Bacang

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My BFF Maya has outdone herself, once again. She sent me my favorite Indonesian treat from Portland! When she used to live down here, she would let me try all kinds of Southeast Asian feast from her homeland, and bacang, with sweet and spicy meat wrapped in sticky or regular rice and steamed in banana leaves, was my absolute favorite.

She sent me a total of four — two made with regular rice and the rest made with sticky rice. I think my favorite was the latter, since I’m a huge fan of the flavor and texture of glutenous rice.

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The timing was especially perfect because it was Friday and I just wasn’t in the mood to cook dinner. It was a wonderful way to start the weekend, with the lovely rice treat or two, washed down with a glass of wine.

Thank you, Maya! I love you!

Thanksgiving 2014

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This year’s Thanksgiving dinner took place at my parent’s house, with five couples who are most important in my life: my parents; my parents-in-law; my sister and her boyfriend; me and Kevin; and Audrey and Minnie (the house dog). I didn’t want my mother to tire herself out by cooking such a large meal, so I volunteered to cook the meal for everyone this year, with my mother setting the table, my in-laws bringing the dessert and my sister bringing the wines. I was the official catering lady of the evening, with disposable tin containers and all!

Since I was transporting the food and they were destined to get cold, I decided to prepare everything the night before (except for turkey) and store them in the fridge until we were ready to hit the road. I’m glad I did this because I was able to just relax and play with the kid during the day, completely stress free!

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It took me about four hours total to prepare the stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, braised red cabbage, and Greek salad. Kevin whipped up the haricot vert at the parent’s house right before all the guests arrived.

I also prepared a charcuterie plate (not pictured), with prosciutto, salami, smoked salmon, and some goat cheese, brie, and colby jack, with cucumber slices and assorted crackers. My in-laws brought giant pumpkin pie and apple pie (and whip cream!) what were heavenly.

I think everything turned out pretty decent, but I must admit that I’ve cooked a better Thanksgiving meals before.

Here’s the menu for the evening!  Each recipe makes enough to fill the 9 x 9 pans.

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Roasted Turkey:

It takes about 4 hours per pound to defrost the turkey in the refrigerator, and it takes 20 minutes per pound to roast the bird in the oven. As long you know these two things, you’re good to go! We roasted two, 13 pounds turkeys this year to feed 9 people. It turned out that that was WAY too much, since 4 out of 9 were our parents with small appetites, and another one was a toddler. We only got through one, and everyone took pieces from the other one home.

Pat the turkey with paper towel to dry. Take out all the giblets out of the caucus. Rub the turkey with a mixture of finely chopped rosemary and thyme, grated garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Place the turkey on a roasting pan and roast the turkey in a 375 degree F oven for about 4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degree F. Take out the turkey every hour and baste the skin with the mixture or the dripping from the bottom of the pan. Make sure to do this quickly to maintain the oven temperature.

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Braised Red Cabbage:

Chop 2 heads of red cabbage into half inch strips. In a very large pot, sauté the cabbage in olive oil until slightly wilted, about 10 minutes. Add sliced apples (2 medium – I used Fuji for its tang and crispy texture) and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add 2 cups apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup maple syrup, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the cabbage and apples are completely wilted. Add dill for garnish. Serve hot or cold. Personally, I love letting this sit overnight and serve it cold.

Sauté Haricot Vert:

Boil about 2 pounds of haricot vert in a large pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes, take care not to overcook (This is optional. You can do all the cooking in the pan. Boiling them first speed up the cooking process). Drain the beans and add them to a large frying pan. Sauté them in olive oil, in medium high meat, until you reach the desired consistency. We like ours slightly crunchy so we don’t overcook it. Add ¼ cup white wine, 1 tablespoon butter, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup almond slices and toss. Garnish the plate with lemon wedges.

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Roasted Root Vegetables:

Chop 5 medium size unpeeled red potatoes (more, if you’re using the small ones), 2 large onions, and one head of cauliflower into bite size, and add them in a large roasting pan. Also add one bag of ready-to-eat baby carrots and 5 cloves of peeled garlic to the pan. Toss the vegetables in ¼ cup olive oil, making sure that each vegetable is well coated with oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Bake in 375 degree F oven for about one hour, or until the veggies are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Mashed Potatoes:

Peel and cut 10 Russet potatoes and add them in a pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil in high heat and cook the potatoes until fork tender. Drain the water and return the potatoes in the same pot. Using the handheld blender, mash the potatoes until smooth (I like mine a little lumpy so I went easy with the blending). Add 1-1/2 cups milk, 10 grated garlic, finely-chopped rosemary and thyme, slat and pepper to taste, and cook in medium heat until fluffy. Do not over mix, as doing so will turn the potatoes into a paste.  Garnish with herbs.

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Stuffing:

I used the boxed stuffing this year! I just sauted 2 large onions, 10 stalks of celery, and 5 cloves of chopped garlic in a large pan.  I added, to the vegetables, 3 boxes of cornbread stuffing mix and poured in 2 boxes of vegetable broths. I’m actually not too crazy about cornbread stuffing but Kevin insisted on his favorite so I compromised, like a good wife that I am.

Greek Salad:

Chop 10 medium size tomatoes into cubes. You don’t need to remove the seeds. Half one large English cucumber lengthwise and scrape out the seeds from the middle. Chop the cucumber into bite-size cubes. Toss the tomato and cucumber cubes in a large bowl. Add 5 cloves of grated garlic, ½ cup olive oil, crumbled feta cheese, handful of finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and toss. Cover and let the salad sit in a refrigerator overnight.

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My mother- and father-in-laws made these two lovely dishes – pumpkin salad (like potato salad but with pumpkin) and roasted Brussels sprouts! These two were probably my favorite dishes of the night!

I think everyone’s top three dishes were: Haricot vert, pumpkin salad, and braised cabbage.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Day 1: LA Adventures

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The last time Maya visited me, Pon Pon was only four days old. I had just returned home from the hospital after delivering the baby, and I was exhausted, severely sleep deprived, hormonal, stressed, moody, and a hot mess — definitely not a good company.  So I’m happy that we got to spend quality time together this time around. She came down from PDX for Pon Pon’s first birthday party and I got to spend a week of quality girl time with my BFF.

After the party, I took off my mommy hat and headed to Mondrian Hotel on Sunset for a baby-free weekend. It was my first time being away from Pon Pon overnight and I have to admit that it was a little tough at first (yes, I have become one of those parents who can’t stay away from their bebe for more than a few hours)  … but I knew that Kevin was holding down the fort at home and she was in good hand. By the time Maya and I got on the road, I was no longer a mom but a buck wild party girl (okay, this is totally not true).

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Mondrian Hotel was lovely.  The room was very tiny but we got the room with an amazing view of West Hollywood.  Maya and I are such Asians – as soon as we walked into the room, we started snapping pictures!

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I wish there was a bath tub … but the shower had a pretty good water pressure.

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Our balcony overlooked the Herringbone restaurant.

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Picturesque West Hollywood.  You can see Beverly Center and Lawry’s Prime Rib, our wedding venue, from here.

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I remember when Sunset Boulevard was the place to hang out on a weekend.  It was so much more quiet and tamed this night.  I wonder if this famous strip has lost its charm, or I just got older.  Things didn’t look as mesmerizing as I once remembered as a wee twenty-something.

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After we unpacked and unwind, we headed over to Little Next Door for some late dinner.  We weren’t overly hungry, so we decided to eat something light with a glass or two of wine.

Maya and I almost always order fresh oysters when they’re available and we’re usually happy with them.  Unfortunately, this was not that time.  Each oyster was so tiny that we felt like we got ripped off.

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I order this Salad Nicoise almost every time I’m here at the restaurant.  It’s not necessarily that it’s the best item on the menu, but because I’m a Salad Nicoise addict and I cannot say no to it when it’s on the menu.

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Here’s Maya’s fish dish.  We ordered dessert and coffee but we forgot to take pictures.

We were so exhausted by the time we finished dinner, we returned to our hotel room, took off our shoes, and just watched the Olympics.  Although we were in the middle of action in a city that doesn’t sleep (okay, that’s not true .. unlike NYC, bars close early in LA), we realized we’d much rather stay in and relax in our comfortable pajamas.  I guess you can take a girl out of a home, but you can’t take her hominess out of a girl.

Salmon Cakes

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I am trying so hard not to pass judgment or make assumptions about others. I recently read a story about a certain celebrity couple who left their three-month-old baby home to fly to Paris, to attend a certain celebrity event. The former self would have judged and said, “Dude, what the #%@#? They’re such #$@%-ing awful parents for leaving their newborn, just to satisfy their own vanity!” (By the way, I’m trying hard to curse less too.) But the new self now thinks, “Everyone is entitled to their own choices, and if going away and taking a little vacation from parenting actually makes them better parents, let them to fly to a foreign country and flaunt those mega post-baby boobies!” It’s not easy, but I’m trying!

So, in the spirit of positive thinking, giving the benefit of the doubt, looking on the bright side of life, and glass is always half full, give Salmon Cakes from a canned salmon a try! Canned fish often gets a bad rap but these flaky cakes are delicious!

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Salmon Cake
(Adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners, as well as Food Network)

Ingredients

2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, crumbled, bacon fat reserved
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 egg
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon, zested
1 (14-ounce) can wild salmon, checked for large bones
1 baked or boiled russet potato, peeled, and fluffed with a fork
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Cool the onions for a bit.

Mix the bacon, onion, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the salmon and potato, mixing gently after each addition. Form the mixture into 12 small patties. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and pepper, to taste. Coat the patties in the bread crumb topping. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook the salmon cakes in batches until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add more oil, as necessary. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

I didn’t make the recommended side dishes. Instead, I served the cakes with pasta salad and string beans.

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Happy Christmas

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I guess it wasn’t just me who didn’t feel all that festive this Christmas. Kevin thinks having Christmas fall on a Tuesday had something to do with it, and I completely agree. Good for those people who took the Monday the 24th off, or even better, the rest of the year off. It was strange to work on Monday, take a day off to celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, and back to work on Wednesday.

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We spent Christmas Eve at my parents’ house and had a wonderful holiday dinner. My mother roasted a 2-pound chicken (which I forgot to take a picture of) and feasted on tonkatsu (pork cutlets) and other appropriately green side dishes like her famous spaghetti salad, string beans tossed in sesame, steamed Brussels sprouts, and spinach. The spread wasn’t very Christmas-y but everything was delicious. My father picked up a decadent chocolate cake from a bakery owned by a Persian family. He asked to have “Merry Christmas” written on a cake but the pastry chef didn’t know how to spell it, so we ended up having a cake that read, “Happy Chrisms.” I thought that was hilarious.

We were invited to Kevin’s sister’s house for an amazing prime rib lunch on Christmas day. I was so into gulfing down the food that I forgot to take pictures. The meat was perfectly cooked, and the green salad and the sweet corn casserole served on the side were absolutely to die for. She definitely knows how to cook! Thank you so much for the amazing meal and thoughtful gifts.

I hope you all had a happy Christmas, and getting ready for the new year!

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving with family and loved ones! And those of you who worked or shopped the Black Friday sales last night – hats off to you!

This year’s Thanksgiving was amazing. We had a wonderful time last night with my husband’s side of the family, and indulged in traditional Thanksgiving feast, prepared by a chef at Kevin’s sister’s workplace. We were impressed with how the turkey came out extra moist and delicious, even after it sat there for a few hours.

In addition to the usual mashed potatoes and stuffing that came with the meal (plus bread pudding for dessert), there were a few other delicious homemade flares, like vegetable soup, fried shrimp, tomato salad, green bean casserole, sautéed French haricot verts, and chirashizushi.

I wish I took pictures of Porto’s Fruit Tart and Rustic Tart that we had for dessert. They were amazing, as usual (although the Rustic Tart, unfortunately, was not as good as the first time we tried it a few weeks back). It’s always very crowded at this famous Cuban café and bakery, but this day was extra crazy. When I got there around 11:30 a.m. to pick up the tarts, the line went out the door, and went around the building, into the parking lot!

I hope you enjoy the rest of the week relaxing and spending time with your loved ones!