Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Big news! I am finally a Registered Dietitian! That's right. I'm a legitimate nutritionist now. I was going to do a post on fried chicken to celebrate (just kidding! But if you're interested, check out here, here, or here), but I decided instead to feature my favorite meal of the day: breakfast. Hope this provides you with some inspiration on how to build a balanced plate for the most important meal of the day... besides second breakfast, of course.

Peanut butter on raisin bread with avocado and sliced nectarine

Folded cherry tomato omelette over arugula with an English muffin

Peanut butter cinnamon banana whole wheat toast

Veggie omelette, avocado arugula toast, and grapefruit slices

Cherry tomato scrambled eggs, whole wheat English muffin, and chicory coffee

Everything bagel with arugula, mashed avocado, and cherry tomatoes

Fresh basil pesto on English muffin, plain omelette, and sliced yellow tomato

Cherry tomato omelette over arugula, raisin bread, sliced nectarine

Friday, August 14, 2015

Baked spaghetti squash

I'm back in NOLA with a more sizable kitchen (thank goodness I moved out of student housing), so I hope to be doing way more cooking now. I was craving some red gravy the other day while I was studying, so because I have so much time, I first started with some homemade marinara sauce. There are obviously countless number of things you can do with marinara sauce, but because I'm having quite a nutrition quick these days (studying nutrition for most of the day helps), I decided to make a healthier, lighter "baked ziti." And because I'm southern now, I baked it all in a cast iron skillet. Yup, I went there. 

Here I introduce the spaghetti squash, a round elongated yellow colored squash that once baked, yields a stringy delicious squash that resembles... spaghetti. Or shark fin, depends where you're from. Though there are a lot of steps in this recipe, I assure you that the end result is totally worth it! Make lots because the leftovers taste even better. 

Baked spaghetti squash
For the squash:
1 spaghetti squash
2 tbs olive oil 
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, parsley)

1. Preheat oven to 400F. 
2. Slice spaghetti squash lengthwise, coat with olive oil, salt, and seasoning and bake for 40-45 minutes face down.
3. Remove from oven and scrape the insides of the squash out with a fork. 

To put it all together:
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 lb ground turkey (feel free to season with garlic powder and Italian seasoning) 
3-4 cups marinara sauce (depends how saucy you like it) 
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella (I used pearls because that's what I had) 

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Heat oil on cast iron skillet. Sautee ground turkey until brown. 
3. Add spaghetti squash and mix well. 
4. Pour red sauce and incorporate with the turkey and spaghetti squash.
5. Layer on the cheeses and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly. 

And to make it even better? Serve with fresh basil! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Guilin 桂林, Guangxi China

I realized that every July I unintentionally take a blogging break. This time around it was because I planned a very impromptu trip to Hong Kong and Guilin with my lovely mother! Guilin claims to have the most incomparable landscapes of mountains and waters under the sky. With over 300,000 small peaks amidst a winding network of rivers, Guilin's  And you know what comes with great water? Amazing tofu and fresh seafood.

Guilin is most famous for its rice noodles. I was never a huge rice noodle person, but these are different. They're thicker and more slippery than any other rice noodle I've had before. All you need is some cooked rice noodle, a mushroom/pork broth, peanuts, fresh scallion/parsley, blanched vegetables, pickled string beans, and chili soy sauce. I had it for breakfast every morning with a nice fried egg, and I even had it for lunch on some days with some snails. Other than slippery rice noodles and the silkiest tofu, Guilin also has a lot of fresh water seafood such as crawfish and catfish (much like the south). Their most famous preparation for fish is called beer fish, which is a fish slightly pan fried and braised in a beer based tomato sauce. Goes great with white rice. So there's plenty of Guilin chili sauce and fermented tofu to buy as souvenirs, but my personal favorite is dried osmanthus flower (gui hua 桂花), also Guilin's namesake. It has a distinct sweet floral smell that adds both fragrance and color to any tea or dessert. Apparently the city is in full bloom during mid Autumn festival!

Famous Guilin rice noodles with snails

fresh passionfruit! 3RMB or two for 5! 

beer fish

osmanthus flavored almond flour cookies

fresh lotus pods

the best chive pancake ever in Yangshou

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Zhuang people in Jiuzhai, Sichuan China

The one thing about Louisiana is that I miss the mountains so much. As I mentioned in a previous post, I got to spend a few weeks in Sichuan last summer. One leg of the trip was to Jiuzhaigou, Valley of Nine Fortified Villages, located at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau at about 4000m above sea level. High altitude living indeed. The air is more crisp, fresh, and absolutely rejuvenating. 

One ethnic minority group that lives in this region are the Zhuang. They are actually the same ethnic minority as Tibetans and share the same language and culture. The Zhuang people here are mountain people. Those that still decide to live traditionally herd their yak and invite people to their homes to share their rich culture. Being mountain people, they are naturally sky people as well. Their dead are offered to the sky, their heirlooms are tian zhu, "pearls of heaven*," and the winds of the mountains fluttering the prayer flags endlessly send their devotion towards the open skies. Spinning prayer wheels is another ritual that Zhuang people practice to continuously chant the sutras. They claim that they are simple people though, for they love living close to the skies, herding, and singing. 

At this family's home, I was able to try the original bulletproof tea. Yak butter is served with their hot tea for a sharp savory tea with cream. Not much grows at such high altitude, so vegetables are not as prominently featured as their stewed and smoked yak. However the highlight of the meal was the rich broth that the stewed yak was served with. It was soothing and warm and went well with the live performance of their operatic singing. 

*Tian zhu / "pearls of heaven"are mysterious stones that are designed by divine 
means. They collect positive energy and provide the beholder with health and 
fortune. The more you meditate, the more transparent the stone becomes. 
They are worth fortunes and are currently a commodity in China. Especially 
the original ancient red-colored stone ones are finite. Even the goverment are 
buying them up from locals to sell to domestic tourists to meet demands.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Creole Tomato Festival, Homemade Marinara Sauce, and Caprese Salad

This past weekend was the annual Creole Tomato Festival at the French Market! There were plenty of tomatoes for sale and I also go to try some tomato, strawberry, and bell pepper sorbet. After telling my grandma about the festival, she suggested that I make my own marinara sauce. Yes, she has all the secret chef recipes stored in her head. Because tomato sauce is so easy to come by, I have never even considered making my own red sauce (or gravy as they say down here) from scratch. But trust me, once you make your own marinara sauce, canned tomato just won't do it for you anymore!

At the end of last week, my classmate Mallory gave me the largest bouquet of fresh basil from her ever growing garden. I had already made a large batch of pesto with it, but I still had some left, so I stewed my marinara sauce with her fresh basil and tossed together a delicious caprese salad. So here are two recipes with fresh tomatoes and fresh basil.

Creole tomato, strawberry, and bell pepper sorbet


Homemade Marinara Sauce (about 4 cups)
8-10 tomatoes
1/2 cup basil
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. In the meantime, lightly cut crosses on the butt of the tomatoes. Once water is boiling, add all tomatoes into the pot and boil until skin starts to come off. Remove from water and peel off and discard all skin. 
2. In a separate sauce pan, heat olive oil. Crush tomatoes into the pan and bring to a boil on low heat.
3. Mix in the basil and allow to simmer for 2-3 hours. 

Use this sauce as a base. Try sauteeing with garlic and fresh herbs or vegetables when reheating sauce. Freeze any sauce you don't use for next time!

Tossed Caprese Salad (serves 4)
1 cup fresh bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 cup arugula 
1/2 cup basil, minced 
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch brown sugar 

1. In a small bowl, mix together garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and brown sugar to make the dressing. 
2. Toss together bocconcini, cherry tomatoes, and arugula in a large bowl. 
3. Drizzle dressing onto the tossed salad and serve immediately. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cowbell & Port of Call, Burgers in New Orleans

After much discussion about where to get the best burgers in New Orleans, I dropped by Cowbell for their organic grass fed beef burger. I was never really a french fry person, so I opted for a side of mixed vegetables instead, which were so garlicky and delicious. The burger I must’ve finished in about a few minutes because I was starving and it was hitting the spot. I used all the homemade ketchup and tried to take it easy with their a-go-go sriracha mayo aioli. Their grilled potato bun is definitely A1. Definitely a solid burger, but I must say their veggie side stood out more because of how flavorful and fragrant it was. 

I went back to Cowbell a second time recently and ordered what more than enough people have told me was their favorite macaroni and cheese in New Orleans. It's a creamy decadent lobster mac and cheese that was indeed quite delicious, though I must admit I prefer Capdeville's truffle macaroni and cheese as my favorite in the city. Again, definitely order a side of their garlicky herby veggie of the day and enjoy this all with their unsweetened mango iced tea. 

8801 Oak Street
New Orleans, LA


Sometimes you just need a burger fix. Last week before I headed to my night job, I biked over to Esplanade to finally try Port of Call. It's an established divey French Quarter institution known for hefty burgers and large cocktails. All burgers are half pound cooked to your liking and served with a big baked potato. I had the mushroom cheeseburger medium rare with chives and butter on my baked potato. And I ate it all. It was no Paul's, but this will do for my home away from home. 

Tip: They only seat when your whole party is present. I'd bring only a friend or two and grab seats at the bar! 

Port of Call
838 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA