Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dinner in 30 - Pork Style

I was so tired after work tonight and did not want to deal with the hassle of cooking at all! I just wanted to relax and watch TV but felt guilty since I’ve been eating out a lot. Luckily for me, I stumbled upon this good deal on organic pork at Trader Joe’s and was able to save a few bucks on making a quick meal. This is something you can have form start to finish in 30 minutes – including prep time! Just season the pork and broil for 20 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees and you’re set to go. Next time when you don’t feel like pulling a Martha Stewart for dinner, do this instead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The thing I miss most about Costco is their affordable giant chunk of Ahi Tuna. After eating so much meat lately, I needed fish to cleanse my pallet. Because my local grocery shop often times closes the fish market before I get off work and leave me with just red meat options, I had to jump on this opportunity to buy it – even if it was way too expensive!

After salting your fish lightly with Kosher salt, add on some butter mixed with wasabi and cover with slices of ginger. This will add a real kick to the taste. Pair it with warm soba noodles and you’ve got an entire meal under 15 minutes!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicken Fever

What is it about organic, free range, non-antibiotics chicken that I love so much? I crave it all day long. I can’t stop buying it even though it costs more than my hourly wage! I just love the thick, juicy meat. Pan fried with bread crumbs or broiled with rosemary and lime, either way, you have something awesome! Here are a few dishes I made recently with my retirement savings.

P.S. for some reason I am deadly afraid of buying any other kind of chicken – apparently some guy started to grow boobs from eating too much hormone-injected chicken breasts. …..

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A New Friend

I’m finally settled in the new apartment and loving it. A friend of ours had asked us to baby sit her plant over the summer but recently returned and took it back. I didn’t think I would miss it very much, but I do. The apartment feels incomplete without it.

Per my usual after work routine, last night I went to Trader Joes to buy organic chicken and other ingredients for dinner and was seduced by the cutest thing ever – a Basil plant. How can I possible say no to fresh green leaves and strong herb scents at the price of $5.99?

The Basil plant inspired me to make green curry for dinner and now I have a friend again amidst the loneliness of a new city.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Cindy said to me that she “can’t really cook” and I told her to STFU! Well, not really, but kind of. After a long day of work I met up with her to go groceries shopping. To show her that anyone can cook, I told her to pick out a few random ingredients and without a menu set in mind we’d cook it together.

The dishes below are what we came up with. Flank steak with couscous and arugula /walnut salad and pan fried bell peppers with cherry tomatoes and garlic.

Together we cooked dinner and it was a lot of fun. I packed her the extra meat/vegetables so she could go home and replicate the meal and do it on her own. I’m sure she kicked ass. Come over and we can cook together too. =)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Figs, Friends, Boston

Cooking for yourself is great and the cost savings is a huge bonus! But beyond this, there is something even more rewarding – cooking for your friends.

When I lived in California my calendar was never short of various dinner parties with friends, night on the town with acquaintances, and weekend meals with the family. Since moving to Boston two months ago however, the calendar has been rather empty. So you can only imagine my excitement when I had made enough friends to host a dinner. Thank you guys for coming together and for all the laughs. Hope you all enjoyed the meal inspired by California's black mission figs.

Now anyone who wants a meal, just come to Boston and I'll make sure you are satisfied.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bell Chili Peppers

Have you ever noticed that the green bell chili peppers are always cheaper than its yellow and red counterparts? I never understood why – maybe because it’s not as sweet?

I had some left over beef after making spaghetti the other night and wasn’t sure what to do with it until I saw the peppers were on sale at the local farmers market. I love anything baked/broiled because it’s healthier for you. This is also a very simple recipe – cook the beef with salt, garlic, mushrooms till its rare, make the couscous, cube the tomatoes, then stuff it in the chili pepper. Broil for 15-20 minutes and dinner is served. Though the portion looks small, it's very filling due to amount of beef and carbs.

Of course I also made strawberry shakes. =).

Oh Scallops

August told me he’s allergic to shellfish and I almost cried. Never before did such words pain my heart in such clenching ways. Can you imagine the horror? I feel so sad for him and anyone else who shares this curse!

Scallops are one of the things in life I enjoy eating most. The white meat is filled with savory juices and the flavors pull me in each time I see them at the market or while eating out a restaurant. They are easy to prepare - seared over the pan with butter with a bit of sweet white wine and a sprinkle of salt and you have dinner under 15 minutes. Here I’ve also wrapped them in bacon and broiled it in the oven for a few minutes – using raw spaghetti to hold. To top it off, balsamic vinegar reduction with a little sugar for faster results.

Oh how I love shellfish.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beet This

When I first started to cook for myself, grocery shopping was actually one of the most intimidating steps of the meal preparation process. How do you tell what color constitutes ripe and which texture constitutes freshness? While it has become one of my most enjoyable parts outside from eating, I am often challenged each time I shop for a meal. My challenges mainly come from lack of experience and knowledge - not just around matching the right ingredients but as far as what certain ingredients actually are.

Believe it or not, beets were always one of the scarier vegetable to me. They are roots that look dirty at first glance, they have color that stains even your skin, and I never knew what to do with the extra leaves on top. Unlike potatoes or tomatoes, beets are not part of the everyday Vietnamese cuisine and thus were never a part of neither my diet nor knowledge growing up.

In recent years however, beets have become one of my favorite thing to serve at any meals. The plant – to my surprise - is extremely easy to prepare and can be served either hot or cold and does not need much to compliment. Not only is the taste full of flavors – the deep colors of the root allows for great presentation at no expense of extreme creativity.

Easy, good, and pretty and requires only 20 minutes to broil, you can’t beet that!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fish, Sauce, Home

On my move to Boston, I was sure to bring one item that any self respecting Vietnamese could not live without – fish sauce! I was afraid of not being able to find the right brand at the American supermarkets. I triple wrapped the glass bottle and put it in a box filled with Styrofoam and flew with peace of mind knowing that when I got to the new apartment, my fish sauce bottle would turn it into a home.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Squid, Plating, Marriage

For the past month I’ve felt imprisoned and can hardly breathe. This is because my choices of plates and bowls were limited to 1 of each! Can you imagine it? Living with just ONE choice of plates? Oh the criminal offense! Luckily, my mom finally sent over my CB collection from home and saved the day.

Food to me is an art. The shopping, the chopping, the grilling and broiling, all precursors to that pivotal moment of robust flavors exploiting every pore of your tongue and building up to the final gratification of heighten taste buds. This crucial moment however can be easily ruined regardless of the excellence in your flavoring, or texture if your presentation lacks appeal. Much like a good song played on scratched record; no one wants to experience the buzz kill of a delicious meal on a messy and thoughtless plate.

Regardless if you are a young college student, a single man in his early twenties, an aging recently divorcĂ©e, or a bachelor on the prow, or even a nerdy engineer who can’t get some, the best thing you can do for your sex appeal is to get a set of white plate settings. Pricing is no excuse. If you have the bling for a set of Williams Sonoma , cheers to you, but if your current financial state is less than glorious, Ikea sells amazing and modern plates ranging from $2.00 - $6.00 (link). Please throw away your plastic, floral print, burnt marks covered, washed out, scratched up tableware now.

White tableware will accent your food and make it look like you’re a mature adult – even if you’re a monkey. Any ladies coming over for dinner will surely be impressed and when this happens, you’ll be glad you took my advice. Please send any wedding invitations to

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pizza - Best Way to Get "Some"

Have you ever forked over more than $20 for a pizza? Especially at one of those fancy, brick oven baked pizzerias? God knows I’ve paid for more than my fair share of such ridiculous bills! Tonight I decided to save some cash and made my own!

The ingredients and directions are really simple: pizza dough (or puff pastries if you don’t have time), spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard, cover with chopped shallots (sweet onions), and grated cheese (can be any of your choice but I prefer Gruyere), sliced cherry tomatoes, and top it off with some salt, thyme or dry basil. Half an hour and 375 degrees later, you have a tasty meal.

The thing I love most about this dish is not only how easy it is for an inexperience chef and how devilishly delicious it is for anyone, but also how impressive it looks on a plate. Best to use if you’re cooking for a dinner date under the clock. Trust me - it’ll take you along way if served with a glass of Carbonet. And by a long way, I mean the next room over.

Happy cooking. Cheers.