In the Kitchen

What’s for Lunch?

Sometimes a simple ham and egg sandwich will suffice. Egg cooked sunny side up.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Broiled Parmesan Tilapia

This is another staple dish in our house. Super easy to make and my family never gets tired of eating this. We eat it with steamed rice and vegetables.

6 tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

For cheese sauce:
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
juice from a small lemon
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
salt and pepper

1. Season tilapia fillets with salt and pepper.
2. Combine ingredients for cheese sauce in a small bowl.
3. Line broiler pan with aluminum foil and arrange tilapia fillets in a single layer on the pan.
4. Broil for 3 minutes.
5. Turn tilapia fillets and broil for 2 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and pour cheese mixture over the fillets.
7. Broil for another 2 minutes.
8. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top, if desired.

Serves 4 to 6.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Moroccan-Style Tilapia

I love the earthy flavor of this dish paired with the freshness of the mango salsa. When my family wants a break from eating red meat, I prepare this dish for a light, healthy alternative.

6 tilapia fillets
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
salt and pepper
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the mango salsa:
1 mango, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon white sugar
juice from 2 limes
salt and pepper

1. Season tilapia fillets with salt and pepper.
2. Rub cumin and coriander all over tilapia fillets.
3. Melt half of the butter on a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
4. Pan-fry half of the tilapia fillets until cooked through.
5. Do the same for the rest of the tilapia fillets, using the remaining butter and olive oil.
4. Serve with mango salsa over steamed rice.

For the mango salsa: Combine all ingredients for the mango salsa in a bowl. IF possible, refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flavors marinate.

Serves 4 to 6.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

What’s for Lunch?

Cucumber sandwich: sliced cucumbers with cream cheese and mint leaves on pumpernickel bread. Seasoned with salt and pepper.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Portobello Mushroom Burger

A hearty vegetarian dish for those meat-free days. Build your sandwich with your favorite fixins. We like to combine the grilled mushroom with roasted bell pepper, avocado, tomato, onion, and goat cheese plus a drizzling of balsamic glaze on an onion hamburger bun or sweet Hawaiian bun.

4 Portobello mushroom caps
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
4 burger buns

1. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic to make vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Marinate mushrooms in vinaigrette for 15 minutes while preheating grill.
3. Grill mushrooms for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender.

Suggested Sandwich Fixins:
reduced balsamic glaze
roasted bell pepper
tomato slices
avocado slices
onion slices
choice of cheese: I like to use goat cheese.

Serves 4.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Fried Tofu

Here’s a quick and easy recipe – perfect for vegetarians! For those skeptical about tofu, give it a try, you might be surprised!

1. Cut a block of firm tofu into bite-sized cubes.
2. Pan-fry tofu cubes in olive oil until browned.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Serve with sweet and sour sauce mixed with some ground peanuts, if desired.

If you want crisper tofu and with more flavor, lightly coat the tofu in flour and garlic powder before pan-frying.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

What’s for Breakfast?

French Vanilla yogurt with granola, strawberries, and a drizzle of honey.
Eating healthy for many more tomorrows.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

My friend Lar taught me how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. And my family can’t get enough of it. Aside from the rice vermicelli noodles and the rice wrappers, most of the ingredients are not set in stone. You’re not going to mess up if you don’t add bean sprouts, for example. The amount of ingredients may vary as well. I love cilantro, so I may opt to use more cilantro than basil – although, I must admit, I love basil as much as cilantro. It’s all about using ingredients you love.

I’m going to show two variations of this spring roll. One is made with shrimp because Mica loves shrimp and one is made with roasted chicken and crushed pork rinds because, well, who doesn’t love pork rinds?

8- to 10-oz. package of rice vermicelli noodles
12-oz. package of rice wrappers or tapioca flakes

About half a head of Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
A handful of fresh Thai basil leaves
A handful of fresh mint leaves
A handful of fresh cilantro leaves
A handful of bean sprouts
About 3 to 4 spring onions, cut into 1-inch lengths

For the shrimp spring rolls:
½ medium-size shrimps

For the chicken spring rolls:
2-oz package of pork rinds,* crushed/ground
2 or more cups roasted chicken,** cut in cubes

For the sauce:
2 cups water
1 to 2 limes
A tablespoon or more of salt
A tablespoon or more of sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
A tablespoon or more of chili sauce

* I love pork rinds, so I probably use more than 2 oz. I also like using the salt-and-vinegar-flavored pork rinds. You can grind them in a large mortar and pestle or a food processor, if you have one.

** Leftover roasted chicken from last night’s dinner is perfect for this.

1. Cook the vermicelli noodles in a pot of boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente, and drain. Using your hands, pick up the noodles in small bundles and lightly squeeze them to remove excess water. Cut the bundles into thirds or 1-inch lengths, then set aside on a separate bowl or platter. (If the noodles are too hot to handle, rinse them first in cold water.)

2. Mix the lettuce, basil, mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, and spring onions in a bowl. Set aside.

3. For the chicken spring rolls, combine the chicken and crushed pork rinds in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. You can also add a sprinkling of sugar if you want to add a hint of sweetness. Set aside.

4. For the shrimp spring rolls, boil the shrimps in salted water for a minute. Drain and set aside.

5. Now you’re ready to make some rolls. Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip a wrapper in the water for a second to soften, then lay it flat on a large cutting board or any clean, flat surface.

6. Place a handful of the herb-and-lettuce mixture and some rice vermicelli on the wrapper about 2 inches from the bottom. (see above photo)

7. Fold the bottom of the wrapper once over the filling, then add 3 shrimps on top of the folded part of the wrapper (if making shrimp spring rolls) or a heaping spoonful of the chicken-pork-rind mixture (if making chicken spring rolls).

8. Continue tightly folding the wrapper until you’ve made a roll, making sure the sides are folded inwards.

9. For the sauce, heat about 2 cups water in a small saucepan until it comes to a boil. You are going to make a light sweet and sour mixture by adding salt, sugar, lime juice, and chili sauce to taste. Start by adding juice from half a lime and a tablespoon each of salt and sugar. Continue adding more salt, sugar, and lime, a little at a time, to adjust to your taste. When you’re satisfied with the combination of saltiness, sweetness, and tanginess of the mixture, add the chili sauce – again, to taste. Then add the minced garlic and simmer for 5 more minutes.

10. Serve the spring rolls with the sweet and sour sauce.

There you go! It really is easier than I probably made it sound. I encourage you to try it. I promise you, it’s great food!

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Chicken Nuggets, Italian Style

When I told the girls we were having chicken nuggets for lunch, they both screamed “Eowww!”. After watching the very first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and seeing how processed chicken nuggets were made, they vowed never to eat chicken nuggets again. I had to convince them that I’m making something entirely different – these were the good kind, made from yummy chicken tenders, the way Giada de Laurentiis makes them.

1. Marinate chicken tender strips in buttermilk for an hour up to overnight in the fridge. (It’s better if you pound the chicken strips first so they’re nice and thin.)

2. When you’re ready to cook, coat the chicken strips in a mixture of breadcrumbs and Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese.

3. Pan-fry the strips until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Serve the chicken strips with a garlic-balsamic dipping sauce. To make the dipping sauce, mince 2 to 3 cloves of garlic. Put the garlic in a small bowl and add about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Slowly whisk in about 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil until the sauce emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: To make sure the chicken strips are cooked through, I put them in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes after frying. (If you pounded the chicken strips thin, you shouldn’t have to worry about not cooking them thoroughly in the pan.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Vietnamese Pho Party

I got introduced to pho when a Vietnamese restaurant opened a few blocks from my home a few months ago. I found this dish so comforting that lately, it’s been a staple in my diet. My dear friend Lar taught me how to prepare this comfort food at home. And let me tell ya, it’s perfect for a get-together among friends or family.

All you need to do is make the stock ahead of time and prepare the fixins so that your guests can build their own pho. I’ll guide you on what you need so you can give it a try in your own homes.

The beef stock, in my opinion, is the heart of this dish. If you’ve never made beef stock before, it is really simple. (Of course if you’re vegetarian, you can substitute vegetable stock for beef stock.)

Basic Beef Stock for Pho
About 5 lb soup bone with marrow
About 8 quarts water

1. Combine soup bone and water in a large stockpot.
2. Bring to a boil. If foam starts to rise, skim it off.
3. Partially cover and simmer for about 2 to 3 hours.

If you want to keep it lean, prepare the day before. Refrigerate overnight and when you’re ready to use, skim any hardened fat from the surface before putting it back on the stove to reheat. (The soup bones I use are so lean, I barely get any fat at all.) You can keep the beef stock in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.

Now, when you go to the meat market and ask for soup bones and get ‘dog bones’ instead, don’t wreak havoc. They’re the same thing. Of course, it won’t hurt to verify with the meat market person.

A few minutes before the party, you can prep the fixins. I have fixin suggestions to make either a beef pho or a seafood pho … or a combined beef-seafood pho. It’s a really flexible dish!

Pho Fixins and Condiments
1 lb rice stick (Banh Pho Thuong Hang)
Medium to large onion, sliced

For Beef Pho:
About 1/2 lb beef sirloin or New York strip, thinly sliced
(To cut it nice and thin, leave in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes.)

For Seafood Pho:
About 1/2 lb shrimp, cooked
About 1/2 lb squid, cooked
About 1/2 lb crabmeat, cooked

A handful of Thai basil
A handful of cilantro
A handful of spring onions, sliced
About 2 cups bean sprouts
Lime wedges

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 to 4 tablespoons fish sauce
Bottle of oyster sauce, served on the table
Sriracha hot chili sauce, served on the table

1. Keep the beef stock simmering. Add sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce to taste. Add the onion slices.
2. Soak the rice stick in warm water for 5 to 8 minutes or until softened.
3. Cook the beef in a colander submerged in the stock just until it changes color. Transfer on a serving plate.
4. Arrange the basil, cilantro, spring onions, bean sprouts, and lime wedges on a large platter.
5. Arrange the condiments, platter of fixins, and various meats on the dining table.

Assembling the Pho
Time for the party! Soak the rice sticks for each serving in boling water for a few seconds. We like to use 2-quarts serving bowls as soup bowls. Transfer the rice sticks in the bowl and pour 2 or 3 ladles of beef stock over it. Let each person assemble his own pho, according to his liking. Then eat with chopsticks, slurping is encouraged!

Lar, and her husband Dave, introduced me to Moscato. My favorite, so far, is the Gallo. Pho and Moscato with great friends – good times!

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Peanut Butter and Banana Wrap

Here’s my version of a kicked-up PB&J sandwich. It’s great for an afternoon snack or for lunch, served with fruits or vegetables. It only takes a few minutes to prepare – perfect for busy schedules. Mica and Rinoa love it!

1. Spread peanut butter on a large flour tortilla.
2. Place a banana, sliced in half lengthwise, on top.
3. Drizzle with honey and fold like a burrito.
4. Toast or pan-grill on the stove.

Serves 1.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.

In the Kitchen

Banana Pudding

This is actually the recipe for Magnolia Bakery’s famous banana pudding. I have never seen anyone not like this banana pudding. Even my cousin who hates eating fruit desserts love this!

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1½ cups ice cold water
1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers
4 cups sliced ripe bananas

1. Mix the condensed milk and water in a large bowl until well combined. Add the pudding mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before continuing. (It is very important to allow the pudding mixture to set properly.)
2. Whip the heavy cream in an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.
3. To assemble the dessert, arrange one-third of the wafers to cover the bottom of a wide bowl or food container, overlapping if necessary, then one-third of the bananas and one-third of the pudding. Repeat the layering two more times. Garnish the top with wafer crumbs. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator overnight before serving. (I think the longer you wait, the yummier it gets.)

Note: I often assemble the banana pudding in covered containers, making it perfect for gift giving.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.