Friday, January 31, 2014

Pastrami and Olive Muffaletta

Not too long ago, I began my journey in clinics with ER psychiatry at the county hospital, and today is my last day here after a great month. Each day is (to put it mildly) exciting. As one of my attendings put it, "You'll always have lots of interesting stories when you work here."

I knew in clinics, I'd be eating a lot of sandwiches and on the go foods. But, since it's psychiatry, a relatively light rotation, I have time to make fancy sandwiches at least. 
Pastrami Olive Muffaletta New Orleans Sandwich Panini

A muffaletta is round Sicilian sesame bread and also a New Orlean sandwich invented by Italian immigrants in the French Quarter. It's filled with Italian ham and salami, olive salad, and cheese.
Pastrami Olive Muffaletta New Orleans Sandwich Panini
The key ingredient are the delicious olives, and since I had this olive tapanade, I wanted to make my own version of a muffaletta. It's not "authentic" but this combination happened to be the ingredients I had already (or rather, what my parents gave me from Costo so I don't starve on rotations). Traditionally it's served cold, and I've been eating a lot of cold sandwiches in the hospital break room. I'm just that dedicated to authenticity.

Pastrami and Olive Muffaletta

2 slices, Italian bread
4-6 slices pastrami
2 slices gouda cheese
4 tbps olive tapanade (I used Trader Joe's)
olive oil

Cut loaves of bread in half. Spread each piece of bread with equal amounts olive tapande. Layer pastrami, gouda, spinach and assemble sandwich.

Drizzle olive oil and heat in a panini press or skillet.

Serve immediately, or wrap tightly and refrigerate for a few hours, allowing for the flavors to mingle and the olive tapanade to soak into the bread. Serve cold.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Asian Lettuce Wraps

People think lettuce wraps come from P. F. Chang's. Well my mom's been making these way before P.F. Chang's came around (1993 incidentally) 
lettuce wrap pork peas spam hoisin PF chang
We use pork, mushroom, peas, and the secret ingredient ... spam. Yes I know Americans don't like spam, but we Filipinos love this stuff. Spam is the one processed food I haven't been able to resist.

Hans: I can't believe you still like spam. It's made of everything you're against.
Chef Uy: Um... it's cause I haven't looked at what it's made of yet.

For now, I will defer researching the spam process, lest it kill my appetite like when I looked up maraschino cherries. Anyways, for you non Filipino/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander readers, ham is also a possible substitute.
PF Chang lettuce wrap
Now the only thing I have to figure out is how to make the perfect cups. Lettuce leaves are very uncooperative.
Asian Lettuce Wraps spam pork mushroom peas

Asian Lettuce Wraps

2 Tbsp oil
2 lb ground pork
soy sauce, to taste
1 can spam, diced (or ham)
1 bag frozen peas
salt and pepper, to taste
1 head lettuce, leaves removed
hoisen sauce, to dip

Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground pork in oil. Add soy sauce, hoisin sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in diced spam and peas. Continue cooking until done.

Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center. 

To serve, spoon meat onto each lettuce cup. Add hoisen sauce, and wrap the lettuce around the meat.
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Friday, January 24, 2014

Raspberry Jam Macarons

Since I was home for break, I wanted to make something fancy. And what is fancier than macarons?
Whenever I go home though, I definitely regress and get lazy (exercise, studying, and good sleeping habits fly out the window). Cooking also can get lazy too. I used Bob's Mills almond flour so I didn't have to deal with grinding the flour like the other almond butter fiasco. Also, I didn't feel like tempering chocolate for ganache, or struggle with mixing buttercream, so jam is naturally an easy alternative (And to make myself feel better, macarons with jam is a new variation, so it's really a culinary endeavor)
I decided to try a raspberry filling and found these gourmet jams given as a Christmas gift.  I couldn't decide which one to try; one was a raspberry peach champagne and the other was holiday jam, and did both.

Normally, I don't like jam. Well, I love this jam. 

These jams weren't overly sweet, but had a subtle spiciness with lots of other flavors. So I stole them from mom's pantry and brought them back to my apartment.

Raspberry Jam Macarons

3/4 cups ground almond flour (Bob's Mills)
scant 1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 extra large egg whites
1/4 cup superfine sugar
2-3 drops red food coloring
good quality raspberry jam, for filling

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and a piping template underneath.

Sift ground almonds and confectioner's sugar in a bowl.

Beat egg whites with a mixer until whites form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar until egg whites are glossy, fluffy, and hold soft peaks.

Fold the almond mixture, one third at a time, into the egg whites with a spatula. When the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, keep folding mixture until it forms a shiny batter with a thick, ribbonlike consistency.

Spoon batter into a plastic bag (or piping bag). Cut a corner cut off and pipe small circles (about 1 1/3 inches in diameter) onto prepared baking sheet. If the circles hold peaks instead of flattening, gently fold the batter a few more times.

Tap the baking sheets to get rid of air bubbles. Let stand out at room temperature for 30 min, until they form a hard shiny skin on top.

Preheat preheated oven at 325 F for 10 minutes. Let cookies cool completely before filling.

Size match macarons and align so that the bottom cookies faces up and the top cookies face down. Fill the cookies with jam and sandwich macarons together.
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Monday, January 20, 2014

Empanadas Mendocinas (Argentinean beef empanadas)

I suddenly decided I wanted to make empanadas. So I did. I am a very goal oriented person indeed.
Empanadas Mendocinas Argentinean beef empanadas pastry hispanic hand pie
Speaking of goals, I actually worked on my 2013 goals, which is a new record (estudiar español, exercise more, and work on OCD which hit 20,000 pageviews as of today! Thanks guys!). 

I am still recycling my new year goals from last year: run, speak spanish, and learn to type properly. We'll see how that goes (my "don't eat late at night" and "sleep 8 hrs a day" goals last year utterly failed).
beef empanada filling
Empanadas (flaky pastry dough containing filling of meat, vegetables, cheese, etc) are seen in lots of different countries, from Southern Europe to Africa to Latin America/Mexico to the US to Southeast Asia (basically everywhere).  I personally don’t like the Filipino version that much (raisins, meh!), but I love the Hispanic varieties. I stumbled upon this awesome Ecuadorian site called Laylita's Recipes, and after searching through tons of empanada recipes, decided on this Argentinian one. The crust was absolutely delicious and flaky.
beef empanada crust recipe
These do take some effort to make, but having friends over sped up the process and was way more fun. The trickiest part is making sure the meat doesn’t explode out of the crust from overstuffing.

This is a rather hearty meat pie, so you can only eat so much at once, and it’s excellent accompanied by a salad or vegetables. This makes about 15 medium empanadas
Empanadas Mendocinas Argentinean beef empanadas filling

Empanadas Mendocinas (Argentinean beef empanadas)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
½ cup butter, chilled
¾ cup warm milk
½ tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp chili powder / crushed red pepper
½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp fresh oregano
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
¼ cup sliced green olives
1 egg, lightly whisked

Mix the flour and salt until well combined. Add the chilled butter, cutting into chunks (or pulsing with a food processor) until crumbly. Add the egg yolk and the milk slowly, and mix until small dough clumps form. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and cut out round disc shapes. Use the empanada discs immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

Combine the ground beef, paprika, chili powder/red pepper, and cumin in a large bowl.
Heat olive oil, and add the onions. Cook until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the ground beef mixture and cook on medium heat until the meat is done. Once cooled, mix in the chopped green onions and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F

To assemble the empanadas, add a spoonful of the meat mixture on the center of each empanada disc. Add egg and olive slices.

Brush the edges of the empanada discs with the egg. Fold the empanada discs and seal the edges gently with your fingers. Lightly brush the top of the empanadas with the egg for a golden glow when they bake. Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden.
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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Peanut Mochi

Mochi is a sticky Japanese dessert made using mochiko (rice flour). I've eaten mochi filled with ice cream, yellow custard, and red bean, but my personal favorite is peanuts and sugar.

Whenever we drove to Houston's Chinatown for weekend trips, Dad would call this old Asian lady who ran a tiny bakery in the corner of an old run down mall. She was petite, hunched over, and looked like Grandmother from Disney's Mulan with wrinkles and grey hair and moles. We always ordered a few dozen mochis as soon as we drove into town, and then right before we left, order an additional dozen or so for to-go. This mall was rather sad and empty, but I'm pretty sure we could single handedly support this bakery if we lived in Houston.
peanut mochi coconut mochiko flour sugar asian dessert dimsum
We visited this bakery for years and years and then one day, we found the lady retired. My family gasped in horror. No more mochi!! Thus, we became mochi-less, occasionally buying from random groceries, but we had lost our beloved trusted mochi source.
mochi desiccated coconut
I finally decided to adapt this mochi recipe from Christine's Recipes. I don't have a steamer, but a microwave works perfectly well. Covering the plate with plastic wrap and a wet paper towel helps mimic the steaming, so it's much softer (otherwise, the edges can develop a tough crust).

Rolling the mochi into balls can be difficult due to its stickiness; some recipes call for using cornstarch, powdered sugar, or potato starch for easier handling. I didn't really want those to affect the taste, so I just dusted extra mochiko as the flour and lots of dessicated coconut.
mochi filling peanuts coconut mochiko flour sugar asian dessert dimsum

We overfilled the first few mochi balls and it kept bursting with peanuts; the more we tried to patch it up the more they fell apart. So the best way to fix that is just cover with tons of coconut to disguise the damage.
Coconut Mochi with Peanut Filling
Voila! Mochi! I should open my own bakery
1 cup glutinous rice flour (mochiko)
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup coconut milk
desiccated coconut to coat mochi

1/4 cup crushed peanuts
sugar, to taste
1/8 cup desiccated coconut


Combine glutinous rice flour with sugar; mix well. Gradually stir in coconut milk until smooth. Transfer flour mixture in a shallow microwave safe plate.

Cover plate with microwave safe plastic wrap and lay a moist paper towel over it. Microwave 2 min at a time, checking until done (it took me about 10 min). Poke the mochi to test if it’s cooked; it should be soft but just solid. Let cool.

Cut into 6-10 small portions. Dust with additional mochiko and dessicated coconut for easier handling. Knead each into a small disc.

Mix the filling in a bowl and spoon it into the middle of the disk. Make sure not to add too much or it will burst. Fold the edge to seal the mochi. Lightly roll it into a ball shape, then coat with desiccated coconut. Store at room temperature; don't refrigerate it or it may harden.
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Turkey and Pinto Bean Chili

I bought a huge amount of beans for my $4.50 a day food stamp diet from way back. Since I had so much extra, I figured chili was the perfect way to use them up (just in time to celebrate the cold weather). To save money, I boiled the chicken bones from previous meals with water to make the chicken broth; it's a trick my mom does all the time.

This is a super easy one pot recipe adapted from Bon Appétit; however, I have the ability to screw up any recipe.
turkey chili pinto bean chocolate
I wasn't thinking and added quintuple the chocolate amount. Quintuple! I was tasting and it seemed ok... until all the chocolate melted simultaneously and I was left with a pot of chocolate soup with tomatoes and meat. Not cool. Unfortunately, I also used some unsweetened chocolate from Peru - 100% pure bitterness, which didn't help the problem one bit. Basically it was awful.

To fix it, I had to "wash" the chili several times over: basically, I put the chili in a sieve and ran water through it until the excessive bitter chocolate flavor was gone. I re-added the tomatoes, chicken broth, and spices.

Problem solved! It's filling and hearty, especially with toppings, cornbread, and a salad. Anyways, the great thing about cooking is that it's way more forgiving than baking
quick easy healthy turkey chili
Serve with cornbread!

Turkey and Pinto Bean Chili

1 small onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb ground turkey
1 tablespoon each: chili powder/paprika, cumin, dried oregano, crushed red pepper
4 jalapenos
1 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained
1 cup lima beans
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
salt and pepper

plain yogurt or sour cream
cheddar cheese, grated

Sauté onion, bell peppers and garlic over high heat until vegetables begin to soften. Add turkey and sauté until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Mix in chili powder/paprika, cumin, oregano, and crushed red pepper and stir 1 minute.

Add jalapenos, pinto beans, tomatoes with juices, broth, and chocolate. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until chili thickens. Add cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot. Top with plain yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, and cheese.
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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice (Khao Pad Sapparot)

I was super excited to find pineapple for 97 cents at the local grocery. 97 cents is such a steal, and it fit perfectly into my $4.50 a day budget challenge. I was so excited I immediately texted B and my mom and my dad my awesome discovery.

I also text B all my other great "Hey, gas is $2.90!," so he's used to my, uh, appreciation of the small things in life.
thai fried rice in pineapple
Fried rice is super easy and a main medical school staple. It's the Asian "casserole"for leftovers in the fridge. The trick to fried rice is using OLD rice and cook with high heat (make sure all ingredients are prepared). I made the rookie mistake of using fresh rice the first I tried this and it became a mushy mess. Similarly, don't go crazy adding sauce because additional liquid makes it mushy. And scramble the eggs ahead of time for the same reason.

Thai fried rice in particular has the fun addition of pineapple. Normally I don't like cooked fruits (eww, ham and pineapple pizza), but I have always been a huge fan of pineapple fried rice. You can't beat the style points when you present your dish inside a gorgeous pineapple.
Thai Pineapple Fried Rice recipe Khao Pad Sapparot
Nerdy fun fact: "Pineapples contain a plant enzyme called bromelain; it breaks down protein, making it a natural meat tenderizer. Bromelain also induce a prickly sensation in the mouth when consumed.

Although the enzyme is in all parts of the pineapple plant, it's most concentrated in the stem and the core (which is edible, although tougher). Many people believe that letting a pineapple sit overnight helps take away the irritation, but the best way is to cut out the core (source)"

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice (Khao Pad Sapparot)

1 cup pineapple, chopped (save the shell to serve)
3 eggs
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cups cooked rice (at least 1 day old)
1 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons curry powder (to taste)
1/2-1 tablespoon paprika (to taste)
1/2-1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
5-6 thai chiles
2 red bell peppers (or any vegetable), diced
1/4 cup cashews, roasted
1 cup cooked chicken pieces
3 green onions, sliced
pepper, to taste

Halve the pineapple lengthwise and hollow out each half. Cut the pineapple into 1 inch cubes and set aside.

Scramble the eggs with some oil in a wok; remove and set aside in a bowl. Heat oil in a wok with the onion, garlic, and ginger. Stir fry until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked rice to the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes over high heat. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, curry, paprika, red pepper, and thai chilies; continue stir frying. Add bell peppers/vegetables, pineapple, cashews, and chicken as well as the scrambled eggs and stir fry until combined and cooked. Adjust spices to taste.

Remove from the heat and fill prepared pineapple with rice for serving. Garnish with green onions.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Apple Cider Caramel Cookies

I am not meant to survive in cold weather. Thank goodness I visited in December and not now. It's in the minus teens. That kind of temperature is unfathomable to me.

When walking around the Chicago Zoo Lights at night when I visited him last month, my hands and feet hurt SO badly. Despite double gloves and tall boots, I just kind of whimpered in pain as I warmed my hands on B's stomach (my icy hands are painful for him too, but he's a trooper and took the hit). B says my hands (and feet) must have terrible circulation.

B took me to a classy jazz club, and I wanted to be grown up and order a drink like an adult. I didn't know what anything was on the menu so I tried their hard cider. It tasted just like delicious apple cider with no alcohol. I only had one, and before long I was feeling sleepy (due to the 2 am time, not the alcohol, of course)
apple cider caramel cookies recipe
Cold weather means it's time for hot cider. And cookies are appropriate for any weather. I stumbled upon these apple cider caramel cookies recipe from Six Sisters. The idea of using cider in cookies and stuffing them with caramel was a great combination, perfect for the freezing Chicago weather.
apple cider cookies caramel filling
B loves soft cookies, and these are nice and chewy. They're amazing when fresh from the oven, and you can recreate the freshly baked cookie goodness by popping these in the microwave briefly (oah, how the caramel bubbles!)
Apple Cider Caramel Cookies snow day

Apple Cider Caramel Cookies 

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 box (10 packets) Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Mix, sugar free
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together butter, sugar, salt, and all 10 packets of apple cider mix until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract, then mix in the baking soda and baking powder. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

With your hands, scoop 1 inch balls onto the baking sheets 2 inches apart. Flatten the dough with your palm, and spoon place t teaspoon of caramel in the center. Wrap the dough around the caramel to seal. Slightly flatten the cookie again with palm.

Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the parchment paper or on a cooling rack.
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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rum Eggnog Ice Cream

January, with its post Christmas let down, has to be one of the most deflating times of the year for me. Everyone takes down the Christmas tree and lights. We finally realize we can't fit into our pants anymore. Leftover holiday decor lies scattered and disheveled in the 75% off clearance section. Holiday treats also go on clearance, since apparently drinking eggnog or eating Santa decorated cookies during January is totally inappropriate.

What to do with all the extra eggnog? Make ice cream of course.
rum eggnog ice cream
I made rum eggnog ice cream (adapted from Gourmet) on New Year Eve to accompany my sister's irish liquor pound cake since alcohol is always a must on New Year's.

On a random aside, my parents have suddenly decided they want to be bartenders; we've visited the liquor store quite a few times as they concoct their cocktails. Except everyone is weak sauce at drinking alcohol due to Asian glow.

The eggnog ice cream was devoured before I could take a good picture, so I made another batch for my family, as a parting farewell before I drove back today to begin orientation for clinics (further adding insult to my post holiday blues). It's back to reality.

Rum Eggnog Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
2 cups eggnog
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum (or extract)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, plus to garnish

Bring milk and salt to a boil in a saucepan over moderate heat.

Whisk together yolks and sugar in a bowl, then gradually add in hot milk to temper the eggs. Add yolk and milk mixture back to the in pan slowly, whisking. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened, coats back of spoon.  Stir in rum, vanilla, and nutmeg.

Chill custard, covered, until cold, at least 2 hours. Freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours. Soften slightly in refrigerator before serving, about 20 minutes.
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Friday, January 3, 2014

Coconut Almond Ice Cream

Ok, I caved in from 3 reasons why Natalie should not get an ice cream machine. I told B in late November I changed my mind and wanted to an ice cream machine for Christmas.

B: Oh man.... You really want an ice cream machine? Well, I’m remembering today’s, our lives change forever. Today is the beginning of when we all start progressing to obesity irreversibly. Our kids in the future will never have a chance with this thing around.
N: But ice cream is so good!!!
B: Ok, we’ll be a happy family. An obese family, but also a happy one, nonetheless.

And he ordered one for me that night. True love right there. 
It arrived at my parents' house in a few days; the family gathered around the glorious package. Dad wanted to open it immediately.

Chef Uy: We can't open it yet! It's not even December; who opens Christmas gifts in November?!!
Dad: So?
Chef Uy: Our willpower is even worse than when I have five!

Of course, now it's Jan and in the midst of new year goals for eating healthier, my little Cuisineart baby is ruining it. It's red and pretty, and I've made three four batches of ice cream in two weeks. Resolutions, what? Adapted from Yummly.

Coconut Almond Ice Cream

1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup grated or desiccated coconut
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup almonds
*to make vegan/dairy free, replace milk with coconut milk and omit egg yolk

Put the grated coconut in a large, heavy saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir the coconut until it begins to brown. Add both milks and bring just to a boil.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Slowly pour the hot coconut-milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, then pour the mixture back into the pan. Add almond extract. Set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring until the custard thickens (5 mins). Do not allow the custard to boil.

Refrigerate or ice bath the custard until very cold. Strain out the grated coconut (to avoid clogging the machine when it churns) and set aside. Pour into ice cream machine and churn according to directions. Once done, add the grated coconut you've set aside and almonds into ice cream.

Serve immediately or freeze for several hours to further harden the ice cream.
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