Friday, January 30, 2015

Basil Bacon Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

The problem with having a food blog is that people always expect good food from you. When I visited B, his numerous male roommates were waiting for "Chef Uy's gourmet cooking." I needed to make something good for Le Chateau Advanced Degree" (also known as Le CAD). Yes, they named their apartment that.

Well, I was limited to whatever was in B's kitchen - chicken breast - because is this Texas girl going out in -30 degree F Chicago weather to buy groceries? Nope nope nope.

Granted, later in the week, my crisis for dark chocolate did prompt me to venture into the blizzard, but I digress.
Basil Bacon Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts
The cold is something I really need to consider when applying for residency. When I arrived at B's new apartment, no one was home because everyone was at work. I was freezing, but I couldn't get in because 1) I thought mat which he hid the key under was frozen solid so I kicked it futilely for 15 minutes 2) when I finally got the key, the door wouldn't open because it was frozen shut. Alas, B was in the operating room, so my pleas for help went unanswered.
In desperation for shelter, I hid nonchalantly at a nearby CVS drugstore (oh yes, er, I always carry a fat red luggage with me when buying beauty products). B finally got out of the OR and told me to breathe on the door to warm it up. I kid you not, that did the trick.

I decided I don't want to live in a place where I have to breath hot air on the door to enter.
Basil Bacon Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts
I adapted this beautiful stuffed chicken breast recipe from Jo Cooks. It has very basic ingredients, yet is stylish enough for company dinner. I don't have a meat mallet, but a banging the meat with a ladle works perfectly fine (the neighbors, on the otherhand, might not think you're fine). Pounding the meat makes it very even and thin so you can roll it easily, so don't skimp in this step.

No need to venture into the blizzard for fine dining when one can relax in the comforts of Le Chateau Advanced Degree.
Ingredients
2 boneless chicken breast halves
¼ cup neufchatel or cream cheese (I used light)
4 thin slices bacon
2 tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes or peppers
handful basil leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
paprika, to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

Pound the chicken breasts (meat mallet or back of a pan/ladle) until even, about 1/2 inch in thickness. Season all over with paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Spread the cheese on each chicken breast. Top with basil leaves, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes /peppers on each breast.

Carefully roll up the breasts and secure with toothpicks (with the seam side up). Brown the chicken in a skillet over the stove top with olive oil. Roll the chicken using the toothpicks to brown the tops and sides (if you want, you can remove toothpicks to brown the bottom). Place skillet in oven and bake chicken for an additional 20-30 minutes, until cooked. Broil for 5 min to get a nice golden brown.

Remove chicken from oven. On a cutting board, slice each chicken breasts or you can serve as a whole piece.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Avocado Shake

January means new year, new goals right? Nothing beats the satisfaction of accomplishment - from losing 10 lbs (and keeping it off) to running a record 10k race to finally finishing off that research article you've put off forever. As my friend pointed out, I have just enough "medical student" to make me a type A workaholic and just enough "artist" to give me a hyperactive, manic imagination - a nice combo.
Avocado Shake smoothie almond milk recipe blender
So, in the spirit of heck yeah, I can do anything - I'm helping kick off Williams-Sonoma's Smoothies of the Week! Williams-Sonoma thought I was crazy enough for their Not Your Typical Smoothie installment. Well, have some avocado shake!

Before you think, Eww, Natalie, avocados in shake? Did you make this up this nonsense? I promise you these are real and are very popular in the Philippines! This is a very easy recipe - just 3 basic ingredients plus ice.
Plus, avocados are good for the heart (I won't bore you with with the cardiovascular biochemistry). If that's not enough incentive, they're great for getting awesome hair and skin. And they make me happy.
Avocado Shake smoothie almond milk recipe blender
Most people associate avocados with guacamole, especially here in Texas, so when I tell people I drink my avocados, they usually give me a look of horror. People ask why would I combine milk, sugar and avocados, and I say why not? Avocados are fruits, and you put those same ingredients in smoothies. Heck, people put kale in smoothies, and that's a bitter leafy green vegetable - never figured that one out.

My friends thought this would be "like drinking guac," but I assure you this is sweet and creamy plus it's very filling, not like typical smoothies where you're hungry again 30 min later.  You can make it thinner with more milk, but I like it super thick, so it tastes just like the avocado ice cream in Asian markets.
If you're feeling adventurous this new year, check out some other fun ideas, such as my Azuki Red Bean and Watermelon Ginger. Happy blending!

Ingredients
8-10 ice cubes, crushed
1/2 small ripe avocado
3/4 cup milk, to desired thickness
2-3 tablespoons sugar, to taste

Directions
Crush the ice in a blender. Add avocado (the riper the better so it's easier to blend), milk, and sugar.

You can add any milk of your choice (regular, almond, soy), though I usually go with plain milk. Depending on how thick and sweet you want it, adjust the milk and sugar. Some people add honey instead of sugar, but I prefer sugar because honey has a stronger taste and can take away from the avocado flavor.

Blend until creamy. Pour and serve right away, or you can keep it in the freezer for half an hour to make it even thicker like ice cream. Enjoy!
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Split Pea and Ham Soup

Let me start off by saying I am not a split pea soup kind of person. No one in the family is. We just don't say "Hmmm, I want soup - yeah, let's drink one with smashed peas."

But mom is adventurous and found this amazing recipe by Emeril Lagasse, curing us of our phobia of pea soup. As my brother said, "Mom will try these weird random recipes, but this one is actually a keeper."
It was quite chilly in Texas when we had this soup, and the weather was just rain, rain, and more rain. We played in our family scramble golf tournament; in all our years of competing in it, 9 or 10 years now, this was the first time where it rained. We've frozen a couple years, but never rained on (and adding insult to injury, it was also bitterly cold)

*in the car, on the way to the golf course*
Mom: I hope they cancel it, I hope they cancel it.

*on the driving range, warming up*
Mom: I hope they cancel it, I hope they cancel it.

*after finishing first hole*
Mom: I hope they cancel it after 9 holes.

*after 9 holes*
Mom: I hope we make it. 

In all honesty, I was thinking the same thing too - after 9 holes, I ran into the golf shop to buy some more winter clothing. A perk of no longer playing competitive golf was no more enduring playing in horrible weather. There's a reason it's called a "rain check!"
Anyways, we did survive, and though not our best year, we at least finished (several teams quit the tournament since the weather was so awful). And we weren't last place, so there!

So have some hearty split pea and ham soup and stay warm!
Ingredients
1 pound dried split peas
1 ham hock, and chopped ham
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6-8 cups broth/water
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh thyme

Directions
Soak the peas in water overnight in a large pot. Drain the peas and set aside.

Place ham hock in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour; reserve the broth.

In a large pot, sautee onions with the butter over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the celery, carrots, and garlic, stirring until cooked. Add the ham hock and ham and cook until beginning to brown. Add the drained peas, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add your ham broth, bay leaf and thyme, and cook until the peas are tender, about 1 hour (add water as needed). Serve and enjoy!
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Monday, January 12, 2015

(Manly) Snickers Brownies

I'm freezing in Chicago, visiting B for the first time in over a year. It's a lovely city, but I have yet to come at a time when it's above 4 degrees F.

When B came to visit me in Texas recently,  he requested brownies, but I didn't have time because of exams. So, I wanted to make them here. It was my first time visiting B's new house in the inner city, closer to his hospitals for rotations. There's four guys in the house, and all are Snickers lovers, so I knew I could win over his roommates easily with Snickers Brownies.

B's roommate: I think we should kill her so we get more brownies for ourselves.
Chef Uy: Buuut, if you kill me, you won't know how I made them, and you can never eat this again. 
B: Hmm, we'll wait until after she posts the recipe then.
Snickers Brownies
B is known for his "B sized" portions, and these brownies are no exception. I like fat brownies too (they look so much better!), so we double batched them. Baking time definitely increased, but the wait is worth it.
Snickers Brownies chocolate fudge bar
I've made brownies before, and the "serving sizes" listed are always ridiculous.  According to the original recipe (adapted from Allrecipes) a double batch makes 32 servings. Hah! This was maybe 12 servings, tops.

B: What is this?! Brownies for ANTS?!!!

Yes, Zoolander is his favorite movie - he uses that line every time I give him a portion that's too small for his liking. So much for New Year's dieting resolutions.


(Manly) Snickers Brownies


Ingredients
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup peanuts (optional)
8-10 fun size snickers, chopped

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and stir gradually into the wet ingredients until just blended. Mix in peanuts, if using, and 1/3 of the snickers. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and top with the remaining snickers chunks.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until done (they will take a while, but make sure you don't overbake). Cool on a wire rack before cutting. Enjoy
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Nordstrom's Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad

We have a special guest post by my teen brother/sous chef! He did a great job and wanted me to post his creation asap. I'm proud to say the writing, recipe, and artistic plating idea was done by him *such a proud big sister* 

Hi everyone, it’s Hans, Chef Uy’s younger brother, with another guest post! I was thinking, there aren’t a lot of recipes I can truly call my own (check out my Honey Mint Tea), so the few I do have are very close to my heart. I’m a sucker for juicy steaks and sweet desserts, but believe it or not, a salad somehow made its way onto that *elite* list.
How did I stumble upon this recipe? No, it wasn’t a Eureka moment where all my culinary genius came together to create a gastronomic masterpiece. It was more like Mom swooping in out of the blue with a salad recipe from her enormous “to-cook” list of recipes, telling me I had to make it for dinner that night (or else). I thought, “Ha! Piece of cake! Salads are just chopped up vegetables mixed with dressing.” But I soon realized that this wasn’t going to be just any old salad; this salad was going to be exquisite, gourmet, challenging, something worthy of Iron Chef, and I wanted it to come out just right.
After what felt like hours of chopping vegetables, marinating shrimp, and sending all my limes and cilantro to their demise in Mom’s blender ...  my salad was finally complete. I think food tastes better when you cook it yourself, because when Chef Uy came home this Christmas and finally got the chance to try it, I told her that my salad had been “executed to perfection.” As you can see, my modesty knows no bounds :D
Before college, I never appreciated well-cooked vegetables because Mom always had an endless supply. But after just one semester of cafeteria food at the business school at UT Austin (no med school for me!), I was more than happy to make my Cilantro Lime Shrimp salad again, as well as feast on Mom’s home cooked Chinese vegetables. Rather than going back to eating dining hall vegetables this coming semester, I’m tempted to fill my dorm fridge with recipes from home and eat that instead!

Nordstrom's Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad


Ingredients
SHRIMP
24 shrimp
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced green onions
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste

CILANTRO LIME DRESSING
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chipotle puree (chipotle paste works too)
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup salad oil
1 bunch chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

SALAD AND TOPPINGS
Tortilla chips
½ cup corn kernels
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
4 cups mixed baby greens
3 Roma tomatoes, quartered
8 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese

Directions
Mix all the shrimp ingredients together in a bowl to let the shrimp marinate. Cover and put in the fridge.

Blend all the cilantro lime dressing ingredients in a blender and set aside.

Toss the corn kernels with olive oil and roast for about 15-20 mins, or until golden. I use a toaster oven, but a regular oven at about 350°F works. Remove and set aside.

Cook the marinated shrimp on the stovetop, about 7 mins (make sure you don’t overcook them or they’ll come out rubbery.)

To assemble the salad, toss the Romaine lettuce, baby greens, Roma tomatoes, and corn kernels together with half the dressing. Arrange the shrimp around the salad and top with the Monterrey Jack cheese and tortilla strips. Serve family style with the rest of the dressing on the side.
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