Saturday, February 27, 2010

Betel Leaf-Wrapped Sausages with Rice Noodles

I first tasted these at a Vietnamese restaurant on Nicollet Avenue that is now out of business. I was bummed when they went out of business because I thought they were the only place that made these. I had no idea what they were called and often looked for a description in menus from other Vietnamese restaurants, but couldn't seem to find it. I was fortunate enough to run into some food blogs recently and finally found out the recipe. I used the recipe from Andrea Nguyen since I have tried other recipes from her and they have been good. I've been meaning to make these earlier when I first started my blog, but never had the time to go all the way to Saint Paul to see if they sold the betel leaves. I finally stopped at Dragon Star in Saint Paul and found the leaves. Even when I was there, there were no labels and I just went by what I remember them to look like. I was even afraid when I went up to the register and it rang up "chapou leaves" instead of betel. I guess I should've asked a Vietnamese person there, but all the ones that passed by didn't seem to speak English. However, I felt reassured once I came home and Googled again for betel leaves and compared it to the ones I just bought. They looked exactly the same.

The sausages were pretty easy to make, but even after making a pound of the meat, it didn't seem to make enough. I barely had any left over to bring to lunch for the next day. I served these with rice stick noodles and the Vietnamese dipping sauce to make these as a Vietnamese bun dish. That's how the place where I initially ate these served them and I like it that way.

Start out by cooking the rice stick noodles, prepping the fresh vegetables followed by making the dipping sauce. That way the sausages will be freshly cooked and everything else is already made.

Serves 4


-1 package of rice stick noodles, cook according to package
-Vegetables of your choice such as lettuce, pickled carrots and daikon, and cucumbers
-Fresh herbs such as basil and mint
-Vietnamese dipping sauce, recipe follows
-Betel beef sausages, recipe follows

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (nuoc cham)

Yields 1-1/2 cups

1 clove garlic
1 to 2 Thai chilies cored, seeded, and minced
1/2 tsp. ground chili paste
2/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and fresh chilies to a paste. (Or mince them together with a knife.) In a small bowl, combine the garlic and chili mixture with the chili paste, hot water and sugar. Stir well. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and combine. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before using. Store leftover covered with Saran wrap in fridge.

Betel Leaf-Wrapped Sausages

Recipe courtesy of Andrea Nguyen of

Makes about 30 sausages

30-40 fresh wild betel leaves (some leaves came pretty small and I just used two to wrap one sausage)

1 lb ground beef, chuck preferred
2 tablespoons finely minced lemongrass (about 1 medium-small stalk)
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder, Sun brand preferred
1/4 cup minced scallion, green and white part
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. In a bowl, combine the beef with seasonings. Use your fingers to mix well. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the leaves.
2. Use scissors or your fingers to detach the leaves from their center stems. Make sure to keep the leaf stem attached to the leaf. You’ll need it later for creating the rolls.
3. To make the rolls, put a leaf on your work surface, matted side up. Take a bit of meat (about 2 tablespoons) and use your hand to shape it into a small sausage of sorts. Place the meat on the leaf, about 1/3 of the way below the pointy tip. The length of the sausage doesn’t need to span the full width of the leaf because the leaf shrivels during cooking.
4. Then roll up the meat in the leaf, poke a hole in the leaf with a toothpick, and use the little stem to seal it up. The roll will keep its shape. Place the finished roll on a foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining leaves until all the beef is used. Rub a bit of oil on each roll when all of them are done.

5. To cook, position an oven rack on the top third of the oven and preheat to broil
(425 degrees). Slip the baking sheet into the oven and broil for 6 to 8 minutes, turning them frequently to cook evenly and prevent too much charring of the leaf. The cooked rolls will feel firm, look a bit shriveled, and be slightly charred at the edges.
5. Transfer to a plate. Leftovers reheat well in a toaster oven preheated to 350F.

Wrapped sausages before cooking:

Serve by assembling noodles into a large bowl and top it with fresh veggies and herbs, 6-10 sausages and a side of the dipping sauce. When ready to eat, pour the sauce over dish, mix and enjoy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Ok, I said I was going to attempt to make a cake from scratch one of these days because I felt it wasn't me and just the recipe. I chose to make the recipe from I love her blog. I made this cake today and it was pretty good. Just a little too sweet. I'll probably add less powdered sugar to the frosting next time. It was so sweet that I had to have a piece of fruit to balance it out (and to make me feel less guilty). This cake was very moist and it was very easy to make. The previous cake took me forever and was very disappointing. Somehow, I still prefer Duncan Hines' devil's food cake though. I guess it's just my preference. I tasted some other home made cakes before too and I still didn't like it as much as the Duncan Hines. The best chocolate cake I ever had was at a restaurant called Cattle Company. We used to go there every now and then and order their four course meal (soup or salad, appetizers, prime rib and dessert). I think this is when I started gaining weight wonder... I could never make it to dessert, but since it was already included in the price, I always took it home. The first time I ate it I was in chocolate heaven. I even went back one time and ordered a whole cake for my birthday (I like to use my bday as an excuse to buy myself a cake and eat it too). It's normally like $5 a serving, but the lady sold it to me for $40. That thing served at least 20 people. Too bad they went out of business in Minnesota and I haven't found a chocolate cake that I like as much since then.

Steak Tacos

I love the steak tacos from Chipotle. I usually just order the crispy tacos with steak, three different kinds of salsa, and lettuce. Nothing else. They used to serve four, but now only serve three for the same price. I still eat it once in a while. I wasn't attempting to make the same taco from Chipotle, but I had some beef sirloin in hand, so I made some tacos and fresh salsa for the other night. I love salsa! It's even better when it's super hot and spicy. Yum.

Steak Tacos

Recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger of Food Network

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thai Grilled Beef Salad

This was on my list of healthier dishes last week. It tasted pretty good. Even though it was beef, it tasted quite lean and still very tender. I have been making pretty good steak recently! I ate my salad with rice, but I wish I had some rice vermicilli noodles to mix with it. It would've filled me up more.

Recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger of Food Network

1 pound top-round London broil or flank steak, about 1 to 1 1/2-inches thick
3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons red curry paste or chili-garlic sauce
1/2 head red-leaf lettuce, torn (about 6 cups)
3 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup), divided, for garnish
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, rinsed and dried
1 cup basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
Rinse and pat the meat dry. Place in a sealable plastic bag or small glass dish. In a medium bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, soy sauce, canola oil, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and red curry paste. Pour half the mixture into the bag with the meat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice to the bag. Seal tightly, and marinate meat in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Reserve the rest of the mixture refrigerated, to dress the salad.

Spray grill or grill pan with cooking spray and preheat. Grill steak until medium-rare, about 5 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness. Let rest until room temperature then slice thinly against the grain.

Combine lettuce, sliced shallot, cilantro, basil and beef in a salad bowl, reserving a few shallots for garnish. Add the reserved dressing and toss to coat. Divide salad among 4 plates and garnish with reserved sliced shallots.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chicken Parmigiana

Just had this seconds ago and it was soooo good. Yum. I didn't know I could make Italian like this! :P I could taste everything...the olives, basil, parmesan, everything. It was DELICIOUS. I think I liked it better than the lasagna I made, only because this tasted like authentic Italian and just about everything was fresh except for the tomatoes. Anyway, I have been making so many unhealthy meals that last week and this week I've been making more healthy foods to eat. Today's dinner was the exception. Gotta pig out at least once a week right? Well, maybe more than once. Yum. Still can't get those flavors outta my taste.

I didn't take any step by step photos because I made this really late like at 8:30pm. My baby kept crying and wanted me to hold him until his dad came home, so this time dinner wasn't ready until 10:00 for us. I even put him in the kitchen to watch me, but he still cried. He usually loves the kitchen. Natural born chef, maybe? Or maybe just an eater? Ok, I'm very tired now...gotta go...

Note: I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I pounded my chicken breasts with a mallet to flatten it so it would cook faster. I also did not put the sauce over the chicken into the oven because I wanted my chicken to still be crispy. I pan fried the chicken until golden brown and crispy on the outside then put it in the oven for 10 minutues depending on how thick the chicken breasts are. I put the sauce around the chicken at the last 5 minutes along with the mozarella cheese until cheese melted and then served with the pasta.

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence of Food Network (thank you Tyler!)

IngredientsChicken Parmigiana
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
Pinch sugar
Pinch red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 cup dried plain bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 pound spaghetti pasta, cooked al dente
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a saute pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil gets hazy, add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves; cook and stir for 5 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add the olives and some hand-torn basil, reserve the rest of the basil for finishing the chicken. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes), cook and stir until the liquid is cooked down and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes; season with sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and keep warm.

Get the ingredients together for the chicken so you have a little assembly line. Put the flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. In a wide bowl, combine the eggs and water, beat until frothy. Put the bread crumbs on a plate, add the 1 cup parmesan, chopped parsley, and garlic powder Season with salt and pepper and stir with a fork until thoroughly combined.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high flame in a large oven-proof skillet. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, and then dip them in the egg wash to coat completely, letting the excess drip off, then dredge in the bread crumbs. When the oil is nice and hot, add the cutlets and fry for 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.

Ladle the tomato-olive sauce over the chicken and arrange the mozzarella on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and remaining basil. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with spaghetti

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My 1st Made-From-Scratch Cake

I am not a baker. After several times of trying to bake cookies and this cake from scratch I think I just wasn't meant for baking. It just never turns out, BUT I haven't really given up yet. I'm still convinced that it's not me and just the recipes that I've tried. Well, I hope so. It has to be because even the box cake I bake turns out. lol And the cobbler I made was good if I just added less blueberries. I don't know what I did wrong in this recipe. This cake may look good, but it was quite tasteless. Not moist at all and not sweet. The frosting was good even though it wasn't that sweet. I had to add more powdered sugar and it didn't make enough to cover the whole cake. After this, I was just craving for some Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake with the frosting I just made. One of these days, I will post a successful baking recipe from scratch. I am determined to do so. Maybe I'll try Ree's chocolate sheet cake since her other recipes have not failed me.

Anyway here's the recipe. I originally found this in the GH magazine while I was in the bookstore and snapped the recipe with my iPhone camera. That's what I've been doing when I find something interesting. I take a picture of the page or article instead of buying the magazine. Hey, saves me money.

Indonesian Ginger Chicken Wings

Wings are my favorite part of the chicken. They're white meat, but very juicy and have a lot of taste. Besides, I just like meat with bones period (except fish). I made these the other night and brought leftovers to work. People came in and told me it smelled like "pizza" or "bourbon chicken." I can understand bourbon chicken because they're both similar, but pizza?

Recipe adapted from Food Network

1 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup minced garlic (8 to 12 cloves)
1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
3 lbs of chicken wings

1. Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Put chicken in a large bowl, add marinade, cover tightly with saran wrap, and marinade overnight in the refrigerator.

2. When ready to cook, set the oven to 500 degrees on broil. Cook wings for about 30 minutes or until skin is slightly charred. Turn wings over and cook the other side until slightly charred.