Kale, Tomato and Potato Hash


As someone who very much enjoys cooking, entertaining, and feeding others, I am constantly in the market for an easy recipe that is also socially neutral.  I need dishes that are edible to my myriad of friends who have food restrictions.  I have friends who keep kosher; friends who are vegetarian, pescatarian, or vegan; friends who have gluten allergies or are gluten-sensitive; a friend who hates cheese; and even a friend who doesn’t like chocolate.  I know.  The last two just seem crazy, but wonderful people do exist who dislike cheese and chocolate!  That’s alright.  More for me, thank you!

This hash is a very easy dish that not only tastes good, it’s healthy, colorful, and steers clear of pretty much every dietary minefield.  It tastes delicious with parmesan sprinkled on top, but that’s optional.  This has become my latest go-to when I have guests.  My favorite way to eat it is with a side of hot buttered bread (french baguette, drizzled with melted butter, bake in the oven at 350° for 12-15 minutes, serve with your topping of choice – I love blackberry preserves).  Top that off with some fresh hot coffee, and I’m a very, very, happy, girl.

HappyBefore we go into the oven!  Such an easy recipe…. chop, layer, toss, bake.

Out of the oven, piping hot and ready for zee close-up! 
Recipe Serves 4.
1 3-lb. bag of small yellow potatoes
4 Roma tomatoes
1 small bunch of kale
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
freshly cracked pepper

Lower the oven rack to the bottom third of the oven, and pre-heat the oven to 425°.

1. Rinse off the potatoes, tomatoes, and kale.
2. Chop enough potatoes until you have one layer in your roasting pan. (You can also use a glass casserole dish – any oven safe pan is fine.) Chop the tomatoes and add them to the potatoes. Tear the kale into small shreds and add them on top until the dish is covered. See above. 3. Sprinkle with olive oil, then add salt and pepper, and toss together. (I like to use my hands.)
4. Bake for 35 minutes, and serve hot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Honey Yogurt Whole Wheat Bread


For my birthday this year, a dear friend gave me a beautiful bottle of olive oil, made from his family's farm in Greece.  The olive oil is... fantastic.  Beyond fantastic.  It tastes so flavorful and fresh, you can have it on its own.  I mean, I wouldn't advise you to drink it straight from the bottle, but if some dribbles off the side of the bottle and you happen to see it and you want to catch it with your finger and then you want to suck that olive oil off your finger, then, well... who am I to judge?

What’s left of the olive oil.  That is some good ish right there.

Oftentimes when I feel unmotivated to do something, I give myself a proverbial carrot to help me along.  This morning, in order to inspire me to clean the kitchen and then work out, I promised myself hot coffee and fresh, homemade bread.  Here’s my recipe for quick, whole wheat bread.  From start to finish, it takes less than an hour.  In the batter, I use whole milk plain yogurt, whole milk, and raw local honey.  I also used a scoop of the delicious olive oil, shown above.  It turned out wonderfully.  The density is similar to other quick bake breads (like banana bread), but it’s got a bit more of a crumb.  Can’t wait to have some for dessert tonight!  One of my favorite things to do is to toast it in a pan with butter – you can get a nice, crunchy, buttery crust on the bread.  If you’re feeling extra extravagant, garnish with ice cream.  Hot damn that is some good eatin’ right there. 


Adapted from Shelbee's recipe.

Makes one (1) loaf.

2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda 
1 tsp. salt
1 cup of honey
1 cup of yogurt
1/2 c. whole millk
1/2 c. olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 350°.

1.  In one bowl, mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
2.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey, yogurt, milk, and olive oil.
3.  Make a well in the bowl of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients.  Mix until just combined. 
4.  Grease a loaf pan on all sides and pour the batter in.  Bake for 40 minutes. 

Once the bread is done, flip the pan over to knock the bread out.  Put the bread right side up and, if you’re impatient and hungry like me, feel free to liberate a slice of fresh bread from that pan, and pop it in your mouth.  Perfect with jam and butter, and a cup of coffee or tea.  I didn’t even make it to the dining table – just ate it, standing in the middle of my kitchen.  Mmmm…..  Happy Sunday. 

Lunar New Year & Chinese Almond Cookies


The lunar new year is possibly the biggest Chinese holiday of the year.  It is a huge family holiday, and families travel far and wide to be together during this happy, auspicious time.  My mom told me that, traditionally, the new year was observed for two weeks and people went home to be with their families.  Nowadays, overseas Chinese typically take anywhere from 2-7 days to celebrate the new year.

While there is a lot of overlap in how the new year is observed, each province and village celebrates the holiday in its own way.  Because my father’s family is from Guang Dong (southern China), and my mother’s family is from Taiwan by the way of An Hui (northern China), I was raised with a mix of traditions.

My mom told my sisters and me that everything you do for the first week of the new year sets the tone for the rest of the year. The Chinese culture is chock full of superstitions, and most traditions have a reason, story, or symbolism behind them. Avoid fighting and stress, which includes no working and no major cleaning – everyone eats, relaxes, socializes, and plays games. You aren't supposed to use a broom, because you might sweep out the good luck. You aren't supposed to use a knife or scissors, because you might cut your good luck. Before the first day of the new year, everything in the house is cleaned top to bottom to chase out any ill-fortune that might be lying around and give the new year a clean start. We all wear something new that is red, because red symbolizes good luck.

In many homes, the word fortune is hung upside-down, outside on the front door.  This is to symbolize good fortune pouring down on you.

This is fortune, right side up.

While most people take the word down after awhile (just like any holiday decoration), I keep 福 () on my door all year-round.  I don’t think you can ever have enough good fortune!

We also give hong bao, which are little red envelopes decorated in gold and filled with money.  Traditionally, adults give hong bao to children.  Interestingly enough, you are a “child” until you are married.  Once you are married your parents no longer have to give you hong bao and the giving is reversed (you give hong bao to your parents and grandparents, and to children).  In my family, on new year’s day morning, my sisters and I used to go to my parents’ bedroom and bow three times to them, wishing them good health, prosperity, and a happy new year.  Then, they would bless us with good wishes and give each of us a hong bao.  To properly receive hong bao, you accept it with both hands as you bow to the giver in thanks.  After receiving our hong bao, we'd bow and say, "gong xi, gong xi" which means congratulations.  My grandparents also gave us hong bao, and all the grandchildren would line up in front of them to bow, and give and receive blessings.  

Hong bao. There are tons of variations though; you can even find hong bao with Mickey Mouse on them! 

The Chinese culture is very superstitious about numbers.  For this type of thing, I’d look to a place like Wikipedia for all the number combinations that are good or bad.  There are so many, it takes real effort to memorize them all.  The worst number is 4, which is a homonym of death.  You want to avoid giving money beginning or ending in 4.  Generally, the other odd numbers are good, while 2, 8, and 9 are particularly auspicious: 2 because good luck comes in pairs, or the desire to double your fortune; 8 because it is a homonym for prosperity; 9 because it is a homonym for long, thereby symbolizing longevity and a long life.  Some provinces celebrate the birthdays ending in 9 the way Americans emphasize the celebration of decade birthdays.  Some provinces believe celebrating on the decade birthday ending in zero is not fortunate, because zero symbolizes emptiness.  When giving money, it's okay to give whole numbers ending in zero because it's the first number that counts.  Don't ask me why.  My mom’s favorite number is 168, which is one of the luckiest number combinations: 168 (yi liu ba) sounds like 一路发(yi lu fa), which roughly means long-lasting prosperity, or prosperity all the way.  The cash given in hong bao is traditionally nice, new and crisp, fresh from the bank.  Fresh money, fresh fortune.

Good gifts to give during the new year?  Food!  Oranges and other citrus fruits symbolize good luck, wealth, and a sweet life.  They are similar to the color gold, which is a good luck color.  You also can’t go wrong with chocolates and candy, to wish someone sweetness in his or her life. Plants are also good gifts, but make sure you do your homework and get the right type!  This year a good friend gave me a jade plant, which I’m thrilled about.  Jade symbolizes friendship, wealth/prosperity, and good fortune.

This year, I made my first lunar new year dinner by myself.  It was exciting on one hand, but it also filled me with longing for my mom and sisters.  When we all lived in the same city, we gathered together to make food, talk, and laugh together.  My mom’s egg rolls are to die for, and she made everything taste delicious.  Every dish symbolizes some kind of good fortune or blessing for the new year.  The six basic types I’m familiar with are good fortune, wealth and prosperity, good health, longevity, happiness, and abundance.  For more, you can check out this site for a brief, though not complete list.  I’m only one person, and a novice new year’s cook, so I went with a soup, three entrees, one side dish, and a dessert.  In this post, I share how to make the dessert: almond cookies! 

Also, I got a really lucky surprise new year's eve: I got to see both my sisters!!  Their flight was delayed and they ended up with an overnight layover in Chicago!  I was so, so happy.  We hung out for eight hours eating cookies, laughing, and talking the night away.  It was the best.

The Year of the Dragon New Year Menu! 

Chicken Soup
chicken, ginger, shitake mushrooms
Roast Chicken
brined whole chicken, bacon fat, olive oil, cracked salt and pepper
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
bacon fat, chicken fat, cracked salt and pepper
Steamed Salmon
soy sauce, sherry, ginger, garlic, scallions
Shrimp Fried Rice
rice, green peas, eggs, shrimp, scallions, garlic
Almond Cookies
recipe below!

Almond Cookies1

Besides being delicious, almond cookies symbolize wealth and prosperity.  So eat up, eat up!!

This recipes makes about 36-46 cookies. 

1 c. whole wheat flour
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
3 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
Whole almonds (36-46)
1 egg (for the wash)  

Pre-heat the oven to 350°.

1.  Mix together the flours, baking soda and salt.
2.  Cream together the butter, sugar, almond extract, and one egg. 
3.  Combine the flour and butter mixture together until it looks all pebbly. 
4.  Form 1 tablespoon balls of dough.  Gently flatten the top with your fingers and press a whole almond into the center.  Alternatively, place an almond inside the tablespoon and pack it with dough.  Then, flip it over so that the cookie looks like a little dome.
5.  Beat the second egg and brush it over the top of the cookies.  Bake for 15 minutes.

新年快樂!  恭禧發財!
Xin Nian Kuai Le! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Vegetarian Chili

As a card-carrying omnivore, this is the only vegetarian chili I’ve made that’s been worthy of a post.  Even my dad – who “has to have” his meat – enjoyed this chili.


Anyone who knows me knows I’m an avid omnivore.  While meat represents a small percentage of my food pyramid, I love meat and appreciate it deeply.  A perfectly cooked steak, strips of bacon, the crackly skin of a just-out-of-the-oven broiled chicken – all make me close my eyes and smile with quiet joy.  Knowing all that, you might be shocked that I’m posting a vegetarian recipe for chili.  Well, with all the above being said, I also love my veggies.  A coarsely salted roasted brussel sprout, the juicy leaves of garlicky stir fried kale, and the often overlooked baked potato are a few of my favorites.  Eating a huge bowl of vegetables is wonderful for your mind and body, so what better way to do that than in a chili. 

While I don't claim this to be a “legit” chili recipe (I can hear hollering from the South that no self-respecting chili has beans), it is a form of chili.  If this country is allowed to bastardize Chinese food and call it “Chinese" food, then I have the right to call this chili.  Your turn, Counsel.

In addition to the health benefits of eating lots of vegetables, my lazy cooking brain loves how easy it is to make.  After washing the vegetables, all you do is dice, turn up the heat, and then eat.  It really is as simple as that. 


Cooking oil
1 small onion
Garlic – as few or as many cloves as you like     

1 green pepper
1 red pepper
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 package of mushrooms 

Dried oregano (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Dried basil (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Chili powder, a few pinches

1 small can corn (unsalted) 
2 small cans of beans (I like kidney, cannellini, butter)
2 small cans chopped tomatoes (fresh tomatoes work great, of course) 

Salt and Pepper

Dice the garlic, chop the onion, and add them to a pot on medium high heat with a little bit of oil.  As that is heating up, dice the celery, carrots, peppers, and mushrooms and stir them into the pot as you dice them up.  Mix in the spices.  Then add all of the rinsed, canned vegetables to the pot. Stir and bring the chili to a boil; simmer for 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Grilled cheese sandwiches are underrated.  They're often forgotten.  How many times have you wondered, what should I eat, while you had bread, butter, and cheese sitting in your kitchen?  Yup, that's what I thought.

I'm almost embarrassed to post this since it is so elementary... but I've had the unnecessary experience of eating a sad grilled cheese sandwich.  The perfect sandwich requires understanding of how to cook what, and when. Once you've got that down, you can do it in your sleep.  The way I cook this sandwich ensures a crisp and toasty exterior, with a hot, gooey, cheesy center.  I hate it when the bread is really crunchy and scrapes the roof of my mouth.  Don't you?

I wholeheartedly encourage you to get fancy with this sandwich.  What doesn't go well with melted cheese?  Add slices of tomato, bacon, caramelized onions, whatever you like.  The recipe below is the foundation for your perfect grilled cheese. I love pairing it with tomato soup, aka grilled cheese's match made in heaven!

IMG_2679Mmm, cheesey goodness.

2 slices of sandwich bread
1-2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard (optional) 

2 tablespoons of butter
Cheese, sliced (amount is up to you)

(1)  Heat a pan to medium.  If you're adding mustard or any other condiment, slather it onto one side of each slice of bread.
(2)  Add butter to the pan and, once it has melted, add both slices of bread (condiment side up).  Swirl the bread around the pan until all the butter is soaked up.  
(3) Add the cheese to one or both slices.  If you're adding other ingredients (such as tomatoes, bacon, etc.), put it on top of the bread now.  Let it toast, as is, for about one minute.  Lower the heat, and then flip one slice of bread onto the other and let toast for one minute.