Sunday, August 2, 2015

Recipe: Sausage and Potato Soup with Green Beans

This is not a very flattering picture, but I was lazy and this is just for documentation purposes.  =P  The shine on the soup makes it look oily in the photo, but it really isn't.  Our kitchen just has bad lighting for pictures.  I wanted to keep track of the basics for this soup, though, because again, Al liked it!  The goal for this was to use up a bunch of vegetables that I had lying around.


  • 4 shallots - diced
  • ~3 lb. russet potatoes - diced
  • ~1 lb.. green beans - trimmed, cut into 1-2 in. pieces
  • leaves from around 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • ~ 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
  • 28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1.25 lb. hot Italian turkey sausage
  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a hot non-stick pan and saute until the shallots become translucent and begin to brown a little.
  2. Add a little more olive oil and the potatoes.  Season with some salt and pepper and cook until potatoes begin to brown and are cooked through.
  3. Add fresh thyme and rosemary leaves (I just used a bunch from my garden - as many thyme leaves as I could pull before I got annoyed, and rosemary leaves from a 6-in. stem)
  4. Add green beans and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Transfer all the vegetables to a large pot.  Add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil, then simmer on low.
  6. Cook turkey sausage in the same non-stick pan from the vegetables - crumbling it into chunks with the back of the spoon.  Drain the fat and then add to the soup.
Once the soup sat over night, the starches from the potatoes thickened it up a little and it was very yummy!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Recipe: Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette

Two events led to the creation of this dish: I had a delicious Summer Melon Salad at Pizza Antica last week, and then I saw cantaloupes on sale for 3 for a dollar.  It was meant to be!  I've already made this salad twice this week because Al liked it so much.


  • spinach/arugula mix
  • 1 cantaloupe - cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber - cut into chunks
  • 1 shallot (1/2 finely sliced, the other half diced)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh mint leaves - finely chopped
  • 1 avocado - sliced
For the vinaigrette:
  • ~2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • ~1 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • ~1/4 cup olive oil
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  1. In a measuring cup, let the diced shallots sit in about 2 tbsp. of white wine vinegar (add for to cover if needed).  While the shallots macerate in the vinegar, chop the cantaloupe, cucumber, the other half of the shallot, and mint.  Toss them all together in a large bowl.
  2. Add 1tbsp. dijon mustard to the measuring cup with shallots and vinegar, then add olive oil until the mixture is 1/2 a cup.    Whisk everything together and season with freshly cracked black pepper.
  3. Slice an avocado and toss with cantaloupe and cucumber mixture.
  4. Toss spinach and arugula mix with just a little dressing (enough to slightly coat) and distribute to plates.  Pour the rest of the dressing over the cantaloupes and cucumbers and toss.  Mound on top of the spinach and arugula mix.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

7-Year Anniversary Dinner

I haven't posted on this blog in a very long time, but I'm resolved to continue because I just realized that I have no good way of keeping track of all the things that I have made.  The DIY crafts have kind of fizzled out a little as I got very busy with work, but if I happen to come up with ideas I will post them!  Here is the menu for a dinner I made for Al last Friday for our 7th wedding anniversary

1. Beef Wellington (Gordon Ramsay Video)
2. Artichoke and Fennel Ravioli with Tomato-Fennel Sauce
3. Golden and Crimson Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel, and Feta
4. Bacon Hasselback Potatoes
5. Molten Chocolate Cakes (not pictured)

1. Beef Wellington

I must have watched Gordon Ramsay make Beef Wellington at least a dozen times on the video.  I also referenced Tyler Florence's Ultimate Beef Wellington Recipe as well.  The following recipe is a summary of the quantities that I used and what I did.  I have wanted to make Beef Wellington for many years now, but it was always hard to justify the expense.  I figured that our 7-year anniversary would certainly qualify!

The hardest part was actually finding a beef tenderloin that was close to 3 pounds.  I went to Costco, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and at least 5 Safeways before finding one.  Maybe they are more popular around the holidays?  Anyways, I found a 2.5 lb. beef tenderloin at Safeway for $19.99.  Safeway actually also had English mustard - Colman's mustard, and I thought that I would need to search a little more for that.

Some things to remember for the next time I make this dish: I would definitely trim my beef down into a more perfect cylinder.  I couldn't stand the thought of wasting any part of such an expensive piece of meat (our normal dinners are chicken breast that I find for 1.88/lb!), so I only trimmed some of the fat when I could have trimmed off a little more.  I also would roll out the puff pastry more to make sure that it can form a tighter wrap - the puff pastry split open on one side a leaked a little liquid when it was baking.  Otherwise, it wasn't too hard to make a successful Beef Wellington! =)


  • 3-lb. beef tenderloin (filet mignon)
  • 700g mushrooms (1.5 lb)
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • English mustard
  • 12 slices prosciutto
  • 1 lb. puff pastry
  • egg for egg wash
  1. Duxelles: pulse mushrooms, shallots, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.  Cook in a dry pan until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add thyme and let cool.
  2. Season beef with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in hot pan and sear beef on all sides.  Remove to plate and brush with English mustard while it's hot.
  3. On plastic wrap, lay the prosciutto slices side-by-side so that it creates a rectangle big enough to encompass the beef.  Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.  Spread mushroom mixture on top in a even layer, 1/2-inch from the edge.  Place beef on top and roll tightly with the plastic wrap.  Place in fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.
  4. Roll out puff pastry in an even layer.  Brush with egg wash and place beef-mushroom-prosciutto roll on top.  Roll tightly and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place in fridge for another 5-15 minutes.  Can be made the night before.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place Beef Wellington on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash.  Score top of pastry with the back edge of a knife, sprinkle sea salt on top.  Bake for 35 - 40 minutes (I ended up baking mind for 38 minutes) until internal temperature reaches 125 degrees (for medium rare).  Let the meat sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

2. Artichoke and Fennel Ravioli with Tomato-Fennel Sauce

This "ravioli" had a really nice delicate flavor inside with the fennel and the artichoke hearts.  I would love to make this again with actual pasta dough.  It might be the Asian in me, but these just felt like I was eating Italian-style dumplings (haha, I guess that's what stuffed pasta is) instead of ravioli.  It still tasted good though, and using wonton wrappers made the process a lot easier.

Bon Appetit December 1993

YIELD: Serves 8 (serves 8 for maybe an appetizer course, definitely not for a meal)



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, unthawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh fennel
  • 1/2 cup canned vegetable broth or water (I used water)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh fennel fronds
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 32 to 36 gyoza (round) wrappers or wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg white

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh fennel
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Fresh fennel fronds

For filling:

Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and fennel seeds and sauté 3 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and chopped fennel and stir 1 minute. Add vegetable broth and bring mixture to boil. Cover skillet and cook until vegetables are very tender, about 12 minutes. Uncover and simmer until pan juices have evaporated completely, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Scrape filling into processor and cool. Add fennel fronds and process to coarse puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add yolk and blend.

Line baking sheet with plastic wrap. If using wonton wrappers, trim edges to form rounds. Brush entire surface of 1 wrapper lightly with egg white. Place 1 rounded teaspoon filling in center. Fold dough over, forming semi-circle. Seal edges, pressing out any air around filling. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers. (Ravioli can be prepared ahead. Cover loosely with towel and plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 8 hours, or cover with plastic and freeze 3 days. Do not thaw frozen ravioli before cooking.)

For sauce:

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, fennel and fennel seeds and sauté until tender, about 12 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juices and next 4 ingredients. Simmer until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with back of spoon, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill. Rewarm before using.)

Boil ravioli in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well. Spoon some sauce on each plate. Arrange ravioli atop sauce. Garnish with fresh fennel fronds.

3. Golden and Crimson Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel, and Feta

Other than skipping the feta cheese in this recipe, I followed it exactly and it was just delicious!  I love the taste of the oranges and the beets together.  I will definitely make this again!

Bon Appetit October 2006

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

  • 2 large (3-inch-diameter) red beets, all but 1 inch of tops trimmed
  • 2 large (3-inch-diameter) golden beets, all but 1 inch of tops trimmed
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 oranges
  • 1 small fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered, cored, cut into paper-thin strips
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, halved
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place all beets in 9x9x2-inch metal pan. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cover pan with foil and roast beets until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and cool completely. Peel beets, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, and place in large bowl, each color on opposite side; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Cut all peel and pith off oranges. Working over medium bowl to catch orange juice, cut between membranes, releasing segments. Add 1 cup orange segments, fennel, mint, parsley, hazelnuts, and shallot to bowl with beets. Transfer 2 teaspoons orange juice to small bowl; whisk in vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and white pepper. Stir into beet mixture.

Mound salad on large platter. Drain remaining orange segments; arrange on salad. Sprinkle with cheese.

4. Bacon Hasselback Potatoes

Oh man these potatoes were yummy!  They took a lot more time to make than I anticipated though - it was tricky slicing the potatoes without slicing them through, and then the bacon slices kept popping out as I tried to stuff them in between.  I ended up cutting most of the potatoes in half so that they had more room to fan out with the bacon in between them.  I used russet potatoes.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchens

YIELD: 12 servings

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, each cut crosswise into 9 pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Lay the bacon pieces on a baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Using a sharp knife, make crosswise cuts in each potato, about 1/8 inch apart, stopping about 1/4 inch from the bottom.

Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and carefully transfer to a baking sheet; let cool slightly. Pat the potatoes dry, then insert 3 pieces of the frozen bacon into the cuts of each potato, spacing the bacon evenly and letting it poke out of the top. Melt 5 tablespoons butter and brush generously over the potatoes and in the cuts. Reserve any excess butter for basting. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

Transfer the potatoes to the oven and bake until the outsides are browned and crisp, about 2 hours, basting halfway through with the reserved melted butter.

When the potatoes are almost done, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and mix with the scallions, parsley and garlic. Spoon over the potatoes and roast 5 more minutes. Transfer to a platter and season with salt and pepper.

5. Molten Chocolate Cakes

These cakes were super rich and chocolate-y.  They were so rich that we ran out of ice cream to eat with each bite and had to scoop some more out.  It was very easy to make and had a gooey chocolate center after I baked it for 12 minutes.  For the ramekins, I brushed them with butter and then dusted it with cocoa powder instead of flour because I saw Gordon Ramsay do that with his Chocolate Fondant (another recipe I wanted to try, but it calls for golden caster sugar and that is hard to find in the States)

YIELD: 4 servings

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Butter and lightly flour four 6-ounce ramekins. Tap out the excess flour. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet.

2. In a double boiler, over simmering water, melt the butter with the chocolate. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the egg yolks, sugar and salt at high speed until thickened and pale.

3. Whisk the chocolate until smooth. Quickly fold it into the egg mixture along with the flour. Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for 12 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes are firm but the centers are soft. Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for 1 minute, then cover each with an inverted dessert plate. Carefully turn each one over, let stand for 10 seconds and then unmold. Serve immediately.

The batter can be refrigerated for several hours; bring to room temperature before baking.

I ended up making enough food to give us a total of 3 gourmet dinners!  The leftovers were delicious.  To reheat the beef wellington, I put slices on a baking sheet and baked in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes.  They end up cooking a little bit more (becoming medium instead of medium rare), but get warm enough for Al to eat and are still tender and flavorful.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

DIY Wedding Guest Book - Stamped Tree Collage

Wedding guest books are so special to read and keep after the wedding--the only problem is that you have to take it out and actually take time to read it.  We have probably only read our guest book a couple times since our wedding just because it is usually boxed away with our other wedding memorabilia.  That's why I love the idea of turning your wedding guest book into a work of art.  Here's a wedding idea that you can hang up in our house and look at often.  Instead of signing a guest book, guests stamp and sign their names on a blank canvas to complete a picture.  Thanks to Esther and Joy for helping me with this project!

Materials: stiff posterboard or canvas,  leaf stamps, green inkpad, brown paint,  paint brush

1.     Paint the branches of a tree and letters onto the blank canvas with brown paint.  If you don’t want to free draw the tree, try this simple technique:

1. Print out a picture of a tree you want to trace and enlarge if necessary.  On the back of the paper, use a lead pencil to shade in areas of where the tree is printed on the front side.

2. Place the printed picture of the tree on top of your canvas and secure it with tape.  With a pencil or a ballpoint pen, trace the tree on the front side of the paper.

3. The shaded pencil on the back of the paper will make a carbon-like print onto the canvas.

4. Remove the paper and paint over the pencil lines on canvas.

5. You can repeat the above process to paint names on to the canvas.

On your wedding day, leave out stamp pads and leaf stamps for guests to stamp onto the tree.  Have guests sign their names on each leaf with a permanent marker.

-       If you are using a stretched canvas for your collage, stack a book or magazines underneath the canvas to fill in the empty space underneath the canvas.  This will help guests to stamp evenly onto the canvas.

Have fun!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lego Place Cards

Lego Place Cards
Last November, I was unfortunately unable to attend the wedding of our close friends, Anjie and Preston.  It was, therefore, super exciting to hear about their wedding and all the cool things they did to make their wedding unique and special!  One thing Anjie and Preston told me about that I couldn't get out of my head was their use of Lego men for place cards, and I just had to make some for myself!  (Yes, Al's name is on there because he really wants to keep one of them =)

A quick trip to the Lego store revealed to me how fancy Legos are these days!  There are so many things you can add to Lego men--hats, facial hair, mohawks--I had to tear myself away from the store before I got caught up making too many variations.  If I were planning a small wedding and I knew each of my guests well, I would have a blast trying to make each Lego place card look like each guest.

I think the pictures are pretty self explanatory for how to make the flags.  Bamboo skewers that are used for kebabs and grilling are actually a perfect size for the Lego hands to hold.  I used a white gel pen because I like the way the white words pop on the colored cardstock, but of course there are countless variations on how to make the flags.

So cute!  Anjie and Preston also color coordinated their Lego blocks to indicate each guest's meal order at their wedding--yay for multi-tasking!

Have fun!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cardigans for Mom

This is a little belated, but I wanted to finally share December's completed projects!  After frantically knitting all night before Christmas, I was able to finish a cardigan for both my mom and Al's mom for Christmas.  I chose two patterns that were pretty easy to follow and didn't take as much time as the cabled pattern that I knit for Al last year.

I made this cardigan for my mom with a bamboo ewe yarn by Stitch Nation and followed the My Fair Cardi pattern.  I followed the instructions and measured my garment according to directions for a Medium sized cardigan, but it still turned out a lot smaller than I thought it would.  I don't know if it's just me, being an amateur knitter, or the pattern, but I have now mentally noted to take more notice of the size of the pieces as I knit them so I can adjust accordingly in the future.

I made this cardigan for Al's mom using a silky bamboo yarn by Naturally Caron and followed the Baton Rouge Cropped Jacket pattern.  I didn't realize until after I was nearly finished that I actually was using a different yarn than the one on the pattern (mine was spa, the yarn in the pattern was country).  I liked the pattern, but I wasn't a huge fan of the yarn.  The silky yarn was very soft, but it snagged easily (I have rough hands!) and was not woven very tightly, so my knitting needles often only picked up part of the strand.  (Again, that might just be because I'm just an amateur knitter!)

I can't wait until my next knitting projects, but it might have to wait awhile--my hands and wrists are still recovering!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rice Krispies Treat Star Favors

Rice krispies treats are a classic snack that are easy to turn into a fun favor for a holiday party, a bridal shower, or even your wedding.  All you need to do is make the original Rice Krispies Treats recipe and let your creative juices flow!  I made stars for a holiday party and was very happy with how easy they were to make:

The Original Treats (from
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows
  • - OR -
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies®
  1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
  2. Add KELLOGG'S RICE KRISPIES cereal. Stir until well coated.
  3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.
To make the stars:
 1. Press the rice krispies mixture onto a pan as thick or as thin as you want the stars.  I made my stars thinner because I wanted to make more out of the batch.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out stars.

 2. Dip the blunt end of a bamboo skewer into melted candy coating or melted chocolate and insert into cut-out star.  This will help the skewer stay in place.  If you have a thicker star cut out, you could also use lollipop sticks.  If using bamboo skewers, trim off the pointed end with kitchen shears.

3.  Once the stars are set in the skewers, coat with melted candy coating (I used Wilton's) and decorate with sprinkles.  I had originally planned on dipping the whole star in melted candy coating, but after I tested one it was just way to sweet for the treat, so I just spread the candy coating like icing on one side of the star.

Have fun!