Son has a very nice setting and ambiance so it makes for a nice place to take out-of-town guests.  The food is a little bit more Americanized and so is also very accessible to many people.

Pho Van *
8557 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758
Mon-Sun 10:30 am- 9 pm
This used to be one of my favorite pho places in town.  I'm not sure if the management changed or if my tastes have changed since the first time I tried it 10 years ago, but it just doesn't seem to be the same. Pluses are that it is a little easier to get to than some of the other places that are further soother north in Austin.

Pho Viet
 603 Louis Henna Blvd B200, Round Rock, TX 78664
Mon-Sun 11:00 am- 9:00 pm

Multiple locations, check website for locations and hours
Great fast-casual eatery for your go-to pho and Vietnamese options.

Fried tofu at Phonetic
8557 Research Blvd, Suite 146, Austin, TX 78758
M, Wed-Sun 10:00 am- 9:30 pm
T closed
I think Sunflower is on everyone's personal 'best Vietnamese restaurant in Austin' list.  The food is authentic and their banh xeo (Vietnamese style savory crepe) can't be beat!

The amazing banh xeo at Sunflower

Tan My
1601 Ohlen Rd #E, Austin, TX 78758
Mon-Sun 10:00 am-9:00 pm
Pho Tai at Tan My
Tan My is my personal favorite Vietnamese restaurant in town.  Pho and vermicelli bowls here are excellent.  Located in an unassuming strip mall next to a laundromat, this place is pretty authentic.  The Tran family, the owners, are incredibly friendly and service is super quick.  It does get a little busy for lunch time.

10901 North Lamar Blvd, Suite B-203, Austin, TX 78753
Mon-Sun 10:30 am- 9:30 pm
I like the congee here.  This is another place that specializes in Chinese/Vietnamese cuisine.  The place has a pretty cool history.  It is run by descendants of Teochew ethnic-Chinese from Vietnam.  This ethnic group are from South China and Southeast Asia.

**If your favorite place wasn't listed here, please check out The Smoking Ho's banh mi City Guide for more places.   

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Getting ready for AFBA city guide

Getting together the Austin Foob Bloggers' 2017 City Guide and checking out some Vietnamese places I hadn't been yet. 
Mi Xa Xiu at Cyclo Restaurant

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Xiu Mai (Chinese/Vietnamese meat balls)

My mom stayed with us for a whole month after John was born.  To say we were pampered is the least of it.  She made this for us while I was wallowing in self-pity about my peri-partum Bells Palsy (facial nerve paralysis) and Reid was fighting a flu-like cold.  And she helped with baby John.  The kitchen smelt so good.  I asked her to write down her recipe for me (a very hard task for someone who cooks as well as she does).  We ate it in baguettes with French mayonnaise and cucumbers and shredded and pickled carrots for banh mi xiu mai (though I couldn't chew the crusty delicious outer crust so I ate mine with lettuce).

Xui mai, or su mai, or whatever other crazy spelling we've come up for translating Chinese/Vietnamese words into English phonetics are basically Asian meatballs.  They are savory from fish sauce and soy sauce and have a bit of a chewy/crunchy bits sprinkled throughout from the waterchestnuts or jicama root.  So like instead of onions in Italian-style meatballs.  This is hard to describe. But trust me, they are good. Combine them in a French-style baguette and mayonaise and it's even yummier.

Meat mixture:
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  •  1 can waterchestnuts (or 1/2 small jicama root, small dice, cooked in microwave for 1 min and juice squeezed out
  • 1 tbs. corn starch
  • 1 tsp. choped garlic
  • 1 tbs. chopped shallot
  • 1 tbs. white part of green onion
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tbs. oyster sauce
  • 1 tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbs. oil
  • garlic
  • shalllots
  • 3 tbs. ketchup or tomato paste
  • 2 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tbs. sesame oil
  • pepper
  • 1 c. water

  1. Mix well.  Let stand 30 minutes.  
  2. Moisten hands with a small amount of vegetable oil to prevent meat mixture from sticking to hands.  Form into small ~1 inch balls.   
  3. Fry in 1 tbs. oil until golden brown on all sides.
  4. Simmer meatballs in sauce until fully cooked.  Taste to adjust seasoning as necessary.
  5. Add green onions

I had a baby

I had a baby.  John.  On November 26,2016 at 3:01am weighing 6lbs 6 oz and 21" long.
So there was a break from the blogging.  My next few posts are going to be back logged from when I started them or super late.  I may not have a post consistently again.  Or one that makes any sense.

Sleep deprivation is tough...

Almost as hard as quiting cheese and dairy because John may have a milk intolerance.

My baby burrito

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Cold Buster Orange Smoothie

I don't know about you, but allergy and cold and flu season has been kicking my butt. Maybe it's the lack of sleep while waking up so frequently to breastfeed the baby, the Bells Palsy, or just being post-partum, but my immune system just hasn't been working great. 
So this is a great way to quickly get some vitamin C in that's easy to gulp down.   I love the taste of cardamom  and cinnamon and the turmeric adds anti-inflammatory benefits. Raw honey is supposed to help with allergies.  Flax seed adds omega 3.  I have a Blendtec blender so it's super easy to throw everything in (can be prepped night before) and blend in the morning while I'm toting the baby around in the morning.   Then it goes in my shaker cup!

2 c. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 large Fuji apple
2 carrots
2 mandarin oranges
2 tbs ground flax seed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Indian turmeric 
2 tsp ground cardamom 

Directions: combine all ingredients in a blender.