Take It From a Five Year Old

I've been taking our lunch and dinner pics daily of late. It might be a while before I write about a dish but at least I'll know I have it in my arsenal of pics ready to use when it inspires me  to write about it.

So, I've been on a Japanese bent lately with the cooking, but there was a time when I was very obsessed with finding the perfect roast chicken dish.

I think I found it.

I've baked this chicken dish frequently and my five year old requests it on occasion. She, in fact, has told me it is one of her favorites and is, "So good!" It's a keeper and an old stand-by. Thanks to Gwynneth Paltrow  - actor, clothes horse, health obsessed, and a really good cook. I was surfing through her GOOP website a year ago and discovered her "Make" section, featuring some really health conscious, awesome recipes.

She calls her roast chicken, a quick home recipe. Wow, I've tried it and haven't looked back. It's my go-to recipe when I want a  quick, tasty chicken recipe. To not try this, would be a shame. You'd really miss out. It's lemony, savory, and just plain good. Take it from my five year old.

Quick Roast Chicken and Fingerling Potatoes
Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe on GOOP

TIME: 1 hour
  • 1 3 to 4 pound chicken, washed and dried
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • a few sprigs each fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 dozen fingerling potatoes (or any small potato), peeled
Preheat the oven to 450ºF (on convection if possible).
Using a pair of sharp kitchen shears, remove and discard the backbone of the chicken (or save it for making stock). With a sharp pairing knife, remove the thigh bones — simply follow the bone and let your knife do the work for you. You can also ask your butcher to do this.

Lay the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting tray and press down with your hands so that it flattens. Squeeze over the lemon, getting the juice on and around the entire chicken, and throw the lemon halves into the tray. Toss in the garlic cloves, being sure to tuck a few underneath the bird along with the fresh herbs. Liberally salt and pepper the chicken and drizzle over enough olive oil to coat — about 3 tablespoons.

Meanwhile bring a saucepan of water to a boil and season with a few pinches of salt. Boil the potatoes for 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes, put them back in the pot with the lid on and shake vigorously to ‘fluff’ their exteriors. Put the potatoes in the tray with the chicken and drizzle with olive oil to coat (about another 3 tablespoons) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover the tray with tinfoil, roast for 20 minutes, remove the tinfoil and baste with the juices that have collected on the bottom. Roast for an additional 20 minutes, uncovered, or until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers at least 165ºF and the skin is browned.


Cookie Monster

Everyone knows Sesame Street growing up - one of my favorites on the show was Cookie Monster. I really got a kick of seeing him eat that plate of cookies ... you know, with the cookie crumbs flying all over the place and him growling, "AWWWWM-num-num-num-num .... " Those googly ping pong eye balls dangling and darting in opposite directions always got me giggling.

I've been baking these amazing cookies recently that got me turning cookie monster. Not just me, but both kids and a grown man. We're all craving and loudly munching these cookies and the plate barely lasts until the morning. The bitter sweet chocolate coupled with the sour cherry bites cause a wedding in your mouth. Wow, these cookies are turning me sappy tongued. Ok, bake these and you'll find your family demanding, "Me want cookie!"

Katie Lee Joel’s Dark Chocolate Chunk and Dried Cherry Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

    * 2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
    * 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1 teaspoon baking powder
    * 1 teaspoon salt
    * 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    * 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
    * 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    * 2 large eggs
    * 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    * 8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (be sure to use a high-quality chocolate with more than 60% cacao)
    * 1 cup dried cherries (about 6 ounces), coarsely chopped
    * 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375º F.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a bowl using a handmixer), beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, add the flour mixture. With a wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate, cherries and pecans (if you’re using them).

Scoop by heaping tablespoonful onto two nonstick or greased cookie sheets. Bake until golden and chewy, about 12 minutes, rotating the sheets after six minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool and repeat the process with the remaining dough.


Bento Bent

I ate my way through the holidays for the past two months and now it's time to get to work. Oddly enough, I've been loving the past two weeks on my way to flab countdown - so much I've been too tired to write at night. I've fallen in love, you see ... again, you ask? Home style Japanese food has caught my attention and I'm in a tizzy.

I've been cooking my way through a Japanese cook book (thank you King County library system): Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen by Naomi Moriyama. I'm not Japanese, but I tell you, I must have been in another lifetime. Eating this food just feels like home. My weight is coming down, energy up, and I've taken my latest love interest to breakfast, lunch and dinner. So far, it hasn't been an expensive date, but turning out to be a consuming one...

I'm now getting up every morning at 6 a.m. to make Japanese "power" breakfasts (miso soup, rice, side dishes, etc.), bento box lunches, and home style dinner entrees for Tharan, my son, and I (with the exception of my five year old - she hasn't quite taken to onigiri and gobo, not yet). I'm like those Japanese mothers and now cooking fresh miso soup daily too. Oishii!

The thing about this food is not only are the flavors delicious and simple, but the dishes are beautiful. There is a grace and beauty about the simplicity and pleasing color palette of the dishes. I've been taking an additional hour in the evening prepping the boxes for the morning.

I've been boiling juice gelatins, washing cherry tomatoes, radishes, blueberries, and placing delicate wrapped Japanese cookies into the compartments. You wouldn't believe (I don't believe it) how consumed I've become with the details of our lunches daily. It seems a lot of work and sure looks like it... but I've got it down to 10 minutes in the mornings.

The bento lunch I made yesterday (pictured here) has bambo shoots and squid, carrots and gobo, sticky rice sprinkled with furikake, cranberry juice gelatin, hijiki and fried tofu, fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries), and a paper wrapped rice cracker. The bento pictures look like a lot of food, but really isn't. Bento box portions are quite small compared to our American appetites and portions. When I first saw the bento boxes on display at Daiso's, I thought they would feed a child nicely - then saw that the recommended portion was for an adult female! The one featured here feeds an adult male and I bought it from Uwajimaya's.

At work at times,  I sometimes take a peek into the red lacquered box just to look at the colors. You see, it's as I've always believed - food should not only feed the stomach but also the eyes... and it doesn't hurt that it's reducing my waist line too.

Try this delicious fiber rich gobo recipe. I've been eating this dish hot and cold every day now for the past two weeks. The crunch of the carrots, gobo and rich nutty flavor of the ground sesame blend nicely. This dish has become a standard side dish on our breakfast and dinner table.

Gobo and Carrot
adapted from Naomi Moriyama, "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat"

1 medium (8 ounce) burdock root
1 T canola oil
2 dried red peppers (Japanese, Thai chili, Santaka, or Szechuan)
1 C carrots, cut into matchstick slivers
1 T sake
1 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 t mirin
1 t granulated sugar
1 t toasted and ground sesame seeds
  1. Scrub the exterior of the burdock root with a vegetable brush to remove excess dirt and the skin. Cut the burdock root into 2 1/2 to 3" long matchsticks, and rinse quickly under cold water. You will have approximately 2 cups of burdock root matchsticks.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red peppers and saute for 30 seconds. Add the burdock root and saute until tender, about 3 minutes; it will appear translucent on the surface. Stir in the carrot and saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the sake, soy, mirin, and sugar. Stir the vegetables for 1 minute more to allow them to absorb the sauce. Remove and discard the red peppers and arrange the vegetables in a mound in the center of a serving bowl and garnish with the sesame seeds.


All Hail Caesar

My BFFs know that my favorite restaurant in Seattle is Pomodoro on Eastlake. We've eaten at this cozy neighborhood Southern Italian corner bistro to celebrate my birthday for the past three years.

One of the great things is that you can always get a table. You think this means the restaurant is not good? Nuh-uh. It only means that this place hasn't been found yet. I'd like to keep it that way ... and yet ... I've always been the girl who shared at playtime and let other girls play with my dolls. On that note, you got it here first - GO to this restaurant before the word gets out any further.

Order the Insalata di Caesar as a starter along with any of the other fine appetizers (can't go wrong with the Pomodoro Speciale). Like clockwork, I always order the Linguine con Gambero e Anice: wild prawns, garlic, white wine and light cream anise sauce, tossed with linguine. I don't know how they cook this but it is the best pasta dish around. I've ordered seafood fettuccine at many, many restaurants here in the NW and after eating the typically white based cheesy sauce, felt slightly bloated by the time I got home.

The Pomodoro's pasta dish features plump, perfectly poached prawns ... but it is the light cream sauce the linguine is tossed in that is perfection. The sauce is almost clear and glosses the noodles beautifully. It is like eating a bite from the fresh sea tossed in with a hint of sweet cream. That sauce. Oooh boy.You know, I could go on and on  about that dish ...

But what I'm here to really talk about today is salad. There have been many times in my life that I've been on a semi-liquid diet, carb-free diet, no- white-after-dark diet, and salads diets. Such is the trials and tribulations of trying to be skinny in this super-size everything culture.

There is one salad, however, that I always eat with pleasure .... and place it even in the decadent category. All hail the Caesar. Dieting never crosses my mind when I order a caesar salad. For real. This classic salad doesn't have to play second fiddle to any main entree when done right and accompanied by major other players. I mentioned Pomodoro's Insalata di Caesar above and they do one of the most savoriest that has crossed my palate. I like the kick of spiciness and the crunch of  ice cold romaine in their version.

BUT at home I came across an excellent, delicious recipe recently that must be shared. I made it for the kids last week and my 14 year old had seconds of the salad ... and then thirds. If that is not the best review and from a tough crowd, I don't know what is! The dressing is AMAZING.

Caesar Salad
Adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe

The only thing I do differently in this recipe is cook the eggs in boiling water for one minute and then put them in cold water to cool before adding the yolks to the dressing. Maybe it's psychological, as the egg yolks are still technically raw, but I like to "cook" them still in advance.
  • 4 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed, or 1.5 pounds romaine lettuce hearts
  • 3/4 cup Caesar dressing, recipe follows
  • Croutons
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan


Put the whole romaine leaves in a work bowl. Add enough of the dressing to coat the leaves and toss well. Arrange the leaves in a serving bowl with their tips up, and intersperse the croutons, if desired. Sprinkle the Parmesan over all.

Caesar Dressing:

2 eggs
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 to 8 anchovy fillets, minced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Worcestershire sauce
2 cups olive oil
2 tablespoon warm water, if needed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the egg yolk, mustard, anchovies, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce into a salad bowl. Blend with whisk and then add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until it is fully incorporated. If the dressing stops gets too thick, add the warm water and then continue until all the oil is added. Add the cheese and continue to blend.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Ramen 101

Did you think I'd forget? As promised, this one's dedicated to RAMEN cravings and all you ramen obsessed fans out there. After hitting up Samurai  with weekly fixes the past month or so and finding my pocket book quickly depleting, I had to attempt it at home. Knowing I needed Asian products to go with the ramen and living up north, I drove to my neighborhood Central Market iin Mill Creek. They have a very good Asian foods section, particularly authentic Japanese products.

Here's the thing ... being a working single parent, my goal was to to come up with a good tasting bowl of ramen in less than an hour.

I decided to try and use the same ingredients as the ramen bowl at Samurai, minus the all day soup boiling process and needed a good base: noodles and soup. My friend Keith (another ramen fanatic) had recommended I get the Yamachan Japanese Style Fresh Ramen noodles  as he heard that Samurai gets their noodles from Yamachan too. Good tip. Luckily, Central Market had these packets in their frozen section.

One thing I found odd was that these Yamachan noodles weren't located in the same place as the other Asian noodles (udon, other ramen brands, egg noodles, etc.). I had to walk down another aisle and locate them in the frozen section, plus they were pretty expensive - about $5 - 6 for a packet of two servings. I also picked up some pickled bamboo shoots also packaged by Yamachan and a slab of pretty pink and white  kamaboko. Ready for the cooking.

I had baked my own barbecue pork the day before and cut up the strip into slices. Then, I poached a soft boiled egg, still runny in the center, just the way I like it and set that aside. I chopped up green onions into a small dish. Now to the base: noodles and soup. Rock and roll.

I like my ramen noodles firm and so boiled a pot of water and nestled the fresh noodles in gently, separating them into the boiling water for just under 1 - 2 minutes. I could tell they were done by the sheen on the noodles and their color of dark mustard. Then, I drained the noodles and ran some warm water over them to keep them from sticking and to stop the cooking process.

Now it was construction time: noodles into the bowl, egg, barbequed pork slices, bamboo shoots, kamaboko, and green onions on top. I boiled the soup as instructed on the package, but instead of putting the boiling water into the soup base in a bowl - I took the boiled water off the stove and stirred the soup base into the pot. Note: Be sure to add more water (I added about 1/2 - 3/4 cup more) when boiling as I found the base to be on the salty side.

Finally, I poured the hot soup over the constructed ramen bowl with all the fixings. Delicious, hot, and tasty. The noodles did come out al dente and the soup hearty.

What comes out the winner in this home made version though was the barbecued pork and it stood out through the multitude of flavors. I've made this pork on occasion and used it in other dishes throughout the week, like fried rice. My kids eat the slices as appetizers too, dipped in ketchup and sesame seeds. I think this recipe is very good, and even better than the stuff you can pick up in the International District (ID). I've never been too into the red glossy, syrupy marinade on the restaurant pork.

Something about the tenderness of home made pork and the sweet, saltiness of the light marinade makes you want to take the whole slab, caveman style, and chomp it down when hungry. Wow, I think I'm getting hungry.

Here's Keith's home made ramen version (same noodles and soup base, but with more vegetables):

Now, this isn't restaurant grade ramen but hits the spot on those cold, Seattle rainy days when you don't want to make the drive into town for noodles. Pretty good and gets my thumbs up.

Barbecue Pork

3 - 4 lbs boneless pork tenderloin or shoulder pork, sliced into long strips with the grain about 2" x 2" wide and about 6" long

Mix together:
2 1/2 t salt
7 T sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1/2 t garlic salt
3 T soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt petre (optional to color the pork red, I usually omit this)

Marinate for at least 2 hours. Place pork strips in a pan about 1" apart and use all the marinade.

Bake 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Turn occasionally to brown evenly. Serves 4 - 6.


Me, Paris, and the Croissant

My favorite Food Network cooking show star has always been Ina Garten.  I've watched her Barefoot Contessa show when I could catch it on tv over the years. Part of the show's charm is watching her cook in her immaculate naturally lighted kitchen (my dream kitchen) in the huge house on the Hamptons with her adoring husband, Jeffrey. It's like being a guest in her home. Genius.

I heard that Ina loves Paris and has a home there. Ahhhh, Paris. I visited the City of Lights for four days three years ago, and it left quite the impression on me. For one, the Parisian women appeared so put together, so effortless. They glided down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to me, like so many exotic long necked busy ballerinas. It could have been my romanticism of the city and finally being there that took me to that exalted state for the four days. Whatever it was, it was magical. It rained the whole time, but I didn't care. I was in Paris.

The food. Don't even get me started. I ordered a Pain Au Chocolat from a bakery I ran  into the first day, near the Champs Elysees. I still remember the flaky, buttery, dark chocolate first bite. Amazing. Picture a small middle aged Asian woman standing still, eyes closed, reveling in the paper bag grasped in her hand. I must have looked like a drunken tourist standing frozen on that busy street. That's where it all began ... me, Paris ... and that croissant.

Anyways, about Ina. I discovered one of her cookie recipes a few Christmas' ago. I passed out these cookies en mass, wrapped in clear cellophane with pretty ribbons to all my friends and family.  They were so delicious, elegant and well ... Parisian. I can't tell you how many people asked me for the recipe. Light, not too sweet, flaky, and that hit of coconut just sneaks up behind the jam. Bake these and bake a lot of them... you may not have enough to pass around as they'll be eaten up before you get to bag them.

photo courtesy of Food Network.com

Jam Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted by Ina Garten - Barefoot Contessa Family Style
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • Raspberry and/or apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.


Not a Pizza Night

I'm embarrassed to admit it -  I am one of those people.  I'm a ...  FAN (in a big way). A geeky card-carrying-ask-for-your-autograph kind of fan. Have you heard of Orangette?

Tharan has been listening to me raving about this book,  A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg for months now. She is the local author of Orangette and her writing, stories, and recipes are fabulous. I  like her style. Even the photos on her blog, like the writing, have that same homespun, breezy, salt of the earth feel.

Well, if you are a fan too (admit it), you would know that Molly and Brandon just opened up a pizza joint in Ballard, called Delancey. Brandon is from the east coast and brought some of that east coast flav-ah to our fine city. I have been talking about eating there for some time now and maybe dropping off a Thank You card to Molly. Uh ... you know ... just to thank her for her blog and to let her know she's appreciated ... by a stranger. Tharan thinks I'm nuts and has let me know that if I plan on doing this, to wait until he has exited the building after our meal.  But, he is a good sport and a good guy and agreed that we should head over at 5 p.m. when they open.

We're listening to some old school Marvin Gaye on the drive down south to lovely Ballard and it's nearing 6 p.m. ....  feeling pretty darn good. Going to have some awesome pizza... and I figured we'd eat inauspiciously. We drove down 70th, and looked for the restaurant sign ... looked and looked . I finally saw a very small, lighted business - it was hopping ... still, no restaurant sign. I figured, that place must be it.

photo by Gabriel Boone

We parked and entered through the bistro door. (Note that the restaurant did have a subtle Delancey painted on the glass front. It was hard to see in the dark though.) The first thing that greeted me was the heat. I had heard about the pizza oven. It felt  upward to 90 degrees in there. Very small, cozy, and warm - and PACKED with people. I let the young, pretty woman near the door know it would be two for dinner. She looked down on the wait list and said, "It'll be AN HOUR AND A HALF WAIT, is that ok?"

Huh. Are you kidding me? This felt like being at the back of the line at Disneyland .... when I was nine.

I figured we would be eating some authentic east coast pizza ... maybe bump into Molly and company  ... get to talking about blogging and food?

It was not to be that night.

We drove back up north and had a drink at good old reliable Stanfords in Northgate. Ordered spinach and artichoke dip. The dip wasn't bad, but it wasn't all that good either. Ya, I was a bit bummed out - nothing like having the pizza of your dreams snatched away in a moment of unexpected wait time.

Oh well, next time we're getting to Delancey's at 5 p.m. - opening time. And ... oh, I've got that thank you card stashed in my pocket still, just in case.


Ramen Cravings

Some people have ice cream cravings, and some french fries. When I want something bad, it tends to be fried chicken. I'm not sure why. Something about the crunchy, salty, fatty fried skin and juicy bite of chicken leg sends me swooning. 

Growing up, my dad dipped his fried chicken (and pretty much everything else) into ketchup. I do this now too, a learned habit, I suppose. I'm noticing both my kids now are adopting the same eccentric food habits. Like those food magazine interviews of celebrities asking what's in their fridge - mine (a girl can dream!) would be a bottle of Heinz's 57 Ketchup. Anyhoo....

For the past month, I've been having a new craving - Ramen Noodles. This obsession came after I ate at Samurai located in the same building as Uwajimaya in the ID district for the first time about a month ago. I had read many reviews on this place prior to going there. Folks just raved on and on about the ramen bar, claiming it was the BEST ramen in Seattle and comparing its authenticity to a good bowl of ramen in Japan. Of course, I had to try it...


I've gone in to Samurai four times over the past month and have now ordered the same bowl of ramen three of the four times. When I like something, I tend to not only be a repeat customer, but a repeat orderer. It's a sure thing and I like to know what I'm getting. Boring maybe, routine, ok ... I just like what I like - especially when it is GOOD! A bit of advice if you're trying to get there at lunch time - go before 11:15 a.m. Trust me - the line out the door typically begins around 11: 15 am. And the place is dime store small, so be prepared to knock knees with the other hungry patrons at the tables next to you. No need to be shy, the ramen is worth it.

The bowl I'm crazy about is called Tampopo. Based on the Tampopo movie with the same name, a ramen western about a woman in Tokyo who achieved to make the best bowl of ramen and recruited two guys to help her. A funny and weirdly charming movie.

There is absolutely nothing funny about the movie's namesake ramen served at Samurai , it's serious business. Seriously tantalizing. Sliced melt-in-your-mouth, chunky pork slices, soy sauce marinated hard boiled egg, tender bamboo shoots, tasty naruto, papery thin roasted seaweed, and green onions are the condiments. 

But the real heroes are the shoyou based soup and the noodles. Geez louise, where did they get those noodles?! Firm, robust, chewy, and just the perfect al dente-ness. Couple those perfect noodles with that briny, complex flavored soup and you have an authentic bowl of ramen.... at least in these parts. About that broth - tasting it made me think of grandma's home soup - the kind she used to boil for hours and hours. 

Tasted like home. Ya.... I could bathe in it, Samurai's soup is that good. Enough said.

A preview hint of things to come... my ramen obsession must now be cultivated at home as I can't keep driving almost 40 minutes to get my ramen hit every week. Plus, the bowls of ramen aren't cheap. If this keeps up, I might need to ask for a job there. Except once they figure out my real intentions and see that I'm always hovering over the soup pot - they'll banish me to the dish washing. 

Looks like I'll need to Tampopo it and try and make a decent imitation at home. Wish me luck, folks. I've thrown down the gauntlet to myself this week. Let's see what I come up with...

Three Words


And you were thinking, I LOVE YOU. Well, then I would have titled this blog, SIX WORDS ... I LOVE YOU, LE CREUSET POT.

It's confirmed, I am a kitchen geek.


Let Them Eat ... More Cake

Cake, cake, lovely cake. I call this one my Bathrobe Cake. I've been known to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night in my bathrobe and take a forkful right out of the pan ... best eaten over the kitchen sink.

I could also name it my Kitchen Sink Cake, another possibility. However, it's original name is Apple Cake. Simple and wonderful, just the way it sounds. This is the recipe I really just can't do without. Like a comfortable pair of loafers you've had and broken in throughout the years. Hold it, is it the shoes that stretch over time or their occupants? I just had a big piece tonight and the only thing stretching right now is my belly. Not in a good way. Note to self - go to gym... soon... real soon.

This cake has seen me through heart aches, potlucks, last minute dinner parties, a divorce, and the most joyful times with my children. The kids love this cake, and it loves them back. I keep making it, and it (and we) keep coming back for more.

In the end, it is my happy cake and has been a good friend to me through the good and not so good times.

Try this one, for sure. My lovely, loyal standby..

P.S. I couldn't resist showing you the picture my five year old took of  my piece of cake (wine and cake couple nicely, don't you think?). She saw mama taking pics and wanted to take one too for you all. So sweet!

Note:  You know that five year olds don't like to stand still, much less do so with camera in hand, right?  Be sure to put your 3D glasses on before viewing the pic. And for goodness sake, bake this cake! So good.

Apple Cake

Mix in this order:

1 1/3 cups Wesson Oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
1/2 t salt
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
3 cups apples, chopped (3 med size)
1 cup nuts

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour in a 13" x  9" x 2"  greased pan.


Soup Dumplings

Hello again. I'd like to start this blog journey with you, "the universe," like we've already met ... like we're already friends. So, for the record - it's nice to see you again.

On this, our official first meet, I'd like to give you a gift. A secret - a secret recipe. It's only secret in that I've never shared it. Sending it over the airwaves is like sending it to a debutantes ball. White gloves and all.

Let me tell you the recipe's background. My grandfather had owned the legendary Hong Kong restaurant in the ID district (closed a long time ago) and I started working in the kitchen there when I could hold a chopping knife properly - say 12 or 13. Shhhh, all under the table, of course. Hey, we were working in Chinatown, go figure.

Well, the Hong Kong made the best won tons I've ever tasted, hands down. Thinking about them brings back my childhood. I've slurped my share of soup dumplings throughout the NW, Vancouver (BC of course), Hawaii, and even Paris - just kidding about Paris, although I have traveled there ... and I still think the Hong Kong's were the best.

What made them so tasty? A good soup dumpling needs to be savory, moist, juicy, and HOT (I mean temperature). The filling was used for other appetizers like shrimp rolls (bacon wrapped bites of pork and shrimp lightly fried to a golden yum) and the deep fried won ton to their soup twin. All insanely delicious. If there was a send-back dish to the kitchen (wrong order, yadda yadda) - I was all over that plate or bowl.

Yes, I was a kitchen "prepper" and  folded those plump morsels on many weekends. I was never given the written recipe but watched the old woman in the kitchen throw ingredients together (no measuring cups or spoons). So this is my recipe revised some but inspired by my grandpa's restaurant. Let me know what you think?

Won Ton Soup
inspired by the Hong Kong restaurant's version

This recipe is for won tons, but I typically make them as Sui Gow (called Water Dogs in Chinese) - see the pic above. The Sui Gow skins are round vs. square for won tons and can take a bigger volume of filling than won ton skins. Since won ton skins are easier to find in the markets, I've converted my recipe to won tons for you. In any case, the pic below shows the won ton and sui gow brand I like, as well as how a folded sui gow looks like before boiling.

2/3 lb ground pork
1/2 lb chopped shrimp
3 chopped green scallions
1 egg
1 t sesame oil (or more if you like, I like)
1T oyster sauce (Panda brand if you can find it)
2 t soy sauce
1/2 T rice wine (Michiu brand, ditto above)
1 1/2 t corn starch

1 egg
Won Ton or Sui Gow/Siu Mei skins (I like Rose brand)
Home made chicken/pork broth
Sliced vegetables (bok choy, gai-lan, broccalini, whatever you like, etc)
BBQ pork slices, hard boiled egg slices, egg noodles (all optional)

Mix the filling ingredients together in a good sized bowl. Crack and stir an egg in a small bowl for the egg wash. Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the won ton skin and wipe just the top inside won ton skin edge with the egg wash. Fold the won ton together.


Boil the won tons in plain water - be sure to put them in after the water has boiled. They are done when they float to the surface. Scoop out the cooked won tons into bowls.

Boil your broth and add Chinese vegetables and/or bbq meats to the soup. Pour over the won tons in bowls.

4 - 6 servings


Cake and Cast Iron

It would take a lot to bump off my all-time favorite dessert, Creme Brulee. I baked a cake two nights ago that has well, seriously distracted me ... Lemon Yogurt Cake.

This is a dessert that made it worth having my fingers grated along side the lemon rinds. Ya, that good. I think it was the double glaze of fresh squeezed lemon juice and sugar that hit it outside of the ball park. Tart, tangy and satisfying.

The real deal. So much that I perused my other cook books to compare recipes. A research assignment that went on all morning.

My Tharan watched me running around in this heightened state and said with a knowing smirk, "Ya know - you're a little weird." I wish he knew what it was like to be enthralled with food. Its not just the eating, cooking, reading, but to make the dish right ... and then perfect it. Does anyone hear me out there? Can I get a hell-yea?

Lemon Yogurt Cake
from barefoot contessa at home - Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 t grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, one cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cook in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

Cast Iron Dreams

I am baking Maple Baked Beans right now as I type this. Being a parent helps in the area of multi-task-oriented-statedness... yea, just what I said. The glazed stew has been brewing in my friend Keith's borrowed Le Creuset dutch oven for four hours - two more hours to go.

Never made baked beans before, such a shame. Come on now, I grew up in a family of four generations of Asian women all living in the same household. No baked beans, no Wonder Bread, not a Ding Dong in sight. I grew up with salted fish & steamed pork, salted duck eggs (more on this in later postings, I promise) and every kind of greens stir fried.

Delicious and still ... here's to the lone ronin and breaking out of family molds. Organic maple syrup, thick-cut smoked bacon... it smells like Texas all up in here.

Speaking of Le Creuset, I want the dutch oven. I want it bad. Santa came and got me a Le Creuset frying pan this year and I am grateful. So grateful, don't get me wrong ... but it's been my dream to have the cobalt blue big dutch oven (at only $400 retail). I have hijacked my friend's for the past 2 -3 months (lost count) and must return it soon. Uh huh, soon..