I was trying to locate food pics in my files tonight to share and ran across something really special .. it made me stop, smile, and then want to cry. So much in just a single sheet of  3 1/2" x 6" paper. I did say the intent of this blog is to write about the things I LOVE. Well, this is what it's all about and the reason why I get up every day, some days fall, but get back up with more traction and do it all over again the next day and the next...

Hey, it may be a distant dream to graduate from culinary school or be an accomplished food writer one day - if I don't get there, it's ok. I'm already blessed that there are two lovely people that think their mama is already enough ... and that is enough for me.


I'm Back

Would you do me a favor? Listen to Into the Mystic by Van Morrison as you read this. It's my theme song for this LONG overdue entry. I think it's been well over a year since I've last written. I have really, really missed this ... and you. Life and all it's mysteries have a way of enticing one overseas to foreign lands (I don't mean literally) and sometimes you can lose your footing and way..

It's good to be back home now though.

During my time away, I have eaten and cooked up a storm and also did a month long detox and lost about five lbs. So proud of myself! I'm eating healthier, mainly fish and vegetables and well on my way to a lifestyle change vs. being on a constant revolving door diet. A healthy body leads to a strong mind which should go far into mending a once healthy heart. I digress, my friends. Forgive me.

I want to show you some recent places I've dined out to recently. All great, and one my absolute favorite restaurant that closest friends and I go to every year on my birthday. Eat at Pomodoro! This is the best Spanish Italian restaurant - bar none in the NW. I know what I'm talking about and this place means serious business. If you need any indicators - the owner and chef was invited to compete at Iron Chef America few years back but declined. So every year, I go to this place and typically order the same dish like clockwork  - Linguine con Gambero e Anice. It's all about the sauce!

Then there is the excellent Paella. One word says it all.

A friend ordered this Pollo alla Gorgonzola con Pistachio e Albicocca dish.

We can't forget about dessert. You must get the flambe, my favorite is the Bananas Flambe. Dessert AND a show!

Hope you enjoyed the pics. Well, this is a start after that long trek of being away, home and heart sick. Time for me to get some rest as tomorrow is another day!  I have a lot of catching up to do with you all.  Good night, friends.


Food For Thought

I've been thinking a lot about happiness lately. I'm basically an optimistic person and am thankful that the glass is typically half full for me. What's with that? I don't know, I like to think that it has to do with hard wiring and determination. It's my take that there are two kinds of people in this world: Half-Fulls and Half-Empties... and  whichever side you gravitate to basically colors the world and your viewpoint of it.

I learned from someone just recently that Paul McCartney and John Lennon had a working symbiotic relationship. Two sides of the same coin thing going on. Paul was the optimistic one and John the negative one. Somehow, it worked. I wonder if this sort of thing ever works out in romantic relationships though. I figure it would work out if both folks recognized the other's worth and were willing to respect and work towards common ground ... and as long as they recognized their placement on the spectrum.

Not sure why I'm thinking out loud tonight. For heaven's sake ... this is supposed to be a food blog! :) But, alas tonight, it's just a slice of thinking out loud. Just posing this thought out into the vast universe... night now.


Memory Milestones

The milestone memories I have growing up seem to always relate to food. For example, the clearest memory I have of my paternal grandmother was the time she taught me how to wash rice. I think I was probably seven or eight years old. She told me to rinse the grains three times until the water was no longer milky and ran clear. Then, to raise the water above the grains half an inch (1/2 way up the length of the first bend on my index finger) prior to the cooking.

My grandmother was a proud, difficult woman, heavy handed in tone and words ... but it was these moments when she showed her tenderness by passing on this most basic and important lesson to her granddaughter. To this day, I still wash rice the same way.

I also remember the time she brought home a live squawking chicken from Chinatown and the next day, locked it in the kitchen with her. I don't recall much during that episode as I think the thought of her slaughtering the chicken was too much for me, so I probably locked myself in my bedroom not wanting to know (hear) anything. When the door opened and I finally peeked in - there was my grandmother plucking feathers from the chicken carcass. Oddly enough, I know we ate the chicken that evening ... but I don't recall the taste of it.

There was a lot of cooking that went on in our household. We were a home of four different generations of Asian women: great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and my older sister and I. Typically my grandmother and mother did the cooking. Although they came from different villages, they both cooked Cantonese dishes. These type of dishes are typically steamed or stir-fried and very fresh. In fact, my mother made it a point to run to the Asian markets in Chinatown every day after work and purchase fresh greens and meats or seafood. I think this is why the food I remember eating growing up at home was so delicious and seasonal - the products were purchased daily and as fresh as possible. This made a difference.

I've often read about good cooks who gained an interest in cooking early on under their parents and/or elder family members tutelage. My story doesn't hail this way. I never learned to cook from my mother or grandmother. My grandmother passed away when I was still too young to be able to hold a cleaver correctly or was taught how to determine the freshness of a fish by the clarity of its eyes. As for my mother, she was/is a woman not known for her patience. The times that I did enter the kitchen to watch her, she shoo-ed me out informing me I was getting in her way.

I finally learned how to cook by necessity in my mid-20's and after marriage ... it was either cook at home or starve. (We also did go out to eat but this got too expensive) As I worked a full-time job, I typically didn't have a lot of time or energy to cook full-on meals for my husband (now ex) and I. So cooking was a rocky start for me and I didn't appreciate and/or enjoy the early times I did cook. I do recall I did a lot of stir frying, spaghetti, pastas, meatloaf - dishes that were simple and quick to cook.

I think it wasn't until after my divorce (in my early 30's) that I really started to enjoy cooking. Being a single mother, I didn't have much money and so learned to run to the Asian markets and purchase inexpensive meats/seafood and fresh produce and cook for my son and I. I cooked oxtail stew, steamed black bean garlic pork ribs, Chinese chicken soup, pork fried rice, steamed pork and duck egg omelets, etc. These were the dishes I remembered growing up and experimented with cooking my memories of them until I got them right.

Here is my recipe for Shrimp in Lobster Sauce. It is absolutely delicious and would compare (and in my opinion, surpass as it's home made) to any Chinese restaurant's version. Simple, tasty, quick, and elegant in flavor.


Shrimp in Lobster Sauce

1 lb shrimp
1 T minced garlic
1/2 - 1 lb ground pork
Dash of rice wine (about 1 T)
1 1/2 T - garlic and black bean sauce (I like Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 T sugar approx. (or add + or -  to taste)

1/2 - 3/4 cup chicken broth
corn starch mixture (1 T to 1 2 T water)
2 eggs - cracked and stirred in a bowl
chopped green onions

Stir fry the garlic in hot oil. Add the shrimp and rice wine. Cook until just done and put in separate container.
With the same hot pan, add oil and stir fry the ground pork.

When cooked, add the black bean sauce and sugar. When combined, add the chicken broth and corn starch mixture. Simmer until combined and sauce has thickened. Add back the shrimp. Take the pan off the hot element and stir in the eggs and green onions.



Broiled Soy Ginger Salmon

Happy February to you all. I've been taking a hiatus from writing this month focusing on getting back into the health swing of things and work resource changes. Nah, I'm still working (I keep telling myself - we are lucky to have a job with this economy ... ) but the work volume has increased and our small team has been working overtime. Bunch of busy bees. Bzzzzzzz.

It also takes focus and drive to find time during the day to exercise and eat right which has been another focus of mine this month. However, I've missed this and sending out a part, however small, of me out into the universe...

I've been cooking a lot of salmon for the family lately. For one thing, it is easy, quick, healthy, and absolutely delicious. Salmon is one of the fish that you can eat a lot of and not be overly concerned about mercury intake. Think Jeremy Priven, now the poster child for the rumor mongering against eating too much sushi.  I'm not sure if this is correct, but a Japanese friend told me that if fish is going to be the prevalent protein in your diet, then two to three times a week is fine - however the exception seems to be salmon.

I've been marinating my salmon steaks in this soy-ginger mixture and faintly remember locating the recipe on-line on Epicurious a few years ago. Since then, I make this dish frequently and my son raves about it. Since the dish is broiled, the top comes out crispy brown and the inside moist, sweet, and aromatic with ginger spice citrus flavors. I absolutely love this dish and you will too.

Broiled Soy-Ginger Salmon
Adapted from Epicurious.com 

Salmon marinade
1/2 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
2 T soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 T finely grated peeled fresh ginger
4 (6 oz) pieces salmon fillet

Marinate Salmon: Stir together mirin, soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger in a shallow dish. Add fish, skin sides up, and marinate, covered at room temperature 20 minutes.

Preheat broiler.

Broil fish, skin sides down, on oiled rack of a broiler pan 5 to 7 inches from heat until fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes.


The Many Uses of Frying Pans

Do you ever wonder why there are some people that come back into our lives, like seasonal hives or allergies? Anyways, I was using my favorite frying pan to make pancakes this week and it got me thinking about  how it really would have come in handy at a certain point in my life and with a certain person...

My apologies, friends... tough transition (I just couldn't resist the frying pan metaphor and visual).

Ok, so lovely PANCAKES are the featured topic for today. I made these pancakes that my daughter deemed worthy to make recently and so I've made them again and again over the weekend. Delicate looking, yet hearty. Crispy, lacy, honey toned on the outside and warm comfort hot cake inside. Is there anything that speaks more of a home style breakfast than a plate of pancakes?

I tend to forage other food blogs and scan hungrily at the food pics, but for some odd reason, don't often try out the recipes. Too many great recipes and too little time? I think it's a mood thing too and lately I've been on the Japanese cooking route. But for some reason, the idea of this pancake recipe tickled me pink - the two part recipe in which you blend the oats and buttermilk overnight sounded, well ... intriguing. I ran to the store and bought some buttermilk - and cooked the most amazing hot cakes the next morning.

Oatmeal Pancakes
Adapted from Orangette recipe

2 cups rolled oats
2 cups buttermilk
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. table salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted but not hot
Vegetable oil or spray, for greasing the pan
Maple syrup, for serving

The night before:
Combine the oats and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Stir to mix. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The morning of:
Take the bowl of buttermilk and oats out of the fridge. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Add the eggs and melted butter to the oat mixture, and stir well. Add the flour mixture, and stir to blend. The batter will be very thick.

Warm a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, and brush (or spray) with vegetable oil. To make sure it’s hot enough, wet your fingers under the tap and sprinkle a few droplets of water onto the pan. If they sizzle, it’s ready. Scoop the batter, about a scant ¼ cup at a time, onto the pan, taking care not to crowd them. When the underside is nicely browned and the top looks set around the edges, flip the pancakes. Cook until the second side has browned.

Re-grease the skillet, and repeat with more batter. If you find that the pancakes are browning too quickly, dial the heat back to medium.

Serve hot, with maple syrup.

Yield: about 12 pancakes, or 3 to 4 servings


Waking Moments

I've been getting in the habit of letting my daughter sleep in my bed at night lately. I'm an insomniac and sometimes wake up in the middle of the night - 3, 4, or 5 a.m. It's these waking hours that I turn on the small bed lamp to look at my girl's sleeping face. She looks so serene and peaceful, long eyelashes gracing the tops of her small cheeks. It is these moments that I recognize and give thanks.

I do feel fortunate in so many ways. My son and I went clothes shopping last night at Kohl's. He's pretty easy-going and has always been that way. Jeans, t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts. That's my boy, so easy to shop for. Anyways, on the way back home, it was getting late on a school night, and I figured I'd just pick him up some take-out somewhere. When I asked him what he wanted, he said he wanted to eat at home.

It was a moment that struck me in mid-life that I may be doing something right. My kids prefer my cooking over restaurant and/or fast food, etc. All those times when I felt so tired after an 8 - 9 hour work day  and didn't feel like cooking but pushed through those feelings and still cooked - it's times like these that have made it worth it.

I must be in a contemplative mood tonight (this morning)... it's 5:52 a.m. and ... I am feeling happy and thankful. This family and home life I've created should never be taken for granted. It is the quality of life that I want for myself and my children. All the efforts of being the best mother to my children develop and show themselves in these small moments. I am so glad I can stop and wonder at them.

I made simmered kabocha squash last night and the smell of it filled up my small kitchen. It smelled cozy, warm, and lovely. Like home, our home.


Kabocha No Nimono
This is a favorite Japanese vegetable dish which can also be made with butternut squash or pumpkin.

1 small acorn squash (about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs), unpeeled
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp dashi-no-moto powder
1 T soy sauce
3 T sugar
1 T mirin
1 T sake
1 green onion, minced

Rinse and dry squash. Using a large sharp knife, cut squash in 1/2; remove seeds. Cut squash into 1 - inch pieces. Pour water into a medium saucepan. Stir in dashi powder, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Stir a few seconds to dissolve sugar. Add squash; reduce heat to low. Place a drap-lid or small saucepan lid on top of squash; simmer 25 to 30 minutes. Liquid will reduce and squash will become slightly glazed. Garnish with green onions.

Makes 4 servings.