Monday, February 28, 2011

The Best of February

     It's the end of February and it's time to do a review of the most popular posts for this month.  It's always interesting for me to see which posts got the most clicks and I am sometimes surprised!  A cute produce calendar made it into the top five--who would've thunk it? 

1) Beverly's Parsnip Soup: This was far and away the most popular post of all time on my blog.  It's a great recipe made by my friend, Beverly, and I'm thrilled that her soup was so well received!  Go Beverly! 

2) Eating Seasonably: A Produce Calendar:  This is the calendar that has inspired me to try (or retry) new fruits and vegetables.  It's quite nice.  I've printed out a copy and it's a pretty, practical bit of art in my kitchen.

3) Recipe From the Archives: Mom's Eggrolls:  Once upon a time, I made a family cookbook of my Mom's (Vietnamese) recipes and that cookbook led to this blog.  I hope to share more of my favorites from Mom's cooking...after my move!  I made a very useful video of how to roll an eggroll--click on the link to see it!

4) Homemade Thin Mints: A craving for Thin Mints resulted in this fabulous discovery at  Now I can eat Thin Mints whenever I want them!  Mwahahahahaha!

5) Healthy Hamburger Helper: Delicious, healthy comfort food.  Need I say more?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fun Foodie Links

   I'm getting ready for my fourth move in three years.  I really hate packing and disrupts my life so much.  The big day is March 17th and yes, I'll be downing a St. Patrick's Day beverage after it's all done.     I can't imagine having to pack and move with Children Who Are In School.  Bless the parents who have to undergo that torture.

   I'll be packing up my kitchen stuff next weekend.  Ugh.  In preparation for that, I've been cooking and freezing meals to last me through the move.  Good eats, like Chicken and Couscous.  And Chicken Pot Pie Soup.  And Beef Ground Turkey and Vegetable Soup (the post is in draft).

   While those posts are in the works, here are some fun foodie links:

1) Foodily: Food, I Love You.  A wikipedia of online recipes.  "Search for recipes from every website."  Many thanks to Jim for telling me about this site!

2) Zinfandel Guy Parodies Old Spice Guy.    Funny, but the Old Spice Guy has more mojo...and a six pack.

3) Cake Wrecks: Hilarious cakes that went horribly wrong.  Thank you Amber for turning me on to this site!

4) Hyperbole and a Half: Not a food site at all but ROFLMAO funny.

5) Freezerburns: A Triangle blogger who does awesome video reviews of all kinds of frozen foods.  I want his kitchen. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Healthy Hamburger Helper

     This is a tried-and-true recipe; it is my go-to recipe when I want something filling, quick, and cheap.  And delicious, of course. It's basically a deconstructed lasagna with half of the work! 

     The recipe makes six servings so it's great for a large family!  It also freezes well--I am in the midst of packing and moving so I doubled the recipe this time and put half of it in the freezer.  I will appreciate it once again when all of my pots and pans are packed up!

     This post is linked to:
      1) Foodie Wednesday blog hop hosted @ Daily Organized Chaos.
      2) Tuesdays at the Table hosted @ All the Small Stuff. 

Healthy Hamburger Helper
Adapted from Skillet Lasagna Recipe at

Makes 6 servings, 1 1/2 cups each


2 1/2 cups whole wheat rotini pasta or macaroni
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added
8 oz tomato sauce, no salt added
1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano,crushed or ground
1 tsp coarse Kosher salt
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated fat free Parmesan cheese
1 egg
additional salt to taste
pepper to taste


1) Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Cook the pasta as directed on the box. Drain and set aside.

2) Brown the ground turkey, onion, and garlic in a large sauce pan with high sides.  Add the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce.  Mix well and heat through.

3) Add the parsely, basil, oregano, and salt.

4) Mix the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, and egg together in a bowl.  Add to the meat mixture.  mix thoroughly and heat through, until the cheeses are melt-y.  The cheese won't melt completely.

5) Add additional salt and the pepper to taste. 

Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 336.5, Total Fat: 7.6g, Cholesterol: 86.9mg, Sodium: 560.5mg, Carbs: 33.3g, Fiber: 10.5g, Protein: 27.2g

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Veggie Burgers: A Sort-of FAIL

    This is the first time I've EVER had a veggie burger.  I'm a definite carnivore and if I'm splurging on a burger, then I want one made of real cow. 

     I also made them because my third (or maybe it was my fifth?) attempt at cooking dried kidney beans resulted once again in overcooked, mushy, ugly beans.  Seriously, I don't know what my problem is here.  They always turn out even worse than canned beans.  Except this time I wanted to salvage the beans and use them in another dish.  But not soup, I had already used them in Beverly's Parsnip Soup (fabulous, by the way) and I was tired of eating soup. 

     Hmmm, what about a veggie burger?  Or a "black" bean burger?  I've heard that these alternatives taste good.  A quick search at came up with a 4-star recipe...and even better, I already had all of the ingredients.  A "free" cooking experiment!  Sign me up.

     One of the reasons why I am obsessed with cooking dried kidney beans is because I hate the mealy, mushy texture of canned beans.  The mouthfeel is really gross.  I think (I hope) that home cooked beans would have a better texture. Plus, the sodium content of canned beans is sky high.  Rinsing and draining them reduces the sodium content but I want to get them to a true low-sodium state.  Which means cooking them at home. 

     Except I can't freaking get it right.  This is my White Whale.  Perhaps I'll spend the rest of my days, trying to cook these darned beans and dreaming about them (yes, it does happen) but I'll never get it right.  Or perhaps I'll just give up after my next try.  And yes, I am trying again.  Dried kidney beans are so cheap.  $0.99.  I'll keep trying until another obsession takes over.

     So.  Back to the veggie burger.  By itself, the veggie burger patty was...adequate.  Not even was barely edible.  It definitely needed more salt.  And more taste.  However, with lettuce, tomato, and homemade tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber sauce) the burger was Not Bad. 

     I have three more of these patties to, ahem, get through and with the help of the toppings, I'll get through them without too much grumbling.  Perhaps it was because the kidney beans were too mushy.  I don't know. But I won't be making these again. 

     However, I am intrigued by the thought of making a Good Veggie Burger.  Do you have a recipe that you like?  Please share it in the comments section!

Veggie Burger
Adapted from Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burger at

Makes 4 patties


16oz kidney beans, mashed (if using canned, rinse and drain the kidney beans before mashing them)
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1 tbsp chili powder (optional) (I didn't use any chili powder.)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp Thai chili sauce or hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup bread crumbs


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Put all of the veggies into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are diced. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

3. Add the mashed kidney beans and pulse until everything is well mixed and pureed.

4. Transfer everything to the bowl of stand mixer.  Add the egg, chili powder (optional), and Thai chili sauce (optional).  Turn the stand mixer on to the lowest setting and mix until the egg and spices are combined well.

5. Keeping the stand mixer running, slowly add the bread crumbs by the tablespoon, until the mixture becomes sticky and will hold a shape well.

6.  Form the mixture into four patties.  Brush oil onto a cookie sheet and place the patties onto the cookie sheet.  Cook in the oven for 20 minutes.  Serve on a bun with the toppings of your choice.

Nutrition Information Per Patty Only:
Calories: 198, Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 53mg, Sodium: 607mg*, Total Carbs: 33.1g, Fiber: 9.8g, Protein: 11.2g

*The sodium content is calculated for canned beans that are rinsed and drained.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Recipe From the Archives: Mom's Eggrolls

     I make my Mom's Eggrolls about once a year; I had plans to make them for Vietnamese Tet, but that came and went over a week ago!  However, I still had a hankering for Mom's cooking and so I decided to make these last weekend.

     I've updated the "old" post with pictures and two short videos.  The first video shows how to separate the eggroll wrappers (it's not difficult); the second video shows how to roll an eggroll (still not difficult).

     I've made these eggrolls for friends and co-workers.  Everyone loves them!  I'm sure you'll love them too.  They are a lot of time and work but so very worth it! 


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Homemade Thin Mints

     Thiiin Miiints.  The iconic, universally loved Girl Scout cookie.  I somehow missed the opportunity to order a box this year.  And there were no Girl Scouts selling them in front of my grocery store.  Damn. 

     I needed my annual fix.  Can I make them at home?  Surely, someone else has thought of doing this and  has posted their recipe online.  A quick search and came to my rescue. 

     These cookies taste very, very much like Thin Mints.  Thin Mints are a touch crispier but these cookies, if you gave them to a poor sod who had never had the Real Thing...he would swoon with delight.  They are Really Good.

     Even better: they are ridiculously easy to make.  You dip Nilla Wafers into melted Andes mint chocolate chips.  Are you sold yet?  I am.  These are definitely going into the Christmas cookie rotation. 

     P.S. To my awesome friend Amber: Yes, you have some coming your way!
     P.P.S. To my awesome friend Merrily: Thanks for the double boiler!  I love it!

Homemade Thin Mints
Adapted from Thin Mint Crackers at
Makes approximately 40 cookies

1 box of Nilla Wafers
10 oz bag of Andes mint chocolate chips*
1 tbsp shortening*


1) Lightly oil a cookie sheet. Set aside.

2) Fill the bottom half of a double boiler with about 2 cups of water.  Bring the water to a boil and place the top half of the double boiler on top.

3) Put the Andes mint chocolate chips in the top half of the double boiler.  Add 1 tbsp of shortening.  Stir until completely melted.

4) Drop the Nilla Wafers into the melted chocolate.  Using a fork, flip the wafer in the chocolate until it is completely covered.  Use the fork to lift the wafer out of the chocolate, tap the fork on the rim of the double boiler so that the excess chocolate drips off.  Shimmy the chocolate coated wafer onto the cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining Nilla Wafers.  I was able to get through 2/3 of the Nilla Wafers box before I ran out of chocolate.

5) Set the cookie sheet in the freezer or refrigerator to set.  It takes about 15 minutes. 

*The shortening helps keep the chocolate coating from melting in your hands when you eat the cookies.  Although melted chocolate on your fingers ain't a bad thing either!

Nutrition Information Per Cookie:
Calories: 53.3, Total Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 3.5mg, Total Carbohydrates: 7g, Fiber: 0g, Protein: 2g

Friday, February 11, 2011

One- Sentence Journal: 2/11/2011

Shortest recipe ever, via twitter (@cookbook): Easy Pizza Dough: Mix2t yeast/t salt/c flr&warm h2o. Knead+1½c flr; cvr,rise h. Roll to fit 14"x16"bkgsheet or 2 12"pans. Oil,top; 20m@400F.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One- Sentence Journal: 2/9/2011

Five Healthy Cooking Blogs That You'll Love

      I subscribe to 20-plus cooking blogs on my Google Reader.   Some of them are "big names", like The Kitchn, while others are undiscovered gems, like Lose the Boredom.  All of them focus on healthy, delicious recipes.  Here are five great-but-lesser-known food blogs, in no particular order.  Click through and check them out!

1) Lose The Boredom:  "Geek meets graduate student meets kitchen whiz wannabe!  That's me in a nutshell. When I'm not studying Spanish literature or playing with my dog, Watson, I am cooking up some healthy, low glycemic index recipes and trying to make life with Insulin Resistance a little more tasty."

2)  Nutrition to Kitchen: "Hi friends! Welcome to Nutrition to Kitchen. I'm a Registered Dietitian who loves to cook, and hope that you'll find some useful recipes to feed your appetite for good food and healthy living."

3) Cara's Cravings: "Eating well to me is being able to enjoy delicious food without sacrificing flavor or texture, and I love coming up with new recipes to satisfy that criteria."  Read her About Me page; her personal story is great!

4) Dollar Friendly Meals: "Promising delicious, healthy chow. The only condition: each dish can't cost more than a buck." 

5) Gina's Skinny Recipes: "I feature simple healthy recipes using real ingredients that are low in calories and fat. They are quick and simple to make and have been taste tested by a very critical panel, my family!"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One- Sentence Journal: 2/8/2011

I overcooked the dried red kidney beans.  Again.  This time, they are going to be reincarnated as veggie burgers. 

Beverly's Parsnip Soup

     This is fabulous! Many thanks and kudos to my friend, Beverly, who made this recipe.  Her soup is genius!

     Beverly and I go waay back: we met in high school!  She now lives in a different country but Facebook keeps us in touch.  And that's how I learned about her recipe; she linked to it on FB from SparkPeople.Com (a great website).  The recipe looked intriguing and besides, it was by Beverly!  I bookmarked it and then remembered it when I downloaded a very pretty produce calendar.  Beverly's recipe and the produce calendar inspired me to try parsnips. 

     Honestly, parsnips are ugly and not inspiring on their own.   They look like weird albino carrots.  Compare them in the photos:

     Fortunately, they tasted better than they look.  In fact, they tasted completely different than what I expected.  They had a delicate, almost... flowery scent.  Out of curiosity, I sniffed the carrots in comparison but that didn't help...I know what to expect from a carrot.  My carrots smelled like carrots : ).

     I didn't taste the raw parsnips.  I was afraid I wouldn't like them and since this was a friend's recipe, I didn't want to bias myself against the final dish.  I am so happy to report that the cooked parsnips tasted wonderful!  They retained their delicate flavor--I couldn't quite put my finger what they tasted like (probably just like parsnips) but it was damn good. 

     Beverly's soup was a perfect combination of flavors.  Each spoonful had an even balance of parsnip, carrot, and celery.  No single flavor overpowered the others.  I bet that mushrooms would be a great addition!

     I ate this soup over brown rice but it's also great on its own.  I hope that you enjoy it too!

Beverly's Parsnip Soup
Makes 6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each.


Wyler's Sodium Free, Fat Free Instant Boullion, 4 tsp
4 cups of water
Parsnips, 6 medium, chopped
Carrots, 3 medium, chopped
Kidney Beans, white or red, cooked, 3/4 cup (if using canned, rinse and drain the beans)*
Onion, 1 large, chopped
Shallot, 1 medium/large, chopped
Garlic, 4 cloves, minced
Celery, 4 stalks, sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste


1) Heat a pot over high heat.  Add the water and bring to a simmer.  Add the Wyler's Sodium Free, Fat Free Instant Boullion.  Stir to dissolve the instant boullion.  Bring the broth to a boil.  Add the parsnips, carrots, kidney beans, onion, shallot, garlic, and celery.  Bring the water back to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes; keep it on the shorter side if you prefer your vegetables a bit more firm, longer if you like your vegetable tender.  

2) Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serving suggestions:

1) Ladle over a cup of brown rice.

2) Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.  Alternatively, transfer the soup in batches to a blender and puree in batches until smooth.  You can also just puree a portion of the soup. 

Nutrition Information Per Serving**:
Calories: 214.6, Total fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 481.3mg, Total Carbohydrates: 43.3g, Fiber: 10.4g, Protein: 5.5g

*I used homecooked dried kidney beans.  I did not add any salt when I cooked them.  The nutrition information above reflects homecooked kidney beans with no salt added.  If using canned kidney beans, rinsing and draining them reduces the sodium content by quite a bit but the canned version will still have more salt than homecooked kidney beans. 

**The original recipe used 1 tbsp olive oil and the nutrition information above includes the olive oil.  I didn't use the olive oil in my version. 


Saturday, February 5, 2011

One-Sentence Journal: 2/5/2011

HaHaHaHaHaHa! Folding Chopsticks.

Salmon and Edamame Pasta

     This recipe was recommended by Nancy, a friend of mine.  She had it at Zely & Ritz, a tapas restaurant in Raleigh.  Chef Sarig Agasi was kind enough to share it with an online magazine.  He developed it for runners who are training for marathons.  Full of healthy proteins and carbohydrates, it is good fuel for a 26-miler! 

     I made some substitutions and additions to reduce the cost of the ingredients and also to stretch this recipe out to make four hearty servings.  The original called for fresh, wild caught salmon.  This was too expensive for my food budget, so I used canned salmon packed in water.  The canned salmon pushed the sodium content a little high, at 617 mg per serving.  I can live with that.

    The additions were a 1/2 cup of frozen corn and a 1/2 cup of chopped carrot.  After reading through the recipe, I decided that this was similar to a Bolognese sauce, so any veggies in a Bolognese sauce would also work here. 

     The next time I make it I'll add more veggies so that the recipe serves five, thereby bring down the sodium content per serving.  Alternatively, I can still stretch this out to five servings and just add a side salad with a vinaigrette dressing but...I know I won't bother with that!

Salmon And Edamame Pasta
Inspired by Chef Sarig Agasi's recipe
Makes 4 hearty servings

6 oz whole wheat rotini pasta
1/2 cup frozen, shelled edamame
1/2 cup sliced carrots (about 1 medium carrot)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/8 cup green olives, diced (about 10)
1/8 cup capers, drained
1 tsp dried, ground sage
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
10-12 oz of canned salmon, packed in water


1) Bring a small pot of water to boil.  Add the pasta.  Add the frozen edamame about 2 minutes before the pasta is done.  Cook until the pasta is al dente.  Drain the pasta and edamame and set aside. 

2) While the pasta is cooking, heat a large sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Spray the pan with oil (I use a Misto sprayer).  Add the carrots and cook for three minutes. Add the frozen corn.  Cook until the corn is thawed.  Mix in the red onion and pepper.  Cook the vegetable mixture until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the olives, capers, yellow onion, tomatoes, sage, and oregano.  Mix well and heat through.

3) Add the salmon and pasta to the pan.  Mix well and heat through.  Season with ground black pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 241.7, Total Fat: 3.3g, Cholesterol: 10mg, Sodium: 617mg, Total Carbohydrates: 39.8g, Fiber: 6.1g, Protein: 12.4g

Edamame Soybean on FoodistaEdamame Soybean

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Eating Seasonably: A Produce Calendar

Sweet Potatoes * Grapefruit * Artichokes * Peas * Basil * Cherries * Butter Beans * Figs * Beets * Pumpkins * Celery * Cranberries

     A year of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables presented in a handy and very pretty calendar. That's what the Cottage Industrialist has gifted to us in her blog. For free. I came across this calendar in my Google Reader; sorry I can't remember which blog highlighted it. It was probably The Kitchn.

     What I love about this downloadable PDF is that it's an easy way to see what's in season for that month--and it has inspired me to try something new every month. This month I'm going to try parsnips. Yes, those ugly root vegetables. They look like ungainly albino carrots.

      I think I've had them once before...I seem to remember that my brother-in-law, a professional gourmet chef, made parsnips when I was visiting him and my sister last year. I also seem to remember that I really enjoyed them. I never thought about them again until my friend, Beverly, posted a parsnip recipe on her Facebook wall. She really enjoyed it and I'm going to make it this weekend. I'll definitely post about it! The recipe sounds delicious and I really look forward to trying it!

      Here's the link for the pretty, printable produce calendar from the Cottage Industrialist.

      Oh, the list of fruits and veggies above? It's the in-season produce for that month. Cool.

One-Sentence Journal: 2/2/2011

Wow. Very. Cool. The Google Art Project.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Best of January 2011: Favorites Recipes and Popular Posts

     Goodbye, January!  Here's a "Best of.."  I had two memorable recipes that I will definitely make again.  And links to the most popular posts from might be surprised!  I was!

My favorite recipes from January, 2011:
Chicken and Couscous:  OMG.  This is the best meal I've made this year...
Pasta with Clam Sauce:  Looks like a pan full of... pasta.  The secret is hidden in plain sight...

The three most popular posts from January, 2011:

#1: One-Sentence Journal, 1/25/2011: My new toy...

#2: Homemade Greek Yogurt, Part I: I don't like regular yogurt but I love Greek yogurt for several reasons...

#3: One-Sentence Journal, 1/10/2011: Holy Jesus...

One-Sentence Journal: 2/1/2011

I would grow this except it totally grosses me out: Easy-To-Grow Mushroom Garden.