Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mothers Day

Charcoal Grilled Oysters from The Waiting Room, Portland, Oregon

Happy Mothers Day! It's been a nostalgic day for me because my mom is back home in Arkansas, and I had so many thoughts of her today. She left Vietnam with the 5 of us kids and our dad so long ago, and she's never been back. We arrived in the United States with nothing, and she went to work in a factory Monday through Friday 7 am - 3:30 everyday. But she had dinner for the seven of us every night at 5:30 or 6:00 or so. Some of us kids would help, but mostly me, the baby of the family...

My dad worked long, hard hours too. Swing shift sometimes. Night shift sometimes. But most nights, it was the seven of us Nguyens together sharing food and stories about our day around the same table.

So now that I'm far away, every holiday, every birthday, when I call, they tell me the same thing. They ate really good today. And that means it was a great day. Mom asked if the kids cooked for me today, and I laughed. No, but I had some of the best oysters I've ever had in my life. And she knew that it was a great day for me. She was happy to hear that.

Deviled Eggs from The Waiting Room Brunch
Last summer we had the chance to go home to Little Rock to visit our family and friends. My mother in law had stage four cancer, and we spent as much time as we could with her. She made the best deviled eggs ever. I miss her so much.

It was also such a nice surprise to receive the complimentary Mothers Day Prosecco from The Waiting Room during our brunch today! My daughter Gianna loved our deviled eggs. I did too. We ate there on her birthday two weeks ago, and we knew this was where we wanted to spend my Mothers Day brunch. It's a great place for a special occasion or an "eat like a local" kind of place.

Then we also received a complimentary Mothers Day dessert! I don't often eat desserts, so my ten year old quickly grabbed it and dug in. I should have told our server that. I was very thankful for these Mothers Day gifts, though because my kids also had a chance to enjoy one of the gifts! And they're the ones who make this day so wonderful every year.

I'm so glad we ate at The Waiting Room today for Mothers Day. I know we'll eat again there soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Whole Foods Calamari

I hadn't been to a Whole Foods in over a year, since I moved away from Little Rock. I shopped there ALL the time when I lived down South. But when I moved to the Portland area, I started shopping everyday at New Seasons, because there was one pretty close to my home. And it was something new. A Pacific Northwest original.

Then I got a new Samsung Galaxy S7 phone, and I downloaded the Samsung Pay app. After my first purchase, I received a $30 gift card from my choice of retailers. I chose Whole Foods. OH MY!!

I went to the one in the Pearl district. It's huge, and it's a great example of why this place is the Pacific North Wonderland (PNW). I discovered that at the seafood and meat department, you can have them SEASON your purchase with your choice of seasonings. Wow! I consider 3 benefits of this: (1) savings on out of pocket cost for marinades, and (2) efficient marinade time on your dinner for the night! It's always nice when someone else pitches in, isn't it? Then (3) free tastings of seasonings. I also trust their seasonings not to have artificial stuff that I would not buy if I read the label the way I love to do.

So I went two times in one week. I opted once for the lemon dill seasoning for the dish you see above, going the Mediterranean route with shirataki noodles. The squid cooks up quickly in just a couple of minutes when sauteed, then the drained noodles can be added to just warm them up. Then the garnish of green onions and crushed red pepper add flavor and dimension.    

Another tasty seasoning was the Thai Curry option, which I also paired with shirataki noodles. Garnished with cilantro and green onions, it leaned more toward the Asian style of cuisine. I wonder what I should try next?!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Eggs and Excellence

Our family loves eggs. So many ways! Fried, poached, scrambled, with steak, with tacos, with asparagus. Yes please!

The hubby was home for WEEEEEEEEEEEKS over the Christmas holiday. He can eat eggs every. Single. Day. For breakfast. It was a great time for me to perfect them to the best of my ability. Because ever since he joined the management team of his company, he has become this "I want to see perfection" type person while still criticizing in a manner that says, "You're an awesome cook. Some days you can be even more awesome." (The white is not quite set here, the yolk is a little more coagulated than I sent me timing my cooking down to the second.) Most days he was perfectly happy, though!

I'm pretty proud of his experience up on the North Slope this past year. His superior has been an excellent influence on him, and I know he admires him very much. I'm a firm believer of leaders who lead by example. I've seen changes in my husband because he has been a part of something really special. An exceptional team. It makes all the difference in the world! I've seen this for myself two times in my life. Craig and Marie, two mentors I'll never forget. 

So while I thought I was semi-retired from work outside the home, I still maintained the mindset of a successful sales rep. I've never wanted to be mediocre at anything. I need to excel. Even if it's just while working inside the home. Just for him and the kids' admiration!
I've discovered that fried eggs can be done either fast or slow. Because cooking is all about time and temperature. Above, this egg was the slow variety. It yields a pretty sunny side up yolk and smooth white. It starts on the stove, goes into the oven a few minutes, then is quickly finished on the stove.
The fast egg goes onto a hot pan with oil, gets covered for two minutes, and produces lots of sizzling and spitting. The white covers the yolk in a thin layer. 

Then there's the beauty of the poached egg! It's an oil - free rounded egg! Four minutes and done.

The poached egg with a solid set white and runny yolk is a favorite!

And of course, the farm fresh eggs are what we love the most!

If you're a stay at home mom, kudos to you. I hope everyone knows just how exceptional you are. If you're a mom who works outside the home and also takes care of your family like my mom did, I'll share my favorite motivation quote that I saw hanging in the kitchen of Forty Two, the restaurant inside the Clinton Presidential Center back home in Little Rock: "Keep Calm and Finish Strong."

If you ever visit the CPC, look for my husband's name in the lobby where Bill thanks the people who were a part of the construction. It's under R for Rasico. Something about having our name on that wall feels.....presidential. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Honey Lime Sriracha Chicken

This is a great flavor combination! It's also easy and quick, making it a terrific weeknight meal. 

After a 10 month hiatus from working "outside the home," I am rejoining the professional world. So I will be seeking more recipes such as this one. I found this in a book at Barnes and Noble, but they did a skillet version. I decided it would be easier to just make it in the oven. That way I don't have to stand over the stove and watch it. Because soon, I'll be back in my patent leather high heels all day again. Woo hoo!

I'm so excited to delve into the financial world, subscribe to Money magazine, and read Alan Greenspan books. All for the advancement of my new career! That means I get to explore Seattle and travel along the Oregon coast for work. Such fun! 

Maybe I'll discover new dishes along the way that I can share here...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Creole Chicken Soup

My daughter recently informed me that she could eat soup every night for dinner, so we've been on quite the soup kick! I had some boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the fridge, and I thought of all the different directions I could go with them. We could have done Asian with rice noodles, Greek with rice and lemons, Mexican with some Rotel....

I also had some bonito and kombu in the pantry waiting for me to make them into dashi for ramen. And of course we always have pasta and Asiago cheese on hand to make any protein into Italian dinner. My first name is Vietnamese and last name is Sicilian, but our kitchen has no borders when it comes to what worldly cuisine we create each night.

Having grown up in Arkansas, my taste has been heavily influenced by neighboring states Tennessee (Memphis barbecue), and Louisiana ( Cajun, Creole, oysters, crawfish, Gulf shrimp). 

Wild caught American shrimp is so incredibly expensive in the Pacific Northwest compared to states closer to the Gulf. I miss having inexpensive, sustainably caught shrimp on a weekly basis. But at the moment, I could not imagine leaving Oregon for a very long time either.

Oregon seems to be the biggest melting pot state of the United States. Recent news have indicated that more people move to our state than any other. And in the food community, so many people here are from somewhere else. Hapa PDX comes from Hawaii. Neue Southern PDX came from South Carolina. Chef/owner Aaron of St. Jack is from California. Johanna Ware of Smallwares is from Chicago. And New York.

I love the availability of so many different culinary perspectives here in Portland. I believe I relocated to the best food town imaginable.

Acadia is one of my favorite new places because they serve lunch on Wednesdays, where my Creole needs are met in the Pacific Northwest.

After eating their Shrimp Creole dish last week, I was inspired to make my own Creole dish at home.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Soup dumplings filled with pho broth

The idea to make soup dumplings filled with pho broth came to me when I made slow cooker pho for the first time.

The spices I chose to use were cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, and peppercorns. I've seen some recipes include cardamom, and some that don't. I didn't have any on hand this day. 

By the way, I loosely adapted this recipe from Lucky Peach. I love that book!

Instead of using beef short ribs, as Peter Meehan did in his recipe, I used 2 pounds of oxtail and 2 pounds of beef marrow bones. The outcome was wonderfully gelatinous bone broth. That tasted like pho! Above, you can see the broth after it has been refrigerated, fat removed, and ready to be inserted into some dumplings.

Instead of mixing the gelatinous pho broth into the meat mixture, I kept it separate. Then I used a melon baller to scoop out the broth and pork, about equal amounts.

For steaming, I pulled some banana leaves out of the freezer. These can be found at most Asian markets, such as Fubonn. They're cheaper than parchment paper! 

My pleating skills are weak......

I had plenty of broth not only for the soup dumplings, but also for some top sirloin, shiitake, and noodle soup!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Beef and Mozzarella Lasagna (without ricotta)

I like to keep my lasagna simple. This version is quick and easy with very few ingredients, including no boil lasagna sheets. I also make it in an 8 inch square pan, which is perfect for our family of four. I've played around with no ricotta lasagna in the past, but this time I've decided that shredded mozzarella and asiago are the way to go.

I've had delicious house made ricotta from The Hive in Arkansas, and from Portofino in Portland, but I haven't yet found any in stores that I would use in my own pasta dishes. If anyone knows of any great local ricotta, I'd love to add it to our home Italian charcuterie routine. Let me know!