Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hmong Sausage


Originally, I was going to make these simple ground beef meatballs with green onions--the kind that my dad used to make for us when we were young. He wasn't the best cook. He basically just cooked food that was good enough for him. I would never eat anything he cooked except for these beef meatballs that he would make. They were just plain ground beef with green onions and then pan fried. Making them again brings back memories and it would make me miss my dad more than usual. I think about the times when he would save a piece of fruit for me because none of my siblings cared for fruit, but he knew that I always loved fruits. After he passed away, just cutting into a piece of fruit would remind me of my dad and how much he loved us.

"Enjoy the little things in life, for someday you will realize they were the big things." - Unknown

Besides making these beef meatballs, I also decided to make Hmong sausages for the first time. I had no recipe to go by, except for the ingredients on the package some Hmong sausages that I recently bought and to what I thought it tasted like. For a first try, it really wasn't that bad. I was so impressed that it tasted just like the sausages I bought except everything was freshly made. I meant to write down the measurements, but totally forgot, so the measurements are not accurate as to what I attempted. The hog casings were easier to find than I thought. They were in the freezer section at my local grocery store; although I had to ask for help. I also read that using pork butt or pork shoulder was the best to make sausage. It has a good amount of meat and fat in it, but you can certainly combine whatever meat portions you like.


Makes about a foot of sausage:


Ingredients (again, these are approximate ingredients since I did not write them down except for the pork. I do remember measuring that.):

Hog casing
1 lb of pork shoulder, chopped or grinded
1/4 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup green onions,finely chopped
2 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp lemon grass, white part only, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp Thai chili peppers, finely chopped
1 tbsp of fish sauce
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of sugar


Package of hog casing found at local grocery store:





Soak the casings in water for about 30 minutes to get rid of the salt. Boy, did these look weird when I first saw them. They do expand:
Clean casing by flushing it with water:



Cut up the meat to get it ready for chopping or grinding:



My food processor did not grind raw meat well, so I ended up manually chopping the meat with the Hmong knife that my mom gave me. It's a Hmong knife because it had rust all over!



These are the herbs I used to make sausage. I forgot to measure these exactly, but I did not use all the ginger pictured here. I remember that I used about 1 tablespoon of peppers and the sausage came out pretty hot, so I would advise to use half of that. Of course the peppers are optional if you don't like it hot:


Mix the meat, herbs, fish sauce, salt and sugar together. Also use gloves to mix and stuff this because the hot peppers will burn your hand. Also, at this point you want to take a small piece and form it into a pattie and pan fry until cooked to see how you like it. Adjust any seasonings per your taste.

Tie one end of the casing to start your stuffing from the opposite end:



I cut up a plastic bottle of soda and used the nozzle as my stuffing tool. Simply wrap the casing around the nozzle and stuff the meat through. I ended up cutting the plastic down more than the picture below to make it easier and faster to stuff (almost down to the nozzle):



Finished stuffed sausage. I did over stuff mine, so try not to over stuff it because when you cook it, the casing will break as mine partially did:


I did not store mine overnight. You can certainly do so if you like. I made these on another occasion and the flavorings still tasted the same to me when I cooked it right away. How I cooked these were by broiling them in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees. I wanted them more brown and crispy, so I ended up pan frying them for about 5-10 minutes. After I made these, I found some more references on making Laotian sausage. The difference I have seen with Laotian sausage vs. Hmong sausage is that the Laotian brand is made with sticky rice, lemongrass, garlic and green onions. Many I've seen did not have cilantro or ginger in it. I haven't tried this recipe yet, but here is one of the recipes I found from Laocook:

Here is the basic recipe for our version of the Lao Style Sausage. The fat to meat ratio is very important, we use 1:5, but it is all down to personal taste. This recipe will produce about 3kg.

2kg Coarse Minced Pork Neck
400g Coarse Minced Pork fat
20g Chopped Coriander Stems (Cilantro)
100g Finely Diced Shallot
10g Chopped Garlic
50g Chopped Spring Onion (Scallions)
7 Finely chopped Lime Leaves
70g Finely Chopped Dill
50g Red Chilli Paste (we make our own, but you can use Red Thai Curry Paste)
150g Finely Diced Red Pepper
50g Chopped Lemon Grass, white part only
5g White Pepper
3tbsp Fish Sauce
3tbsp Soy Sauce
3tbsp Oyster Sauce
40g Salt
15g Sugar
3 Eggs
100g Corn Flour (used to help bind the ingredients)

Natural casings

Mix all the ingredients except the Natural Casings. Allow the ingredients get to know each other by placing them in a covered container overnight.

The following day taste the mixture by taking a small amount and shaping it in to a burger and frying it. Adjust seasoning to your personal taste then stuff in to the Natural Casings and shape as required. Make sure to use a pin to puncture the skin at intervals to allow air to escape.


NOTES:
We find them best cooked in an oven set to around 150ÂșC for around 15 minutes.

They can also be steamed, then browned in a hot pan for colouring.

Some versions of these sausages appear more “red”. For this you can add a few teaspoons of Paprika Powder to the mix.

*****

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mexican-Style Hot Dogs


I bought some ingredients this week to make some of these hot dogs that I recently discovered. Didn't know the name for them, but they're either called Tijuana hot dogs or Sonoran hot dogs. They were originally grilled when I first had them, but they taste just as good from the oven or pan. I had the ingredients for almost a week, but procrastinated to make these. By the time today arrived, most of the hot dogs were almost gone. I only had about four left, so I decided to make these today before they were all gone! My husband kept asking me when I was going to make these since I told him how great they were and he hasn't tried them yet. Today, I finally made them and he tried it for the first time. He loved them. At first he grabbed two, but I told him that one would be enough because these are pretty hearty.



Ingredients:
Hot dogs or weiners (I used all beef)
Bacon slices for each hot dog
Hot dog buns
Fresh salsa (recipe follows)
4 Avocados
Cilantro
1 tsp lime juice
1 white onion
Jalapenos (for side) optional
Ketchup, mustard and mayo as needed

Salsa:
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced (remove some or all seeds if you don't like it hot)
8 cilantro sprigs, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt (add more/less for per taste)

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees broil.
2. Make the salsa: In a mixing bowl, combine all salsa ingredients together. Toss thoroughly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Set it aside.
3. Wrap each hot dog with a slice of bacon and lay it on a foil covered baking sheet. Broil in oven at 500 degrees until the bacon is browned. Turn over to the other side until both sides are browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. While hot dogs are cooking, slice the avocados into small chunks and squeeze a small amount of lime juice into the mix as well as some pieces of cilantro leaves.
5. Cut onion in half and slice onion. Sauteed the sliced onions in some vegetable oil over medium high heat until browned and fragrant. Set aside.
6. Using the same pan, pan fry the jalapenos (one per each serving or per person) until brown on most sides. Jalapeno should come out tender tasting.
7. Simply top bun with bacon-wrapped hot dog, then condiments (choice of ketchup, mustard and/or mayo), onions, salsa and then avocado mixture. The cooked jalapeno can be eaten separate or also put into the hot dog as well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Waiting for spring!



Haven't been to a Lund's or Byerly's in a long time. I use to go there just because their desserts looked so good and I like to look. Was in the neighborhood, so I decided to stop in one. A few things I love to just look at: nice clothes, dessert displays and beautiful homes. I used to go to the Parade of Homes every season when they had them before we bought the house. I also went to the Luxury Home Tour twice now just to dream... Wow, so beautiful. There was this one neighborhood called Locust Hills in Wayzata, MN that I just fell in love with. If I was a billionaire, then that's what I would want. My own neighborhood with all my friends and families living in the same neighborhood, so we can see each other more often. My husband doesn't think that's a good idea. :p I've also been attending the ASID home tour every year for the past six years, except I skipped the past two since I was prego and then just got busy.

Anyway, decided to buy myself some treats. Actually, I've been treating myself everyday since the pregnant days. This super sweet tooth hasn't gone away since then. I need to stop, but probably not this week since I just bought like four packs of strawberries (since they were on sale) and stuff to make sweet treats with them.



Waiting for all the snow to melt, so I can go walking outside. I love that. I think this year has the most snow ever that I've experienced. I love March BTW. It's my favorite month. For some reason when March arrives, I am a new person all over again just like spring.


All photos taken with my iPhone. :p

Friday, March 18, 2011

Best Hot Dog I've Had So Far



Photos from here.

I saw these on FoodNetwork once and always wanted to try one. I had the opportunity to finally eat one the other day when a friend of mine invited me over to a family gathering. They were freshly grilled with bacon wrapped around the hot dog along with toppings of grilled onions, fresh salsa, avocados and topped with a grilled jalapeno. Gosh, just typing that makes me so hungry and craving for another one already. My mouth was watering when I watched them cooked the stuff. I should go to sleep before I head to the kitchen instead of the bedroom. I think I'm going to go shopping tomorrow and get some ingredients to make one of these. I don't know what these are called exactly, but I guess they're Mexican-style hot dogs. Just yummy. I had everything on it except mayo. Ok, not a good idea to think/blog about food when I am hungry and should be sleeping. It's the only time I get any work done with a little one!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras King Cake




Have you ever had a bite of this? I had it once at work. It was actually good. I think it's just basically a sweet bread with colored sugar on top.

Pictures from here and here.

Best Hmong Pepper Sauce Ever


Well, one of them that I've tasted, and I've tasted many pepper sauces. I eat pepper with just about anything. Basically, if you don't eat pepper, then you're probably not Hmong or your parents fed you too many McDonald's hamburgers growing up. The second part happened to me too, but I still eat peppers. :p Seriously, the Hmong pepper sauce is a staple on many Hmong dinner tables. Whether it's just the simple pepper and salt or tomatoes mixed with it, Hmong people usually don't eat Hmong food without pepper on the side. If it's not there, then trust me, someone will ask for pepper.

My pepper sauce has the usual ingredients, but there is one secret ingredient in there that makes a difference. Can you guess what it is? It's also about the right quantity of all the ingredients. I originally made this pepper for egg rolls and received many compliments. Nobody cared about the egg rolls, they just wanted to know what was in the sauce. It could've been that my egg rolls weren't that good, but that's the thing! This sauce will make any bad tasting egg roll or meal taste good. I once served this sauce at meal time and someone said that they could just very well eat the sauce despite the other delicious meals that were served.

I just made it in an instant today, so I didn't have time to measure it and take photos, so unfortunately, I won't be posting the recipe until another time. This among other Hmong foods is still on my list to add to the blog to share with others so that we don't forget how to make our own foods.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Homemade Vietnamese Pho Broth


I regret that I didn't put more broth into my bowl above just for the photo. Perhaps the reason why I didn't was because the recipe I tried produced such small quantity for so much work involved and I didn't want to use all the broth in one eating. :p I started with six quarts of water and only got three quarts when I was done. The broth tasted good, but I was disappointed that it took so much work for such small results. I probably will not make pho broth from scratch again. I know I mentioned in my earlier posts the obvious reasons, but it's been at least ten years since I last made pho broth from scratch and wanted to see if I could improve. Just not worth the time or money. This recipe I tried was good, but it had too much salt to it (including the fish sauce). When I ate the pho, I didn't need to add any extra condiments except for the hot sauce. No fish sauce or hoisin. Nada. I wasn't used to that. It really didn't need it. I suppose that's a good thing, right? I guess not if someone doesn't like their pho to be on the salty side. Also, I skimmed the fat twice and it was still pretty greasy. I got tired of skimming it, so I quit at the second time. My broth came out darker than what I'm used to seeeing. I left the bag of spices in the whole time. I read from another recipe to take it out after 30 minutes. This recipe I tried did have a more intense flavor because the dried spices was simmered for at least four hours. Would I recommend this recipe? Yes. It was good. A lot better than some home made pho I have had before. I just wouldn't make this again because it was just too much work and ingredients. You can find the recipe from Andrea Nguyen. I also referenced Wandering Chopsticks and here.

Yellow rock sugar, star anise, whole cloves and cinnamon stick:


Charbroiling the onions and ginger in the oven under broil since I don't have open flame. Flavors are still there doing it this way:


Putting all the ingredients together in the pot. I used 2.5 lbs oxtails and the rest bones with marrow and tendon. I also put my spices in a pouch. You can use cheesecloth as well or use none at all. It's just easier to get them out later especially if you want the spices out earlier:


Make sure you submerge everything under water:


I skimmed the foam and and other impurities with this handy dandy tool that I found at the local Asian store. It works very good since the mesh is very fine:


After boiling for four hours and letting it cool, I put the pot in the fridge overnight and took out the fat that submerged to the top. I did this twice and it was still greasy. Seeing all this fat scared my husband, so he didn't even bother eating the pho I made for us. I told him this is how it's made and he doesn't believe me. He thinks pho broth just magically comes out clear.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Salmon with Whole-Wheat Spaghetti


I was hesitant on trying this recipe because the thought of salmon with pasta didn't sound appealing to me. I'm glad I gave it a try anyway because it tasted great! The salmon itself is pretty oily, but overall, this dish not only tastes good, but it's also good for you. The fish and olive oils are great for you as long as you don't consume too much of it.



Original recipe from Food Network:

Ingredients1/2 pound whole-wheat spaghetti pasta
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (4-ounce) pieces salmon
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons capers
1 lemon, zested
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

DirectionsBring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Add the fish to the pan and cook until medium-rare, about 2 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove the salmon from the pan.

Add the basil, capers, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the spaghetti mixture and toss to combine. Set out 4 serving plates or shallow bowls. Place 1/2 cup spinach in each bowl. Top with 1/4 of the pasta. Top each mound of pasta with a piece of salmon. Serve immediately.

Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Puree



Here's another salmon recipe I tried many weeks ago. I used to just bake my salmon in the oven, but I like it so much pan-fried. I like the crispiness of the fried filet portion. I like my salmon well done, so this may appear overcooked to some. I remember this recipe had a lot of steps, but it was quite good. It tastes similar to the one with the pasta I just made today. If you must have some rice with it like me, then you can make it with the herbed rice pasta featured below. Both went well together.

Original recipe from Food Network:

Ingredients
Lemon Brodetto:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Pea Puree:
2 cups frozen peas, thawed (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Salmon:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 (4 to 6-ounce) pieces salmon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions
To make the Lemon Brodetto, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, and broth. Bring to a simmer, and keep warm, covered, over low heat.

To make the Pea Puree, combine the peas, mint, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor and puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady drizzle. Transfer the pea puree to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Set aside.

To make the Salmon, warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Sear the salmon until a golden crust forms, about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. Flip the fish and continue cooking until medium-rare, about 2 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fish.

To assemble the dish, add the tablespoon chopped mint to the Lemon Brodetto and divide between 4 shallow dishes. Place a large spoonful of Pea Puree into the center of each bowl. Place a salmon piece atop each mound of Pea Puree. Serve immediately.

Herbed Basmati Rice:
Original recipe from Foodnetwork



Ingredients
1 cup uncooked long-grain (white) basmati rice (recommended: Texmati)
1 3/4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh curly parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh scallions, white and green parts
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Combine the rice, 1 3/4 cups water, the salt, and butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low, stir once, and simmer, covered tightly, for 15 minutes. (I need to pull the pot half off the burner to keep it from boiling over.) Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit covered for 5 minutes. Add the parsley, dill, scallions, and pepper. Fluff with a fork, and serve warm.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Look Who's Also Hungry

I was busy making my pho broth + dinner and saw a pair of legs behind our tree when I looked out the window. Yup, it's a baby deer searching for some food in our backyard. And we live in the cities!





I decided to make pho broth from scratch. I found two recipes online that I wanted to try, so I'll let you know in a few days how it turns out. Yes, pho broth takes that long to make. There's a lot of steps to it for sure.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

iPhone, recipe withdrawal, restaurants, etc.



I don't know where I got the above image from, but I certainly did not make it. I wanted to take some cake decorating classes this season, but I'm already busy with so many projects. Maybe in the summer. Been so busy that I haven't experimented with new recipes for weeks now! I am craving for some new food. The other day, my family and I went out for lunch at a chain restaurant and I couldn't help but miss my own cooking. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but my cooking has improved so much that my own food tastes so much better than places that I used to enjoy dining at. But then again that was only a 2 or 3 star restaurant. :p

Speaking of the iPhone, I really miss my iPhone. I turned it off because I wanted to save some money each month since not working. I've had the phone since it initially launched in 2007. It became my best friend instantly. I'm usually not the type that buys the latest techno stuff, but since I was searching for a smart phone back then anyway, I tested the iPhone out and nothing else beat it at that time. It was funny how every time I brought it out in public, people around me were like, "Is that the iPhone??" And then I would get all these gawkers surrounding me. lol I guess it was kind of rare back then, but not anymore!

We also went to try out Mirror of Korea in Saint Paul on Valentine's Day. Yeah, I know. Not very romantic, but Valentine's is not just about couples. I have a family now, so we didn't necessarily go there because of V-day. I just felt like eating some bulgogi, so we decided to try them out. We have only tried King's and the one across from Mirror of Korea. Forgot what that one is called, but I don't like going there because it's so dark and gloomy inside. I felt scared to even go down to the basement to use their restrooms. Same case with the restrooms at Village Wok; although, I haven't been there in ages.

Mirror of Korea was fine. I was actually surprised how much cleaner and brighter it looked inside compared to the outside. The outside never wanted to bring me in. The food was good. We ordered the regular bulgogi and bibimbap so we could compare to other Korean restaurants. Actually, that's all we know what to order from Korean restaurants. :p I felt like an American going into a Chinese restaurant and the only thing I know what to order is sweet and sour chicken. I love sweet and sour chicken BTW. I didn't know that the bibimbap was going to come in the hot stone bowl. Otherwise, I would've asked for it not to. We also ordered the seafood omelette-type cake. It was quite appetizing. Overall rating of Mirror of Korea. 3/5 stars. It was clean, bright and food was good.

I promise to make a menu plan tonight and go shopping tomorrow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baked Alaska


I always wanted to try out this dessert as it looks so good. I've never seen it on the menu at any of the restaurants I've been to, but I heard that the Oceaniare makes this. Their menu probably changes though. So one day, I decided to look up the recipe and decided to make one myself. It's actually not that difficult, but there are steps to them. I made the cake portion with yellow cake mix, but honestly, to save time you can just buy the Sara Lee pound cake from the freezer. I actually like that better. I made this a while ago and used a couple of different recipes from the Internet, so I don't remember what they were actually. Basically, all I did was line a round small cup with saran wrap, then put strawberry ice cream in the mold, followed by the cake. I let it freeze for hours and then made the meringue. I topped it off with the meringue and put it in the oven.

I think this dessert looks better than it tastes. I mean, it didn't taste bad, but it was nothing special. It's basically just an ice cream cake. My favorite ice cream bar is the strawberry shortcake bar from Good Humor. I want to make an ice cream cake that will taste exactly like that.

Here
is one of the recipes that I followed or used to make my own Baked Alaska.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nam Khao (Laotian Fried Rice Ball Salad)


I've been meaning to post this a while back because I wanted to show step-by-step photos, but just haven't made this dish in a while. I first discovered this dish from a member of a forum and tried the recipe he/she had given. I wasn't that pleased with it, so I never bothered looking up other recipes. One day at the local Asian store, it sold a to-go package of this dish and I grabbed it. It was love-at-first-bite. Nam Khao is one of my favorite dishes now and the best new dish I have discovered in 2010. To me, it is that good, but it does require some acquired tasting. For example, if you don't like nam sausauge, then you might not like this dish, but you can certainly make it without it. The reason why the store-bought version was so much better than the original recipe I had tried earlier was because the original recipe was baked and not fried. It also did not include coconut flakes in the recipe. Those two things made a huge difference. This dish has to be deep fried or it won't taste the same.

This is a great dish to make when you have a lot of leftover rice and want to try something new besides regular fried rice. If you like the exotic tastes of Thai and Laotian, you will love this dish. I did anyway.

Here is a good tutorial online. I adapted my recipe from hers. For example, I used freshly fried shallots and garlic and threw it in the dish. I also added sugar since the one at the store tasted a little sweeter. I did not add any ground meat to the dish. I thought the nam sausage provided enough meat already. And I never use MSG in any of my foods. Some recipes call for curry, but I did not like that in mine. I also made my rice balls larger, so the rice wouldn't be as crispy (hard) all over. Some people like more of the hard rice, but I didn't want too much of that. One of these days, I'll post my exact recipe, but give this recipe a try first.

I made these the other day on a whim, and didn't turn out exactly like how I made them when I took the time, but here are photos to give you some ideas:






Thailand Food Journey


Photo from here.



It would be a dream of mine to visit Thailand one day and just go on a journey to eat all their food, visit their markets as well as check out some of their beaches. Growing up, my dad would post all these colorful posters of fresh and exotic fruits from Thailand as well as the beautiful girls in Thai costumes and the markets on the water.

Until then, I like to look at these vendor street food videos from ImportFood.com. They make me so hungry just watching them. Ok, maybe sanitary-wise--not so great, but the food is cheap!

Speaking of exotic fruits, I picked up a pomelo from the Asian store the other day. I never tried it before, but saw it a few times in Thai cooking, so I thought I try one. It's actually quite good. It looks and smells like a grapefruit, but it's actually tastier than a grapefruit. It doesn't have that bitterness that grapefruits tend to have. So if you don't like grapefruit, then you might like pomelos.



And those bananas in the background? I have no idea what kind they are. I thought they were just regular bananas that haven't riped yet, but after a few days, they still haven't riped, so I ended up tossing them. What kind of bananas are these that don't ripe? Were they like the green mango that will never ripe like a regular mango? We buy bananas every week, so I just felt dumbfounded this time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lazy Pho (Beef Noodle Soup)



Well, the broth is not home made at all, but this is how I make pho when I want that "homemade" taste without all that other work and it still tastes better than your instant noodle in a package. Also, because I have a small family of two adults and a small toddler, it doesn't make sense to make a batch of pho unless of course I plan to freeze the broth or eat pho all week. Besides, this is like making spaghetti from a jar. :) I still need to attempt to make pho from scratch again one of these days. My first time making it years ago was a disaster. It basically tasted like water with boiled beef and fat. The second attempt tasted much better, but I had leftovers for weeks and ingredients were just too much, so I never tried again. I was living by myself at the time.

I usually make my pho with the wide, fat noodles, but for some reason this Asian store didn't carry any (not even the dried kind). I don't know why, but I prefer the wide noodles when I eat pho at home, but don't mind the regular noodles when I'm at the restaurant. I also decided to buy the fresh noodles from the refrigerated section, and I did not like how the extra starch on the noodles diluted my broth. The noodles itself tasted better, but perhaps I should've rinsed the noodles more thoroughly.

Fresh noodles I tried today:



These are the fresh noodles that I would prefer and grew up eating. They make a difference to me:




Or course since I don't see the above fresh, wide noodles available very often, I have settled for the dried wide noodles and they taste fine. I forget the two brands I usually buy, but this is how they look similar to:


This is a great dish to make when you have extra or leftover ingredients laying around and you still want a hearty meal. Since I'm Asian, I usually have all these ingredients available. I just have to buy the broth and sometimes noodles. I usually keep a few cans and an extra package of pho noodles around for those days when I feel lazy to cook everything from scratch.

Serves 2-4
Ingredients - pho is one of those foods that you can easily opt out or add your favorite ingredients. The most important ingredients are the broth, and of course, you need the noodles. Everything else is simply there to complement. Why do you think instant noodle packages just come with noodles and a packet? :p

1 package of wide rice noodles (dried or fresh)
2 cans of beef pho broth (I tried a couple and the one I pictured is the best so far)
Meat of your choice such as thinly sliced beef, meatballs (found in the Asian market freezer section), chicken, and even seafood such as shrimp. (I prefer to eat beef pho with just beef, but I have added chicken to it as well and tastes just as good.)
Fresh herbs such as cilantro, green onions, and basil
Lime wedges
Jalapeno peppers, sliced
Fish sauce
Hot sauce such as sriracha sauce
Hoisin sauce

Method:
1. Soak the dried noodles in hot water in a large bowl while you prep the other ingredients.
2. Shop your cilantro and greens onions. Slice jalapeno peppers. Assemble the herbs, peppers and lime wedges onto a plate or serving trays.
3. Prep and cook your preferred meat. I usually just boil all my meat. Pretty simple and easy.
4. I usually heat up two pots. One for the broth and the other to make boiling water to soften the noodles even more. You want your noodles soft, but not too soft that they break easily. When the broth boils, turn down the heat to low to keep warm.
5. Simply assemble a large bowl with the soften noodles, then broth and add your other favorite ingredients.

Hearty, easy and still has that home made taste. Yum.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bulgur Wheat Pilaf



Loved this recipe. And guess what? It's all vegetarian. I found the bulgur wheat at Whole Foods. I forgot the harissa, so I made my own at home. I don't know how harissa is supposed to taste like, but I just quickly made mine by pounding two dried peppers (soaked in warm water until soft) with a pinch of cumin, grounded coriander seeds, and 1/2 a clove of garlic. I then put a little oil in it and let it sit while I prepped the other ingredients. I know that's not entirely the correct way, but I was short on time and I totally forgot about the harissa. I did not follow this recipe exactly. I pretty much only used half the onions since I thought 4 whole onions was a little too much. I used grape tomatoes as well. They turned out great. I didn't make the yogurt as suggested since I didn't realize I was supposed to make it the night before. The dish tasted good without it IMO. I should know better to always read the whole recipe before attempting it, but sometimes I don't. Don't skip any of the other steps though. The surprise was the onions with the cinnamon and lemon juice. That added quite the flavor to the whole dish. So glad I found 101 Cookbooks, because I thought by eating healthier and more veggies meant eating only salads for the most part. Before the baby, I ate salads for a few months, and ever since then the thought of a salad just didn't sound very appetizing anymore.

You may find the recipe at 101 Cookbooks.

Pumpkin Bars


I've been meaning to make my own pumpkin bars since every fall season. I always buy the ones sold at Festival Foods that's made by Taste of Scandinavia. Their bars are so good. I am happy to have tried this recipe from Paula Dean and it's so good. My husband loves it. I put in a little more sugar in the frosting to duplicate the one from ToS and it taste about the same. The hubby said he actually likes this recipe better because the cake portion is not as sweet, just perfect.

Original Recipe from Food Network:
Ingredients

Bars:
4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Icing:
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.


To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.