Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spinach and Turkey Soup

So many Asian meals being made recently in our house!  Usually it is me, the whitey, who cooks Asian food, but recently it's been my Asian other half.  Tonight he put his own twist on a Vietnamese soup.  Usually this soup is made using ground pork, but he could only find ground turkey at the grocery, so he used that instead!  It's healthier anyways.  The best way I can describe this soup is that it almost tastes like an Italian wedding soup, but with less spices and no noodle balls.  Really the only reason this soup is even considered "Asian" in my mind is that it uses soy sauce and fish sauce.   Enjoy!

Spinach and Turkey Soup (Canh)

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb spinach
8-10 cups water
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp sugar
Additional salt, pepper, and sugar to taste

Break up turkey and roughly mix in fish sauce, soy sauce, pepper, and sugar, don't over-mix.  Heat up oil in 5-quart pot or Dutch oven on stove.  Add turkey mixture until almost done.  Add 8-10 cups water to pot.  Bring to a simmer and add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.  Add spinach and turn off heat so that the spinach holds a little bit of shape (let simmer if you like your spinach completely cooked).

Serve over rice or just by itself! (I prefer having rice though)

This soup can be tweaked to your tastes. Add more spinach if you would like, or add onions and/or garlic for a deeper flavor.  Maybe you could try using ground pork or sausage instead of ground turkey.  Taste the broth as you go so you know what direction you should go when adding things.  Think about what it's missing when you taste it, or maybe it's just the way you like it!

I told Mr P tonight that I want him to make me this instead of chicken noodle soup when I get sick!  It's healthier than opening a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup considering it's more natural, and it's homemade.

Have a good night :D


Watercress and Beef

What I am about to introduce to you is my favorite meal from Mr P... absolute favorite.  It's easy, cheap, quick, and satisfies so many tastebuds!  This meal is simply stir-fried beef and watercress.  Watercress has started to be one of my favorite veggies.  It's cheap, has a slightly dark taste, and it keeps a good texture, even when wilted in a stir-fry.  The leaves shrivel up sort of like spinach, but the stems stay slightly crunchy, almost like the prefect mix between spinach and kale.

Mr P and I like to keep a full freezer, but like I've mentioned in the past, sometimes we go overboard, and we need to eat freezer food for a long time.  But, sometimes having prepared meals or semi-prepared meals in the freezer is just nice.  This is the case with the meal we had last night.  We had been gone all weekend in Ohio, were running on little sleep, hadn't done laundry for 2 weeks and we have guests coming this weekend.  A big grocery trip was just did not fit in the mix.  The last time we went to our favorite Asian grocery store, 555 Asian Supermarket in Jersey City, we found flank steak for super cheap (half the price as the big box groceries), so we bought a lot of it.  Mr P sliced it very thin with his favorite Shun Nakiri knife (sharpest knife I've ever seen), and we froze it all in 2-serving portions, spread out as thin as possible in the freezer bag for quick defrosting.

Last night, all we had to do for my favorite meal was defrost the pre-portioned flank steak, pick up some watercress for $.99/bunch at the bodega on Mr P's way home from work, cook some rice, and stir-fry everything in the wok.  I think Mr P stopped by the regular grocery to pick up some canned water chesnuts and bamboo shoots, though we usually have some in the cupboard.

Stir-Fried Beef with Watercress
(as per email from Mr P this morning)

8oz sliced flank steak
2 bunches (6 cups) watercress
8oz can water chestnut**
8oz can bamboo shoots**
1tbls fish sauce
1 Thai chili halved**
3 cloves garlic
1tbls oil
Salt pepper to taste
(ingredients with ** make it delicious, but are optional if you don't have or don't like)


1. Everything cooks really quickly in the wok, so prep all ingredients and have them ready beside the stove before starting to cook anything
2. If you can't find watercress, try your hands at using different dark greens such as kale, spinach, or collard greens.

Thinly slice beef, rough chop garlic.  Rinse watercress. Heat oil in wok, high heat till almost smoky (2 mins).  Remove wok from heat and toss in garlic and shake wok to not burn garlic.  Just before garlic starts to brown (30 sec to 1 min) return to heat and add beef.  Stir fry for 1 min, add fish sauce.  Add water chestnut and bamboo shoots.  Lightly season with salt and pepper (be careful, fish sauce is really salty).  Add watercress and mix until slightly wilted (easy to mix by folding with tongs if you aren't great with chopsticks).  Cover wok with large pot lid or plate if you don’t have one.  Turn off heat and keep covered (for another 5 mins).

Dipping sauce (not optional, it's what makes the meal so good!!):
2tsp salt
2tsp pepper
juice from 1 lemon
Mix in small bowl.

Serve stir-fry with rice and dip in the sauce.


Hope you enjoy as much as I do :D


p.s. We also had soft tofu drizzled with a hoisin sauce/soy mixture topped with scallions, and the leftovers were even better today at dinner!!

Monday, August 29, 2011


In the days leading up to our recent road trip, I was so excited I couldn't handle myself.  That always seems to be the case when I'm "going back."  Toledo is not exactly a tourist destination, but for the 4 of us piled into the sweet Mazda 5 minivan rental car, it was an amazing get-away.  As usual, the weekend was filled with good friends, good food, and great memories (sorry to cheese-ball it up)... and a coincidental escape of hurricane Irene! (only a few drips from the ceiling in the kitchen, I suppose we can't complain since the house was built in 1902).

We stayed with our friends the Knaggs' who were celebrating a new baby and a first home!  ...and they let us stay with them even though their lives are pretty hectic right now.  This is how you know you have good friends.  I got to spend some quality time with little miss 1-month-old Lucy (...or Rucy as Mr P likes to say, but oddly enough we have a friend who's real name is Rusie, so it was pleasantly familiar to hear him keep calling her that all weekend!)  I was obsessed with her little piggies that don't stop moving and her super soft baby skin.  The first thing Mr P did when he saw her was give her a kiss on the top of her head and then whispered "she even smells like a baby!"

piggies are soooo small!

lookin like her mama :D
Friday was not long enough.  Once we settled into the Knaggs' new house, we took off for Doc Watson's in Toledo to meet up with my friends from college.  I've msised them soooo much!  Why can't everyone just move closer to me, darn it!! (kidding, I know my sometimes crazy life on the east coast is definitely not for everyone... but I wish it was!!)  Toledo is only home to a select few of my friends, though, and I'm so thankful that the rest of them that joined were able to drive and hour+ to see me.  The best thing about meeting up with my old friends from high school and college is that when we see each other, it's almost like we just pick up where we left off, whether I saw them 2 weeks ago or 2 years ago.  It's a nice feeling, and it makes me guilty for not keeping in touch as much as I would like to.  I miss you guys already!!!!

Before Mama Knaggs and Baby Knaggs got up Saturday morning, Papa Knaggs even cooked breakfast for us!  We each had our choice between a spicy beer omelet and a buffalo chicken omelet.  I opted for the spicy beer omelet and Mr P opted for the buffalo chicken omelet:

my spicy beer omelet

Mr P's buffalo chicken omelet
Both dishes were prepped in a new kitchen in a new house and our chef du jour didn't know where everything was located yet, but he pulled off two hearty breakfasts for a big day ahead of all of us!

Everyone but myself stayed in Toledo, ate good German food at the German American Festival, and went to a karaoke sushi bar!  What an awesome idea, right? Karaoke and sushi?  I'm so mad at myself for mistakenly taking Mr P's brand new anniversary-gifted camera with me in my purse to Columbus!  I can only imagine adult men belting out Lady Gaga's Bad Romance in a public place..... (sigh)... boys.

As mentioned, I took off for Columbus Saturday afternoon with one of my best friends from high school to go to another high school friend's bachelorette party! (Congrats to the future Mr. and Mrs. O'Dell, and see you again in a month! Follow the bride-to-be in her last month before becoming Mrs. O'Dell at her blog, It's Good to be Queen).  The day started off with drinks and (mostly naughty) gifts with the girls, then it was off in the party bus downtown for dinner, drinks, and more drinks.  Needless to say I was not feeling well for 80% of the 12-hour trip back to Hoboken!  Good thing the rental car was $50/extra driver and I didn't make the cut to drive and got to sleep as much as I could. 

Regardless though, I had fun the entire weekend with some new friends, old friends, and even the mother of the bride who attened the whole bachelorette party! 

Cheers to a great weekend in Ohio, and here's to hoping it's not long until we do it again!  Thanks to everyone who squeezed in the time to see us :D


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thank Goodness for Friends

Mr P and I have put the kibosh on getting more kitchen appliances, with the exception to attachments to the Kitchenaid mixer.  Our friends, Nick and Christina, however have almost convinced us that we need a deep fryer. They didn't say it in words, they convinced us through making amazing deep-fried Lake Erie perch.  Though they say that since they use theirs max twice a year, we could just borrow theirs whenever we need it, it surely would be nice to have one of our own.  We really don't need one though, we absolutely don't have the space for one, and our figures certainly don't need one either (sigh).

When they first asked us to come over for a fish fry, I was expecting over-battered fish with an accompanying deep-fried side like fries.  I was pleasantly surprised when the fish came out with a light batter, served over a bed of romaine, tomato, and onion tossed in a lemon, salt, oil dressing (sounds salty, and tastes salty by itself, but goes sooo well with the fish).  It was a great way to make a deep-fried dish taste summery and light.

Thanks Nick and Christina!  We will leave the deep-frying to you though, and we will bring over homemade bread and wine whenever you want to host us again :D     (because we just can't get more appliances... even ones we really want)


Grilling, we've missed you this summer!

How many times have you grilled out this summer?  ...or gone to a cookout at a friends house?  Mr P and I have zero outdoor space, and the biggest thing we miss is, by far, gilling in the summer.  This past weekend we had our first taste of grilled food this year!  A perfect summer night in Hoboken with good friends, good food, and WONDERFUL weather.  Followed by at Sunday morning at the beach, it doesn't get any better than that!  Here's a small recap... in food of course :D

veggie skewers before grilling, with olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar

balsamic marinated portabello mushroom burgers with swiss
Before heading to the beach, Mr P and I ate (for breakfast) some ragu, leftover from Mr P's dinners without me while I was away for work all week... it was.. amazing.  If I can pry the recipe out of him sometime I will certianly post!  I can guarantee that we will be making it again in the near future, so I will try to capture as much as possible from that go-around.



One of my semi-recent food discoveries is quinoa.  "What the heck is that?" you might ask.  Though in our house we like to joke and phonetically say "kin-OH-uh," it's actually pronounced like "KEEN-wah," and it's so good.  We have been making it as an alternative to rice, and we've also been adding it to salads to give them a little more depth of flavor.

Quinoa is eaten like a grain, but supposedly it's not technically a grain.  Unlike rice, it is a great source of protein (for those of you vegetarians and vegans out there).  It's gluten-free, and a good source of fiber and iron.

Ok, now how to get it.  You're going to go to your average grocery store, look around forever trying to find it, then when you finally find it with the "exotic" not-so-common grains, you'll find a Bob's Red Mill one-pound bag of this stuff for around $10-$12 (even at Wal-Mart!)  We stumbled upon it at our local organic grocery in the bulk foods section for only $3.99/lb!!  So I encourage you to go to (gasp) Whole Foods or other similar grocery stores to try to find it first.  You might be surprised at the low-cost at a place like this.  Our grocery is not a chain, so I'm not going to tell you to go there!

How to cook Quinoa:

You cook it JUST like rice!  See my previous post on cooking the perfect batch of rice.

In a nutshell:

  1. Rinse the dry quinoa 3 times
    1. put water in the put of quinoa
    2. rub it in your hands
    3. drain the water
    4. repeat
  2. Add a 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa
    1. use the finger trick by putting your finger to the bottom of the pot, half of what's covered should be quinoa, half should be water.
  3. Bring to a boil
  4. Reduce to a simmer
  5. Cover for 20-25 minutes (don't take the lid off!)
  6. Fluff with a fork or rice paddle
  7. Serve!
You will know when it's done by seeing what I call little "ant hills" in the pot.  This is what's different than rice.  I chuckled when I first saw the little ant hills because I certainly wasn't expecting to see them!

The first time we made it with just water like in my instructions.  However, cooking this in water is sort of bland, and you won't want to make it again if you were expecting something phenomenal.  We use chicken brother instead of water as a minimum.  We rinse with water, drain as much as we can, then fill up to a 2:1 ratio with chicken broth (or whatever kind of broth you prefer). 

There's no exactness to making quinoa, and it's sort of fun to get creative at what you can do with it.  I want to try making it with a thinned tomato sauce with sauteed onions and peppers next time!  ...maybe add a little bit of garlic and cumin (meaning I will consult Mr. P on new ideas and let him roll with it).

Here is a photo of the meal I ate with it, chopped salad with arugula, quinoa, rotisserie chicken, green and red bell peppers, celery, carrots, pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds), mango, and muenster cheese topped with a simple vinaigrette:

Hope you find it and make it!  ...or if you see it on a menu, just try it :D


Monday, August 15, 2011

Anniversary Cupcakes

Lights out, candles lit, Mr P and I standing around the cupcakes....

"Happy anniversary to us (Mr P: oh my god), happy anniversary to us (Mr P: this is so corny), happy anniversary to uuuus (me: THREE YEARS WOO!) happy anniversary to us."

...yes... we sang that... to the tune of "Happy Birthday"... with 3 cupcakes, 3 candles lit.

Neither of us had birthday cakes this year, so I thought it was only fitting to have some for our anniversary!  Mr P and I are celebrating THREE years today!  As a surprise, I drove 2 hours home (just to drive back to the jobsite tomorrow morning at 4:45am).  Our new favorite cupcake shop, Sweet, is closed on Mondays, so I had to 'settle' for Crumbs, another scrumptious cupcake shop in Hoboken.  Sure, there was no fluffer nutter cupcake, but they were still delicious. 

As I took my first bite, I remembered back when I first saw my friend Nicole put her piece of cake in a bowl and pour milk over cake.  Yes, that's right... MILK... on CAKE.  Gross right?  Not so.  I dare you to try it... it looks gross, sounds gross, but tastes oh so good.  And so I put one cake in a bowl, and introduced Mr P to this unforeseen delicacy.  ....just one little bit to take of Nicole's radiating quirky awesomeness!

So, as you all well know, it's almost always Mr P who does the cooking, and me who just writes about it and annoys him with all the picture-taking.  But, I thought it would be fitting to remember the very first time that I made dinner for him.  I was soo nervous, because I wanted it to be perfect.  I had one shot, because I was running out of time, and used all of my ingredients.  Instead of just making one thing, I decided to make chicken breasts wrapped around asparagus and tomatoes with parmesan (fanciest thing I had ever even attempted to make) and zucchini parmesan bread.  Unfortunately he came home before I was finished, and he ended up helping me put together the chicken, but at least I got to do the bread all by myself!!

This was was only the beginning of our cooking, a passion of his that we have grown to love together...

Cheers to many more years to come :D


Saturday, August 13, 2011


As mentioned in the last post, I was away for work all of this past week.  Mr P claimed earlier that all he did was eat veggies and play video games.  I'm sure he did eat a lot of veggies and play a lot of video games, but this afternoon I learned another bit of how he spend his week without me.

His first comment was something along the lines of "babe, guess what I ate last week..." and I knew it was going to be something ridiculous.

"I went to McDonald's, and I ordered a double cheeseburger and a McChicken."
"Nice, was it delicious?"
"That's not all.  I turned it into what I call a McGangBang."
"Yes, I put the McChicken inside the double cheeseburger, then ate it."
"You're ridiculous.  You're not supposed to tell me these things."
"I found it online, and I had to get it."
"Did you at least take a picture of it?"
"No, but it was delicious.  I hate that I loved it so much."
"You know I'm going to write about this now, right?"

Photo courtesy of: http://www.eatmedaily.com/2009/03/the-mcgangbang-a-mcchicken-sandwich-inside-a-double-cheeseburger/

Mr P and I have this deal that since I am trying to eat healthier (though last week was awful), he's supposed to get Big Macs on his way home from work and eat it before he gets here, then not tell me he eats these things... I suppose his sandwich probably was that awesome, he just couldn't hold it in.

I did a quick google search for this sammich expecting to find the exact article he saw, but apparently this is nothing new.  You know how google brings up lists of commonly searched items as you type? As soon as I typed in "McGa.." McGangBang came up!  This article has lots of pictures (since Mr P didn't take any) and some pretty funny articles on it:


Maybe you have ordered a double cheeseburger and a McChicken in the past and eaten them separately (like a normal person), but if you decide to do it again, I encourage you to eat it as a McGangBang... or better yet, try to order a McGangBang, and see if they make it for you!


Everything But Cooking: Wedding, Salem, and Philly

Just because I haven't posted in over a week doesn't mean I didn't get to eat good food in the last week.  It does, however, mean that we have opted out of cooking for a while.  I was away for work all last week, and wasn't able to cook a single thing.  Having only a microwave and a mini-fridge in a hotel room makes it difficult to eat good food without eating out (though I should try to get better at being creative with the microwave so I don't have to go through a week of pre-made food and pre-cut veggies again).

I could have prepared for my week away a little better, had we not gone away for the weekend to the Boston area for my friend Sophea's wedding.  We took off Friday after work, grabbing some leftover pulled pork on the way (yes, we still had more!) so we didn't have to spend money on just ok fast food.  While staying with my friend Victoria in Salem, we found a cute bakery next to her condo building called A&J King Artisan Bakery, and instantly fell in love.  We stood staring at the sandwich menu for a good 5 or 10 minutes, but when beginning to order, we were told sandwiches weren't available until 11am, and it was only 10am.  Dissapointed, because I was craving something savory, I found the only savory item in their glass case, a peppered goat cheese and scallion scone!  Perfecto!  I could have eaten 10 of them I think, it was that good. A perfect texture, dense, and not too dry, not too moist.

The wedding was in Lynn, and the reception in Lowell.  Arriving a few minutes early to the reception, Mr P was absolutely not pleased to be the first people at an Asian wedding reception.  Apparently it is acceptable to arrive hours late, because though the invite said the reception began at 6pm, people were still strolling in at 9pm!  I guess I will listen to him next time, haha.  Sophea was such a beautiful bride, with her traditional American white wedding dress and two traditional Cambodian dresses.  Maybe I will have a Cambodian dress when that special day comes for me, I LOVED her beautifully beaded gold and pearl colored dress.  After a long night of fun, friends, dancing, and good food, we were dead tired, and drove back to Salem for the night.

Sunday morning brought a monsoon to Salem, and hence ruined our plans to explore Boston.  We decided to go again to A&J King Artisan Bakery, this time after 11am for the sammiches!  Mr P ordered the roast beef, the smoked Salmon for me, and the marinato for Victoria (details found here).  Each sammich was made on fresh-baked bread (of course), and made with as many local ingredients as possible (see here).  A&J King makes most of their own sauces, and is always discovering new ways to make their pickles (pickled anything is starting to be a new fave for me).  That day we had regular cucumber pickles, pickled with lemon and basil!  They were like lemonade pickles, being more lemony than basily, but still delicious.

Roast Beef Sammich

Smoked Salmon Sammich

Marinato Sammich

After getting back to Hoboken Sunday evening around 8:30pm, I had to unpack and pack again for my week away for work, leaving at 4:45am for a 2+ hour drive to be at the jobsite at 7am.  My week was fun, full of exciting things I had never before experienced at work, though coming "home" to an empty hotel room with unexciting, unsatisfying food was not exactly fun.  After getting tired of eating the same boring food all week, I decided to call up our friend Zack in Philly to catch some real food for dinner.

Mid-Atlantic was the restaurant of choice, located in the University City neighborhood in Philly, near the  UPenn and Drexel campuses.  We ordered an appetizer of some sort of delicious bacon (can't find on their online menu), served with pickled veggies and barley mustard.  I had never heard of anyone making barley mustard, but I'm positive I could have eaten a bowl of it by itself.  Mr P and I will definitely be trying to replicate it in the near future.  

I order the veggie scrapple burger (it was just ok) and Zack ordered the smoke house hot dog.  My burger fell apart so much that when I actually was able to take a bite of the sandwich, almost all of the burger had squeezed out.  Though the bits that fell out were good to eat by themselves with the pepper jelly (tasted like bell peppers blanched in simple syrup, yum...), eating a sammich of just bread and fresh veggies wasn't so great.  

Veggie Scrapple Burger

Smoke House Hot Dog

I would definitely recommend this restaurant though, as most of the beer on tap came from local breweries, and the homemade mustards and pickled veggies were a sign that choosing a dinner from appetizer menu might be the way to go next time we visit.... and definitely get dessert.  I never get dessert (despite my insane sweet tooth), but our waitress said "goat cheese, pistachio, blah blah blah.." and I instantly reacted with a "yes, please" before I knew what I was doing.  It came out and it was the best combination of baklava and cheesecake.  The crust was literally just pistachios and honey (from a local honey farm) and the top was goat cheesy cheesecake-like fluff with honey and pistachios on top.

I will be traveling to the same jobsite again this week, but hopefully Mr P and I can prepare better food on our lazy Sunday afternoon, so I can feel a little more at home with Mr P's cooking :D

Have a good weekend!


Friday, August 5, 2011

Twist on Hummus

Last weekend, we had many guests for our little apartment, and though we ended up actually cooking at the end of the weekend, it was just too crowded to put on a show with a big meal.  We went to one of our favorite bar/restaurants in Hoboken, called Gaslight .  I'm not sure about other nights of the week, but we definitely know that on Friday nights, they have what they call "reverse happy hour" where happy hour starts at 9pm!  Plus they have good food with decent prices too, and Mr P made best friends with the bartender the first time we went there (shocking, haha).

Normally I don't order appetizers when I eat out, but I thought that since I was going to be drinking and I only ordered a salad, I thougtht I should get something else.  Black bean hummus was staring me in the face.  I couldn't resist!  I never had it before, but I like hummus, and I like blake beans, so why not?  Mr P has been nagging to make it anyways, but we just never had the time or thought of making it at a convenient time (that always seems to be the case, we're out and about and think of making so many things to make, but when we have the time to make something, we can never think of those things!)  Sorry, chickpea, black beans take the cake on this one.  It was creamy, lime-y, I tasted a little bit of cumin, and it was a little bit spicy. 

We sort of forgot about it, until this article showed up on thekitchn.com yesterday.  We decided that we were going to use this recipe, but tweak it for using black beans!  And we didn't want to turn on the oven, so we didn't roast the jalapenos either.  We just put them in fresh.  Here's our version of the recipe:

Black Bean Hummus
(adapted from Roasted Jalapeno and Lime Hummus , from thekitchn.com)

1 jalapeño (more if you like it spiiiicy), seeded and diced
1 14oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed (or equivalent dried beans cooked as per package insructions)
juice from 1 lime
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons minced cilantro (optional)
Fresh pita bread or tortilla chips for serving (or green peppers to be healthy :P)

Put all indredients into food processor, and process until smooth.  That's it! 

Everyone likes their hummus just a wee bit different, so all quantities of indredients can be changed upon your discretion.  I listed mostly minimum amounts.  We actually had 2 large pinches of salt, but you need to add little bits at a time, because it can quickly get too salty, then there's no turning back.  Also, some limes may be juicier than others, and you may not get all the juice, so pay attention to how limey it is, and add more if needed. 

What we will do next time:
MORE JALAPENOS!!!  Though it had a good spice, it could have used more.  We just didn't want to take the time to chop another one. I LOVE cumin, so I would add more if it was just me, but I'm not sure about Mr P.

If you are like me, and you like black beans and hummus, you will thoroughly enjoy this dish.  It's definitely better than regular hummus in my books.  It's cheaper too, because you don't have to buy expensive tahini.  I also don't think that it requires as much oil as regular hummus.  Black beans are smoother than chickpeas, so you don't need much oil to preserve the creaminess.

Last night I chopped off all of my hair, and Mr P came with me to encourage me that it would be ok (after all, he's the one that convinced me to do it!)  On our way home, we walked past the middle eastern grocery in Hoboken called Zena, and I remembered I had a livingsocial.com coupon for it!  So we got some pita bread, stuffed grape leaves, deep fried cauliflower (soo good) and another dish called vegetarian musaka that the guy us was good (so Mr P instantly said "oh? we'll get an order of that too").  Definitely some good choices to compliment our hummus!

Pita with black bean hummus, deep fried cauliflower, and vegetarian musaka

Hope you enjoy :D


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gadget you Gotta Get: Lemon Squeezer

I used to really hate when recipes called for "fresh squeezed lemon juice," and I was always dissapointed with by results, because I always substituted fresh squeezed lemon juice with the kind you buy in the store in the little plastic lemons or bottles (big mistake).  Who wants to stand there and actually squeeze 5 lemons just to get a little bit when you can just have the bottle in the fridge and measure and pour without going through the pain and hassle of actually squeezing the lemons?  It was sort of a no-brainer that I would make this awful substitution.

Then, randomly in the mail, I received a gadget I had never even seen before. (maybe I was stuck in my own little bubble or something, because I see them everywhere now).  My mom sent me a lemon squeezer in the mail!  I didn't really think anything of it until I started using it and got at least DOUBLE the juice out of my lemons compared to hand-squeezing them!!

This is why I urge you to get one if you don't already have one.  I'm not sure about groceries around you, but it seems that lemons and limes are always on sale at Shoprite.  Last week, in fact, we just bought 8 limes for $2, even though we had no plans for them in the weekly menu.  We always end up using them, even if we just turn them into fresh-squeezed limeade (lime juice, sugar, water, delicious...)

Lemons and limes are so handy to have in stock in the fridge.  We almost never buy salad dressing, because it's so easy just to whip up a vinaigrette with vinegar, oil and lemon (and whatever other tasty herbs and spices you want to add).  When eating a light stir-fry, we dip the meat in a salt, pepper, and lemon juice mixture.  Lime juice is an essential part of making guacamole.  They also have good health benefits such as antioxidants and vitamin C.

I promise it will be worth the $12 or so you will spend if you get one (don't get the $4 cheap plastic one, it won't last).  Then, go make some limeade, it's the BEST refreshing treat in this never-ending heat :D


Childhood Dream Come True

Remember when I mentioned that when I was little I saved all the Lucky Charms marshmallows for last? (ok I admit, if I had Lucky Charms in my house right now, I'd still do the same thing)  Well, Cerealmarshmallows.com has just taken this idea to a whole new level......

Thanks to an article posted on thekitchn.com, I now know that I can buy magically delicious cereal marshmallows IN BULK!!!  There must be a 8 year old entrepreneur out there.... or just someone with 8-year-old priorities (like all of us in our heads wish we could have).  Who is this genius who came up with the idea?  Nathan Wratislaw from Cerealmarshmallows.com.  His website even has recipes for those of you who want to, for one day, turn your cooking brains to that of your inner 8-year-old.  I might try making rice krispies with Lucky Charms marshmallows (or maybe even just using the marshmallows in lieu of the rice krispies, don't judge, marshmallows stuck together by melted marshmallows can only be mouth-wateringly delicious)

Photo courtesy of cerealmarshmallows.com
Yes, all those bags are full of JUST marshmallows.

When I first read this, I thought "Wow, a whole box of just marshmallows? Yes, please!"  But that is just the beginning.  This website allows you to put in orders of up to 95 POUNDS!!!  If the average cereal box is holds roughly 16 oz of cereal, that's filling 95 boxes with JUST marshmallows!  1 cup of marshmallows is definitely lighter than 1 cup of the average cereal too, so 95 pounds would probably fill more than 95 boxes.  But still... crazy right?

I think I might have to buy just one of their 7oz bags.  Or maybe not, because it would get too addicting... (sigh) 


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It's rainy. And though it cooled off outside, it just makes it gloomy outside.  Mr P walked really far in the rain, and I worked late, which means it's a bad combination for enthusiasm for cooking tonight.

Mr P ate a sammich when he got home, and I ate a little extra for lunch, so we just kept it simple... asparagus and zucchini (sliced to the size of asparagus) under the broiler tossed in salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil plated with fresh tomatoes with salt and pepper, all drizzled with balsamic vinegar after plating... delicious!!

Now if only we had good tomatoes... I'm totally jealous of all of you with gardens!!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Deli Meat Dilemma

Saturday afternoon I decided to do an impromptu trip to the grocery, called Mr P to see what we wanted to make for lunches and dinners this week.  His go-to solution was to get lunchmeat.  We could have made sandwiches, I could put it on salads, and the best part, no cooking and turning our little apartment into a sauna.  I took my number at the deli counter, and stood in front of the big processed chunks of plastic-wrapped deli meats trying to decide which to buy.  I thought to myself, "if we are going to get deli meat, we better get something that we will actually want to eat."  With that in mind, I picked out 2 kinds, pastrami and peppered turkey... which happened to be the most expensive meats in the entire counter at $10/lb!  For lunch and dinner, we would be lucky to get a full week of meals for $20 in just MEAT!!  Ridiculous, right??

So, I handed my number to someone else, and decided that I was gonna get chicken breast from the meat section, which would at most be $2.99/lb, but Shoprite usually has it for cheaper, sometimes $1.99/lb.  Before reaching the chicken, though, I walked past the beef and thought "hmm...bbq beef?"  But the big chunk of chuck roast was $20 too!  Then, the pork section.  Pulled pork?  I looked at the big chunks of shoulder cuts, and they were only $1.49/lb!!!  Score!  Into the basket it went.  8 pounds of pork for $8 cheaper than the 2 pounds of deli meat I was about to get.  Sure there would be some fat and liquid that would drain off, but still, way cheaper (and healthier without all the additives they put in processed deli meat).

Remember when I said getting a slow-cooker was a good idea?  Here we are using it again!  When we make pulled pork, we never cook it in bbq sauce.  We use a dry rub, then if we want to do other things with the pulled pork (besides slathering it in bbq sauce and putting it on a hamburger bun) we can.

Here is the recipe as per an email from Mr P, my friend wanted the recipe a few weeks back. We also had leftover dry rub, so when we made the pulled pork this time we didn't have to make it again! (followed by the recipes for healthy(er) cole slaw and bbq sauce,  the best way to eat pulled pork!)

Pulled Pork

Pork Cut:
Pork butt with bone in (pork butt is actually the shoulder, I know, weird)


Equal Parts:
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

Half Parts:
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder
Red Chili Flakes (More if you would like more heat)

5 times as much:
Brown Sugar

Other ingredients:
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar per 1 tbsp of ketchup

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly, then rub half the mixture on the pork.  Marinate, overnight if you have the time, in a covered bowl or container.  Place in crockpot on low for 20 hours if possible or until the pork starts to flake apart or the bone looks like it is able to fall off.  If you have a small steam rack that fits in the crock pot that would be good to lay the pork on so then the pork doesn’t sit in the fat (I don’t mind fat).  Pull pork apart with forks and then sprinkle more of the seasoning onto the pork a teaspoon at a time.  Don’t add anymore salt, the pork is supposed to taste like pork and not sausages.  Drizzle apple cider vinegar mixture to the pork then taste to see if the pork has enough bite.  Cover with your favorite BBQ sauce then serve with bread, over rice, in burritos or however you would like.

How it looks after the dry rub, before cooking in the crock pot

Healthy(er) Cole Slaw


1 smaller sized head of green cabbage
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (fat free if you want)
1/4 cup light mayo
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Clean cabbage, discard outer leaves, and chop into pieces as small or as large as you like, place in bowl.  We used the attachment to the food processor that shreds it into itty bitty pieces like diner slaw. Mix the yogurt, mayo, vinegar, and sugar in separate bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Add to cabbage and serve!  If your cabbage is chopped in bigger pieces, let sit in fridge for 1 hour or so.

This week we are eating pulled pork sammiches with this cole slaw and Mr P's Very Vinegary BBQ sauce... yum!  This cole slaw is the best, because you get the creaminess like it has a lot of mayo, but the yogurt makes it much healthier.  Since yogurt doesn't have a strong flavor when it's used in cooking, the mayo takes over, even though there's much less mayo then yogurt (did you even ever think about substituting plain yogurt for some of the mayo?  neither did I!  We do the same with tuna salad and chicken salad).  

Stay tuned for when it's 0 degrees outside and we will make homemade hamburger buns and make pulled pork again!  For now we will have to settle for store-bought....  I suppose I can deal with only homemade bbq sauce :P


p.s. Mucho thanks to Mr P for taking lots of how-to photos!  I'm slacking in that part so far....

Mr P's Very Vinegar-y BBQ Sauce

There are many many different kinds of BBQ sauce, but most fall into the categories of:

If you are the type the likes the vinegar-y kind (or if you just like any kind)  this is totally for you!  You're probably thinking "that's too much effort for one meal".  But, when we make it, we make a lot , and it lasts a long time.  We put it in containers we bought from a restaurant supply store that look like clear versions of diner mustard and ketchup containers!  It's a nice way to keep it, because you just squeeze it out just like ketchup!  PLUS 6 of them were only $.99 from Wasserstrom in Columbus!! That place used to be Mr P's biggest weakness before we moved to Hoboken.  I'm sure there are good restaurant supply stores around here, we just haven't tried to look yet (which is probably a good thing, haha)

BBQ Sauce:

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1 tsp each of the following:
kosher salt
cayenne pepper
chili powder
black pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
red chili flakes

2 whole garlic cloves
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix together and simmer until it turns into a thicker sauce, around 30 minutes or so.

That's it!

Enjoy :D