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Half Moon Bay

I admit, I’m the worst blogger ever. Food blogging is something I aspire to, I just don’t have the follow through. But lately I’ve been cooking up a storm and have been eating some ridiculously amazing food. I’ve taken photos and I’ve researched recipes so, I’m setting myself up for success, right? Yes! I have a post to make! I want to share some recipes! I want you to cook them! Here we go!

First, let me explain some of the new developments that have allowed me more time to cook and put amazing food in my face. Earlier this year my husband and I relocated to sunny California. My hubby moved out here several months before I did and it’s been a challenging time getting out here and finally getting settled! I’m finding my groove out here and I’m doing this mainly through the food because, duh. There are sooooo many more kinds of ethnic foods to try, lots of ethnic markets – including separate Asian markets! Back in Salt Lake there were Asian markets that leaned Chinese or Japanese but here there are huge markets that offer almost all Korean items, Japanese items and Chinese items. I went to a Korean market that had 4! huge cold tables with a dizzying array of kimchi and pickled vegetables! WAT?! The Latino markets have been fun to explore too. The pastries get me everytime. EVERYTIME!

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Just one of four tables of kimchi and pickled vegetables and seafood at Hankook Supermarket

I think Farmer’s markets are required for every 5 mile block and not just on the weekends. The amount of local produce available in just a commercial grocery store is impressive and then there’s the food trucks. Good God. At our apartment community they have Food Truck Sundays. It’s the best way to build a community, I tell ya. They block off a section of the street, have 4-5 food trucks pull in, provided a DJ, picnic blankets and buckets to sit on and it’s just too much fun.

One big trend in food trucks out here are all the Asian fusion dishes. Some people really hate fusion, they’d prefer to be purists about their food. I totally get it but you will quickly eat your words once you try a Korean-style short rib burrito. Oh man. Or Vietnamese grilled pork tacos or a curried chicken rice bowl. The food these mighty, tiny, mobile kitchens are turning out is outstanding.

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Food Truck Sunday!!!

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Beef Koja (bulgogi beef on a bun made of pressed, cooked rice) with Kamikaze fries (waffle fries smothered in Korean BBQ, kimchi, onions, and Japanese mayo

I’ve cooked some pretty amazing stuff out here as well. I mean, who could resist? With all the awesome produce and products all around and the inspiration from all the restaurants and food trucks, it’s easy to start experimenting. While we’ve been out here, I’ve tried more new recipes that I can remember. Maybe it’s the excitement of living on a coast that’s got me feeling more adventurous. Maybe it’s the fact I have more time on my hands because I’m not working yet. That’s probably the more likely culprit but either way, I’m putting it here!

I’m hoping this will be the kick I need to really get into the habit of blogging. I’m also trying out flickr for the first time. I need a better way to organize and store my food photos separate from the photos on our home computer. Any suggestions on online photo management would be greatly appreciated. Okay, folks! Stay tuned. I have cooking posts on the way!

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View from Observation Point in Zions National Park.

We had a trip to Zions National Park planned months ago and then the government shut down. Luckily, our state rallied to fund the national parks during the shut down and Zions opened the day of our trip. We had a short weekend to explore the park and I think we chose some amazing sites. It was gorgeous! It was breathtaking! It was cold as hell! Well, not the entire time. Midday was fine but as soon as the sun went down it was frigid!

We chose a pretty big hike for our first day. We hiked to Observation Point which was about a 5 hour hike total and we climbed nearly 2,000 feet in that time. It was a pretty hard hike for me, I’m not the best specimen of human athleticism but I made it and the view was spectacular. We also found out why feeding squirrels in the park is against the law. The critters are fearless! They headed straight for anyone standing on the rocks. They swarmed your backpack if you set it down and scampered around and across your shoes in the hopes of delectable people food falling from the sky.

The leaves were also changing in bursts of ridiculous colors. The changing foliage seemed to highlight the amazing red rock even more.

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The next day, we got the bright idea of doing a little sunrise hike… That’s right, SUNRISE. Meaning we’d set out on our hike before the sun came up, hike up a steep trail in the dark, brave whatever wild things might still be prowling, oh – and did I mention the freezingness??? It was pretty wicked cold. We set off on the rocky trail with our flashlights and headlamps, hiking higher and higher until we came to this scene. To which my bro-in-law exclaimed, “holy shit!”

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View from Overlook Point, Zions National Park.

It was pretty amazeballs. No photos will EVER do this scene justice. It was scary high and the weathered chain link railing only ran along a small portion of the platform but the view was priceless. You can see the sun shine on the peaks waaaayyy in the back as it came over the hills behind us. This scene and the crisp autumn weather inspires some cooking for comfort.

Fall is my favorite season. By far the most colorful, best season for clothes, best season for sleeping in without waking up in a cocoon of sweat – it’s gross but so true. AND some of my favorite recipes work best with this season. I’m a big fan of roast chicken, it is one of my favorite things to make during the fall. It’s the dish that keeps on giving! I make a roast chicken for dinner one night, strip the meat off the bones and make stock, then I use the stock and left over meat to make chicken soups of all kinds – noodle, dumpling, tortilla… whatever your mood. The basic recipe for roast chicken is pretty easy but there are a couple of things I learned that helped me make an even better bird.

One chef that makes a mean roast chicken is Thomas Keller. On the show No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain does a show entirely of kitchen basics that he feels EVERYONE should know. In the episode he has Thomas Keller, whom he describes as “justifiably revered”, cook up his simple and delicious roasted chicken. Here’s video of the segment:

I like to add a few more things to my chicken seasoning mix, jazz it up a little. My mix usually includes rosemary, minced garlic, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. I like to season my chicken and then let it sit in the fridge overnight to really get the bird tasting jazzy! (yikes – I’ll stop now.) I rub the spices all over the bird and under the skin and then pop it in the fridge to “steep”.

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The next day I take the bird out of the fridge and let it sit for at least 30 mins. before cooking. Like Chef Keller says – it’s important to bring the bird up to room temperature to help it cook thoroughly. And I love a little roasted vegetable action with my chicken so I’ll throw those in under the bird. It’s also important to truss the bird before roasting to help it cook evenly. You’d think someone that understands the value of trussing a bird, would have kitchen twine on hand… I was short on twine so I had to get a little creative with my trussing technique in these pictures. If you want to learn how to truss, there are millions of tutorials and youtube videos on the subject.

After the bird is trussed, I brush melted butter all over it and give it a good, generous sprinkling of salt. Sprinkle the salt from up high a la Thomas Keller for extra chefy flair.

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Into a 425 degree oven for 45 mins. to an hour depending on the size of your bird. Generally, I use a 4 lbs. chicken and cook it for about 50 mins. You can also use a meat thermometer to check if it’s ready. Insert it into the thigh of the chicken and you want an internal temp. of about 170 degrees. Once the chicken is done roasting it will look something like this:

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I usually carve up the bird before it hits the table to make serving it easier but sometimes it’s just too pretty to carve up.

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Oh man, do I love roast chicken! There are so many variations of this recipe and it’s actually really easy to do. This dish is also an economical wonder. After dinner, pick the meat off the bones, throw the carcass in some water with carrots, onions, celery, and a little parsley, boil it down and you have delicious, golden, homemade chicken broth. Use the broth to make soup, chicken and dumplings or freeze it for future use.

Hopefully this inspires you to make some roast chicken tonight! And if you do – I’m coming to dinner, right?

Yeah, the plan didn’t work. But really the problem was I didn’t make a plan, or at least a realistic plan. It’s pretty sad to not write for several months only to go back to your blog and see that the last entry was about wanting to write more. There are a few things going on that I didn’t anticipate when I wrote that last entry in February but they prove to provide interesting material. More to come!

I recently read over some of my lasts posts and noticed a theme. The template seems to go like this: I lament over the fact that it’s been so long since I last posted and entry, I spew a few excuses and promise to be more diligent and write more regularly. I admit it, I am horrible at finishing things (except a plate of good food). I have actually been taking photos here and there of things that I’m cooking but that’s where the process ends. It seems it’s time to have a discussion with myself. I’ve seen this same theme reoccurring¬† in other parts of my life as well and frankly, I’m getting tired of it. You’ve probably heard of the disorder I speak of. It’s one of those strange subconscious behaviors that PhD s write theses about. Eventually it gets turned into a self-help book endorsed by the Oprah book club and everyone can now use it as an excuse for why they are horrible at finishing things.

Last week I got sick with a demon of a virus and was coughing is uncontrollable fits for days. I was not soothed when I went to a doctor and she immediately ordered chest x-rays to check for pneumonia. I am feeling better now but, while I was sick and unable to do much, I missed being able to do more. Rather ironic that I do so little when I am healthy only to long to do more when I an unable.

I suppose this is another one of my template posts but here is the difference, I will make no promise to do more. I am not going to satisfy that part of the template only to break my promise later. This will be an opportunity to create a regiment rather than a broken record.

I am feeling better everyday, although my doctor and friends tell me I may have this cough for several more weeks. I have amazing new cooking tools and toys that have been given to me over Christmas and I acquired at amazing bargains. I have new cookbooks and recipes along with increasing daylight with which to take more photos. But here’s the thing, I also have a job, I am studying for the GRE, I have volunteer opportunities and friends that I’ve missed. So with all of this, I will make no promises. I will make a plan, a goal and try for a consistent behaviors and create a more productive template. Here’s to the plan.

I had planned to post new entries with recipes on Thursday night but my stomach had other plans. On Wednesday night I had some of my favorite girls over for dinner and a movie. It had been such a long time since we had a girls night together and it was very much needed. I made a famous 3 ingredient tomato pasta sauce, we had ‘the best broccoli of your life’ (from the Amateur Gourmet), an amazing spinach and berry salad that my friend Jessica brought, baguette with olive oil and balsamic, crispy baked kale chips (from steamykitchen.com) and for dessert, a peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream (courtesy of Maureen). (I will be making the pasta sauce and posting the pictures and recipe later on, so watch out for that.) It was an awesome meal and it was so good to have them come over. We ate until we were near drowsy and then watched Sense and Sensibility. (‘Does she care for olives?’)

I wrapped up the night and still went to bed at a reasonable hour. I got up at 5:30 the next morning to get ready for work. I felt exhausted but just chalked that up to so much activity the night before and dismissed it. I got to work and 10 mins. into my second conference call it hit like wave crashing against me. I doubled over my keyboard and fought back the surge of saliva and bile that began to creep up my throat. I finished the call, acting my ass off to make sure that the other participants didn’t know I was ill. As soon as the receiver hit the cradle, I threw off my headset and lunged for my garbage can. I didn’t actually throw up but it was such a painful wave of nausea, I couldn’t sit straight up for fear of wretching all over my keyboard. And I had four more calls scheduled. Not good.

I fought my way through another call and went in to see a superior, maybe she had something for nausea. She took one look at me and told me to go home. I fought it for a bit but she finally convinced me to reschedule my calls and go home for the day. I packed up and as soon as I got down to my car, I called my girls. I thought, ‘dear god, I’ve doomed them to food poisoning.’ They both seemed fine and thus, I determined it wasn’t the dinner from the night before. My significant other seemed to be unaffected as well. So what the hell was going on? (And no, not preggers here!)

I went home and sat on the couch for a bit, dazed and weak. I finally got up and went to bed around 10 or 11 am. I woke up from a completely black sleep and looked at the clock. It was just after 4 in the afternoon.

I lay on the couch until Tennis Mike (roommate) came home and saw me, “Are you okay?” The sweetest look of concern on his face. I told him about my day and he was sympathetic. On his way out to play tennis (go figure), he offered to bring me food. I had eaten breakfast at 6 am and that was it. I really needed to eat something but there is only a short list of things that I want to eat when I feel this way. Most of those things are made by my mother, only 2 or 3 are not. Since my mother was nowhere nearby I had a smaller list to choose from. I squeaked out my request in a pitiful tone, “They have the most amazing, real Japanese ramen noodle soup at Koko Kitchen, would you get that for me?” Puppy dog eyes are inevitable in these situations. He went bounding down the stairs and said he would also bring me a 7-Up for my upset stomach.

Awesome roommate.

He came back a little while later with the steaming gingery, garlicy broth and springy egg noodles that was my ramen. He also had a bowl of curry udon noodle soup for himself. This ain’t your poor student version of ramen. Real Japanese ramen is an art and this was no exception. Their broth is a rich, velvety, savory, steaming bowl of comfort in it’s purest form. This is one of the few things that I will eat when I’m sick that isn’t made by mom. Moms generally have the market on feel good comfort food. I sat at the dinner table, wobbly and slightly sweaty from the nap earlier and slowly slurped my noodles. Yeah, I slurp my noodles when I’m sick. What of it? The soup and the Sprite (they didn’t have 7-Up) made me feel so much better. I snapped a few photos after I felt like myself again.

As the days get cooler, a huge bowl of steaming noodle soup is the perfect food for the season. If you have the opportunity I would definitely head over to Koko Kitchen and order a bowl of their ramen. Unless you have a Japanese mother that has her own amazing recipe for ramen, your eyes will be opened.

If you’re adventurous enough to make your own steaming bowl of noodle soup, check out these recipes on steamykitchen and momofukufor2.

Mmmmm…. a big bowl of happy.

Disappointment is never a fun feeling to talk about. Because it is actually a multi-step process to get to a feeling of disappointment. There is anticipation, excitement, analysis and finally, whether you like it or not, the disappointment creeps in. The shadow of it starts at you brow and works it’s way down your face where a grimace at the mouth is the end result. This was my first experience with dragonfruit. Now granted, I may have had a hand in my own disappointment and because of this I am not of dragonfruit for good, but this is not the way to start a relationship with a new food.

What is dragonfruit you ask? It is a rather alien looking pod-like food that grows in warmer, temperate climates like Mexico, South East Asian and even San Diego. It is a bright magenta fruit that grows at the end of a cactus plant. It is popular in Asia and has worked its way in to specialty food shops and Asian markets in more urban areas. When you slice it open, it takes on an even more peculiar appearance. The edible part of the fruit is white, with a grainy feel to it. It feels like when you bite into a pear or a pithy apple. It is also dotted with little black seeds. The first time I saw a dragonfruit cut open, it looked like it was animated or something that was fictional, like what unicorns would eat. It has a very slight, sweet scent and it’s not very juicy.

Isn’t this thing crazy looking?! I had read about dragonfruit on another food blog called whiteonricecouple, they grew them in their backyard and even provided a recipe for the fruit.¬† After that I began noticing more and more articles and pictures of this freakish looking fruit. It is touted as a superfood, dense with antioxidants, vitamin C and such. A new exotic miracle food like Acai or Gogi berries. I happened to see them for sale at my local Asian market shortly after reading about them. After turning it over in my hands several times and marveling at the site of the thing, I decided it was worth a try. Since I live in an area where it’s not ideal to grow dragonfruit, the cost of the thing was a little steep. I figured it was a rare experience and my curiosity won over my pocketbook.

I brought the thing home and immediately showed it to my boyfriend. He was just as surprised and slightly horrified by its appearance as I was. We had plans for that evening so we had to forgo exploring it until later. This may be where I foiled my experience with dragonfruit. The days got away from me, work and study soon took over my thoughts and I forgot about the alien fruit in the fridge. I forgot! How horrible for me to admit! Such excitement and fascination put on hold for mundane life. Such a waste.

I found it in the fridge a few days later and although it had aged a bit, it seemed like it was still edible. I took it out, set it on the counter, marveled a bit more at it and reach for the knife.

Even though I had seen pictures of the fruit, it was still a shocking sight. I cut it into wedges, sniffed a piece for a bit and took a bite. This is where the disappointment began to creep up into my brow. It was grainy, and wet but overall, it was pretty flavorless. There was a slight citrus, melon-like taste to it but it was very faint. I put down the piece and reached for another, thinking ‘maybe I just got a bad piece’. Nope. The next wedge had the same wet, indistinctly sweet hint of flavor. The websites had suggested that they were ‘mild’ in flavor but this was near blankness. Did I leave it for too long before I chose to eat it? Did I not pick a good one? Was it still not ripe? I felt like I had been slighted. The look of the fruit was far too flamboyant and exciting for such an absence of flavor and the cost of the fruit made it even worse.

I cubed up the remaining fruit and stored it in the fridge. I shared it with my boyfriend and his roommate and they shared my reaction. How could such a crazy, colorful exotic fruit be such a tease?

I nibbled on the remaining fruit for the next few days but ended up throwing away about a 1/3 of it. I guess I now have the distinction of saying I’ve tried dragonfruit, but I can’t say it without a pang of disappointment. Perhaps I will try it again later and love it. Perhaps I did do something wrong with this one. Either way this is just another example of an important life lesson: Don’t judge a book by it cover. Or, in this case: Don’t be a sucker for packaging.

I have so much to write about, but this is the 4th attempt to form an update on the last 9 months and I still can’t get it right. A lot of things have changed, but most importantly, my perspective on food and cooking have changed. Hopefully, they have evolved. Food has become more than just something to consume and create with. It is a political topic, an issue of public safety and a path to health or health problems.

It all started with a doctor’s visit back in January. It had been a while since I had been to the doctor, and it was time to have blood drawn and tests taken to evaluate my overall health. I wasn’t in the worst health but I could definitely stand an improvement. The next day I opened an email from my doctor with my blood test results. It was a fair shock to my system. My cholesterol levels were pretty high and were a concern to my doctor. I thought I was too young to have to be concerned about something as out of sight as high cholesterol, but I knew I had it coming. My tiny mother, who ate mostly rice and vegetables everyday, had always struggled with her cholesterol. She made changes to her diet, took vitamins and supplements and then was later put on a medication. The feeling of panic began to creep up on me. Was that to be my fate as well, a pill everyday to keep everything in check? I made a decision that week. Things had to change.

I began to study about food, not just drool and fantasize about it but really study it. My years as a student and all around poorer individual have helped me to become frugal with food. I’ve learned how to seek out bargains, cook with whatever scraps I had in the fridge and the pantry and shop economically but frugality can sometimes be more about gain and less about benefit. Food was meant to nourish and if I really understood and researched food, it might be able to help me avoid the health issue that was beginning to plague me. Don’t get me wrong – I still drool and fantasize about plenty of food creations and anything delicious, but now it was getting personal.

As I began to study about food, I began to learn more about how food had a darker, dirtier and scarier side to it. Sure, I had heard of Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock’s documentary on America’s addiction to low-quality fast food and how it was slowly killing us. Yes, I had seen video clips of Jamie Oliver’s crusade to improve school lunches for children in England and how his campaign was becoming international. But with food recalls of everything from eggs to spinach and ground beef to jalapeno peppers, is was becoming apparent that food was now a political issue. Government had always had a role in making food safe for people and establishing dietary guidelines but now it there was so much more to regulate, monitor and enforce. Despite many political issues, food was something that effected everyone, worldwide, despite any other external factors. If you are human, you eat. A new kind of hero was added to my list of admired chefs, food bloggers and foodie celebrities: Food activist.

As I attempt to continue this journey with my foodblog, there will be a few more things added to the mix. I’ll still be frugal as hell, that has been ingrained in me since childhood. Good, healthy food can be made on a meager budget but no amount of monetary savings will ever shield you from poor health and the damage that can come from misinformation or absence of information. Thus, in addition to keeping with the original theme of this food blog: healthy food on a budget, I want to add more nutrient-rich recipes and pass along food news that will effect your pantry as well as your well-being.

Here’s to your health, may you never have to take a pill to keep things in check.

Origin date: December 30, 2009

I figured that I should post something about the past holiday before another holiday presents itself.

Earlier on Christmas day, my dad gave my sister and I little figurines of teddy bears dressed in Chinese garb. He said ” So that you don’t forget where you come from.” My sister (who is actually pretty brilliant) stared down at the little bear with a puzzled look on her face. After a few seconds she said “OH! It’s wearing Chinese clothes!” To which I responded ” Well, we didn’t come from bears…” Had to share that, I’m sure I’m going to catch shit for this later…. Love ya sis!

Well, we didn't come from bears...

For Christmas dinner, we all gathered at my mother’s house for a feast that only my mother has the vision for. If you’ve read the previous post about my mother and Thanksgiving you’ll understand that my mother re-fashions holidays and holiday meals into exotic culinary creations that top the old stand-bys. This Christmas dinner was pretty much on par with previous holiday feasts, it was phenomenally delicious.

So, here are a few more details about my mom: she laughs heartily at her own jokes, she loves hideous plastic table clothes with busy floral patters and she can cook you under the table…

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She made her famous Asian style turkey that is cooked with asian vegetables such as bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, and lotus roots, dates, asian spices and potatoes. We also had a huge platter of noodles stir fried with bok choy, red and green bell peppers. She also made a salad with wheat meat, and a soy ginger vinaigrette.

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We all dug in and ate like fiends. My mother also served mung bean stuffed lotus roots and for dessert she served a sweet soup of coconut milk and sweet potatoes. It was decadent.

Here is my plate before…

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And my plate after….

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This may be a little belated but I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday Season and a very Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas dinner was as good as mine, if not, next year just come over to my mom’s house. She’d love to gloat about her amazing food and share an a story or two with you (which she would laugh at and you’d laugh too but for different reasons).