Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Holiday season fruit salad and kitchen sink Christmas cookies

Holiday party season has been in full swing and there's still a few weeks of merry making on the way. With all the potluck and cookie exchanges and white elephants, I spent most of my weekend shopping and chopping away. I've become quite an expert at seasonal fruit salads, and let me tell you my California almost winter one does not disappoint. I can't explain why there are so many plums around this time of year, but they're my favorite, and I'm going to go with it. 

And if you know me, you already know that I'm the worst at baking because I don't follow instructions. I really tried this time. I picked out a recipe for cornflake cookies and decided to make them festive by adding cherries and cacao. Fine, already not following the recipe. Then I actually started putting it together and decided that 1 egg wasn't enough and I felt guilty using all white flour and I found all these spiced nuts in my fridge and there was this dark chocolate bar I found too bitter to eat... the result are my kitchen sink cookies. More precisely, they should be: Linda's cherry chocolate cacao cornflake Christmas cookies. But really kitchen sink is just as accurate. They're not pretty (because I didn't have brown sugar and prob because I don't follow instructions), but they damn sure were tastier than all the other store bought ones at the potluck. Really, I was so lowkey proud and surprised. It's hard to beat homemade! 

Holiday season fruit salad (serves 8)
6 plums, sliced 
1 Asian pear, sliced
3 clementines, peeled and sliced 
1/2 c pomegranate seeds
1 tsp lemon juice

1. Mix together all ingredients
2. Chill until ready to serve 

Kitchen sink Christmas cookies (makes 48)
3 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats
1 cup cornflakes, crushed
1 cup butter
1 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/2 avocado, 1/2 olive)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried pitted cherries
1/2 cup pecans
2 tbsp cacao nibs
2 eggs
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract
3. Incorporate vegetable oil
4. Mix in flour, oats, cornflakes, baking soda
5. Fold in chocolate chips, cherries, pecans, and cacao nibs until even
6. Space out walnut sized balls of dough on baking sheet, press down with fork
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes
8. Cool before transferring

Monday, December 18, 2017

Vietnamese food south of LA

The past few weekends I've been doing plenty of traveling in southern California. With a few extra friends in town, we got an oceanfront apartment in Laguna Beach and let me tell ya, beach front living is not as relaxing as it sounds. Yes, it's revitalizing waking up and stretching on an open balcony facing the boundless Pacific Ocean, but its strength and massiveness can be overpowering and the constant crashing of the waves in the darkness is rather unsettling. Regardless, it was an Airbnb to remember and definitely worth the experience and the #views.

After all the late night Laguna debauchery (not really a thing, it was a very quiet beach town from our wanderings), a meal at Brodard's was just what we needed for our drive back to LA. Brodard's, until this past weekend, was the only Vietnamese restaurant I've eaten at since I moved to the West Coast and with great reason -- it's simply the best. Their summer rolls are legendary due to the extra crunch layer that contrasts the pork sausage. For the first time I had their shrimp sausage roll, and I must say that it's my new favorite. Brodard's pork chop rice, bun bo hue, and chicken rice are all delicious as well. Just note that no pho is served at this establishment. And expect to wait in line.

The weekend after, we all drove down to San Diego for some holiday partying and actual debauchery. We went to town in Gaslamp. We got all the stamps, beat all the covers, got conned by promoters, and collectively paid way too much for too many drinks. It was a great night of fun, followed by tacos, and finally horrid Saturday morning hangovers because aging is real. To remedy this, we dined at Phuong Trang where we ordered up a feast. We first shared a seven courses of beef. I've never seen such set ups in Vietnamese cuisine, where we boil beef, butter fry beef, wrap beef sausages, and all topped off with beef congee. There was also plenty of pho, of course. But what really stood out were the fried egg rolls (extra crispy) and garlic wings (inexplicably delicious).

After a long day of doing absolutely nothing besides being bundled on the couch, it was dinner time. With Jun-wan, the options for meals are typically Asian if not Cantonese. A quick online search revealed that most closed by 9pm and that delivery really was not an option. We made the move to Minh Ky to avoid marked up room service (a lot harder than it sounds). It's Vietnamese Chinese food at its finest. No barbecued meats, but lots of fresh off the wok options. It was definitely the way to go and some of the best stir fry I have had in awhile. Also the cheapest meal I've had in San Diego (the tacos are overpriced down here). All the veggies, lots of flavor. Skip the wontons.

Order lots of spring rolls at Brodard's. You will not regret it. 

Phuong Trang feat. seven courses of beef

Minh Ky

California coastin'

Brodard Restaurant
9892 Westminster Blvd R
Garden Grove, CA

Phuong Trang
4170 Convoy St, 
San Diego, CA

Minh Ky Restaurant
4644 El Cajon Blvd #101
San Diego, CA

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Thanksgiving turkey leftovers bone broth

Happy December! Hope everyone had as splendidly lit a Thanksgiving as I did. Highlights included a delightful cheese platter with not enough baguette, four cheese lobster mac and cheese, abalone jambalaya, Bill's first time green bean casserole, and of course my mom's classic steamed king crab legs. The evening after, my family always hosts a Friendsgiving where we eat remade leftovers and Chinese food. My mom always tosses the leftover bones and meats from Thanksgiving into*  her largest stock pot to simmer up some bone broth for Friendsgiving. This year we had endless leftovers from our 2 Popeyes turkeys*, so I was able to fly some back with me to LA (yes, I'm that person getting checked at security always). 

Back in LA, I threw together carrots from an Imperfect Produce box, some frozen corn on the cob (I love the sweet flavor of corn when paired with poultry), and Chinese herbs with all the leftover turkey that I didn't finish eating.  It came out so clear and heart warming. Here's the recipe, feel free to substitute with a fresh or leftover chicken and add other vegetables! I was wishing I had a mirliton. 

Thanksgiving turkey leftovers bone broth (serve 8-12)
2 lb turkey bones
2 medium carrots
2 corn on a cob
2 tomatoes, quartered 
4 slices dried Chinese yam
2 Chinese honey date
12 goji berries 

1. Rinse and soak all dried goods
2. In a large stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
3. Once a rolling boil, insert turkey bones. 
4. Once water comes to another boil, turn heat to low and add vegetables and dried goods.
5. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. 

*For the past 2 years, my family has had Popeyes turkeys on the table for Thanksgiving. It's $40, takes 90 minutes to heat up, and is oh so juicy and Cajun spiced! 

Summer boil or Mama Yung's king crab legs and buttered corn

Monday, November 20, 2017

Case of the leftovers: Mushroom eel fried rice & sauteed greens

As the Leftover Queen, I really outdid myself this time. I made fried rice with leftover fried rice. I've already been eating my last batch of fried rice for more than a week, but I still had so much more left. And because it's Thanksgiving this week, I needed to empty my fridge before going back home to New York for a week. I had collard greens and baby oyster mushrooms, left over from making pork belly chili, and eel because unagi. 

If you know me, you know I can't eat a meal without vegetables, so naturally I made greens in the best way I know: stir-frying. I was kind of hesitant at first because every time I've ever had collard greens, it's been braised (see: Coca Cola braised collard greens , gomen). But now that I've had them sauteed, I will definitely do this more often. It takes about an eight of the usual time, and they're both crunchy and tender. 

Enjoy the recipes, enjoy the holidays, and treat your leftovers responsibly! 

Mushroom eel fried rice (serves 2)
2 cups leftover white / brown rice 
3 tbs peanut oil
4 oz unagi 
1 cup baby oyster mushroom, chopped
2 tails scallion, diced 
1 knob of fresh ginger, diced 
6 cloves of garlic, diced 
2 tbsp dried silver fish
1 tbsp dried shrimp fry
2 eggs, beaten 
1 tbs roasted sesame seeds
1 tbs rice wine 
1 tsp sesame oil 
1/2 tsp Cajun spice or sea salt 

1. Place peanut oil on a wok on high heat. Once hot, sautee silver fish, shrimp fry, garlic, ginger, and whites of scallion scallion until lightly browned. 
2. Add mushroom, eel, and sesame seeds. Once sizzling, add rice wine. 
3. Add rice and Cajun spice and stir-fry until rice is fragrant and individual grains, about 5-7 minutes.
4. Mix in the two beaten eggs and keep the rice moving in the wok until the eggs are fully cooked and dispersed throughout. 
5. Remove the fried rice from the heat and mix in sesame oil. 
6. Top with scallion greens to serve. 

Sauteed greens (serves 2)
1/2 lb collard greens, chopped
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic 
2 tbsp olive oil 
1 tbsp white wine
1/2 tsp Cajun spice 

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Brown onion and garlic. 
2 Add collard greens. Once color starts to turn bright green,  add white wine and spice and keep stir frying until tender (3-5 minutes) 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Avocado toast

My buddy Chad is visiting California for the first time, and you already know we're all about the brunch, so of course we pull it together LA style. Meaning fresh fruit salad, all the veggies in the scramble, and avocado toast. There was also obviously mimosas and bacon, because brunch. 

So, avocado toast. The reason millenials are not buying houses. I mean, I understand the struggle, but I also don't understand paying $9-15 for avocado on toast. So here's my recipe that you can easily whip up at home for $3 or less. All you really need is an avocado and a slice of bread. The rest is all to elevate it from so good to the best. 

Avocado toast (serves 2)
1 avocado
2 slices sourdough bread, toasted
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp red onion, minced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp everything bagel seasoning
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or Cajun spice

1. Scoop avocado into a bowl and mash together with lemon juice and spices
2. Spread onto toast. Top with red onion and cherry tomatoes
3. Slice toast into halves or quarters to serve

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Roasted butternut squash and tomato soup + chickpea curry

Winter is here. It's a brisk mid-50's in the early mornings / evenings and finally a warm mid 70's in the afternoons. I think LA winter is my favorite time of year. Because of the chillier weather, everyone has started pulling on boots, wearing darker colors, and making soup. So now it's socially acceptable to wear all black? My kind of time. 

I've been receiving Imperfect Produce boxes for the past few weeks, and though I don't love everything I receive (sometimes tiny oranges just don't make the cut for a reason), I do appreciate that it makes me choose a wider variety of fruits and vegetables than what I would usually choose from the grocery store. 

This week I roasted my Imperfect (but actually totally perfect) butternut squash with a bunch of Roma tomatoes and red bell peppers. I blended it to make a creamy soup served with a pesto grilled cheese, then used the leftover soup and transformed it into curry. The entire process required quite a few kitchen appliances, but was overall all very easy to put together. Very delicious, will make again - especially the curry. 

Roasted butternut squash and tomato soup (serves 4-6) 
1 butternut squash, halved
8 Roma tomatoes, halved 
2 red bell peppers, halved 
1 inch knob ginger, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups broth (low sodium vegetable or chicken)
1/2 cup kefir 
2 tsp white wine 
1 tsp paprika 
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Rub olive oil on insides of squash, place cut side down onto pan. Line pan with tomatoes and bell pepper. Top with olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes.
2. In the meantime, sautee onion, ginger, celery, and garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot. Add white wine. Once onions are browned, add broth and bring to a boil.
3. Add squash, tomato, and peppers to pot. Add kefir, paprika, tumeric, black pepper, and bay leaf. Turn down heat and bring to a simmer for half an hour.
4. After soup has slightly cooled, remove bay leaf and immerse soup into blender until smooth consistency.

✓ plant based protein
✓ vegetables
✓ vitamin A
✓ fiber
✓ low sodium


Chickpea curry (serves 2)
2 cups roasted butternut squash and tomato soup
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 block Japanese curry
Optional: carrot, potato*

1. In a small saucepan, bring soup to a light boil. Add curry block.
2. Once curry block is dissolved, add chickpeas. Simmer for 3 minutes.

*If adding carrot and potato, sautee with olive oil first before commencing with step 1.

✓ plant based protein
✓ vegetables
✓ vitamin A
✓ fiber
✓ low sodium

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Passion fruit acai bowls

It's 100F outside in Los Angeles right now. All I can think about are lemonades and frozen drinks. What I would do for a mango daiquiri right now. But because I'm in LA, people don't spend money on daiquiris here. Instead they spend more than twice as much on fresh pressed juices and acai bowls. After having a couple, I quickly realized I was over paying someone to blend fruit for me, so I decided to make my own at home.

All you need is frozen acai, frozen fruits of your choice, fresh fruits of your choices, and toppings of your choice. It really is that easy. The hardest part is probably the patience in plating it so that it turns out as visually appealing at the ones on Instagram. What is LA turning me into.

Perfect for fall in the desert!

Passion fruit acai bowl (makes 2)
2 individual packs frozen acai
4 oz frozen passion fruit pulp
1 Yakult
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1/2 mango, sliced
2 tbsp coconut shreds, toasted*
2 tbsp muesli
1 tbsp chia seeds

1. Blend together frozen acai, passion fruit, and Yakult until no chunks remain
2. Pour into 2 separate bowls and top with remaining ingredients to serve

*Spread shredded coconut evenly on toaster oven tray, bake at 325F for about 6-8 minutes or until brown and toasted. Watch carefully, they burn easily!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When friends visit LA

The LA quintessential spicy tuna on crispy rice - Catch
My lifelong bestie Shannon was in town this past weekend, and what that means is that we spent the fast few days gorging ourselves around town. It was her first time ever in Los Angeles, so in addition to bringing her for a walk down Hollywood and whipping up homemade acai bowls, we did some necessary hiking. beaching, and Asian feasting. 

The thing about LA that you have to accept is that if it's delicious or hip or Instagrammable or has high internet ratings, there will be a line. It takes some getting used to (like the lack of parking), but you just got to tough it out and enjoy the company you're with. 

Here are my snippet reviews of the foods we savored over the weekend: 

Catch LA (8715 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood) - Apparently this is the rooftop bar to be seen at. Honestly, there's no real view in LA unless it's the ocean, so it really is just to be dining al fresco without the LA traffic ruining your vibe. It's a beautifully floral (though half are fake, a la LA style) adorned space inside and out, so I see why the celebrities love it here. We ate the most beautiful and reasonably priced fruit platter ever, the LA classic spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice, truffled sashimi, and vegan crispy cauliflower. The lobster mac and cheese was also delicious, albeit not too cheesy. Will definitely come back for the nighttime vibes. 

Leo's Tacos (2400 W Pico Blvd, Koreatown / various locations) - Shannon got her first taste of taco trucks at one my go-to's. Delicious, much needed al pastor, cabeza, and lengua tacos after a night out of waiting in line to get into clubs. Such is the LA life. 

Little Sister (1131 Manhattan Ave, Manhattan Beach) - Had to have some fusion because we are in LA, so had some southeast Asian inspired cuisine at the end of our beach day. Ate some deliciously skewered baby octopus, fresh summer rolls, and loved that so many of the dishes had so many fresh veggies and herbs incorporated. Only complaint was the pea sprouts were too tart. 

Master Ha (1147 S Western Ave, Koreatown) - my Ktown pick for people that only know KBBQ. It's a great intro to a lot of other delicious Korean delicacies that aren't barbecue. They have a menu with only a handful of options, so you know it's legit. We got the boiled beef on a stone plate, raw crab with rice, and suh long tang (ox bone soup). I've only ever had Han Bat's suh long tang, which is very cleansing. Master Ha's was extremely milky and rich, which makes it a bit suspect, but all delicious nonetheless. Will do it again. 

Oomasa (100 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Little Tokyo) - Came here because everywhere else had a ridiculous wait and this one was only a short wait. Luckily got seated at the sushi bar, where we promptly ordered a sashimi platter, nigiri, and rolls. Everything was fresh and great quality, but the fish on the sushi was just a touch too cold. More points than Hama Sushi, where the chef definitely overdid it with the wasabi. 

Republique (624 South La Brea Ave, La Brea) - This is my go-to brunch spot for when people visit from out of town. The food is solid, the ambiance is perfect for a weekend morning, and the pastries are on point. They have all the essentials - juices, smoothies, mushroom toast, shakshuka, fried rice, yogurt granola bowl, pork belly sausage egg sandwich, and more. The menu is confusingly diverse, which makes make the ordering experience both a blessing and a curse. I recommend trying their creme brulee bomboloni and cardamom sticky bun. Skip the chicken and biscuit with gravy - boy do I miss the south.

Rosenthal Wine Bar & Patio (18741 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu) - After a light hike, we were all ready for some refreshing wine. We stopped by the nearest wine spot and got to try some local white wine. The patio was packed and popping, but with a 2 person per bottle minimum, I'm not surprised. 

Somi Somi (621 S Manhattan Pl #208-A, Koreatown) - I talk about fish ice cream a bit too often, and it always so weird, but it's legit. Take traditional taiyaki and fill it with soft serve, and there you have it. Fish ice cream. You can choose a base of traditional red bean or custard or nutella. They soft serve flavors are revolving, but I always end up getting matcha/milk with classic red bean filling. I hate that I'm writing this, but it's very Instagrammable. There will be a ridiculous line on weekend evenings. 

Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle (2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Sawtelle) - There's always a line, but we got there after the lunch rush, so we got seated pretty quickly. They specialize in tsukemen, which is dipping ramen. They serve it with lime, giving it an extra tang. It was actually my first time having it, and it was delicious. So were the plentiful char siu slices in their ramen. The winner was their perfectly runny soft boiled egg! 

$15 fruit platters do not get better than this - Catch 

Labyrinth at Tuna Canyon

Check out the runny yolks doe - Tsujita 
The spider roll and sashimi combination - Oomasa

Not as delicious as it looks - Republique

Autumn Roll - Little Sister

My favorite combination - Oomasa

Manhattan Beach sunset

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

All about eggs + Linda's egg toast

I love eggs. Fried, scrambled, sunny side up, frambled, omelet, soft boiled, baked... I eat them all. It's my first choice in breakfast food and the first food my mom taught me to cook.

In recent years, we've been getting a lot of mixed health messages about this nutritious food. Eggs are very nutritionally dense and balanced. They come at 70 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants important for muscle, growth, and eye health. I eat eggs about 2-3 times a week.

Here's a collection of eggspert snaps of some eggcelent egg moments. Enjoy the visuals and be sure to try my egg toast recipe!

When your fam loves you, they bring bagels from NY when they visit

Kono's Cafe in San Diego have the best and biggest breakfast burritos 

Finally had egg slut's Fairfax sandwich at Grand Central Market in DTLA

Egg baked into a pastry puff from at Julia St's Saturday Crescent City Farmers Market

Homemade breakfast hash made with leftovers from the Pantry in DTLA

Egg sandwiches in Hong Kong are a must! Though the more popular choice is Spam. 

My favorite breakfast of all time at The Grill in the French Quarter:
fried catfish, cheesy grits, and sunny side up eggs


Linda's Egg Toast

1 slice rye bread
4-6 bocconcini balls (or any other form of mozzarella) 
1 egg
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup mixed salad greens, raw 
2 tsp avocado oil
1/4 tsp Cajun spice

1. Top bread with mozzarella and baked in toaster oven at 250F.
2. In a small pan, heat avocado oil. Once oil is boiling, sear cherry tomatoes.
3. Turn heat to low and crack egg into pan. Lightly scramble with Cajun spice then allow to cook. Flip once. 
4. Remove cheese toast from the toaster oven and top with greens, followed by the tomato eggs. 

✓ protein
✓ whole grains 
✓ vegetables
✓ fiber 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

An ode to tacos

I thought I've been eating tacos my entire life, but it really wasn't tacos until I had them in Southern California. Like chicken and rice, taco trucks have this addictive life changing ability. My first stop after anyone lands in LAX after dinner time (including myself) is obviously a taco truck. My favorites are al pastor, cabeza, buche, and lengua. No two trucks or stands do them the same, but they're always absolutely delicious. It's the perfect pit spot and late night stop. Sometimes I'll even have a horchata (milky rice drink), but most times I prefer the jamaica (hibiscus) juice. When will taco trucks become an East Coast thing also? Meat shreds on tortillas with onion, cilantro, avocado sauce, hot sauce, and limes. How can you go wrong? 

Special shout out: Tacos El Gordo in San Diego. Hands down best al pastor I've ever had in my life. And I've had quite a lot since moving out west. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Oahu, Hawai'i

"Best shrimp on the island" - from a local standing behind us in line,
expect to spend at least 2 hours here | Romy's

Last time I went to Hawai'l, I left proclaiming that it was my favorite state in the USA. Ten years later, I have to admit that Hawai'i did not fail to charm me again with its tropical climate, plentiful beaches, and Asian inspired comfort food. Though I didn't swim with sea turtles, walk on volcanoes, coddle sea horses, or island hop this time around, I did get to do a lot more exploring around Oahu. 

In addition to attending my cousin's wedding at Ko Olina, the goal was to do as much around the island outside of Honolulu as possible. I didn't fly all the way from a crowded city to vacation in another city. Surprisingly, my brother and I completed the majority of my ambitious itinerary - meaning we hit up 100% of the food spots I listed and about half the hikes and adventures I planned. Not too bad considering that we were running on full island time. The rainforest hike was way muddier than I expected, Valley of the Temples was one of the most awe inspiring resting grounds I've ever witnessed, and the oceans were just as blue as I remember. Only regrets (kind of, not really): missing the partial eclipse after sunrise on Monday and no rainbows! Next time, though. I know I'll be back again. Aloha! 

Cockroach Cove by Halona Blowhole

First meal and my favorite ahi poke thus far | Ono Seafood

Loved the taro bun at the luau buffet | Paradise Cove

I'll take all the katsu and shrimp tempura musubis | Masa and Joyce

Four Seasons at Ko Olina

Breakfast buffet spread with drip Kona coffee | La Hiki

Manoa Falls

Porkchop lunch special with bomb macaroni salad | He'eia Pier General Store

Byodo In Temple

Fresh fried malasadas - doughnut's breadier cousins | Agnes Portugese Bake Shop

Wedding catered by Honolulu's famous Chef Chai 

Fancy ahi poke with crispy rice crackers | MW Restaurant

Waiting for bullet matcha on the North Shore | Sunrise Shack

Much inspired, will definitely go home and make my own papaya bowls | Sunrise Shack

Pre-paddle boarding breakfast on the beach - we will take all the spam
musubis and papayas please | ABC Stores

Final meal! Loved the butter fish in gravy and watercress | Helena's Hawaiian Food