Monday, December 15, 2014

Portuguese Soup

My mother in law is of Portuguese descent, a Govia. She often made what she called Portuguese soup, and we loved it. Hers was pretty much made with smoked sausage and cabbage and ketchup.

I looked up some other Portuguese soup recipes online and saw several that included squid. This was exciting to me because calamari is one of my favorite things to eat. Many of the recipes I found used kale or collard greens. I wanted to stick with my mother in law's cabbage for my husband's nostalgic sake. I knew that adding the squid to mom in law's was a little risky, however popular it was in the other online recipes. But of course I loved it!

Nothing authentic about my recipe.....I like to mix everything up. If you want traditional, Google on....

  • 1 pound of Linguica or smoked sausage sliced in rounds
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart of garlic - infused chicken broth
  • 1 can of clams with juice
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage, shredded.
  • 1/2 cup of diced green onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound of calamari
  • 1/4 cup of tomato paste, or more, to taste
  1. Brown the sausage in olive oil over medium heat. Add green onions and bay leaves.
  2. Add broth. Bring up to a boil.
  3. Add clams with juice, then shredded cabbage.
  4. Add tomato paste and calamari. Reduce heat to low.  Simmer until ready.
  5. Add more water and salt, to taste, if desired.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spinach Walnut Pesto

Three fourths of us in the family are crazy for this pesto! That's right, even though Sasha's favorite color is green, there's no way she would touch this. We've only started making pesto this year when I recently bought a blender. In the past I never wanted a blender or food processor because of the cleaning hassle, but my other daughter Gianna talked me into it. She wanted to make her own smoothies. I gave in because Starbucks smoothies get expensive!!

Now that we're living on a single income (not for much longer hopefully), I've tried to scale back on expensive luxuries. So instead of pine nuts, I've subbed in walnuts. You can also use almonds, and remember to buy from the bulk section where they're less expensive! Also instead of basil, I've used spinach. We'll call this pesto for the poor....

We love it on sandwiches, in pasta, and right off the spoon. It still has a basil flavor from the Tuscan Herb Oil. If you ever buy fresh mozzarella in herb oil, don't let the herb oil go to waste after the cheese is eaten. Use it to make pesto or hummus! My friend Frankie & I discovered this idea when we were on a CBS affiliate cooking segment once. 

  • 2 cups of spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup of grated asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Tuscan Herb Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup of walnuts or almonds
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • salt, to taste 
  • Blend all the ingredients together with the spinach on top until the desired consistency is reached.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lobster Ravioli with Brown Butter and Garlic

Won ton and egg roll wraps make great ravioli! They're so easy and quick to prepare, too. I love their slippery, silky texture. You can find these in any regular grocery store in the tofu section or in Asian markets in the freezer section. 
This recipe makes a single serving with 8 lobster raviolis, using two five - ounce lobster tails that are precooked then sliced.
I'm pretty indecisive, so I couldn't decide if I wanted round or square shaped raviolis. Finally I just did half of each.
I think the round ones turned out prettier.
I prepared a chiffonade of kale by stacking the leaves, rolling them like a cigar, then slicing into long thin strips. I doused them with some Peruvian Lime Extra Virgin Olive Oil then seasoned them with some special garlic salt that I picked up in Allen, Texas.
This recipe makes cooking for one easy and fast. Or you can prepare the lobster ravioli as an appetizer for your family of four.

  • 16 Won ton wraps or 4 Egg roll wraps
  • 2 (5 - ounce) lobster tails
  • Handful of baby kale
  • Half cup of shredded fontina cheese
  • 4 ounces of butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • Lime infused olive oil
  • garlic powder
  1. Steam the lobster tails over high heat with 4 cups of water about 6 minutes, then shut off heat but keep covered.
  2. Prepare the kale chiffonade, then season with olive oil and garlic. 
  3. If using the larger egg roll wraps, cut or divide into 16 squares or circles with pizza or cookie cutters. I lay mine on top of a large sheet of wax paper.
  4. Lay the filling of lobster meat, kale, and fontina in the center of each. Dip a pastry brush into a small ramekin of water, then brush along the edges of the wrappers. Lay another square or circle on top of the filling, then press to seal. Reserve some of the lobster, kale, and fontina for the topping.
  5. In a large pot of water, bring up to a gentle boil over medium high heat. Drop the lobster raviolis in until cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  6. In a sauce pan, heat the butter until melted over medium heat. When the butter turns golden brown and releases a nutty aroma, add the garlic for just a minute, then remove from heat.
  7. Plate the raviolis and top with the brown butter. Top with more kale and lobster meat. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cherry Cheesecake

For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving and Christmas in Nashville always meant cherry cheesecake would be served for dessert, and often sent home with us back to Little Rock or Dallas or Cabot. Sometimes Easter too, if that was where the Nguyen side of the families convened. My dad's recipe is different from this one. I believe his is actually baked. I couldn't recall the exact recipe, and I knew the Nguyens were all in Cabot together for Thanksgiving, so I quickly Googled a recipe as the girls and I shopped on Black Friday at Target just East of Portland in the Clackamas and Happy Valley area. I found the recipe at

Gianna & Sasha had a great time making this together. I made sure they knew not to raise the mixer while on because stuff would fly everywhere onto the kitchen walls. I'm pretty proud of how well they did. They've decided to make this a new Rasico holiday tradition in Oregon. When asked if it was as good as Grampa's, Gianna decided yes!

  • 1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened, condensed milk
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2 - 3 oz.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 (21 oz.) can of cherry pie filling
  1. Place softened cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Add condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Pour mixture into the pie crust. Chill 5 hours in the fridge.
  2. Pour cherry filling on top. Ready to serve. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Turkey Wonton Soup

After Thanksgiving, don't tell your family they're having turkey leftovers until Sunday. Don't even say the word turkey after Thursday! When they ask what's for dinner or lunch, just say "Want some wonton soup?" Or how about ravioli with a lemon butter caper sauce? Just don't say the word turkey because people get sick of "leftovers" after like, one day. So, they just don't have to know.....and you don't have to see the eye rolling or tongue gagging.
You can transform turkey just by using it as your protein in some other ethnic class of cuisine. Go Asian one day, Italian the next. Mix it in with some spaghetti sauce & some pasta. Mexican style tamales are also a great idea! For this soup you can buy individual won ton wrappers or the large sheets. I chose the large sheets and cut them with my pizza cutter into 4 pieces.

I love the texture of slippery, soft wonton wraps that are dunked in a hot well seasoned broth!
Chinese sausage is most likely only available in the Asian market in your area. At Fubonn in Portland, there are so many to choose from. I'm an obsessive label reader and very anti - MSG, so I found this to be my preferred brand. Why am I anti - MSG? I just try to go as natural as I can when I shop for food to cook. I can't dodge all chemicals and preservatives, but I try to lessen the amount of intake.

Traditional Vietnamese won ton soup is called Mi Hoanh Thanh. Yes, that's my name. I grew up in a tiny town called Nashville, Arkansas. When I was little, the boys called me Wonton. I really didn't like it. So I developed a pretty thick skin early. And learned to avoid immature boys. Usually Vietnamese wonton soup has slices of barbecue pork and egg noodles, but I didn't have all that on hand so this is my rendition. At Cartlandia in Portland, the In and Out Kitchen food truck makes excellent Vietnamese wonton soup. Just not with turkey!
I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving! This year, I am so thankful to be in the Portland area where my two daughters are going to the most excellent schools. I'm thankful to see my husband so much more than when he was working weeks at a time in Alaska. I'm thankful for a best friend in Little Rock, AR that favorites almost every tweet of mine on Twitter and another best friend in Hawaii who almost always comments on my Facebook posts. I'm thankful that I found garlic - infused chicken broth at Safeway. As soon as I peeled back the silver seal, the garlicky aroma intoxicated me. And I'm thankful for all of you for following, interacting, and +1ing on Google Plus so much that I've had over 2,596,000 hits.  Love you mean it! 

  • 4 cups of garlic - infused chicken broth, or plain chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • About an inch of ginger, peeled
  • Leftover turkey meat, shredded
  • 2 links of Chinese sausage, sliced
  • Chopped green onions & cilantro
  • Won ton wraps 
  • Ramekin or small bowl of water
  1. Warm the broth in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the fish sauce.
  2. Either grate the ginger with a microplane over the broth, or slice it into smaller pieces and add to the broth. You can discard later.
  3. Prepare the wontons. If using a large wonton sheet, cut into 4 squares. Place small pieces of shredded turkey in the center of each. Dip your finger in the water and run along the 4 edges of the wonton wrap. Fold over to make a triangle, then dip the long points with water. Pinch those over to make sure they're sealed. Make 16.
  4. Add one link of sausage to the broth, bring up to a boil, then add 8 wontons for one portion.
  5. After adding the wontons,  lower heat to a gentle simmer so they don't break apart. After 2 - 3 minutes, ladle wontons into a bowl. Add the sausage, some broth, and garnish with cilantro & green onions.
  6. Repeat process for one more portion.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Roasted Turkey Legs

This time of year, people are probably researching the Internet for instructions on cooking turkey for that special holiday, Thanksgiving. Turkey legs are currently really inexpensive, so I picked up a package of 2 to bake at home. Oh how I love the smell of turkey baking in the oven! I prefer dark meat, so I would never invest in an entire turkey. If I were cooking for others who preferred white meat, then I'd buy the whole bird.
I think the best way to go with turkey is to use a thermometer to make sure it gets cooked properly. These huge legs were done at about an hour and 15 minutes. The temperature drops pretty quickly once you remove them from the oven.
The meat was so juicy and tender.
I pulled the meat off the bone as soon as it was cool enough to handle. We enjoyed it for dinner, but had enough left over to make a couple of other dishes the next day. Check back here to see what else to do with turkey leftovers!

The marinade:

Since we're in the land of Asian fusion here in Portland, Oregon, a town famous for Pok Pok's famous  Vietnamese fish sauce chicken wings, I'll let you know that I've always marinated all my poultry in fish sauce. I usually freely pour, but I'll try to estimate it for you. Just throw the legs inside a large sealable bag, throw marinade ingredients in, toss, and refrigerate overnight. Anytime you go to the kitchen, massage the bag a little and turn.
  • 1/2 cup of fish sauce - try Red Boat or Tiparos brands - watch the sodium & msg!
  • 2 tbsp sugar - I prefer turbinado
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a pan with foil for easy cleanup. Place the legs on top. Insert the thermometer so that the tip is in the center of the leg.
  3. Roast in the oven until 180 degrees, about an hour and 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven, let cool, then shred the meat.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chili Oil Noodles with Chicken Hearts

If you subscribe to my blog posts by email or follow closely, you've got to be an adventurous eater, right? This dish is spicy and full of flavor, and cost about $3 to make. It was also quite filling.

I grew up eating organ meats in many dishes that my mother made. Congee was one that would be full of things with interesting textures, full of things like chicken heart or beef tongue or beef heart. We were sitting at Smallwares in Portland one Sunday for brunch when my daughter asked what congee was. I described it as a kind of rice soup. I knew it was one of her dining considerations because it featured Chinese sausage, one of her favorites.

When the dish arrived, she asked if it was porridge. I said sure. I told her about the congee that her grandma used to cook for us. She enjoyed her dish very much, and when our server took it away, she commented that it had been a very mature decision on my daughter's part. Well, I've been talking to Gianna like an adult since she was a baby, so by the time she turned 3, she was talking back to me like an adult. Once a stranger at Barnes & Noble started laughing because they heard her say, "I want this book but it's out of my budget." It sounded so adult from a tiny 3 year old with a raspy voice.

So we were at Albertsons one day, and she saw a package of chicken hearts. She said she wanted to try it. I Googled chicken heart recipes, and learned that they're extremely nutritious. I especially enjoyed this lady's take: Organ Love. At another site, the author said she liked to eat organ meat twice a week: South Beach Primal.

This is why I love talking to my chef friends who have lived or travelled around the country or the world about food. Some of them have shared accounts of really diverse tastes that they've tried, which really tickles me. And some of them have created the most original taste combinations that also have inspired me to cook a good variety of food as a home cook for my family and friends. I'm so thankful for my 11 year old daughter and her adventurous palate, too! She also inspires me!

  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp tamari
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp chili oil
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 package of chicken hearts, each heart cut in half
  • Handful of kale
  • 1 bundle of glass noodles (also known as cellophane noodles or bean thread)
  • 1 fresno pepper, seeded and sliced
  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  2. Cook the glass noodles briefly (about 3 minutes), drain, then add back to the pan until the moisture evaporates from the noodles.
  3. Heat a pan over medium high heat, add some oil, then add the garlic and fresno pepper.
  4. Add the hearts. Toss to brown all sides, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add the chili oil mixture.
  6. Add kale and noodles. Toss to combine.