Thursday, December 31, 2015

Crispy Craisin Oatmeal Cookies With White Chocolate Drizzle

I can't believe it's the last day of 2015. This has probably the most action packed year - from taking my USMLE exams for residency (part 1 and 2!) to going to Africa to work with HIV pediatric patients to applying for residency (ah, 4th year!) and of course getting engaged.
I'm excited to be done with interviews for the holidays. I've flown all over the country and somehow I managed to get through the trail without booking a single hotel - thank goodness for friends and family (and various degrees of separation)!

What's even more nice is seeing Bryan every 2 weeks through the past 2 months as our schedule matched up. It's like having a real life fiancé lol.

I spent the early holidays with his family, and of course I always bake for them. B's mother loves oatmeal cookies, and these crispy oatmeal cookie, adapted from Joy of Baking, are extra special with a secret ingredient to make them crunchy.

Can you guess? They're rice crispies (or using what I had already, Kashi)!
This is the first year, I didn't leave out cookies and milk for Santa. I did make cookies - they just happened to be eaten by a certain fiance first.

N: *Takes out cookies hot from the oven*
B: Oh my, I needed to check these cookies to ensure freshness. *eats immediately*
N: Y U eat my cookies already!! Wait for the white chocolate drizzle first!!!! D:
Thank you to all my readers who've supported and followed me ^_^ 2016 is going to be an exciting year!

Crispy Craisin Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Drizzle

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup crasins
1 cups rice cereal (I used Kashi GoLean)

1 bar white chocolate*
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)

CRISPY CRAISIN OATMEAL COOKIES: With an electric mixer cream the butter and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and honey and stir manually until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Gradually pour the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix manually until just incorporated. Stir in the oats, white chocolate chips, and then gently stir in the rice cereal. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about one hour).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the chilled dough into 2-3 inch balls then flatten the cookies slightly with your palm. Bake the cookies for about 10 - 13 minutes or until golden brown. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.

Chop the white chocolate bar roughly and place in a metal bowl. On a double boiler, heat the water to a simmer. Slowly melt the chocolate; add vegetable oil to thin if needed. Drizzle white chocolate using the fork over cookies and let cool to harden.

* Melting White Chocolate 101 (Chowhound)
  • Use high quality white chocolate bars. Chips will have stabilizers that affect melting. Only white chocolate that has cocoa butter will melt and can be drizzled - Ghirardelli, Baker's, and Lindt are suggested options
  • When using a double boiler, keep the water only at a simmer. Do not boil the water - if it's too hot the chocolate will seize. 
  • Don't get any moisture into the chocolate or it will seize. 

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Coconut Matcha Frappuccino

Between coffee and tea, I'll always go for tea. Especially green tea. B says my blood is actually comprised of green tea... very dilute green tea ("water" as he calls it) - just the way I like to drink my tea.

Also, I have a great affinity for coconuts. B (being the devoted fiance) has chopped probably almost a hundred coconuts for me over the past 5 years. B also says the part of my blood that's not green tea is coconut juice.
As I've been back in California several times over the last few months for medical conferences, residency interviews, and (right now) visiting the future in-laws , I'm always astounded by the sheer number of Asians as well as the Asian influences - the best one being snacks and desserts of course. From sesame shaved ice to coconut mochi to green tea cakes, I've gained, er, a few pounds on the interview trail.
One of my favorite indulgences is the Starbucks frappuccino. For a student on a budget (not only money-wise, but also calorie-wise), this recipe is a great alternative, all while adding my favorite asian flavors. Also, it's vegan friendly (yup, I'm definitely in NorCal/Bay Area right now).

I've mixed up the matcha frappe with coconut milk, made by grating of the white inner flesh of a brown coconut. This adds an awesome rich flavor that other milks just don't have. Again, I'm working with the awesome Aiya matcha to bring you this fun frappe - that gorgeous green color is 100% real.
I love the artsy colors. Layering matcha with the coconut milk makes it super pretty.

The peak of my artsiness and creativity was during college - a lifetime ago! Visiting Stanford years later now, I've been astonished by all the changes in the art department - a brand new building and and a gorgeous new art museum. Alas, my old art studios lie half demolished ("Good riddance, I spent many midnights in that horrible studio cleaning your paintbrushes as a sign of my undying love" - B).
I won't bore you with rehashing all the superfood and health benefits of matcha, as you can read about matcha facts in my other recipes - Ombre Matcha Lemon Cake and Mini Green Tea and Chocolate Mousse Cake. Enjoy this delicious drink!

Coconut Matcha Frappuccino

2 cups almond milk
1 tbsp Aiya matcha
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 cup ice cubes, crushed
1/2 cup coconut milk
whipped cream
black sesame seeds, to garnish

Divide the almond milk into 1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup. In a blender, blend 1 1/2 cups of the almond milk, matcha, honey, and ice.

In a mason jar, combine coconut milk and the remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk. To layer the frappucino, carefully scoop the blended matcha so it floats on top of the coconut/almond milk mixture. Serve in a tall glass topped generously with whipped cream and black sesame seeds. Enjoy!
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Sunday, December 6, 2015

No Bake Chocolate Pomegranate Tart

Undeniably, I am a nerd. B tells me this all the time when I read "weird things" and sprout out random facts (my "fun facts of the day").
My first introduction to pomegranates was the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades. Because she ate 6 seeds of the pomegranate from the underworld, she remains there for 6 months while her mother Demeter, goddess of the harvest, mourns, hence giving us seasons.

Another story is that the forbidden fruit, plucked and eaten by Adam and Eve, was not an apple, but the pomegranate. As the fruit originates from Iran, and the word "pomme garnete" literally means seeded apple in French, it makes sense. As lovely as apples are, pomegranates are probably the most beautiful fruits in the world, tempting anyone walking by.
The reason my eyesight is terrible is (according to my mother) all my years reading in the dark or in the car during elementary school. Since the end of high school, I've kept a to-read list, now going over 7 years, ranging from art to history to science to religion. Alas, while in medical school the ratio of "to-read" vs "already-read" books has grown alarmingly, during interview season I've been voraciously knocking books off the "to-read" list. 

Even on vacation, I can't help but read about medicine, which by far comprises the majority of the list. The last few weeks I've tackled women's health (Half the Sky), error in surgeries (The Checklist Manifesto), and most recently - my favorite so far given the topic - the history of cancer (The Emperor of All Maladies).

Cancer and nutrition is such a hot topic today - the buzzword "superfoods" certainly was nonexistent when we muddled our way through cancer treatments centuries, or even decades, ago. Antioxidants are one of those terms we like to throw around despite have little knowledge of how it works (much like everything in cancer). Pomegranates, in particular, have been aggressively marketed as offering protection against heart disease and cancer.

I cannot promise you eating dark chocolate and pomegranates will reduce your rates of cancer, but I can promise you eating No Bake Chocolate Pomegranate Tarts will make you happier. 
Eating pomegranates is tricky, but the best way is to scoring it in a 5 pointed star with a knife and carefully breaking it open. I love the color of the arils, or seeds, and how the juices burst as you open the fruit. Here's a great step by step picture guide, so more juices end up in your mouth, rather than on your hands. That gorgeous ruby color and delicious sweet-tartness is something your eyes, belly, and maybe even your DNA molecules, can all enjoy. 

No Bake Chocolate Pomegranate Tart

CRUST (adapted from my No Bake Granola Bars recipe)
1 cup packed pitted dates pitted, chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (the less sugar the better)
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats, toasted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
fresh pomegranate arils

CRUST (full recipe details here): Use a food processor or blender to blend the dates to form a dough, adding water as needed (I used about 1/4 cup water, depending on how dry your dates are). Mix dates, honey, peanut butter, oats, cinnamon in a large bowl to make the dough. Add in chocolate chips.

Use the dough to form the crusts in round removable bottom tartlet tins. Place in the fridge for 1 hr or freezer for 30 min to set.

FILLING: Combine the yogurt and honey. Fill the chilled tarts with the honey Greek yogurt, then top with the pomegranate arils. Serve immediately or place in the freezer for 20 min if you want your yogurt firmer. Enjoy!

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Chinese Sausage and Edamame Egg Noodles

One of the best parts of traveling all over for the residency interview trail is seeing family and friends.  Thanks to medical school - I can't tell you how many reunions and weddings I've missed with exams - I've been a a bit secluded, so it was great catching up with people I hadn't seen in years. I've meeting quite a number of new additions to our already enormous Chinese-Filipino family (I'm described as the "long lost cousin").
I don't know how people flying constantly for work survive, because traveling (even though you're sitting the majority of the time) can be exhausting.  Rough parts include trying to pack a carry on with clothes fit for freezing temperatures and 80 degree sunshine, figuring out public transportation, time changes, and flying from one coast to another.
A perk of traveling alone for me is the ability to wander around seeing what I want to see - museums. No one else seems to like museums as much as I do, so I've enjoyed leisurely perusing modern art, photography, medieval art, history, and even a railroad museum. B tolerates coming to art museums with me because he loves me. That's a true act of devotion.
It's been wonderful traveling all over the states eating out at all types of restaurants - my foodcentric Uy relatives in particular make sure I "have some meat on my bones". But I've always been someone who preferred home cooked meals, and I can't help but crave my comfort Asian food. Here's one of my favorite go to meals - chinese sausage and edamame egg noodles.

This dish's ingredients are basically all frozen (sausage, edamame) or dried (noodles) or nonperishable (sauces) lol. Perfect for the random days between interviews when I have to come home then jet off the next day. I arrive home to limited food, but all the ingredients and this entire dish keeps excellently in the freezer. Enjoy!

Chinese Sausage and Edamame Noodles

6 links Chinese Sausage
~2 cups egg noodles, uncooked
1 cup frozen edamame
2 teaspoons hot chili oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
pepper, to taste
1 bunch cilantro

On a stove, boil the chinese sausage in water in a small pot for 10 minutes, then place sausages on a rack lined with foil (save the water). Bake at 400 F in oven/toaster oven for 10 min until the outside is crispy. Cut the sausage into 1/2 slices.

Boil the egg noodles in the reserved water (now flavored with the sausage) and cook according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the noodles.

Prepare the edamame according to package directions (boil, stir fry, or microwave). Combine the noodles, sausage, and edamame with the chili oil, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and pepper. Serve warm in a bowl and top with cilantro sprigs. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

No Bake Granola Bars

Hello from the interview trail! One of the important jobs of being a fourth year is passing down leadership to the younger class - I've been busy with interviews, but I've managed to squeeze in volunteer events with my beloved nutrition and cooking organization CHEF.
We do a lot fun food related events - from farmers markets to cooking electives taught by real chefs to (my favorite) cooking classes with adolescent bariatric surgery patients. We also do a lot of community health fairs (we're so popular we have to turn down requests, as we still need to pass our classes/rotations!) - most recently a cooking booth with Doctors for Change at a library in a very underserved community.
We made a huge amount of food and distributed to everyone in the library, which had a very large amount of homeless people. I'd heard libraries battling becoming de facto shelters for the homeless (here's a great article by NPR), but it was my first time seeing it in person. It was pouring rain, so the library was jam packed.

If you give out free food, you'll always be the most popular booth, but we made the people work for it by filling quizzes teaching simple facts on drinking water, counting carbs, learning about portion sizes. I'm sharing this delicious No Bake Granola Bar/Bites recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker, our "dessert" for the heath fair.
These granola bars are pretty easy once the dates are bended (that can take a while if you don't have a processor) and really fun to make with friends. These granola bars are very hearty; a little will go a long way.

While I've seen lots of blogs tout them as being super healthy and guilt free, just be aware they're only as healthy as what you put into it (i.e. be mindful of the store bought sugary peanut butter and chocolate chips added), but the perk is controlling the sweetness and your own ingredients. We actually had some homeless people, who after learning about sugars in the health quiz,  decline these "dessert bars" to be "healthier," so I'm glad our teaching points stuck!
This was probably the last time I'll officially lead a CHEF event, as it's time to pass the mantle to the second and third year officers. This organization has been my baby; while it's a bittersweet feeling, it's nice to end on this sweet treat.

No Bake Granola Bars

1 cup packed pitted dates pitted, chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (the less sugar the better)
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
optional additions: almonds, raisins, coconut

Chop the dates so they're easier to process. Use a food processor or blender to blend the dates to form a dough, adding water as needed (I used about 1/4 cup water, depending on how dry your dates are).

Toast your oats in a 350 degree oven for 15 min, until slightly golden brown. Alternative: you can also toast them on stovetop, adding a little vegetable or sunflower oil.

Mix dates, honey, peanut butter, oats, cinnamon in a large bowl to make the dough. Add in chocolate chips and your mix-in additions.

Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to a pan lined with parchment paper (so you can lift them easily later). Flatten the bars with a wooden spatula until even. Cover with plastic wrap, and place bars in a in fridge or freezer (my preference) for 30 minutes to harden. Remove bars from pan and cut into squares or bars. Store in an airtight container up to a few days or freezer for longer storage. Enjoy!
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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Peri Peri African Chicken

Have you ever heard of peri peri, also known as piri piri, chicken? (Saying the name makes me happy!) Peri peri is the African bird's eye chili and originates from Portugal and Africa. This is a popular spicy African marinade, perfect for braai, African BBQs.
Also rotating at Princess Marina Hospital was a dental student; we didn't know each other prior but became fast friends :) I ate peri peri chicken at our first lunch together at Sanitas Tea Garden (the gorgeous lemons in the pictures are from their gardens) while we were still figuring out life in Africa. When we finished our last week, we had peri peri chicken at Nando's, a popular African chain. As you can see, I really like peri peri chicken!

Both of us lugged home a ton of Nando's famous peri peri sauces, the glass jars carefully wrapped in African newspapers, as gifts for friends and family. Somehow, I still made it under the luggage weight limit by less than 0.1 kg (phew!)

I made this peri peri chicken recipe (adapted from The Wanderlust Kitchen and Allrecipes) several times throughout my stay in Botswana because I liked it so much, but I encountered so many fails battling with our oven.

My first evening in Botswana, I was baking peri peri chicken when the electricity ran out in the entire city of Gaborone. Since I was jetlagged, and there was nothing to do without light or electricity or wifi (funny how much more free time you have without electronic devices), I just went to bed at 7pm.

Well, at 11:30pm, I woke up to bright lights in my bedroom and to smoke filling up the entire flat. I jumped in the air and ran into the kitchen, to find my precious peri peri chicken completely burnt black. The electricity had returned while I slept, so the oven turned back on and continued baking my chicken. Thank goodness I woke up before I burned down our flat / entire housing complex in my first night in Africa!
The second time, the oven would not cooperate. The temperatures were all in degrees Celsius, which I could at least convert to Fahrenheit, but I could not figure out the icons on the stovetop - there was an oven icon with a sun inside, an oven icon with two lines, and an oven icon with dots. The oven kept turning itself off, so I had to check every 15 min to make it stayed hot. Finally, I got irritated, and took a longer 30 min study session; during that time the oven somehow accelerated its baking temperature and burnt the chicken completely black.

Luckily, third time was the charm. So after all my oven struggles, I'm happy to finally share with you photos of my non-completely-burnt-black delicious peri peri chicken.

I promise it's a very easy dish with a cooperative oven. Really!

Peri Peri African Chicken

1/4 cup lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and chopped
2-3 teaspoons peri peri (African chili) spice or 4-5 fresh peri peri chilis
2-3 teaspoons  paprika
1 teaspoon ground oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
4-6 pieces of chicken

In a large bowl, combine ingredients for peri peri sauce. Coat the chicken and in the marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. You can make the peri peri sauce in bulk and refrigerate to store.

Grill: grill the chicken on medium heat, basting with marinade. Grill until skin is just charred and chicken is done.

Bake: Preheat the oven to 350F * Pan sear chicken in a skillet over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side, until browned. Place chicken in a baking pan with the marinade and cook in oven for 30 minutes (depending on thickness of chicken) until fully cooked.

* So our oven is weird and just has icons like a sun inside the oven (go figure), so I haven't any idea if I was broiling, baking, etc. What I would recommend is pan sear, then bake at 350F until almost done, then broil the last 5-7 min. 
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Friday, October 30, 2015

Candied Orange Madeleines

Today I'm partnering with Paradise Fruit Co. to bring you candied orange madeleines. While I've made these famous french butter cakes way back, I wanted to add a little surprise, and the sharpness of these delicious candied orange peels are the perfect kick.
I made these for a friend's birthday - because we're so busy during 4th year, months sneak by before we have a chance to hang out as a large group of friends. While I meet up with friends weekly, it's very rare more than two or three people's schedules match up simultaneously given our sub-internships, away / international rotations, studying for exams, and hectic interview schedule.

Now that our core rotations are officially over (l'm done with medical school exams forever!), it's been awesome being able to catch up with everyone.
For most of my life, the "4th year" - in high school, in college, and now medical student - has always been a time of major decisions. Future plans, what work/projects to wrap up, career choices, etc are of course always in the forefront, but it's also what relationships to cultivate since graduation year seems to be when we figure out the lasting friendships.
I'm a nostalgic person already (hence all my love of photography, journaling, scrapbooking), but graduation year always makes me hyperaware of time flying. I'm pretty good about keeping in touch with friends over the years. I suppose it comes from my mom, who's circle of BFFs have been super tight for 30+ years.

One of my mom's friends is not only my godmother but a nun in France (how awesome is that!) and gave us this gorgeous metal French madeleine pan.
Friendships are one of those mysteries in life - I can't find any patterns to my friends that have lasted 5, 10, 15, and even 20 years (80% of my life) been since we're all super different. To celebrate your friends, share with them these candied orange madeleines (roughly adapted from Joy of Baking). PS. Giving out madeleines a great way to make new friends too ;)

Candied Orange Madeleines

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup  granulated white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 orange, zested
1/2 cup Paradise candied orange peels

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until the mixture is thick and pale in color (about 5-8 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract and orange zest. Stir in the candied orange. Gradually sift the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and gently fold in, using a rubber spatula. Do not over mix or the batter will deflate.

Then take about 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the warm melted butter in a bowl. (This lightens the butter making it easier to fold into the batter.) Then gently fold the butter mixture completely into the egg batter with a spatula. Cover and refrigerate the batter for at least an hour, preferably overnight (can be refrigerated up to three days).

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease two Madeleine pans with butter (otherwise madeleines will stick and be hard to remove). Refrigerate the pans until the butter hardens.

Pour the batter into the madeleine molds, until just hitting the edges (do not overfill unless you want obese madeleines). This amount filled 16 molds for me.

Bake the madeleines for about 8 - 11 minutes, until the edges to be are golden brown. Do not overbake; the madeleine itself will be light colored.

Remove the pans from the oven, gently remove madeleines and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Best eaten fresh, but madeleines can be frozen very easily.
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Friday, October 23, 2015

Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)

I’m excited to share japchae, aka Korean glass noodles, with you. It was first served at the Korean royal courts in the early 1600s, and now is traditionally made for parties or celebrations. The usual japchae is made of sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon) stir fried with thinly sliced vegetables, typically carrots, onions, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, as well as beef.
Dangmyeon are a part of the cellophane noodles, a group of noodles made from starch, such as mung bean, yam, potato starch, and cassava. They look purplish-grey when uncooked but became a clear translucent light gray or brownish-gray color. The texture is springy and chewy, and I find them much lighter than flour noodles - pasta makes me feel so much heavier. As a perk for those celiacs out there, these noodles are gluten free (The Kitchn).
Interestingly, you can (supposedly) make japchae without the noodles, but I think most people wouldn’t recognize it without the characteristic noodles. In a pinch, you can use regular vermicelli (which turns white instead of clear) if you can’t find japchae, but it’s really quite the same.
This is my first time cooking with dangmyeon; I’ve been experimenting with different noodles since we’ve been battling weevils and bugs in the rice and flour all summer, but they never seem interested in noodles and pasta. (Another bonus is that noodles are much faster to cook than rice!) No matter how long I store my noodles and pasta, the bugs ignore it them.

While I’ve safely sealed my other grains in jars, I’ve mostly stopped eating rice and moved on the noodles (hey, if you can’t beat the bugs, then starve them!).
This recipe was adapted from Steamy Kitchen and Maangchi. I made a few modifications to make it easier. The proper way to stir fry is to cook each type of vegetable since each requires a different length of cooking time, but I just stir fried mostly everything together to make it easier, putting the ingredients that needed to cook longer first.

While there's a lot of components in japchae, but it's worth it! You can make a huge amount for a party or eat it all by yourself for a week like I did. All my colleagues were super jealous when I was munching this in the call room.

Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)

1/2 pound Korean sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon)
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 lb beef, cut into thin strips, marinated in Bulgogi sauce (optional)
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (fresh or rehydrated dried is fine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup spinach, washed and drained
1-2 stalks green onions, diced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 eggs, for egg garnish (jidan)

Boil a large pot of water, then add the noodles and cook until softened. Drain and rinse with cold water, then toss with sesame oil to keep noodles from sticking. Set aside.

Heat the cooking oil in a wok on high heat. Stir fry onions with bulgogi beef (if using). Remove meat and onions and set aside. Add more cooking oil, then stir fry the mushrooms, garlic and carrots in the wok for 1 minute.

Return the noodles in the wok with the vegetables, then fry with the soy sauce and sugar. Fry 2-3 minutes until the noodles are cooked through, tossing with remaining 1 1/2 tsp of sesame oil and the beef and onions. Finally, add the spinach and stir fry for about 30 seconds (this will cook the quickest). transfer your japchae to a large plate for serving.

To make the jidan, crack 2 eggs in a bowl, whisk to combine yolks and whites, then cook in a small skillet. Flip when one side is cooked. Let cool, then cut your egg omelet into strips. Add on top of you japchae. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Game of Thrones Honeyed Chicken with Mint and Cranberries and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Despite all my years of baking and cooking, I've never roasted a whole chicken. So as fall and the holidays are coming, it was time to cross this off my bucket list of dishes all cooks should learn to prepare.

The real test of a good chef is a perfectly cooked chicken -- Julia Child
This Honeyed Chicken recipe is from my beloved Game of Thrones cookbook (see my medieval pork pie and bean and bacon soup). For this recipe, I swapped chicken for the smaller cornish hen. B introduced me to cornish hens last year when he cooked them for me. Tiny things are just so much cuter, and the cornish hen makes for perfect individual portions.

The cranberry mint honey sauce really makes this dish a stunner. I've also added in my favorite Roasted Sweet Potato side dish.
Cornish game hen isn't a "baby chicken" but is actually a hybrid between two different chicken breeds - the a short-legged, plump-breasted Cornish Game & another chicken, usually the Plymouth Rock. The US Department of Agriculture states they must be a young immature chicken (4-5 weeks), weighing around two pounds, and bred from a cross of Cornish chicken and another breed. These birds are bred for meat, as they develop a higher amount of breast meat, rather than their egg production. (ChowhoundWikipedia).
The only sad part was the uneven skin browning. Although my roasted cornish hens have spots here and there (it's like our skin getting freckles and sunspots in the sun!), it still tasted great despite an imperfect skin.

Perfect Roast Chicken Skin 101 (tips from Bon Appetit)
 - Salting/brining helps the chicken develop a crackling golden-brown skin. Season the back of the bird, underneath the wings, between the thighs, and even inside the cavity. Let the salted chicken sit for at least a few hours.
 - Don't roast a cold or soggy chicken - Dry it off by patting with a paper towel and let it air dry (as it's salting). After the brining and drying, let it come to room temperature before roasting. 
 - Layer vegetables, like onions, carrots, potatoes underneath the chicken before you roast it. The skin won't crisp if it sits in its own juices.
 - Although butterflied chicken doesn't look as pretty, it cooks much more evenly. If you want a whole chicken for presentation, trussing (tying the legs and wings) helps keep the breast moist as the dark meat cooks

Game of Thrones Honeyed Chicken (Cornish Hen) with Mint and Cranberries

1 whole chicken or 2 cornish hens
2 tablespoons butter, melted
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries or currents
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 425 F. Pat the chicken completely dry (to ensure crispy skin). Rub the chicken down with melted butter and salt. Let it sit out for 1 hour to dry and warm to room temperature.

Bake in the oven for approximately 45 min to 1 hr until done (when the juices run clear, and the breast meat is no longer pink). Tent with foil for the first 25 minutes, when leave uncovered. Cover any parts of the chicken browning too fast with foil.

While your chicken is roasting, combine the cider vinegar, honey, mint, dried fruit and butter in saucepan and allow to simmer until the raisins plump and the sauce reduces to half its volume (30 min).  When the chicken is done, spread the sauce and and fruit over the bird.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F*. Evenly spread sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle the olive oil, paprika, salt, and pepper over the sweet potatoes and toss. Bake for about 25 min, until crispy. Enjoy with the Honeyed Chicken!

*To save time and oven heat, I baked the sweet potaties at a higher temp of 425F, along side the Honeyed Chicken, and they turned out fine - just keep an eye on them so they don't burn.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Almond, Grape, Arugula Salad with Havarti Dill Cheese

I'm on the home stretch on my last core rotation, Ob-gyn! Out of all rotations, this was the most foreign to me (after all, what's more mysterious than PMSing women and the miracle of giving birth?). If you want to do everything from primary care to surgery to medicine, both children and adults, then Ob-gyn is for you. To my internal medicine mind, I just can't imagine not ever having a male patient for the rest of my career, but there's definitely more than enough work for these residents... I've developed major respect for Ob-gyn doctors.

Me: Don't you ever miss seeing the men?
Ob-gyn team: Are you kidding?! Who needs men?
Life has been so busy with these 12-14 hour labor and delivery days (and nights!), long surgeries, and women with incredibly complicated pregnancies, so I've been eating more leftovers than I care to admit. This salad recipe is a happy accident made from a smorgasbord of my refrigerator contents.
Arugula (known as Italian cress/rocket/rucola) is a recent discovery, and its peppery mustard flavor is welcome change from the milder plain ol' spinach. B does not like salads, but when I showed him this, he was at least tempted by all the ingredients - toasted almonds, sweet grapes, cream havarti cheese (with dill!), garlic pita chips ... except the vegetables.

N: This salad is amazing! You have to try it!
B: I'll try the salad if you take out the green things.
N: That's not a salad anymore! 

I've eaten so many of these salads for lunch - I pack my lunches for the week with each salad in little containers (keep your chips on the side so they don't get soggy!). At 5 am when rushing to the hospital to pre-round before the next total abdominal hysterectomy or emergency C-section, I definitely need a grab-and-go meal!

Almond, Grape, and Arugula Salad with Havarti Dill Cheese

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound red seedless grapes
5 ounces mixed arugula salad greens
6 ounces cubes of havarti dill
1/2 cup toasted almonds
pita chips, to serve

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to make the dressing.

Cut your grapes in half. Toss your grapes, arugula greens, havarti, almonds and pour dressing. Serve with pita chips on the side or together with the salad. Enjoy!
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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Asian Guacamole

During B's spontaneous romantic flight to see me a few months ago, we enjoyed a relaxing weekend together in the kitchen. The love was buzzing in the air, a delicious lunch of guacamole and grilled shrimp already devoured, and as we chilled in my room, B struck up a deep conversation about true love and how much I meant to him. As I listened, I happened to rub my eye. Big mistake.
B: *waxing eloquent on about our future life together* 
Chef Uy: Ow, ow, owwww!!!
B: Uh, are you ok?
Chef Uy: Y'know those thai chili peppers I chopped for the guacamole? I think I got some in my eye, ow, ow, ow, it burrrns! Halp!

True love is running to the sink to fill a bowl of cold water because your fiance gets chili pepper capsaicin in her eye and shoving her face into the water to flush it out.

B has a tagline for me: Natalie Uy, Moment Killer.
The best way to avoid hot pepper hands is to wear gloves, but I always forget. I confess this is *ahem* not the first time I've gotten capsaicin on my face. During the early years of med school, B and I, being nerdy, tried to figure out the dermatomes (ie, nerve patterns) of my skin, which had been burning horribly for hours, especially after a hot shower. After puzzling over why the distribution didn't correspond anatomically, we figured out it was related to what I had touched after chopping chili peppers. So, lo and behold, the right hand, left cheek, and right eye are not innervated by one nerve root after all.
The culprit for all this madness is an Asian guacamole adapted from i am a food blog. It has thai chili peppers, fish sauce, and green onions for a fun asian flair. Watch out for those chili peppers - they can have a mean bite!

Asian Guacamole

1-2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, thinly slices
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3-4 thai chili peppers, minced
1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
pepper, to taste
pita chips, for serving

In a shallow bowl, use a fork to mash the avocado. Stir in the lime juice, garlic, green onions, cilantro, chili peppers, and fish sauce. Add pepper, to taste (the fish sauce provides the salt).  To make is spicier, add more thai peppers; for a milder kick, remove the seeds. Serve with pita chips and enjoy!
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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

African Steak with Monkey Gland Sauce (Fruit Chutney)

Oh my goodness - today, I got my boards score and I'm so relieved/happy! It's such a huge weight off my shoulders; I definitely had reservations about studying for such a major exam rotating in Africa. It was stressful with its many challenges (like no electricity!), but I'm so glad I went anyway and everything turned out well.

To celebrate, today I'm sharing a unique African dish with an awesome name - Steak with Monkey Gland Sauce!
What is Monkey Gland sauce? Before you run away, hear me out. This is a mix of chutney with tomato sauce / sugar / garlic served with meat. South Africa's braai (BBQ) culture is huge, and Monkey Gland sauce is a popular condiment.

The history of this sauce is vague - originating in South Africa vs in London (and then brought to / made popular in South Africa). Various legends range from French chefs mixing up the concoction to spite the South Africans (which became an unexpected hit) to being inspired by the popular trend of grafting monkey testicles to men maintain virility.
I promise there are no testes in this dish and it's 100% delicious.
I have a million African animal pictures (which I still have yet to edit). On my one side trip, I visited Kasane in Northern Botswana, near Chobe National Park, and at my lodge animals ran amok.  Literally, people driving at night get into car accidents with elephants crossing the road, so it's quite dangerous.

On the safaris in Kasane, I have never seen a large density of animals in one area - particularly elephants, giraffes, impalas, and wildebeests. There's also hippos, crocodiles, kudu, warthogs, and too many types of primates and birds to count.
Sadly, I didn't get to see zebras, the national animal of Botswana, or lions, so that's for another time.

On a random aside, there's an amazing book by my Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky - Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers - which talks about the impact of constant stress in today's society on our health. I was lucky enough to actually take his course during college (and alongside with all the neurotic type A premeds in the class, realized his research was totally about us), but his lectures are also available on TED talks, National Geographic, and itunes.

I definitely felt a lot unhealthier with the stress of studying for medical boards, so that side trip to Kasane where my brain took a few days off was a much needed break.
There were so many mischievous monkeys and baboons around our lodge, so those were my favorite pictures. On my last day, I spent an hour just photographing a large group of monkeys tackling each other on the lawn chairs, lounging on the docked river boats (like a boss), and stealing food from the restaurants.  

One fellow snatched a jar of orange marmalade and struggled with opening it for the next hour, but he succeeded! Some poor chef tonight can't make his monkey gland sauce! Recipe adapted from Pick-n-Pay (a large South African grocery).

South African Steak with Monkey Gland Marinade

2-3 steaks
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons apricot chutney (any fruit is fine)
6 tablespoons tomato sauce or ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red wine / red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced

Rub the steaks with the salt and pepper, cumin, and cinnamon.

Mix remaining ingredients for the monkey gland marinade in a large bowl. Pour half the marinade over the steak and reserve the rest. Marinate at least an hour, better overnight.

Place steaks on a grill on medium or pan sear in cast iron skillet or pan on stovetop, and cook to desired doneness while basting with the reserved marinade. Enjoy!
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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Banana Walnut Bread with Oat Streusel

So, since my last post, I took yet another US medical licensing exam (Step 2 CS) AND applied to internal medicine residency. How's that for a busy week!?

Hopefully all the big hurdles are over, and assuming I passed everything *fingers crossed,* I don't have to take any more boards during medical school! Yay!

With all that's been going on as a 4th year, I've been behind on posts; I baked this banana walnut bread waaay back in July! I was on my medicine subinternship where I act as an intern resident - carrying my own patients, calling consults, writing orders, admitting and discharging, and I wanted to bring food for my first night call.

All I have to say is night call is bad for your waistline.  Especially if, like me, you eat to stay awake.
Although a lot of work, sub-i's are definitely an awesome experience - nothing like responsibility to your sick patients forces you learn fast!

I was talking to a fellow classmate, who commented that somehow over transition from 3rd to 4th year, everyone definitely matured and became so much more responsible. Although the M.D. was always a distant light at the end of the tunnel, it suddenly seems a lot closer once starting the final year!
The past few months - especially the last 3 weeks - have been really tough, and I've built up quite a sleep debt. I've applied to various residency programs and, like thousands of neurotic med students, wait eagerly for interviews.

Right now's the calm before the storm (of interview season), so I'll catch up on some Z's (and baking) while I can!
Not only is this banana bread super delicious / gorgeous with that streusel topping, the texture is as fluffy as a pillow! I confess, I kept poking the top because it was so springy. 

Since this was the night call snack/ breakfast for my medicine sub-i team, I kept with a classic banana bread recipe (adapted from Food Network) - generally, I try not to substitute many "healthy" ingredients when serving a crowd, especially if the majority is male, haha. So this is an easy and foolproof quickbread recipe, using ingredients you probably already have. Enjoy!

Banana Walnut Bread with Oat Streusel

2/3 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter, cut
2 tablespoons oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter a loaf pan.

With a mixer, cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, then mix in the mashed bananas and milk. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing by hand until just combined (do not overmix).

Pour batter into loaf pan. Combine all the streusal ingredients then sprinkle on top the the batter in the pan.

Bake for 1 hour-1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

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