Tag: quick

7 Ingredient Chewy Pecan Bars

Hi again!

Sometime before Thanksgiving, I was trying to decide between pecan pie and pumpkin pie..a very serious problem =O. So, I played the husband card and had Tim decide. Though he picked pumpkin pie, I also wanted to do something with the big bag of pecans from Costco. HMM…I remember seeing this recipe in my recipe binder of sweets, so I pulled it out. I’m glad I made it, because they are SO goood! If you need more reasons to make these, I’ll list 7:

1) No corn syrup. (I am not a fan of its gloopiness)

2) 7 ingredients only, including salt o.O

3) Super easy to make. Really. easy. No need to even buy leavening agents.

4) Has whole wheat flour, so you can say these are whole grain

5) Passed the co-worker test (Tim’s coworkers) with flying colors!

6) Have a great shelf life and stay chewy for a long time (if they stick around that long)

7) Are sturdy, packable and would be great for care packages for friends

It’s everything you want in a pecan bar- chewy, crunchy, nutty, sweet, and just a little salty. Best of all, I actually think that using whole wheat flour enhances the nuttiness, as it seems to be a perfect match for all that sugar and nuts.

chewy pecan bars Continue reading

Secret Ingredient Stir-fry

Since moving to Indiana, I’ve found fewer Chinese or Asian grocery stores (three so far), and fresh Chinese cuts of pork have been slightly harder to find, but chicken is ever-present and evermore inexpensive. So…I guess it’s time to make more chicken?  Also,  I find myself reverting to making dishes with pork because that’s what I love and am used to eating, so using more chicken is a culinary stretch for me 😉

My mom and grandma started having weekly get togethers at Puopuo Jia (grandma’s house) which involve sharing stories and best of all, food. Sometimes my grandma cooks, sometimes they make food together, and sometimes they find a restaurant to try together. There’s a Sichuan restaurant that they loved (where my grandma and waitress spoke in Sichuanese, which I never even knew puopuo spoke!) that my mom’s going to take me to when we visit in December! Wooo!

My mom was telling me about one of my Puopuo’s most recent food experiments; this time it was feng ji,(風雞), which translates to ‘wind chicken,’ because part of the process involves drying the chicken outdoors. Chicken gets salted and Sichuan-peppered , put in the fridge for a few days, then is hung outside to ‘dry’ and continue in the curing. Then, you steam it and EAT IT! After all, Chinese people don’t do prosciutto, cheese and crackers as a snack;D

Puopuo used her garage for the curing step, but I have no garage or basement, nor a crafty box to ward off critters as it hangs on the balcony.

Hearing of chicken, salt, and hua jiao (Sichuan peppercorn) made me salivate and want some, too. Since I haven’t devised that box yet, I made this dish to temporarily stave off my craving for some of puopuo’s feng ji. Thanks for the inspiration, Puopuo!

Turns out that this was quite tasty- the hua jiao does not overwhelm the chicken, and yet lends a nice different taste than ‘typical’ stir-fries. The carrots stay rather firm and don’t produce much water, so even if you stove is weaksauce, your stir-fry will not boil 😀 This was NOT created to be a spicy dish; the hua jiao are just supposed to give the chicken a little something. You can certainly add dried hot peppers with the oil at the beginning, if you wish.


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Yu Mi Rou Rou (Corn and beef)

This was one of the first posts that appeared on my blog in 2010 (!) But now, with an updated picture and some better instructions. This is obviously a very flexible dish and you should use whatever ratios of meat:corn you like..Just don’t add too much soy sauce, because you don’t want brown looking corn. ENJOY!
This dish reminds me of elementary school. My childhood friend Ashley and I loved this dish, and would always be excited if one person or the other had it in their lunch. It was definitely considered a “good” lunch to get.

It’s a very simple dish, and I hope you will be as excited to eat it as we 7 year olds were! “Rou rou” was the kid-friendly way to say meat, which is just “rou,” and it’s hard to call this by the ‘grown up’ name, so say it with me- yu mi rou rou!

yu mi rou rou

Hello, favorite windowsill of mine 😡

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Finally, a recipe

I’m back from the (blogging universe) dead!

Today we had a busy day; it started out with my husband T not going to play airsoft outdoors because it was 25 degrees out, so he went to the gun range with his trusty friend K instead.

I had choir practice today until 4, then visited the new Penzey’s at the Bourse (Independence Hall East and Randstead)- my first time at a Penzey’s, ever! It was nice but I decided to stick to purchasing “Western” food spices, because some of the non-Western spices like Sichuan peppercorns, were not only much more expensive than I’m used to seeing, but not as high in quality. (They contained quite a few of those black crunchy seeds) My favorite aspect of the store was being able to smell all the different spices. Something that I actually would have preferred would be the ability to scoop out whatever amount you desire, instead of just buying previously portioned out amounts, like 1, 4, or 8 oz, etc. I bought 4 oz each of cayenne pepper and Hungarian paprika, and each was around $5. Not bad, considering they will last me a very long time.

If you are looking to buy spices, I have had good experiences with myspicesage.com. They also sell stuff including matcha powder (it’s from China, so I am a little skeptical- though it has good customer reviews), spinach powder, beet powder, and tons of other types of powders, if you want to use them to color your frostings naturally. Lots of spinach powder can actually make your food taste like matcha, strangely. I speak from experience- I used it to color the frosting on my mom’s wedding cake, and people were asking if the frosting was green tea!

I came home and had some chicken leftovers, but needed some vegetables. I had bought a big napa cabbage, and had soaked mushrooms already, so it was easy to think of what to make.

Braised Napa and Shiitake Mushrooms
Da bai cai xiang gu
Makes 2 hearty vegetable servings
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Megan’s Spicy Chicken

I decided to see what would happen if I added all the ingredients I liked together in a pot with chicken. So, I seriously just added a little bit of this, a little bit of that, tried to think what else would go with what, and went with it. The outcome? A new favorite! I don’t know if any real Sichuan person would nod his/her head in approval, or shake it in dismay, but I used components of what I know to star in Sichuan dishes, like chili peppers and peppercorns. Anyhow, this was my tribute to Sichuan in the form of a chicken dish. I want to name it Lee Family Spicy Chicken, because Tim has upping his spicy game, and can now eat from the same spicy dishes as the big kids (like me :D).

I like this dish a lot, not only because it is spicy and low maintenance ( just like me 😉 ), but because the ingredients are fairly standard ABC kitchen ingredients. For me, I happened to have all of these ingredients in my kitchen. Your mileage may vary, but the good thing is that these ingredients keep well, especially if you take my advice from a previous post and freeze your ginger! For some pictures of ingredients not commonly found at American grocery stores, visit this post on Sichuan spicy cooked fish to see what all these things are.

The third version of this chicken; the plainest looking but the best tasting!

Our dinner comprised of this chicken, in addition to stir-fried cabbage (that I made without the spicy peppers), and lots of rice.
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King Oyster Mushroom Stir-Fry

I love mushrooms. I love the bouncy yet meaty texture, and I love the different tastes imparted by different varieties of mushrooms!

One of my favorites is the king oyster mushroom, pictured below in the front:

Picture from wikimedia

King oyster mushrooms are very hearty mushrooms that I like to describe as baseball-bat shaped. Tim has referred to them accidentally as prince mushrooms 😀

These king oysters are great in hotpots and well as soups. I’m sure they would also be fantastic on the grill! The appearance, taste and texture of the king oyster mushroom is similar to that of the Nebrodini Blanco mushroom, which our favorite chefs at KooZeeDoo grilled to perfection when they were still in business.

King oyster mushrooms are also “meaty” enough that I once included in the spread of dishes I made for two college boys (one with quote a voracious appetite, might I add). They said that they were full and satisfied, and that they couldn’t believe they had had a meatless meal! This was in my Cafe 1010 days, which is a different story for a different post.

Okay, so I had these king oysters in the fridge, and I needed to use them up before our trip to Chicago over the long weekend. I have been trying to remember to cook with a variety of colors, so I whipped something together. It turns out that these ingredients went pretty well together, and they are a nice and simple dish to accompany dinner.

Easy Mushroom Stir-Fry Continue reading

Marinated Tofu Liang2Ban4Dou4Fu

Saturday and Sunday lunches in my family were usually pretty sui2bian4, or whatever, because of activities or church right before. In our family, this dish was almost always an accompaniment to xi1fan4, juk, 稀飯, rice porridge, or whatever you want to call it. I guess we liked the combination of hot xifan and cold doufu (豆腐) together! Nowadays, I don’t eat xifan as much, but I still love this marinated doufu almost any time. It’s easy to make because the shelf life of most of the ingredients is pretty long! 

is probably one of my dad’s favorite impromptu dishes, because I always
remember seeing him open a package of tofu out of the fridge to make this.
Aside: What’s the best way to get tofu out of the box? Use a knife (the one you are currently using to prep your ingredients, preferably), and make 3 slices along the rectangular box that the tofu comes in. Peel off the plastic covering, and dump the tofu onto an expectantly clean hand or bowl. Use the tofu box to store your cut-up tofu. There is no other way! 

Anyway, my dad loves garlic, so you can bet that there would always be LOTS of garlic in any dish he made that called for garlic.
Sometimes we would have green onions in the house, sometimes not. I prefer it with!

Marinated Tofu

Kosher salt

1 package soft tofu (firm and silken could also work in a pinch)
1-2 thousand year old eggs (pi2dan4 皮蛋),sliced in half then in quarters (optional if you can’t find it or if you don’t like it)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Soy sauce
Preserved turnip (zha4cai4 榨菜) – 2-3 tsp, minced (optional)
Dried shrimp, finely chopped and sauteed in some oil- 2-3 tsp, minced (optional)
Dried Pork (rou4song1 肉鬆)- 2-3 tsp, added at the last minute (optional)

1-2 stalks green onions, diced or minced (optional)
1-2 sprigs cilantro, coarsely chopped (quite optional and not that authentic)

1) If you have time, carefully salt the soft tofu all around its sides, and let the excess water drain out. If you less time, use a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to gently squeeze the excess water. If you have even less time, just use the the tofu as is.

2) Add all the ingredients to the tofu. Salt generously- remember that tofu is pretty bland on its own, and that you are seasoning a huge chunk of it! Just a little soy sauce- not enough to make your tofu look brown, but just a little for more fermented goodness.

3) Mix everything together, and try not to pulverize the tofu so that it’s itty bitty chunks like cottage cheese..(someone in my family who will not be named used to do this, and it made me very sad..)

As always, feel free to adjust further for YOUR preference of salty/sesame oil/garlickyness. 
-American brands of tofu , like Nasoya, have odd specifications for tofu firmness. I remember getting what I thought was soft tofu, only to open the package and realize that the ‘soft’ tofu was a lot more like firm tofu than anything else.
-I like Nature’s Soy tofu because they are localish, claim non-GMO beans, and I know what to expect for tofu firmness. 
-Note the several different add-ins. Thanks, Mom, for the dried shrimp and dried pork suggestion!

I don’t know if I want to make this dish… 
spicy and pungent garlic nudges your tastebuds gently, and its trusty friend, the green
onion, lingers in the background. The 1000-year old egg has a fattiness
and creaminess to it that stars opposite the cleansing and light tofu.
-You know how people talk about ‘Chinese salads’ or ‘Asian salads’? That’s a myth. Most Chinese food is cooked; this is as close to you’ll get as a “salad,” as the garlic, green onion, and tofu are all ‘raw’!
-Don’t worry, 1000-year old doesn’t really mean that its been sitting for 1000 years. Its texture is similar to that of a medium-boiled egg, but it’s much more bold tasting than a ‘regular’ egg. 

Spicy-Numbing Fried Rice 麻辣炒飯

I grew up eating fried rice the “Americanized” way, with peas, egg, sometimes carrot, and some sort of meat (usually ham or Chinese sausage). She cooked it with these ingredients for our family so that we would have more variety and that it could be more of a complete meal. Imagine my shock when my mom told me that real fried rice was just rice, egg, and green onions! She recounted the times she watched her grandpa cook fried rice, complete with the scattering of green onions right as the rice came off the stove.
All in all, fried rice is not meant to be all fancy! If you think about it, many Chinese dishes have humble origins, as most Chinese people did not have access to huge cuts of meat and lots of animal products to work with. It makes sense that fried rice was simple. Rice. egg. green onions.

Before leaving for any trip, I try to empty out the fridge so that I don’t come home to moldy produce or leftovers. I guess, I did a pretty good job of it, because this is what our fridge looks like right now:

containers of salami, doenjang (soybean paste), marmalade, Thai chili peppers, cornmeal, dates, tonight’s leftovers…

Don’t be fooled; there’s only one egg left in that carton. Cat, tahini, passion fruit sauce, meager amount of hazelnut chocolate spread bacon, butter, and more salami…

In our pantry, we had one 6-oz can of salmon “for emergencies only”. We also are running really low on rice, but luckily we have enough to hold us over until Saturday!

I thought of the salmon, saw the cabbage, and remembered the time my mom made fried rice with shredded cabbage. I didn’t even have green onions to make “real” fried rice! And when I say real, I mean authentic. Beggars cannot be choosers, so I made fried rice anyway. It’s super notChinese, unless you count the Taiwanese cabbage I used..BUT, I enjoyed eating it, and maybe you will want to make it too, if you find yourself with a depleted fridge.

Spicy-Numbing Fried Rice 麻辣炒飯 (ma2la4chao3fan4)
Serves 2

2 eggs, cracked in a bowl and whisked in preparation for scrambling
6 oz canned salmon, tuna, or chicken (Or you can use ham, Chinese sausage, or whatever leftover cooked meat you may have)
3 fresh chili peppers, sliced lengthwise- add more if you wish! I used Thai chilies.
3/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground in a mortar and pestle or coffee bean grinder
3.5 cups thinly sliced Taiwanese cabbage*
2 cups cooked rice, brown or white
3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond brand)
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (optional)

1. Heat a wok over medium-high heat Add oil to coat a thin, thin layer on the bottom of the wok, and add eggs. Scramble in big chunks until they are 50% cooked. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Add a little more oil, ~1 tsp, to the wok, and add chili peppers and cook until you can smell the spiciness. Add 1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, then immediately add your salmon and its juices. Break up into about 1 inch, coarse chunks. This step is just for the purpose of heating the salmon through, so don’t make too many chunks otherwise it will disintegrate in your rice! Add salmon to the bowl with your par-scrambled eggs.

3. Heat the wok until it’s smoking, then add 2 tsp oil. Immediately add the cabbage. Stir fry on high heat. Move the cabbage around constantly! Hopefully you have a non weak-sauce burner that will be good enough to produce some dark brown semi-charred spots on the cabbage. After a minute or so of stir frying like this, add 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for a few more minutes until the cabbage is cooked (try one). If your wok is small like mine, cook the cabbage in two batches, making sure to let the wok heat up between batches.

4. When the cabbage is done, turn the heat to medium and add the rice and break up the clumps. Add the eggs and salmon and 1/4 tsp salt. Break up the chunks of eggs, salmon and add 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns.

5. Mix everything thoroughly. Adjust for salt. Scatter green onions if you have them over the top of the rice, and serve!

*I find Taiwanese cabbage to be more tender than regular cabbage. It is also much crispier and crunchier than regular cabbage when cooked. Find Taiwanese cabbage in the Asian grocery store- it is flat, oval, and much less dense; its weight will surprise you!

***Update (3/28/14)- It occurred to me that maybe not everyone has Sichuan peppercorns and peppers in their fridge+pantry? If so, semi-okay substitutes would be white pepper powder for the Sichuan peppercorns, and dried chili flakes for the fresh pepper. But, then you will just be making Spicy-Numbing Fried Rice, and it will taste very different! Let me know if you try this.

Chicken Spice Rub

My mom got me “I’m Just Here for the Food” and I have yet to go through all of the recipes. BUT, of the recipes, I love the spice rubs. In particular, the chicken rub recipe is what I like to think of as magic dust. Do nothing to your chicken but add this spice rub + salt, and you have a delicious piece of protein. For someone who looves spices (see previous post), this is the perfect thing to mix together! Alton’s recipe featured parts/ratios instead of measuring devices, so I made one part = one teaspoon to simplify things. Feel free to double or triple as needed. His recipe also usually includes filé powder and dried sage, neither of which I actually ever have on hand (gasp!). Even without those ingredients, the rub still is pretty tasty. This rub is best on chicken that is seared, grilled, or roasted.

Chicken Rub
adapted from Alton Brown

1/2 tsp toasted fennel seeds
1 tsp toasted coriander
1/2 tsp toasted cumin
1/2 tsp toasted celery seeds
1/4 tsp toasted white peppercorns
1/4 tsp toasted black peppercorns
1/2 tsp toasted red pepper flakes
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients in a blender or coffee bean grinder. Store in an airtight container and label and date it with masking tape! Alton says the rub is good for 3 months, but I keep mine a little longer with no harmful consequences. Add salt to your chicken when you use the rub.
If you don’t have whole spices, it’s okay to use ground spices. But, whole spices can be toasted, which is nice.

A.B. Spice Rubbed Chicken

chicken drumsticks, legs, or thighs
Chicken Rub
kosher salt

1) Preheat oven or toaster oven to 425F. Rub spices and salt liberally over the chicken (the thicker the piece of chicken, the more spices you need).

2) Line a pan with foil. Place chicken on foil, making sure to leave space between the chicken. Don’t crowd the chicken!

3) Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F-175F.

Chicken Spice Rub

Savory and Sweet Easy Breakfast Ideas

This list is also for myself…I’m trying to make more simple dishes, because I realize that there are so many other cool things to do in a day.


Black-bean cheese quesadillas
-1 Tortilla (whole grain, Trader Joe’s has good tortillas with minimal random chemicals/preservatives)
-CHEESE! Possibilities/personal favorites: Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso Fresco (sold at some Latino grocery stores or in the dairy sections of some more diverse supermarkets)
what fine cooking says about the art of melting cheese
-Canned black beans (anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup)

1. Plop tortilla on pan and warm it up !
2. Drain and rinse black beans.
3. Flip tortilla over, then grate cheese on the whole face of the just-flipped-side.
4. Sprinkle black beans over half of the tortilla, then fold!

Notes: Of course, black beans are optional. Or, if you have leftover chicken from previously eaten dinner, shred it up with your fingers and use it in place of the beans. Or, just straight up leave it out.

Chinese noodles
-Cook wheat noodles, then rinse,
add hot water, soy sauce, sesame oil and fresh scallions. Poached egg or chicken/pork/beef stock optional 🙂 If you use stock, use salt in place of soy sauce
and sesame oil!

Egg and Cheese Tortilla
-Fry an egg, and before the egg white sets up, place a tortilla on top, and squish. When the egg sets up, flip the tortilla over and scatter cheese on top. Roll up to eat.

Last night’s leftovers
-Why can’t you have non-breakfast food for breakfast?

Mini quiches
1. Use eggs, salt, pepper, and some milk as your base.
2. Mix in cooked spinach, kale, swiss chard, broccoli, or any other vegetable you want.
3. Add cheese or meat of choice (sausage, ground beef, leftover chicken bits from a roast)
4. Fill muffin cups to about 2/3 way, then bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes, or until the mini quiches puff up.

P.E.T. Toast
-Toast a piece of crusty bread. Spread with pesto, tomato, and a fried egg.  Make it a PTT sandwich (pesto, tomato, tofu) if you are vegan, by seasoning a thick slice of drained, firm tofu with salt and pepper and grilling that until it is warm throughout.

Sausage/bacon, egg(s), and toast : The multi-task chapter.
1. Put sausages/bacon on a pan (if frozen sausages, add 2-3 T. water to use steam to help defrost and not just burn), cover with a lid, and turn the heat to medium, medium low. When in doubt, turn it lower than you think it should go ! For leaner meats, add a little bit of oil to the pan to keep from burning.
2. Put toast in toaster, go to restroom, brush teeth..
3. After brushing teeth, crack egg(s) next to the grilling meat, and put the lid back on. Go and wash face, put on contacts, etc.
4. After brushing teeth, washing face, putting on contacts, take the lid off.
5. Change into street clothes.
6. After deciding what to wear and changing, your meat, egg(s), and toast should be ready 😀


Baked sweet potato
-Bake in toaster oven overnight (with the timer function that will shut the oven off after x minutes

Banana Nut Yogurt
– Add banana slices, a few raw or toasted walnuts, and drizzle honey onto plain yogurt.

1. Microwave oatmeal in a bowl for ~2.5-3 minutes
2. Add honey, frozen fruit (I like berries), or banana, and mix ! Or, add brown sugar, raisins/craisins, and cinnamon
oatmeal + water overnight, then cook quickly in the morning. For steel
cut oats, bring oats+water to a boil, then shut the water off.

Variations: Peanut Butter Oatmeal with Dates- Cook 1/3 cup-1/2 cup oatmeal with 1
cup water, add 1 Tbsp peanut butter, stir until emulsified, then add
1-2 pitted chopped dates for sweetness. Add a few pinches of cinnamon if

for extra points, use buckwheat honey (lots of antioxidants, more
vitamins and minerals than lighter colored honey) or ground flaxseed
(some omega-3 and fiber!)

Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich
-Spread peanut butter, banana, and honey (optional) on a slice of toasted bread.

-Instead of drinking milk in the morning, try your hand at making your own soymilk.

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