Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day! Cinnamon Bun, Cinnamon Bun, Cinnamon Bun

In a wonderful alignment of the cosmos, today is not only Father's Day, it's the First Day of Summer AND what would've been my dad's 67th birthday.  His birthday always coincides with the first day of summer - a fitting day for a man who was a wonderful, kind and (mostly) fun-loving dad.  As most daddy's girls know, there exists this magical kryptonite to their dad's heart affording us the ability to melt away every ounce of resolve to properly parent and discipline an unruly daughter.  I, of course, had it and you know my brothers were completely jealous.  Kuen also wields this magical power over Gabe. 

My dad and my brothers.  Love these guys to the moon and back.

The man wasn't without his struggles but I'm so grateful that when I reflect on my childhood, I recall: laughter, McDonald's, Disney World and boating trips and mah-jong parties at our house where people would show up before dawn and stay late into the evening eating, drinking and having a good time.  My dad's motto was, "Don't worry, be happy."  Yes, the inspiration did come from the cheesy Bobby McFerrin number from the late 80's and there's even some cassette tape recording somewhere in a box of my dad and pre-pubescent brothers singing it on karaoke.  Oh, what'd I'd give to know where that tape ended up.

So. Much. Disney.
(and we loved every minute of it)

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of and miss him.  I can't believe it's already been over 8 years since his passing and yet, sometimes I feel like he's just out on one of his trucking trips.  It's like I can still pick up a phone and hear his voice in my head greeting me with his usual, "Hi dah-ling!" 

Cindy's wedding, 2006

I actually hope Kuen's rebellious stage comes before she leaves the house because it seems like when us late bloomers do it, we go full on BSC (bat-shit crazy).  I went through my awful rebellious stage in college (also, can we please just raise the legalization age for everything to 30?).  The regrettable tattoos and boyfriends are completely overshadowed by the fact that I just didn't give my parents the time of day.  Years of filial piety rhetoric that was drilled into my brain completely dissolved after leaving the nest.  Worst still, during my cousin's wedding I passed up on (what I didn't know at the time would be) my last opportunity to dance at a wedding w/ my dad.  GAH.  I know my dad would forgive me anything but it burdened me for a long time and now serves as a poignant reminder that my family is everything to me.  They may drive me crazy at times, but they're mine and I love them and I owe a debt of gratitude to each and every one of them.  The difficult lesson of the finality of death came with the loss of one of the most important people in my life.

I inherited my diabetic dad's infamous love of sweets.  One of his favorites was cinnamon buns from that popular mall chain.  My mom would always roll her eyes when we would split up from him at the mall only to find later at the food court rendezvous point my dad unapologetically holding a soda or coffee from the cinnamon bun place not even trying to hide the evidence.  They had the same supernatural power over him as I did and he would chant, "Cinnamon bun, cinnamon bun, cinnamon bun."  Dad was awesome.

Anywho - I didn't get around to actually making these this week but I plan on doing so soon.  When I do, you know I'll be thinking of my dear daddy and feeling forever grateful to him for being so awesome to my brothers and me.  Love you so much Daddy!

Minimalist Baker's Easy Cinnamon rolls (and they're vegan to boot!)

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.  Give your dad a big hug if you can (unless he's a complete jerk..and even then maybe still give him a hug).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Listing a List of Lists #10

Food I'm Loving:

I had a draft sitting in my blog since January that I never finished.  Needless to say, taking a vacation in February was ill-advised since it's a super busy time of year for me at work.  I had something here noting how I hated January because my entire blog feed had 10,000 recipes for freaking green smoothies due to everyone being crazy from their New Year's resolutions.  It would've been a negative time to blog so consider it a blessing in disguise.

Lesson: Don't ask your doctor for book suggestions.  Since my last post, I read this very scary book and I'm too scared to eat meat.  This happened briefly right before  I got pregnant after watching a rather graphic episode of Oprah where she sent Lisa Ling to tour a Cargill meat processing facility (just, don't).  Anywho, I just can't seem to give up the Chick-fil-a, especially since they just opened a few in Washington for the first time since I've moved here.  It's causing quite a stir.  This doesn't mean the smell of hamburgers on the grill doesn't make my mouth salivate, it just means I'm going to consume less meat.  Plus, cows and pigs are just so darn cute.  

I'm going crazy over these chickpea burgers.  It's like a giant falafel essentially, which, marry me.

A friend turned us on to these eggs and bacon (see?  We still eat meat) and it is AH-MAZING!  So glad this local, humane movement is catching on.  

Mushroom Kale and Goat Cheese Quesadilla sounds so good.

Have made this Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bar recipe several times within the last few weeks - super good and so easy.

This Avocado Hummus - c'mon, you don't have to be vegan to think that sounds delish.

Blackberry Coconut Scones - wauw.

Yet another reason to love Trader Joe's, I've recently discovered this Goddess Dressing that is suuuuuper yum.  Try it!

Interesting to Me:

If I'm being totally honest, I just couldn't stop laughing when I read this article about J.Law and her hot bodyguard and just felt I had to share on my blog.  So thanks, J.Law for both having a hot bodyguard and inspiring me to get on my blog again.

(Again, leftover from January...)I was a tad too young for leg warmers back in the 80's but I'm making up for lost time - who else is excited they're back in style?!  I had a Treat Yo Self moment and found some from Target.

I'm new to the Cards Against Humanity world and we played it while in FL (waaaaay back in February).  MAN.  Make sure the kiddos are fast asleep before opening the box.  The raunch was palpable but we had a hilariously good time.  

Just for Fun:
I got a nail art kit (don't laugh, it was on my Christmas wish list) and I'm L.O.V.I.N.G. it.  When do I find time to do this w/ a 3 year old, you ask?  Let's just say I won't know what to do w/ myself when nap time disappears.  I had a little impromptu nail session with Carrie when I went down to FL and I'm so annoyed I didn't get a photo of the finished product.  I feel like I should start a portfolio!

I've said it before, I'll say it again - I'm back (I think)!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Quick and Easy Lemon Chicken

We just got back from an epic trip to Florida.  I say I couldn't live there but I sure do find it hard to come back sometimes after visiting so many of my close family and friends.  In a strange and wonderful coincidence, the 3 girls I had as bridesmaids and I all had baby girls.  Girls rule!

Yes, we did the Disney thing.  Kuen's first trip.  As much as I'd love to get all "Oh gawd, it was Disney and I hated the mind numbing music, crowds, etc.", I actually loved it.  Kuen had a blast.  Aside from 2 rather titanic meltdowns - one experienced when I dared to take her in a race car at the ever offensive Tomorrowland Speedway.  What?  I'm from Daytona?!  She actually got a little violent when I tried the second, even more objectionable Dumbo ride.  The look on her face as she thrashed about as violently as only a 3-year-old can read, "how dare you try to make me fly on this adorably plump elephant with large ears?!"  Other than that, she had a great time and is full-on Disney Princess and Frozen-crazy.  This is something I've tried very hard to rage against but my resolve just melts away when I see how much joy she gets out of it.  I guess she'll just have to learn to love Disney Princesses and still grow up to be a strong, independent girl that doesn't need to wait for a man to be her meal ticket.

*steps down from soap box*

We stayed on property and needless to say, we ate a lot, ON PROPERTY.  Totally by design.  That Walt Disney really knew what he was doing, I mean, what a cash cow?!  They make it pretty hard to get on/off the grounds so it's just easier to stay and make them take your money.  I was happy to see that they actually did allow patrons to bring their own food and beverages in to the park so with a little planning, you can actually get away with a cheap(ish) Disney experience, but we didn't have time for that this go around.  Next time.

How are we going to top ourselves next year??

After 3 days of Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess paraphernalia, 20-80 minute ride lines, being ass to ankles with tourists from all over the globe and sleeping in the same bed as a nocturnally acrobatic toddler, I was ready to leave and have a nice home cooked meal.  I made this a few times while I was down in FL and it was a hit!

The sauce is definitely the best part.

It's one of those really quick meals you can throw together in 15 minutes, pop it in the oven and have some time to play w/ your kid(s) or veg out in front of the TV before the smells from the oven lure you back for some super fresh and delicious chicken.  This is a great make-ahead meal as well and can be prepped for a quick 30 minutes in the oven.  (Cindy - let me know how the crock pot version turns out!)

Note: The dish is very versatile - I usually use chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) because I think it's the most flavorful cut of chicken but I've used drumsticks as a backup.  If you opt for the white meat, make sure it's at least bone-in with skin.  The breasts will likely dry out if you use boneless skinless breast meat. The amount of chicken is scale-able.  I usually use 5-8 pcs of thighs depending on the size.  When I'm making this and serving immediately, I like to take the chicken out of the fridge to take the chill off.  This helps with not only cooking time but more even cooking.

Another note, I'm not writing in any measurements for salt or pepper.  I season all three layers (veg, sauce and chicken) but never measure it.  The amount of seasoning also depends on the amount of chicken you're using and your own tastes.  Just err on the side of caution, you can always add more but you can't take it out if it's too salty.

Quick and Easy Lemon Chicken

adapted from this recipe

serves 3-4

3-5 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (see above note for substitutions)
1/2 medium onion, diced (sometimes I add the whole thing)
1 to 2 lbs potatoes, diced (any waxy version is good - red or yukon)
1 fennel bulb, diced (celery works in a pinch)
2 lemons (cut in half, juice 3 of the 4 halves and slice the last one)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

optional: your favorite dried herbs - see the original recipe for inspiration, I always forget to include herbs but never miss it

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Dice the onion, fennel and potatoes and place in a roasting pan (you want something that's going to be deep enough to hold all the sauce) and season with salt and pepper.  Juice the 3 lemon halves, add olive oil and any optional herbs, add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix and pour 1/2 the sauce over the vegetables, toss to coat.  Season the chicken pieces and spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken, coating both sides.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Again, this will depend on how thick the cut is and how cold your chicken is when it starts baking.  I always go by how brown the skin is which isn't scientific at all but hasn't failed me yet.  Make sure you let the chicken rest after it comes out of the oven for at least 10 minutes before serving with rice or noodles.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Listing a List of Lists #9

Food I'm Loving:

Bfast stuff: I'm trying to eat healthier and while I'm not sure I could choke a salad down at 7a, if I ever did I hope it would look a little something like this.  If I'm being real though, I'd much rather eat nachos for bfast in the form of this recipe.  More likely though, I would cook something like this.

Healthy(-ish?) twice baked potatoes - yum.

Crinkle cookies - def. gotta try.

Whole roasted cauliflower w/ beer cheese sauce, very intriguing. 

Never met a fry I didn't like - I could be friends w/ these apple fries.

I bet even my carnivore would find this caesar salad pretty awesome.

Made these cookies for a bake sale at Kuen's school holiday concert - they're so festive and happily, they vanished in no time.  Love the thought of this interesting flavor combo: apricot/butterscotch?  

Butter cake bites?  Wow.

Baked falafel burgers - I love falafel!  

Making this cheesy broccoli rice for dinner this week.  What's not to love?

Honey candied anything would be awesome, but I think I want to try with almonds.

BEFORE: Butter dots make me happy. 

After: It got an apricot jam shellacking after I took this pic.
I've made this apple tart so many times and I still love it.  Auntie Ina is the best.  You can very easily use store bought (gasp!) puff pastry for the crust instead of making from scratch, both ways are great.

Interesting to Me:

How cute?!  Free cookie swap templates.

How to make baking powder out of baking soda - who knew??

This dog makes me want to fly KLM just so I can leave something behind on the airplane.

Kuen's holiday concert was this past weekend and she got to wear what she calls her 'wedding dress' - a dress she wore at her uncle's wedding last year.  I can't believe it still fits but I'm glad she got another wear out of it because it's such a pretty little thing.  How is my boo almost 3?

I'm reading this book by Arianna Huffington and I love it.  So so zen.

For all you SATC fans, this had me totally dying.

Also, speaking of Auntie Ina: this Buzzfeed about the Barefoot Contessa was killing it.

Gabe was sick w/ the flu last week which really sucked.  This video about men getting sick is for real, though.

Awkward moments only Asians will understand.  Truth.  "Where are you really from?"

Just for Fun:

Amazingly, I celebrated my 500th Barre3 class last week!  This was a really big personal milestone that got me thinking about several things.  First, everyone (especially with kids) knows the precious nature of time.  We are always short on it and it's constantly getting away from us.  I'm pulled in a million different directions and if OCD wasn't naturally occurring in my DNA, it is now.  As if the deluge of never-ending laundry, playtime, reading, cooking, vacuuming, bday parties, bake sales, etc., weren't enough, I have to somehow squeeze in time for myself so I don't turn into an absolute crazy person which, gratefully, I've been able to do.

If these last several years have taught me anything, it's that life is wonderful, fragile and needs to be lived..proactively.  I try to make time for what I think is important and leave the rest.  I have a little person that's looking up to me everyday so - whether I want the spotlight or not, I'm in it - and leading by example is a must.  Taking care of myself hopefully shows Kuen that she needs to take care of herself too.

It's been a struggle to quiet all the criticism in my own head and just accept that I'm a flawed person doing the best I can - just like everyone else.  I have to constantly compete with all the other responsibilities to get a well deserved chunk of time to myself.  

It helps greatly that I have someone as supportive as I do to share in the responsibility.  Gabe is on morning duty with Kuen.  I'm talking: wake-up, cook breakfast, brush teeth (NOT easy with a toddler), get dresses (also NOT easy with a toddler), 2 crazy dogs, drive on freaking I-405 south during A.M. rush hour with said toddler, drop off at school.  And that's all before he goes to work.  Understanding that many many people do this daily (props to all those single parents), I don't take for granted that I get to leave (albeit at 5:40a) to go to the gym then straight to work so I can get out early to beat traffic and get home to cook dinner.  That's our trade - I get to go to the gym early, he gets out of cooking..ever.  He graciously takes care of Kuen.  He's great at it - the man is patient and I couldn't ask for a better father to my child, I have so much gratitude.  He allows me an hour to myself in the morning.  I couldn't have reached that 500 w/o him.  Thanks so much, hon.  xoxo  

Daddy/Daughter time.

All the single ladies - choose wisely.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

For my favorite cousin, Cindy!

I don't know about you but I am heavy into holiday baking season.  Yes, it's only the 7th of December but my sheet pans have gotten a serious workout these last few weeks.  I've also started a new extreme sport: baking w/ a toddler.  Apparently, I have serious thrill seeking issues.

Baking w/ an almost three year old (how did that even happen?!) is like baking w/ say, the Tasmanian Devil.  Did anyone else have those really obnoxious t-shirts growing up?


Moving along.  These cookies take a bit of preparation and some delayed gratification is involved, which, let's face it - is not necessarily a toddler's strong suit.  Either way, the payoff for these amazing cookies is totally worth it.  Give yourself a few hours (at least) before you need these, they require some time to chill out in the fridge before baking.

We're headed down to Florida in February and I cannot wait to get in the kitchen with these girls and bake some more of these awesome cookies.

No, I don't actually have a picture of the cookies.
That would make entirely too much sense and take entirely too much foresight.

What are you baking for the holidays?

Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Adapted from this recipe (I don't think they need the glaze and I like my technique better so you're not killing yourself working w/ hard, cold dough which is more difficult to form)

makes about 30 cookies

1 c. unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. plus 2 tbsp. AP flour (sifted)
1/2 c. raspberry jam

Begin by creaming the butter and sugar until light a fluffy.  Add in extracts and salt, blend until combined.  Add in flour in 1/2 cup additions until combined but be careful not to over-mix or else you end up with tough dough.

Using a 1 oz. cookie scoop (or a rounded tablespoon), scoop out portions of dough and roll in to balls, place on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.  Press thumb lightly to flatten the balls and create an indentation in the dough for the jam later.  There will be cracking which doesn't bother me but if you'd rather have perfectly uniform cookies, the dough can easily be smoothed back.  I like the wrinkles/cracks - gives them character :) This is the best part about having kids help - it's hilarious and adorable to see little tiny thumb prints (sometimes 2 or 3) in these cookies.

Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

When the dough is completely chilled and you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Take the dough out and make sure each cookie has about 2" of clearance from other cookies, either baking in a few batches or on separate baking sheets.  These will spread slightly but less so after chilling.  A silicone mat (as opposed to parchment paper) will also help keep these from spreading too much.

You can spoon 1/2 teaspoonfuls into each imprint.  I like using a piping bag or just a plastic sandwich bag to keep them clean.  Put the jam in the bag, snip a small corner off and pipe the jam into each indentation.  Bake for 12-15 minutes - make sure your oven temperature is right, you don't want these to brown.

Keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for a week but I bet anything they won't last that long.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Listing a List of Lists #8

Food I'm Loving:

I made this lasagna and Lemon Lavender Almond Blueberry Biscotti recently.  Yes, I'm plugging my own blog - what??

Lemon Lavender Almond Blueberry Biscotti

Someone try this homemade Velveeta Cheese.  Report back asap.

Pumpkin mania is in full swing: Make your own pumpkin puree & toast the pumpkin seeds. Also: granola, cheesecake, pancakes, cookies, muffins, etc.

These brownies.. my goodness.

Trader Joe's got in their puff pastry and I've got my sights set on this recipe (first, at least).

For football season: Ultimate hot wingsSalsa verde beef tacos, made these ribs last week and they were every bit as amazing as the picture...drool.

Ribs & thangs

Salt & vinegar roasted chickpeas.  Creative!

Love this funfetti cake - makes me smile.

I'm as sucker for anything buffalo but buffalo falafel with blue cheese fries???  Mind. blown.

Sausage Cheddar and grits frittata - you had me at grits.

Interesting to Me:

Not the biggest Star Wars nerd but this Princess Leia hat is ridiculously adorable.

Dying over the cute factor of this baby elephant playing w/ a ribbon.

I want to squeeze this baby elephant.

Another reason I love love love Denzel Washington.

I really want to get one of these for Kuen - awesome commercial, Costco.  But I'll abstain from doing what this lady did with hers.  Dang.

Nature is cool.  But which came first?

I guess George Clooney got tired of waiting for me.  I forgive him.

Just finished season 2 of Orange Is the New Black.  OMG.  Is anyone else watching this?!

Excellent video of some Oakland Raiders trying to decipher British slang. And speaking of football, NFL Superlatives had my dying.  Screengrabs, another hilarious segment.  

Poke my heart.  If you haven't already seen, please watch and prepare to have your heartstrings torn out.

I always buy Target clothes for Kuen but this is a fresh (and refreshing) perspective??

Emma Watson is awesome.  

Just for Fun:

Does anyone else find their kid's tantrums completely adorable? I know people don't find Kuen's tantrums adorable but they must find their own children's tantrums adorable, right?  

From an earlier tantrum..still adorable.

Kuen was throwing a really epic tantrum over several hilariously minor things: 

- daddy sitting in mommy's chair (while mommy was nowhere around, of course)

- at dinner her milk wasn't in her( newly favorite) Starbucks cup

- she wanted to watch Barefoot Contessa instead of football

- she wanted to wear her Hello Kitty backpack instead of eating dinner

- she couldn't use her froggy towel after bathtime (it's too small)

Gabe and I could not stop ourselves from just gazing at our child crying, thrashing and whirling mid-meltdown and all we could say was, "But it's just so adorable."

Whirling dervish mode enabled.

Before kids, seeing a tantrum ranked right up there with major dental procedures or running in to someone whose name you've forgotten on my list of things that make me uncomfortable.  Now, it's just so endearing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

It's been hotter than the dickens lately.  Ok, not really.  But when you live in a condo w/ no central air, anything over 75 degrees makes me a bit anxious.  We have a portable a/c in Kuen's room and we crank it down to 65 on "hot" days so when I get home, I open/shut the door as quickly as possible so I can keep as much cool air in this condo as I can.  

Ahhh, come to mama.

When I see Gabe lollygagging instead of slamming the door shut as quickly as possible, I always yell "close the door!" then he stops what he's doing (with the door OPEN) and looks as me with a quizzical , "huh?" every. damn. time.  Same thing happens when he does this w/ the fridge or freezer door.  Anger stroke.

I've gotten more used to it but I can't bear to turn the stove on for long periods of time and you can forget any kind of baking until September at the earliest.  Which is silly, considering how cookie season is in the summer.  Ok, nevermind.  Cookies are prettymuch always in season.

If you have some leftover pasta in your fridge, 'cooking' this pasta salad adds approximately ZERO degrees to your (already hot) kitchen.  I've also just done the cooking parts in the morning when things haven't gotten too hot yet and then I've prepped some things to make dinner come together even faster so I can get done w/ dinner and park myself in front of a fan as quickly as possible.

I was in such a hurry to shovel this in my mouth I took a blurry picture. Sue me.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

makes 6 servings

2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1 English (or hot house) cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, julienned 
1 c. kalamata olives, roughly chopped
6 oz. dry salami, thinly sliced
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
8 oz. short cut pasta (1/2 lb)
1 green onion, sliced thinly (optional)

Greek Dressing

1/3 red wine vinegar
2/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic finely minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons sugar (updated)
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

Cook pasta according to package instructions.  While the pasta cooks, cut and prepare tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, olives and salami and toss together in a large bowl.  Prepare dressing.  After draining the pasta, allow it to cool slightly before adding to the vegetables.  Dress the salad (I use about 1/3 to 1/2 a cup) stir to combine.  Mix in feta, salami and fold.  Garnish with green onions.  Taste and adjust seasoning or add more dressing.

This pasta salad can be made ahead of time and gets better as the flavors blend.  

The dressing is seriously good.  This recipe make more then you need so I love to use the dressing as a marinade or to pour over sliced tomatoes.