I was born in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand and was raised in Bangkok, Thailand until the age of 5 years, when at that time, I came to the States with my family. I have an older sister and older brother and am affectionately called “Lek”, which in Thai is, “baby of the family”. At the age of 9, my parents opened up their first Thai restaurant in Miami, FL. My fondest childhood memories are of going to the restaurant after elementary school to eat my after school “snack” of Pad Thai, Curries and other exotic dishes. I would watch my mother cook and couldn’t get enough of wanting to help by doing things like make lemonade, fold napkins and make sure the rice was just perfect before going home to finish homework.
I worked at the restaurant growing up and all throughout my life. I did take some time off to obtain my degree and start my career in social work. However, I never really “left” the restaurant business, as I always helped with the restaurant in my free time.
In the restaurant’s kitchen is where I solidified my definition of proper Thai cuisine. I learned from my mother, as well as from the other cooks in the kitchen that had been trained under my mother’s tutelage. I began to do some cooking demonstrations for local arts festivals, and it was there, that I realized that I wanted to provide a way to demystify Asian cooking for everyone. Currently, I am also involved in a project for an Asian cooking show, as a host, that is in production at this time.
I am extremely excited to be a part of Real Women of IMUSA as a food blogger and hope to share some of the cooking, entertaining and life lessons I learned in my family’s restaurant business with my readers. My blood type is E for entertaining and I get a tremendous amount of joy from it, and hope you do too!
Holiday Cocktails Sure to Jingle Your Bells!!!
It’s holiday time!! Holiday parties mean it’s time to serve up the festivities. Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite time of the year. It’s the time of the year that it’s acceptable to gorge on food like you’re one of those snakes that has to dislocate their jaw to eat their prey. Christmas is my second favorite holiday. That’s where your extended relatives come over and remind you of how much weight you’ve gained the whole year. It’s a great time to be had by all! Christmas can be a joyous occasion, but it can also be a bit stressful. The pressure of attending and/or throwing a holiday party can be stressful. Well, fret no more! I recently whipped up some cocktails at my sister’s restaurant, Atchana’s East West Kitchen at the Mutiny Hotel (www.atchanas.com) in Coconut Grove, Florida and we came up with some libations that will surely jingle your bells!
- 1 oz. Flavored Whipped Cream Vodka or regular vodka
- 1 oz. Grenadine
- 1 oz. Pineapple Juice
- 1 Wedge of Lime
- 1 Marshmallow
- 1 Tbs. Gold Sugar (Commonly used for sugar cookies)
Using a clean dry martini glass, spray the rim with gold spray mist. (Or if you have gold rimmed glasses, you can use those too!) Set aside to dry. In a shaker, pour the pineapple juice, grenadine and whipped cream vodka. Throw some ice in there as well. Squeeze in a wedge of lime. Throw the lime out – do not put it in the shaker. Shake vigorously all the ingredients and strain into the martini glass. Take a marshmallow and lightly wet the surface and dredge into the gold sugar. Cut a slit in the bottom of the gilded marshmallow and place on the martini rim. Voila!
- 1 Tbs. Orange Colored Sugar (Can be found in the baking section of most major grocery stores)
- 1 oz. Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka or Regular Vodka
- 1 oz. Pumpkin Vodka
- 2 oz. Apple Juice
- 1 Lime Wedge
Taking a martini glass, take a lemon or lime wedge and rim the glass with the juice. Place the orange colored sugar on a plate and turn the glass upside down and dip onto the plate with the colored sugar. Set aside. In a shaker, pour the whipped Vodka or regular vodka, pumpkin vodka, apple juice, and some ice. Next, squeeze the juice of one lime wedge into the shaker. Throw the lime out. Shake vigorously. Strain and pour the drink into the prepared martini glass and enjoy that holiday cheer!
- 1 Tbs. Green Colored Sugar (Found in the baking section of most major grocery stores)
- 1 ½ oz. Vodka
- ½ oz. Chambord
- 2 oz. Cranberry Juice
- 1 oz. **Ginger Simple Syrup or Canton Ginger
- Splash of Prosecco or Sparkling Wine
(Served in a Highball Glass)
Take your highball glass and moisten the rim with your lime or lemon. Place the green colored sugar on a small plate. Turn the glass upside down and dip it into the sugar. Now, pour the Vodka, Chambord, Cranberry Juice, Ginger Syrup into the glass. Gently stir with a drink straw. Now top off with a splash of prosecco and serve immediately! Enjoy your Ginger Bells!
**To make Ginger Syrup, Take equal parts of sugar and water ( 1 cup water: 1 cup sugar) in a small sauce pan. Peel some fresh ginger root and cut into 2 inch piece. Throw in about 3-4 pieces of the ginger in the simple syrup mix. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer until all the sugar granules are melted. Set aside to cool. Can be refrigerated.
“Rocking Around the Coffee Bean”
- 2 oz. Brewed Espresso Coffee
- 1 oz. Kahlua Liquor
- 1 oz. Bailey’s
- Steamed Milk
- Shaved Chocolate
In a thick Snifter glass, or clear cappuccino glass, pour your espresso coffee first. Then pour in the Kahlua. Next, take a spoon and slowly pour the Bailey’s over the spoon into the drink. This will layer the dark coffee with the cream of the Bailey’s. Yum! Next, top off with some steamed milk froth and top off with shaved chocolate. This is perfect for Christmas morning, or after you’ve eaten a little too much Thanksgiving turkey!
Hope your holidays are joyous and from the IMUSA family to yours…Happy Holidays!!
Midnight Pasta and why you need to be good to yourself…..
One night this past week, I had a particularly long day. It was a great day, but nonetheless, it was a long one. The boyfriend and I had entertained quite a bit this week and subsequently, I feel like a Sumo wrestler with everything I ate. So, one night, the boyfriend was out running errands and I was by myself watching reruns of Law and Order, my guilty pleasure. And well, because no one in my life will watch it with me. I love cooking, but sometimes when you’ve cooked a lot, you can become what I call “overcooked”. Know what I mean? So, I’m at home, tired, and watching Law and Order, wishing some elves would just show up at my door and make me some homemade Fettuccine Alfredo and a martini. Well, that didn’t happen, so I had to do the next best thing…what the Barefoot Contessa and many chefs calls “Midnight Pasta”.
Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, is a cooking personality I’ve always admired. When I was married, all I knew how to make was Asian style noodles and curry! I armed myself with her cookbooks and I gradually learned how to make some classic dishes, that in my opinion, everyone should master. She doesn’t have hundreds of recipes with a dizzying ingredient list. A lot of her recipes have ingredients are interchangeable and simple. That is also the same way I try to create recipes as well. I don’t believe in intimidating, high maintenance recipes that take 10 hours to comprehend.
I also believe that you just need to unwind after a long day and make yourself something low fuss, comforting and not give a damn whether it’s “healthy” or not. I’m not suggesting you pig out on pizza and beer every day, but once in a while, it is stress relieving to not stress out about food and what you’re consuming. Every now and then, I’ll meet someone who has a hang up about food. I don’t want to judge here, as there are definitely some things I don’t eat, but what in the world did a good ol’ plate of pasta ever do to you?! Goodness…so many of my friends act like pasta was the devil and their stomachs will instantly inflate into monster truck tire size after one bowl of some spaghetti. Single ladies and men, listen up: Men (and women) would rather you eat what you want at dinner than be that “boiled breast of chicken with a side of steamed broccoli” person. I’m certainly no expert on what guys and girls want, but my unscientific survey of my friends has shown that all people, men or women, would rather not deal with a food “hang-up” person. You know who you are, if you’re one of them.
Therefore, this is my ode to the almighty pasta. When you’ve had a long day, pat yourself on your back for doing all the things you do for everyone else. Enjoy a luscious bowl of delicious pasta and don’t worry about whether you’re going to gain 1000 calories. You probably spend half that just worrying about it. I once saw a group of my girlfriends have a 30 minute conversation about artificial sweeteners and which one was evil vs. good, while they were lunching over fried rice, dumplings and martinis. They probably could have better spent their 30 minutes building each other up, instead of vilifying some random ingredient. So, here’s an idea: When you’re in the mood for something comforting, and a bit too lazy to have a big production in the kitchen, cook up some midnight pasta and zone out watching some brainless TV and be good to yourself for all that you do!
- 1/2 pound spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ cup pasta water
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Parmesan for grating, optional.
1. Put the spaghetti in your large IMUSA stockpot of well-salted rapidly boiling water and cook only until firmly al dente. (About 8-10 minutes)
2. While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in your IMUSA caldero over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, without letting it brown. Next add the pasta water. Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for a half-minute more, then remove from the heat.
3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and place in the IMUSA caldero with the garlic mixture, add the parsley and toss well to coat. Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.
How to survive a dinner party like a champ!
– Always make fun…of yourself. Strategically using self-deprecating humor will disarm even the most shy dinner party guest. Perhaps point out how fabulous the host’s homemade cookies look and recall the time you tried to make cookies yourself and your husband put them in the charcoal grill to light the BBQ. This is exceptionally important if you have enviable abilities that might be off-putting to another party-goer. Like, say, if you designed rockets for NASA, have been on The Voice, or if you’re just freakishly beautiful. However, use self-deprecating humor sparingly. No one needs to know that you had explosive bowel movements last week either.
– Don’t pull the “Oh! Yes! I met you at Sean’s BBQ last week!” when meeting your friend’s new boyfriend or girlfriend. Conversely, don’t go to a party, see your friend with his girlfriend and say, “Oh! So great to meet you!” when it’s the 100th time you’ve seen her. I have no tips here for how to remember people. Just don’t do either of these!
– Divide and conquer. Couples, you don’t need to be attached at the hip at dinner parties. Increasing your circle of friends will make any relationship healthier and more dynamic. Spend a few minutes mingling separately and reconvene throughout the night. And ladies, don’t be that bat shit crazy girl that has to sit on her boyfriend’s lap and caress his hair while he’s trying to reach for the beer nuts to mark your territory.
– Don’t ask for food items when they’re clearly not out. I once hosted a UFC watch party, with a full spread of slow cooked ribs, Buffalo wings, sliders and other various yummy dude-approved items. Well, a guy friend brought a date and she eye balled the table, looked at me like I was the maid and asked, “Do you have anything sweet?!?” My response: “No Princess Annoying, I do not have an assorted dessert platter to tickle your fancy”.
– Always bring a gift for the host. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…always bring a small token for the host. It can be a bottle of wine, a bottle of fancy olive oil, or flowers. Be creative, you can even bring a small potted herb like parsley or a kitchen gadget for the host that loves to cook.
I recently hosted a dinner party this past weekend and it made me think about how life is about new beginnings and how we’re constantly changing. It was five couples and almost all of the guests were once divorced. Although everyone knew my boyfriend and me of course, a few of the couples were just meeting each other. Luckily everyone really got along like champs. It was a winning moment for me and the boyfriend, where we ended the night high fiving each other on a successful dinner party. It wasn’t about what we served; it was about how well everyone got along. It’s always a risk introducing new people to each other and you always hope and pray that everyone gets along and doesn’t tell stupid jokes or gets excessively drunk. As a host, it’s not about having a menu of obscure fancy dishes and you needn’t slave over a stove all day to make a successful dinner party. Conversely, as a guest, you don’t need to wear the fanciest clothes or bring the most expensive bottle of wine. Just show appreciation for other guests and a genuine interest in getting to know them and you’ll make memories for a long time to come. At this dinner party, I decided to cook something simple and what I like to call “fit for a dinner party”. I made a few dishes, but the ones that I was quite proud of were the Shrimp and Veggie Tempura and Soba Noodle Salad with Edamame, Cilantro and Red Bell Peppers.
As guests were arriving, we chatted at the bar and I made the veggie and shrimp tempura and served it hot. It was such a hit, that I wanted to eat it all and not share any with the guests. I generally don’t like cooking while guests arrive. However, I used my IMUSA electric wok, and plugged it in on the counter and it made a remarkably amazing fryer and I was able to chat and face my guests and leisurely make the shrimp tempura. I used an IMUSA bamboo steamer as the serving ware and it made for a great presentation. The noodles also were a nice light balance to the tempura and can be served room temperature or cold. They’re also a dinner party workhorse…they’re vegetarian, healthy and high in protein. You can also make the noodles hours before and just store in a Tupperware container in the fridge and just serve once everyone’s ready to eat! Make these at your next dinner party and it’ll give you time to do more important things, like actually talk to your guests!
Shrimp and Veggie Tempura
- 2 cups of tempura batter
- 1 ½ cups of cold water
- 1 lbs of large raw deveined shrimp
- 1 onion, cut up into slices
- 1 bell pepper, cut into slices
- 3 cups of vegetable oil
Using your IMUSA electric wok, or IMUSA Caldero, pour in the oil and turn to Medium High to High Heat. While it’s heating, pour the cold water over the tempura batter in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until it’s all blended, about a minute or so. When the oil’s nice and hot, take each piece of shrimp and thoroughly coat on all sides and dip into the oil using a pair of tongs. Don’t overcrowd the shrimp, and fry only about 4-5 at a time, working in batches. Follow with the veggies pieces, working in batches. Once it gets a nice golden brown, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Serve on your IMUSA bamboo steamer with a side of store bough tempura sauce and voila, you’re done!
Soba Noodle Salad with Cilantro, Bell Peppers and Shelled Edamame
- I lb of Buckwheat Soba Noodles
- 2 bell peppers, sliced
- 2 tablespoons of cilantro
- ½ cup of shelled edamame
- 1 tablespoon of white sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon of black sesame seeds
For the Sauce:
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup Rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons agave
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 cloves of crushed garlic
Using a large IMUSA stock pot, take about 2-3 quarts of water to a boil. Put in the soba noodles and cook according to package directions, usually about 4-5 minutes.
While the noodles are cooking, make your sauce. Pour in all liquid ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together. Lastly throw in the ginger and garlic and whisk together. Once the noodles are done, drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Once the noodles are cool, put in a large bowl and pour the sauce over the noodles. Using a pair of plastic tongs, mix thoroughly. Add the bell peppers, cilantro and edamame. Mix some more and finally add the sesame seeds until blended together. Serve immediately or you can store in a Tupperware container, until dinner time! Enjoy!
Don’t Be One of These Restaurant Customers
My parents opened up their first restaurant when I was nine years old and it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I would go to the restaurant right after school in elementary school and have my afternoon snack, beg my parents to fold some napkins or squeeze lemons, or some other chore and go home with my siblings. Growing up in a restaurant has taught me invaluable lessons in dealing with many different types of people with grace. I started waiting tables in high school. Most customers were always generally pleasant, but now at age 40, I can safely say that you can’t take the good without the bad. There was that one time that we had a girl threaten to call 911 because she thought she was being overcharged $2.
But then there was this other time, I was serving a group of teenage girls at the restaurant, clearly dressed like they were on their way to their high school prom. They were also clearly without dates. There were about eight of them, and they were the nicest group of girls. Some gentleman eating by himself asked for his check, and also asked to pay for their bill.
I asked, “Their ENTIRE bill?”
He replied, “Yes”.
I asked, “Do you want me to let them know that you paid for it?”
And this is the part that floored me….he said, “No. Please don’t. You can let them know after I leave if you want.”
I then handed the gentleman his bill, as well as the bill for the group of dateless prom goers, and he quietly paid the two bills, and left. When I told the girls that the gentleman “that was eating by himself, that just left”, paid for their bill, they started crying. It was one of the grandest acts of kindness I’d ever witnessed. So, experiences like that negate all the rude customers, so to speak. However, I compiled a list of certain customer “types” that one should avoid being for the sake of peace in the world. Now that I’m not so much in the restaurant business anymore, I can make fun of everyone! I’m kidding, I would never speak publicly on the internet about any particular customer; however, there are certain “types” of customers that can be lumped together in different groups. Don’t be one of these!
10. The “multiple request” customer – For goodness sakes, if you know you like salt and pepper, lemon in your water, tabasco and ketchup on your eggs, and a warm hug, ask for it all at once. Don’t make like your waiter’s purpose in life is for making multiple trips and make multiple requests for multiple items every 5 minutes.
9. I’m “allergic to life” customer – I’m going to upset a lot of people here. I get that people don’t ask to have allergies to food. But if you’re allergic to seafood, maybe you should avoid going to places called “The Seafood Shack, the Place with LOTS of SEAFOOD”, and demand that your chicken never make contact with knives or cutting boards that might have once touched a shrimp.
8. The “exaggerated hand signal” customer – If you’re going to sign your name in the air to signal that you want your check, then just do you initials, and not the whole alphabet in cursive with your air pen.
7. “I know more than you” customer – If you’re dissatisfied with your dish, don’t proclaim that you can “make steak medium rare with your eyes closed, hog tied and sick with the flu”. If that really is the case, then go right ahead!
6. The “It takes me 20 minutes to make up my mind but I want you standing next to the table anyways” customer – The waiter doesn’t need to stand at the table while you’re mentally tallying up the caloric content of 20 Buffalo Chicken Wings and wrestling with your inner skinny to decide if you want it or not.
5. The “We’re a party of 20, but hey let’s wait until after the meal to announce we need separate checks” group of customers – The waiter will spend the rest of his natural born life trying to figure out what percentage of the $6.99 Chicken Wings gets to be split up among the 20 people that shared it. Then he has to remember, out of 20 people, who had the Chardonnay and who had the Rum and Coke, and which bill to add it on. Just make life easier for everyone and announce it at the very beginning.
4. Romeo and Juliet – the couple that sits in a corner making out while the lights are all on and the wait staff is mopping the floors.
3. “I carry hand sanitizer in my purse, but will demand lemons in my water because they were obviously washed first and thrown into my water using tongs!” – Bar lemons can sometimes be cut in some establishments earlier in the day, so watch your bartender next time you ask for a Vodka and Soda, topped off with lime. My guess is that he didn’t grab that lemon using a set of tongs. Think about how many times throughout the day he’s been dipping his fingers in that lemon bowl. Blech!
2. “I’m at a large table, let me order food for a small third world country and throw in $10 when the bill comes!” – Used to see this all the time when I worked in the restaurant. Never gets old!
1. “I’m at a restaurant, this means I’m at a daycare for my kids and they can pretend it’s a bouncy house!” – Parents, giving the message to your children that it’s OK to run around a restaurant buck wild will backfire when they get older. Children naturally want to explore their world. It’s nothing they’re doing wrong. However, it’s up to parents to set limits and be firm with boundaries. Additionally, it’s one thing for a child to still be developing their eating skills. However, it’s another thing to have food under tables that are 20 feet away.
Curried Chicken Pot Pie
I always said that my mom and sister taught me how to cook, but they never gave me one recipe. Meaning, they just told me, “oh just put in a little this and a little that…” while pointing at the ingredients with a lightning fast Kung Fu movement like I was Daniel Son from Karate Kid.
In Asian cuisine, sweet always balances out salty and vinegars always balance out sweet. More importantly, the lesson was to just have the confidence to throw things together and you’re only limited by your own fears. Fear not, because you can always add ingredients to a dish, but you can’t take away once you’ve overdone it. So just take it easy, be creative and experiment! Sometimes when I’m going for a quick lunch, I’ll just grab a rotisserie chicken and make a quick salad. But then I usually have more chicken than I know what to do with. So this recipe is a great recipe for using your leftover rotisserie chicken using some staples you might already have. This went over very well at a recent dinner party and my best friend from Trinidad, who usually isn’t nuts over pot pie cause he feels it is usually too bland, LOVED it!!! Nothing, I swear, is as gratifying as changing someone’s perception about a particular dish, just by altering it by a pinch. This is so easy to make and you can pop them in the oven right as your guests arrive for a small dinner party, while you relax as they’re all getting settled…..eat some salad with your guests with a bit o’ wine while those bad boys brown on top and make sure you use oven mitts to take them out! They’ll be HOT! Nobody wants an injured host! Serves 4.
- Shredded chicken from 1 rotisserie chicken
- 1 sheet of puff pastry thawed
- I can of coconut milk (19 oz)
- 1 cup of preferably homemade chicken stock, if not available, canned ok
- 1 Yukon potato, cubed
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1 small carrot peeled and sliced
- ½ cup peas
- 1 egg beaten with ¼ water for wash
- 2 tablespoon yellow curry powder
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- Pinch of Thyme
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven at 350.
First remove all chicken meat from your rotisserie chicken. Shred the chicken into big pieces and throw out the carcass. Place in a medium bowl and set aside. In your IMUSA sauté pan, put a cup of water and bring to boil. Parboil the potatoes and when cooked, set aside. About 5 minutes. Put the 1 tbs. vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When oil is sufficiently heated, put the sliced onion in the pan and gently stir until thoroughly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Next, throw in the garlic and ginger and continue stirring, making sure the garlic does not burn. Lower heat to low-med. Then, add the curry powder, thyme, salt and pepper. Incorporate until all the ingredients have melded together. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock. Bring to a low boil, then add the chicken, potatoes, carrots and peas. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the liquid reduces a bit at low heat, uncovered.
While the chicken curry is cooking, cut your sheet of puff pastry with a pizza cutter into 4 equal squares. Brush both sides with egg wash. Once the chicken curry has finished cooking, equally portion out the serving into 4 bowls and put one square (can you spare a square?) over each bowl, gently pushing the sides down and sealing the bowl with your fingers. Slit a small inch into the top to vent the steam. Put the 4 bowls onto a sturdy cookie sheet and place in the oven for about 15 minutes. Keep checking for a golden brown top without opening the oven! Turn the oven light on! No cheating! When the pot pies get that gorgeous golden brown top, remove from oven with oven mitts….careful….VERY hot! Place the curry chicken pot pies on plates and serve while hot! (may have to let cool down a bit, but, I like to go crazy and just dig in, like scalding hot pizza that’s going to burn the roof of your mouth!) This seems like it has a lot of steps, but trust me, once you do it once, you’ll be doing it over and over again…it’s so rewarding also, cause, really….. when was the last time you had homemade chicken pot pie?!
Recipes for a partnership
Ah, the joys of dating. In Miami, dating is similar to competitive sport fishing. We women have to wear things that look like lures in the water and just float around some supposed sea of plenty of fish, and wait around. I have an absolutely wonderful boyfriend now, but gee, have I kissed a few frogs in my life. I’ve had some epic first dates that would qualify for entry in the Awkward Dates Hall of Fame. There was that one time that a first date announced that he smoked pot every day. He was 37 years old, a professional and cursed like a sailor over dinner. When I politely told him that I didn’t smoke, he just looked at me vacantly like I just had made animal noises. He called me 20 minutes after the date and proceeded to play the “name that noise” game with me. I heard this sound that reminded me of static. He kept saying, “Siri! You don’t know what that is?”
This went on for about 5 repeats of the static sound. He then finally said, “Oh! That’s me smoking!” I politely told him I was tired, hung up and never took his call again. I then cursed myself for being nice and picking up the phone and begged for the last 2 hours of my life back.
Then there was that time I went on a blind date, where he proceeded to bore me to sleep talking about his ex-girlfriend. This was also the same date, where I ordered an unfortunate Fettuccine Alfredo over blackened scallops. Once I got the dish, the waiter proceeded to place a pair of chopsticks in front of me and just give me this look like, “you may need these”. Huh? Just because I’m Asian, I need to eat everything with chopsticks? Of course! Where are my manners?! Well, my Fettuccine Alfredo was being managed just fine with my fork, but I was caught off guard and didn’t know what to do, since it looked like the waiter was giving me a challenge, and I was already living in Awkward Town, USA, so I grabbed the chopsticks and went to town on my pasta. BIG mistake. My face was instantly covered in white Alfredo sauce, like a 2 year old eating vanilla ice cream. Not to be intimidated by a challenge, I finished my Fettuccine Alfredo with my chopsticks and he was still talking about his ex-girlfriend.
Thankfully, I haven’t had to endure an awful first date in a long while. My boyfriend now is the sweetest thing. He’s half Cuban, but speaks of the Cuban culture like he invented it. “My people love pineapple!” he utters when I’m making curry for him, I guess to politely tell me to add an entire pineapple to the curry, so it’s sufficient enough for consumption. All I ever wanted for Christmas was a “true partner”, someone who is supportive and shows it through their actions. This week, he not only washed my car, but he put in new car mats and seat covers. Which is great, because my nephews are too grown now to wash my car for $2.00 like they used to. I don’t often cook things for him that I don’t eat myself, as he’ll pretty much eat anything. However, there are two things I don’t eat, that he could quite possibly eat every day: pineapple and pork. My mother taught me long ago that even if there are things that you personally don’t eat, if the ones you love eat it, then you make it for them because it’s a caring act.
I mean, who doesn’t feel cared for when someone cooks for them, right? So, I made these two dishes with him in mind: Grilled pork salad with mango vinaigrette and Pineapple fried rice with pork, cilantro, onion and red bell peppers. It’s like a cook’s version of writing a song for someone. You know it’s a home run when someone closes their eyes after the first bite. I’m sure he would have rather been watching football, than washing my car, so I don’t mind making dishes I don’t eat, just for him. See, I feel you don’t have to reciprocate in exactly the same way in relationships, but you DO have to reciprocate and make people in your life feel appreciated. Whether it’s a partner, sibling, parent or friend. I cook, he cleans. Good partnership!
Grilled Pork Salad with Mango Vinaigrette
- 3 Boneless pork loin chops
- 1 Cup fresh papaya, peeled and cubed
- ½ cup sliced red bell peppers
- 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 4-5 leaves of Romaine lettuce shredded
- ½ Jalapeno, sliced thin
- A few dashes of garlic powder
- ½ tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp. Mango Nectar
- 1 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
- ¼ tsps. grain mustard
- Salt and Pepper to taste
First, make the mango vinaigrette. Take a small bowl and add the vinaigrette ingredients, whisk for about a minute until all the ingredients are blended into a nice smooth dressing, golden in color. Set aside.
Next, take your pork chops and salt and pepper both sides. Also add a few dashes of garlic powder on both sides of the pork chops. Using an IMUSA medium sauté pan, add the vegetable oil and get to medium high heat. Place the pork chops in the pan and grill till nicely brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and using a clean cutting board, slice the pork chops against the grain in thin slices. Once all the pork is sliced, put in a medium mixing bowl. Then add the salad ingredients in this order: Sliced Red Bell Peppers, Cilantro, and Jalapeno. Then pour the Mango vinaigrette over the mixed salad. Using tongs, stir around to even coat the salad with the dressing. Finally, add the papaya pieces and stir gently. Add fresh salt and pepper to taste. Take the romaine lettuce and using your hands, shred into big pieces and put on a plate. Top with the Grilled pork salad and ta-da! You’re done!
Pineapple Fried Rice with Pork, Cilantro, Onion and Red Bell Peppers
- 4 cups of cold white rice
- 2 pork chops boneless, sliced into thin slices
- 2 eggs
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 cups of fresh pineapple, sliced and cubed into small pieces
- ½ cup sliced red bell peppers
- ¼ cup sliced green onions (scallions)
- 2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce
- ½ tbsp. of fresh crushed garlic
- 1 ½ tbsp. of sugar
- 1 ½ tbsp. vegetable oil
- Fresh cracked black pepper and salt to taste
Using your IMUSA wok or IMUSA medium sauté pan, put the vegetable oil in and heat pan to medium high heat. Once your wok is about medium high heat and the oil is hot, put the sliced pork into the oil. Making sure to spread the pork slices, gently stir around to brown nicely. Add freshly cracked black pepper and a few dashes of salt. Next, moving your pork up the sides of the wok, making an opening, crack the 2 eggs into the wok. Break into small pieces and stir around with the pork, about another minute. Next, add the sliced yellow onions and garlic and stir for about another 2-3 minutes, until the onions are nice and translucent. Now add the cold white rice, using your spatula or bamboo spoon, break up any clumps of rice. Next, add the soy sauce and sugar. Stir around to thoroughly incorporate the soy sauce and the rice turns a nice light brown color. Now add the sliced red bell pepper, green onions, cilantro and pineapple. Stir for about another 2-3 minutes to fully stir together all the ingredients. Finally add some freshly cracked black pepper and salt to taste. Plate and serve.
Let’s K.I.S.S!!! – Keep it Simple Sweetheart!
About 4 years ago I went to Thailand with my family, which is our homeland. It was me, my sister, brother, brother in law and my two nephews for almost the entire summer while the boys were out of school. I was a vegetarian at the time and the trip will be forever remembered as “How to annoy your family by being an annoying vegetarian vacation.” My family also found tremendous pleasure in playing the game, “Let’s make fun of the vegetarian in the family.” I went all around Thailand waiving all sorts of delicious foods like noodles with shrimp and various meats on sticks with aromatics of ginger and garlic. I tried in vain to eat anything that met my vegetarian requirements. When I went to a restaurant and asked for something vegetarian, they’d give me a plate of stir fried veggies with slices of pork. Hey now! It has veggies! However, my nephews, (who were raised in the states), were eating grilled whole catfish on a stick, sold from a street vendor with no gloves, within 5 minutes of being in the country.
One memorable morning, involves an ill-advised breakfast dining decision on my part for the family, at an airport Burger King that somehow also was our most expensive meal during our entire summer in Thailand. See, the food in Thailand is so fresh and so good, and yet so inexpensive. You can have a lunch of some amazing fresh caught snapper with ginger, chili and garlic for about $2.00 per person, and that includes your drink and tip. Well, one day, we were traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which is in the mountains and we were flying out of a small domestic airport. I spot a Burger King and insist we all eat there, because, well I can eat a meatless breakfast sandwich! Never mind that it might have been the weirdest choice to eat with all the wonderful culinary options in Thailand! So, we wound up just getting some coffee and random sandwiches and hash browns for everyone. Our greasy, gross breakfast for 6 people totaled $40 for a quick pre-flight meal. Afterwards, my food nauseated family looked at me like I’d just kicked our imaginary family dog. Well, when we landed in Chiang Mai, our taxi driver took us to some restaurant that looked like my Thai auntie’s backyard and we had an amazing lunch of various fish, pork and beef dishes (I ate veggie noodle soup). Our 15 dishes turned out to be $40, the same price as our measly gross Burger King breakfast, to feed a family of six. We even fed our taxi driver.
Obviously, this trip was the beginning of the end of my vegetarian phase. I had to learn to be flexible, especially when it came to traveling with others. I still don’t eat pork or beef, but my mother taught me to still always make it for others, because it’s good karma. Meaning, even if you don’t eat something, if others you love do, you still make it for them because you’re doing something good for others.
I make a dish, Mandarin Challah French Toast that I serve for brunch that is so simple, (vegetarian), and makes everyone happy. To keep everyone really happy, you’ll also want to serve this with Chipotle Bloody Mary with Sriracha Hot Sauce.
See, you don‘t need to complicate your life for breakfast, you just need to keep things simple and then your family won’t give you stink eye!
Mandarin Challah French Toast
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- Grated orange zest of 2 Mandarin Oranges
- 1 tablespoon organic raw honey or agave
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 large loaf challah or brioche bread
- Unsalted butter
- Pure maple syrup
- Segments of Mandarin oranges (optional)
- Sifted confectioners’ sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, orange zest, raw honey, and nutmeg. Slice the Challah bread in 3/4-inch thick slices. Soak the slices in the egg mixture, set aside on a plate.
Using medium heat, put 1 tablespoon butter in a large IMUSA sauté pan or the double burner griddle pan. Taking the soaked Challah slices, cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Place the cooked French toast in a casserole and keep it warm in the oven. Working in batches, cook the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter as needed, until it’s all cooked. Serve hot with maple syrup, fresh slices of oranges and/or confectioners’ sugar.
Chipotle Bloody Mary with Sriracha Hot Sauce
- 1 oz Chipotle Flavored Vodka
- 3 oz good tomato juice
- 1 oz Sriracha Sauce
- 2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Juice of 1 lemon wedge
- Juice of 1 lime wedge
- ½ teaspoon of fresh horseradish
- Freshly cracked sea salt and black pepper
- ½ oz of olive brine
- 1 stalk celery
- 2 olives
Add chipotle vodka, tomato juice, Sriracha hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon and lime juices, horseradish, olive brine, salt and pepper in a large shaker or highball glass, with ice.
Pour back and forth between two mixing glasses.
Pour into a highball glass and add garnish.
**Using an IMUSA bamboo skewer, take a wedge of lime and 2 olives to garnish. Place stalk of celery in glass and enjoy!
Honestly, is there anything better than brunch on a Sunday afternoon? Nothing says “I’m a champion,” other than drinking a mimosa in the middle of the day. It’s quite possibly one of the best ways to spend time with your family and friends, and I’ll tell you why…
Oh brunch, almighty brunch, how I love thee. Let me count the ways:
- It’s easier on the wallet than a dinner party – Yes! You can throw a lovely shindig for brunch with just a few eggs, platters of breads/pastries and fruit and have everyone bring a bottle of Prosecco or sparkling wine for mimosas and it’s a great time to be had by all. Plus, you’re not washing dishes at 1am when everyone’s left. That’s entertaining smarter, not harder!
- It’s the end of the week and everyone is happy – Sometimes you can’t guarantee everyone will be happy at a dinner party. We’ve all been there having to make conversation with “grumpy guest” at a dinner party. There’s something innately festive about a mimosa, so if you’re not happy during a brunch, well, I don’t know what will make you happy.
- Everyone can still watch whatever they want to watch on TV – It’s OK to throw on some Sunday football for the sports fanatics. Brunch is supposed to be a casual and fun thing, so go ahead and throw on some football and just let your guests relax and make themselves at home. Since football season just started, my boyfriend is trying to give me football 101 lessons, but so far it seems fairly complicated with all these 1st and downs blah blah blah. I figured I’ll just scream and jump up and down when people dressed in orange run down to the end of the field.
I can go on and on, but these are more than valid reasons to throw a brunch. It’s a low stress and high happiness endeavor that will please you and your guests. It’s a great way to also de-stress from the week and bathe your family and friends in love as they get into a new week.
The following recipes are my “go-to’s” for brunch. Scrambled eggs with shitake mushrooms topped with cilantro and chives, served with a spiked Mandarin Orange juice Mimosa. Can you feel the love already?! Make sure to check back in next week, for part two of my brunch series as you’ll get the recipes for my Mandarin Orange Challah French Toast and my Sriracha Chipotle Bloody Mary. These four recipes will elevate you to brunch goddess or brunch superhero, for the men, and will look like you’ve been sweating over the oven for hours, when you haven’t. They’re super easy, super fun and more importantly, delicious! So let’s get started!
Scrambled Eggs with Shitake Mushrooms Topped with Cilantro and Chives
- 12 eggs
- 6-8 shitake mushrooms sliced (can substitute with baby portabello or regular white mushrooms)
- ½ cup diced yellow onions
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Crack all of your eggs into a medium large bowl and whisk vigorously until all the eggs are blended. Set aside. Slice your mushrooms, chop and dice half a yellow onion. Then chop your cilantro and chives and set aside as well.
Heat your IMUSA nonstick Caldero/Dutch oven to medium heat. Put your butter in the caldero when it gets hot. When the butter in nicely melted but not browned, put the onions in the caldero. Stir until nice and translucent. About 4-5 minutes. Then, add your sliced mushrooms. Keep stirring until mushrooms are slightly cooked, but still springy. Next add your eggs and stir gently with a bamboo spatula. I prefer soft cooked scrambled eggs, but please feel free to cook however you like your eggs. Another couple of minutes for your eggs to cook and voila, you’re done! Remove and serve immediately. Once the eggs are plated, top with the fresh chives and fresh cilantro.
*The reason I don’t cook with the herbs is because I like the balance of the texture of the eggs with the freshness of the herbs. But if you prefer to cook with herbs, please feel free to add to the eggs while you’re cooking. Lastly, top with fresh cracked sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper and wait for the ooh’s and ahh’s.
Spiked Mandarin Mimosa with Zested Sugar Rim
- 6 oz. Prosecco or Sparkling Wine
- 2 oz. good vodka
- Juice of one mandarin OJ
- Zest of one mandarin OJ
- ¼ cup sugar
Take your mandarin orange and zest the outside, making sure to not zest the white bitter part. Place the orange zest on a small plate with the sugar. Mix the zest with the sugar. Set aside. Using your IMUSA Citrus Juicer, place a measuring pour cup under it and juice one mandarin orange. This is a nice cocktail, because you can use any pretty glass if you don’t have champagne flutes. Since we’re spiking it with vodka, it’s OK to use a short glass for this mimosa.
Now, taking your glass, use a wedge of the orange you’ve just juiced and use it to coat the rim with a bit of juice. Turn it upside down in the zested sugar mixture to coat the entire rim of the glass. Now pour all the liquid ingredients and voila!!
*This is not a cocktail you have to follow exactly to the recipe. Well, none of my recipes are like that. For example, for the shitake scrambled eggs, if you like more onions or more mushrooms, add more or less according to your taste. For this cocktail, if you like more vodka, add more vodka, or if you like more of the Mandarin orange flavor, add more juice. It’s up to you! Be creative and you can even throw in some grapefruit or blood orange for a garnish and really make it special.
As an Asian growing up in Miami, I was exposed to many different and wonderful cultures and cultural traditions. They say Miami is a “melting pot”. Although, I like to think of it more like a tossed salad. The tomatoes are still tomatoes, the lettuce is still lettuce, the croutons are still croutons, and it’s all mixed up, but still delicious! There are so many different norms when people meet and greet each other. For example, in Thailand, we “sawadee”, meaning, we place our hands in an almost prayer position and gently lower our heads as a hello gesture and sign of goodwill and say sawadee, which is basically “hello!” It’s the Thai’s version of a handshake
It was in junior high when one of my friends invited me to her family’s house for a party and I learned first-hand that people in Latin American cultures kissed each other to say hello! “Why are these people kissing me?” I thought as I stood frozen not knowing what to do when my friend’s mom kissed me on the cheek as I walked into her home. It wasn’t necessarily upsetting, I mean, it is a sign of affection, it was just different from what I knew. Now I love to kiss people hello! I still do air kisses and just kind of protrude my cheek to press against others people’s cheeks, but at least I don’t look like the oddball uptight Asian girl that just arrived yesterday for some student exchange program.
So culturally, there are things we do that are just “different” than perhaps the cultural norms you may be used to, but that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace them. For example, my mother never ever washed dishes when we entertained at home. In the Thai language, the word for guest is the same as customer. So, in other words, they are pretty much one and the same. We are in service to our guests. So I guess she thought that washing dishes in front of guests at the end of the party was no different than your customers in a restaurant having to watch the dishwasher wash your dishes after eating.
So imagine my uneasiness when I became an adult, got my own place, and starting entertaining on my own….when my non-Asian friends would roll up their sleeves and just start loading up the dishwasher. My eye would start twitching and my lip would spasm in revolt. No! No! I would protest. But I soon learned that in some cultures, helping to wash dishes is a way for some guests to show appreciation for the hard work you’ve put into the meal. I learned that no one was right or wrong. We just were exposed to different ways of doing things. Now, I have a “he that cooks, does not clean” rule in my house. I feel bad for my poor boyfriend, cause apparently, I find that food tastes better when you’ve used every single pan and cooking gadget in your kitchen.
Over the years, I have hosted and attended several parties and although it doesn’t necessarily make me an expert, I have been exposed to different practices on both the part of the host and guest that I feel I can offer what I have observed to be “best practices” or rather, The Entertaining Commandments. Again, culturally, there are things that make our respective country of origins so unique, but there are practices that are good form in any culture.
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” – Emily Post
The Entertaining Commandments:
10. Always bring a gift for the host.
In some cultures, giving Mandarin oranges is a symbol of prosperity (which we could all use), and goodwill. It doesn’t have to be an expensive token, but it is always good form to bring at least a bottle of wine, a candle, or a small bottle of olive oil. Just anything that shows appreciation for the host’s efforts. No matter how many times you’ve been over. This could be your sister’s house you go to for dinner every week; you can get a decent bottle of wine for under $10, so no excuse! And certainly do not take back any bottles you brought, even if you didn’t get to it. Oh and another thing, if you’re going to bring Red label, don’t finish the host’s Blue label that was unopened, hidden in the kitchen behind a tarp.
9. As a host, always make sure you look ready, even if your food is not.
I once went to a party where the host still had a towel on her head after just getting out of the shower. Your goal in entertaining is putting guests at ease the minute they arrive. It’s alright if you’re running a bit late with the hors d’ oeuvres, you can still work on them in the kitchen with your guests! Organize your day, so you can take the time to shower, put on your smile and party face and greet your guests without feeling rushed.
8. As a guest, never arrive late and say that anything is cold or dry or ask where the food is.
Yeah, I once had a guest arrive 2 hours late for a UFC fight watch party I was throwing and tell me my salmon sliders were a bit “dry.” I don’t think I need to explain further. Just don’t.
7. As a host, always think about lighting and festive music to set the tone.
How many times have we been to a party where all the lights in the house are on full blast, like we’re about to perform surgery and no music on? Soft lighting, even candlelight makes everyone look good (always a plus!) and festive music always help set the tone.
6. Always have a bowl of individually wrapped mints out. Your guests will thank you.
At the bar in my house, I have a small bowl of individually wrapped mints. I always notice guests take a few throughout the night and I think they appreciate it. Sometimes you feel self-conscious about your breath after drinking a couple sangrias and eating a few pigs in the blanket, ya know?
5. Always RSVP as early as you can. Even if you don’t know if you can confirm immediately, at least respond.
With so much of our lives being spent on social media, it’s not uncommon to receive an invite online nowadays. It’s easy to just earmark it for later. But try to get in the practice of at least responding, even if you just don’t’ know yet if you can make it. “Thanks so much for the invite to your baby shower! I’m not sure if I can make it just yet, as I have to secure a babysitter for that Saturday, but let me check and I’ll get back to you by this Friday the latest.” And always thank the host for inviting you. Never have the host get to the point where they have to chase you down and ask you more than once if you’re coming to her wedding, bridal shower or dinner party.
4. As a host, never complain about your stressful day before the party.
I’ve been to several parties where the host goes on and on about the stress associated with throwing the party: “Omg, I had to fight all this traffic to get to the grocery store to get these eggs for the deviled eggs, and then I stepped on dog poop when I was carrying all these bags by myself, then I dinged a car, while opening the door and the owner of the vehicle threw his smoothie at me, then I was super late getting home and then I burned my hand off making these meatballs. I hope you’re having a great time. How do you like those meatballs?”
As a host, it’s your job to set the tone and one of the ways to do that is to be positive. Everyone’s got problems, and if everyone leaves it at the door, everyone can have a great time for a few hours with good friends and good food.
3. Never just show up with a guest without letting the host know beforehand.
2. As a host, if your guest declines an alcoholic beverage, handle it with grace and have alternate options.
I once had a reunion party with some old friends from my childhood I hadn’t seen in at least 15 years. Everyone had cocktails and was having a great time. I of course offered a drink to one of my old friends and he said he just wanted cranberry juice. I scoffed and said, “oh no! You can’t just have juice!” Then he politely told me that he’d been 6 years in recovery. I was mortified and apologized profusely and he said no worries at all and we both laughed at my faux pas. But it did make me think. There are lots of folks that just want to take a break from drinking, either for health reasons or weight loss, and we have to respect it and not make a big deal about it socially.
1. Don’t ignore the company of real people to bury your head in your phone to interact with strangers on social media.
The irony of social media is that its intended purpose is to bring people together, but a trend I find happening more and more, is people who ignore others at a table to “tap-tap-tap” into their phones all night. As a food blogger, yes, I am that person that has to take pictures of food. But I do what’s called the “one and done.” Take one picture of some really beautiful food, some pictures of your friends or a drink. That’s it, you’re done. Certainly don’t take several minutes to upload to social media and spend the rest of the night to see who’s commenting on whatever you posted, while ignoring those in front of you. The internet will always be there. Cherishing your friends and family in the here and now will not.
There you have it, not everything that could possibly handle every possible social situation, but it’s a start. Always keep in mind thoughtfulness about the feelings and comfort of others and you can do no harm. Now let’s party!
My brother Pat is 8 years older than me, which by default made him one of my babysitters at nights when my parents would be at the restaurant growing up. He loved playing jokes on me and tolerated me as I begged, pouted and cried my way into watching The Sound of Music for the zillionth time. Our day to day family life obviously revolved around food, whether we were at the restaurant or home. Being children of restaurateurs, the bar was set high, and granted, I was a bit of a foodie as a child, so, even if he dared a canned chicken noodle soup for dinner, I’d have looked at him like a Martian just landed on his head. So, my brother learned early on that every meal had to be special, at least for me anyways. This consequently resulted in his grand contribution to my childhood, the “Pat Special”. This dish, which I will share the recipe shortly, was a cherished part of my childhood. Every family has their staples. Since I was the “baby” of the family, I obviously couldn’t fend for myself, well, until about a year ago (kidding!), so my siblings would take turns cooking for me when my parents were at the restaurant.
Now, I thought the Pat Special was the best thing on the planet. It was better than candy and popcorn. My brother would babysit me more or less once a week and I relished the night I’d get to eat it. And boy, did he know how to sell it too. He made it seem like Pat Special was nothing that even our parents would be able to replicate. It was as if this particular dish was made with imported panda and the zest of prehistoric dinosaur eggs. And I would eat every last bit of it!
Well, one day after school in the 4th grade, I was at our family restaurant when the most earth shattering thing happened! One of our servers came waltzing out of the kitchen with a hot, steamy plate of PAT SPECIAL?! What is this? This was more disturbing than finding out Santa Claus didn’t exist. I gasped to my dad, “Daddy!!! That was Pat Special?!?!” He said, “What? Baby that was Beef and Broccoli!”
The moral of the story is: You can sell just about anything in life, as long as you present it with confidence.
This was one of my favorite, if indirect, cooking lessons for me. I didn’t have to go crazy with soufflés of rare Japanese blowfish topped with obscure ingredients I can’t pronounce. Two ingredients, beef and broccoli, made a symphony of flavors when I ate it as a kid, more because of the fanfare that accompanied it by my brother. So, next time you’re nervous about cooking something for someone for the first time, or even for the 100th time, just keep in mind that you can make anyone think you’re a rock star with just a little bravado. Cook with love, cook with confidence and add a dash of caring and everything you make will taste amazing…
- One lb of flap beef or skirt steak, sliced
- 2 cups of broccoli florets
- 1 ½ cups of chicken broth
- 1 ½ tablespoon of oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon of thin soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of corn starch mixed with ½ cup of water
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil
- 2-3 dashes of sesame oil
- Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste
On your stove top, heat your IMUSA wok to med-high heat. Put your vegetable oil in the wok. Wait till the oil gets nice and hot and throw in your sliced beef to brown. Careful to not crowd your beef slices, as it will “steam” and not brown properly. While the beef is still cooking, throw in your broccoli florets. Keep stirring around the broccoli and beef in the wok for about 2 minutes. Next, add the chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar. While it comes to a nice low boil, add the sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of the corn starch/water mixture. When the beef is cooked through and the broccoli is still firm, but cooked, it’s done. Lastly, top with some fresh ground salt and pepper to taste and voila, you’re ready to eat!Serves two.