Seafood · Soups/Stews · Sunday Family Dinner

Korean Feast for Sunday Family Dinner + Happy Birthday Nina!

August 2013 Korean Family Dinner

My eldest niece, Nina, turns 15 today *gulp*

Don’t ask me how it happened but within a blink of the eye, our super chubby little baby turned into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. The bday gal requested Korean for last week’s Sunday Family Dinner and we willingly obliged.

We LOVE Korean food! And as I’ve shared before, our mom went through an extensive phase where she cooked all types of Korean dishes to dazzle her guests.

August 2013 Family Dinner

As always, we cooked way too much food. But what can we say, we wanted a “little” bit of everything and leftovers are a good thing in our book. A HUGE thanks to Emily Kim, author and founder of Maanchi, whose recipes were heavily used in our menu that night.

As for the menu…..

What’s a Korean meal without some type of Kimchi? Eldest seester started a week before our dinner and prepared a ridiculous amount of Kimchi—and I mean a TON OF KIMCHI! Though I’m not complaining as we each got to take a jar home.


We had crispy, Grilled Pork Belly served with an acidic, vinegar based dipping sauce…….

Grilled Pork Belly

A huge pot of bubbling Soondubu Jjigae – Soft Tofu Stew with lots of seafood……

Soondubu Jjigae - Soft Tofu Stew

Plates of Haemul Pajeon – Seafood Pancake……….

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

You can see that the there’s definitely more “filling” than batter in these pancakes.

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

And there was a huge pan of Ddeokbokki – Spicy Rice Cakes which is one of my personal faves. Mimi (my oldest friend/ex-roomie) used to make this all of the time for me in grad school and it’s carboliciously, delicious.

Ddeokbokki - Spicy Rice Cakes

We also had Galbijjim – Braised Beef Short Ribs that just fell off the bone. Slightly sweet and incredibly tender. Man, my mouth is watering just remember this goodness…..

Galbijjim - Braised Beef Short Ribs

And there was some Kimchi Bokkeumbap – Kimchi Fried Rice.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

And last, for dessert, Patbingsu – shaved ice. We adorned ours with sweet red beans, fresh fruits, mochi, tapioca and a drizzle of condensed milk.

Patbingsu - Shaved Ice

And that’s how we roll–Korean style!

Happy 15th Birthday Nina-love!!!! May this year bring you success in school (and tennis), laughter, happiness and adventures (in moderation, of course 🙂 )


August 2013 Family Dinner

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Watermelon Soju-tinis
Appetizers: Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake), Homemade Kimchi, Grilled Pork Belly, Soondubu Jjigae 
Entrees: Ddeokbokki, Galbijjim, Kimchi Bokkeumbap
Dessert: Patbingsu, Red Velvet Cake


On Tiny Giants, Mom’s Birthday, and Petite Filet Mignon….


Today is Mom’s 72nd Birthday–though she probably wouldn’t have been too happy with me that I shared her actually age. But let’s be honest, Mom always looked a decade younger than she really was.


I find that the older I get, the more nostalgic I become. Funny enough, I don’t seem to recall the characteristics about Mom that drove me nuts when I was a quasi-rebellious teenager. It’s the quirky things I tend to reminisce about her that make us all crack up.


Like how she used to have the coldest little feet (even in the summer!) and would always find the need to prop them on our bare legs to warm them up. BRRRR!

Or how she would schmooze with strangers and hustle for us when it was fundraising time. She sold over 100+ pies each year for my cheerleading fundraisers and would be top in BINGO sales for our high school. Yup, don’t even try to step up to her.


Or how she would always call everyone người đẹp (beautiful) instead of using their names.

Mom would also constantly rearrange all the furniture in the house and reposition her incredible bonsai collection. Seriously, I would come home on the weekends from college and there would be a new configuration in the living room—EVERY time! One minute she would bring in a bonsai arrangement into a room and then next, she would have switched it out for a different one. When I used to ask her what she was doing, she would just laugh and say “I’m having fun.”

I guess she was “playing house” in her house.


And boy, did this woman love her steaks. I mean seriously love her steaks.

Without fail, for Mother’s Day or her birthday, we would be off to some restaurant to celebrate. Now granted, she would do the “mom” thing and say it didn’t matter where we would take her out (or even that we didn’t have to) but the moment we’d be seated at a restaurant, she’d always order a filet mignon or bone-in ribeye.

Petite Filet Mignon

So in honor of Mom’s birthday and her carnivorous love of steaks, I made this tender Petite Filet Mignon. After soaking up some great flavors for a few hours, I seared the filets on a screaming hot cast iron pan and finished it off in the oven.

Absolutely delicious and Mom would have loved it.

Petite Filet Mignon

Have you heard that wonderful saying that I am who I am today because I stand on the shoulders of Giants?

Well, it just so happens that one of my main Giants was a little 4’9” Vietnamese woman. Vivacious, tough, loyal, tenacious—and of course, steak-loving.

Happy Birthday, Mom. We all love and miss you.



Petite Filet Mignon
Serves 2


1 tablespoon minced garlic
10-12 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced chopped sage
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 6-ounce petite filet mignon steaks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
course sea salt (optional)

In a resealable plastic bag, add the garlic, herbs, chili flakes, 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and filets. Rub the marinade all over the filets. Squeeze out as much air as possible and then seal the bag. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Place a cast iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Remove the filets from the plastic bag and discard the marinade. Use paper towels to dry off some of the marinade and then liberally season the filets with additional black pepper. Allow the filets to sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes.

After the cast iron skillet has heated in the oven for 15-20 minutes, carefully remove the skillet and place on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the butter, oil and allow it to melt together before placing the filets in. Sear the filets for 2-3 minutes on each side. While the filets are searing, repeatedly spoon the butter/oil over the tops of the meat to baste. Once both sides have seared, transfer the skillet with the filets back into the oven.

Roast the filets at 400 degrees F for 7-8 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees F for medium-rare. Allow the filets to rest for 5-10 minutes and sprinkle the tops with sea salt to finish (optional). Serve warm.

Beef · Vietnamese

Bò Lúc Lắc Xà Lách Son (Vietnamese Shaking Beef over Watercress)

Bò Lúc Lắc Xà Lách Son (Vietnamese Shaking Beef over Watercress)

Bò Lúc Lắc was a staple in our house growing up. Mom would make it in several different variations depending on her mood—with tofu, mushrooms, fried potatoes, or over a bed of fresh and peppery watercress.

The three key components to Bò Lúc Lắc are simple and straightforward. First, you need a high-quality cut of beef for a deliciously tender Bò Lúc Lắc. Mom preferred Filet Mignon but ribeye can be substituted. Second, due to the quality of the beef, you have to stirfry the meat quickly and over high heat. And lastly, the Maggi. Completely unique in flavor, the Maggi Seasoning Sauce is referred to as xì dầu” (soy sauce) in Vietnamese–although completely different in flavor profile than your average soy sauce. In dire circumstances, you could substitute Maggi with light soy sauce. However I would highly recommend stocking up on a bottle if you ever plan on cooking Vietnamese cuisine. Trust me, it’s totally worth it.

Have a great week!


Bò Lúc Lắc Xà Lách Son (Vietnamese Shaking Beef over Watercress)


1 Pound Filet Mignon or Ribeye Beef, cubed
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
Maggi Seasoning Sauce
1 Bunch Fresh Watercress, washed and dried (about 3 cups)
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
Black Pepper
Vegetable Oil
Fried Shallots (optional)

In a large bowl, mix beef, garlic, sliced shallots, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season heavily with pepper.

Heat a large wok over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and when it begins to slightly smoke, carefully toss in the beef. Quickly stir-fry for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in the butter and add several dashes of Maggi to taste. In a separate bowl, quickly toss the watercress with the rice vinegar and plate. Pour the beef and the juices over the top of the watercress and season with additional black pepper. Optional: Sprinkle the top with the fried shallots.

Beef · Pastas/Noodles

Orecchiette Bolognese

Orecchiette Bolognese

Weekends are for slowly cooked meals.

Meals that emit utterly delicious aromas throughout your home for hours that once it’s finally finished cooking, you can barely wait to tear into it. And when you take that first bite, you just know that it was totally worth the wait.

This Bolognese fits that bill perfectly. Utterly rich, savory, and meaty.

I like serving this with Orecchiette because it’s the type of pasta that can hold up to such a hearty sauce and envelopes the meaty goodness. Yup…I said “meaty goodness” but you can use whichever type of pasta that tickles your fancy.

And although this Bolognese does take some time to make, it freezes beautifully. So make a double batch and store the extra in your freezer for a tummy warming, weekday dinner.

Now excuse me as I lick my computer screen 🙂


Orecchiette Bolognese
Serves 6-8


1 Pound Ground Beef
½ Pound Ground Veal
1 Cup White Onion, finely minced
1 Cup Celery, finely minced
1 Cup Carrots, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, finely minced
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Dried Red Chili Flakes (or less depending on your heat preference)
2 Dried Bay Leaves
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Cup Milk or Cream
1 Cup Dry Red Wine
1 28-Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Pound Orecchiette Pasta, cooked al dente
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute until softened but not browned. Add chili flakes and sauté for an additional minute. Add beef, veal, and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Use a wooden spoon to crumble the meat and break into small pieces.  Once the meat is no longer pink, add thyme and bay leaves. Add tomato paste and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Add the milk and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering until all the milk has evaporated and only clear juices remain—about 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering until all the wine has evaporated—about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes with its juices and bring to a boil, then place the heat at the lowest setting. Continue on this very low simmer for 2 – 2 ½ hours, stirring every 20 minutes until you get a rich, thick meaty sauce. Check for seasonings and add kosher salt and pepper accordingly.

Toss the cooked Orecchiette in the Bolognese sauce and serve topped with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with Italian parsley and Enjoy!

Beef · Vietnamese

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)



Growing up, whenever my family celebrated a special occasion or holiday, we would head out to enjoy Bò 7 Món – 7 courses of beef. This may seem strange as Vietnamese cuisine isn’t really known for heavy amounts of beef but maybe that’s why this specialty is often saved for momentous occasions.

These days you can find many restaurants that offer Bò 7 Món, but in my family’s opinion, no one does it better than Pagolac Restaurant in Westminster, California.



Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

My family has been coming to Pagolac Restaurant for over 20 years. Most of the dishes you order, you cook yourself on table top grills or mini boiling pots of vinegar water. All proteins are meant to be wrapped in the rice paper sheets with assorted veggies then dipped in a very pungent and savory sauce called mắm nêm.

And although there are a standard set of items when eating  Bò 7 Món, my family typically orders à la carte as there are some of the dishes that just aren’t our fav. We always order the thinly sliced beef, shrimp, squid, meatballs with shrimp crackers—and my personal favorite, Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt  or Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves. I would always plead for my mom to order extra plates of it as the dish was amazing to me. Just the right mixture of spices in the beef and all enveloped in the fragrant betel leaves that tasted even better slightly charred from the grill.

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Betel leaves are used quite often in Việt Nam in food, medicine and also as a “chew” to produce a kind of stimulant.Though, the latter does cause some serious ICK counter effects over extended amounts of time such as black teeth.  Yikes! However, the leaves are quite fragrant and literally produces a trigger effect for my mouth to start watering when I smell it being grilled.  🙂

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Once wrapped and grilled up, Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt can be enjoyed a number of ways…..with rice or vermicelli noodles and even as a đồ ăn nhậu (beer food). But my favorite is to wrap some in Rice Paper Sheets (bánh tráng) and throw in a few veggies such as the pickled cucumbers or carrots. Delicious balance in texture and taste!

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Truth be told, I can’t recall a time when Mom made Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt at home but that doesn’t stop me from associating them with her.  Because when I think about this dish,  it makes me reflect on happy, celebratory times and images of Mom come flooding back to me as she stood over the table top grills at Pagolac Restaurant laughing and distributing all the sizzling items to our plates.

And when all is said and done, anything that can evoke those precious images while making my tummy happy is a  Nguyen-Win Situation. 🙂


Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)
Serves approximately 4


2-3 Dozen Betel Leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
½ Pound Ground Beef
2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Shallots, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Lemongrass, very finely minced (s bm)
1 Scallion, chopped
1½ Teaspoon Fish Sauce (nước mm), or more to taste
½ Teaspoon Curry Powder
1 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
¼ Cup Green Onion infused Oil (hành mơ)*

1 Cup Slightly Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers**
¼ Cup Roasted Peanuts, crushed
1 Cup Dipping Sauce (nước chấm)***
Rice Paper Sheets (bánh tráng)

In a large bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. Mix well and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. While beef is marinating, prepare the accouterments:

Scallion Oil (hành m
ơ): In a sauté pan, slowly heat ¼ cup of canola oil. Add ½ cup chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers: Cut carrots and cucumbers into small matchsticks and place in a small bowl. Cover them with Rice Wine Vinegar and a pinch of Sugar.

Dipping Sauce (n
ước chấm): Combine ½ Cup Fish Sauce (nước mm), ½ Cup Sugar, ½ Cup Fresh Lime Juice, ¼ Cup Warm Water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 Teaspoon Chili Paste. Adjust amounts to desired to taste.

To assemble the rolls, take one betel leaf and place it shiny side down. Scoop out about ¾ tablespoon of the beef mixture and shape it towards the center of the leaf in a row. Slowly and tightly roll the leaf from tip to base. Once you get to the base, use a toothpick to prick a hole in the center of the roll and tuck the stem of the betel leaf in the hole to secure it. (Alternatively, you can use soaked toothpicks or skewers to hold the rolls together).

Cover a baking sheet with foil and brush it with the scallion oil (hành mơ). Place the rolls, seam side down, on the sheet and brush them with additional scallion oil (hành mơ).

If cooking with an oven: Turn broiler on high and place baking rack directly underneath it. Transfer baking sheet with rolls to the oven. Broil for 6-8 minutes, turning the rolls every 1½ minute to cook evenly and prevent burning.

If cooking on a grill: Place rolls in a wire mesh grilling basket. Grill rolls on each side for 1 minute.

Transfer rolls to a plate and brush with scallion oil (hành mơ) and sprinkle with crushed peanuts. Serve with nước chấm, pickled vegetables and moistened rice paper sheets.



**This is my submission to Delicious Vietnam #19 a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine which was started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of  Ravenous Couple. For more information, please visit Delicious Vietnam Thanks to  Sandy from ginger and scotch for hosting this month!**

Beef · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Ribeye Steak and Frites

Ribeye Steak & Frites


I love steaks—-I am, after all, my mother’s daughter.

But I don’t eat it very often and I sure as heck don’t make it enough. Which is really unfortunate because it’s so easy and makes your home smell delicious. In fact, it took longer to bake my frites than it did for me to prepare and sear my Ribeye Steak.

So next time, forgo the bougie steakhouses. You’ll save a few bucks and no one will look at you weird if you’re wearing your pajamas at the dinner table. 🙂


Ribeye Steak and Frites
Serves 2


2 Ribeye Steaks, approximately 1.5 inches thick and at room temperature
1 Cup Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
1 Large Russet Potato, peeled and cut into ¼ inch long strips
2 Tablespoons Fresh Garlic, minced finely
1 Tablespoon Shallots, diced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
¼ Cup Red Wine or Beef Stock
¼ Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil, divided
Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with in 2 tablespoons of oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Spread them in one even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes. Stir every 10-15 minutes to ensure all sides are baked even.

While the frites are baking, rub the steaks with the remaining oil. Heavily season all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron pan to high heat. Add the steaks to the pan and sear each side for 2-3 minutes. You want to develop a golden brown crust. Move the pan to the oven and bake until the internal temperature reaches 130-135 degrees (medium rare) or 140-145 degrees (medium). Remove the steaks to a clean plate and tent with aluminum foil. Allow the steaks to rest for 5-10 minutes.

While the steaks are resting, melt the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms and shallots until they are golden brown. Add thyme leaves, wine, and cream. Cook until the sauce reduces by half. Season with salt and pepper.

Plate the steaks with a few spoonfuls of the mushroom sauce and frites.


Beef · Vietnamese

Thịt Bò Xào Khoai Tây (Vietnamese Stir Fry Beef and Potatoes)

Thịt Bò Xào Khoai Tây (Vietnamese Stir Fry Beef and Potatoes)

Growing up, our normal dinners would include several family-style dishes to be eaten with rice (cơm). We always had some type of soup (canh), vegetable dish, and a protein dish. This is what standard Vietnamese meals were for us and were referred to as “ăn cơm” or “to eat rice”.

Of course there were dishes that my siblings and I all dreaded…..Canh mướp đắng (Bittermelon Soup) being one of them. But then there were some that were general favorites……Mực nhồi (Stuffed squid), Tôm lăn bột (Battered fried shrimp), and of course Thịt Bò Xào Khoai Tây (Stir Fry Beef and Potatoes). In fact, the latter was my personal favorite.

What I loved most about this dish was the “gravy” that it produced…..which is ironic because it’s the gravy-like sauces of many Chinese dishes that turn me off from that cuisine! But somehow, this beef gravy was liquid gold as a kid and when you mixed it up with your rice–delish! In fact, I would always request that my mom make sure that the dish had lots of “gravy”.

The key to making a killer Thịt Bò Xào is a high quality beef—ribeye or filet mignon was my mom’s personal choice. Since the meat needs to be cut so thin and cooked quickly at high heat, other cuts aren’t as successful. It may seem a tad pricey for a beef stir fry but when you take into account how many people this dish will feed, it’s well worth the extra few dollars. And when you bite into the meat, you’ll be pretty darn happy with the tenderness of it. As for the added bit of cornstarch and butter at the end (optional), it will assist in making the coveted gravy.

And when that gravy is soaked up into the potatoes—SOOO GOOD! It won’t be long before Thịt Bò Xào Khoai Tây is your favorite dish when you “ăn cơm”.

Tip: My local Vietnamese grocery store sells ribeye packages that are already thinly sliced. But if your store doesn’t or you can’t convince your butcher to slice it for you, pop your beef into the freezer for a few minutes before you start slicing it. Slightly chilled meat is a lot easier to make thin slices out of—just be sure to use a super sharp knife.


Thịt Bò Xào Khoai Tây (Vietnamese Stir Fry Beef and Potatoes)
Serves approximately 6-8


1 Pound Thinly Sliced Ribeye Beef
1 Small Yellow Onion, quartered
1 Large Tomato, sliced into wedges
1½ Cups Mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, finely minced
1½  Teaspoons Cornstarch
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil, plus additional to fry potatoes
2-3 Tablespoons Maggi or Soy Sauce
Fresh Cracked Pepper
2 Large Russet Potato, peeled and cut into ¼ inch wide strips
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter, optional

In a bowl, mix together beef, garlic, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Season with freshly cracked pepper and set aside.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a heavy pot until it reaches 375 degrees. Carefully add a handful of the potatoes into the pot stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown–about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes on paper towels and keep warm on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven while frying remaining batches.  *If you prefer to bake your potatoes, toss the potatoes strips in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Spread them in one even layer on a baking sheet and place in a 450 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. Stir every 10-15 minutes to ensure all sides are baked even.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large wok over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until both have softened but not browned, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Push the items to the side of your wok (or remove to a plate if your wok is not large enough) and add the beef. Quickly stir fry the beef for 1-2 minutes or until lightly brown—this should not take a long time since the beef is so thin.  Stir in the onion/tomato/mushroom mixture and combine well. Add the butter (optional) and remove from heat. Stir in Maggi  (to taste) and additional cracked black pepper.

To serve, place potatoes in a layer on a plate. Pour beef stir fry over the top and garnish with additional cilantro.


Shepherd’s Pie (Cottage Pie)

Shepherd's Pie

Who doesn’t love comfort food? Especially during these chilly months when all you want is some good “stick to your ribs” kind of goodness. After all, we have all of spring to eat light!

Shepherd’s Pie fits the bill perfectly. You can essentially put anything and everything in it. And, if you assemble it on a lazy Sunday, you can have a filling and yummy dinner later on in the week!

I threw this little number together by digging around in the kitchen. With a few leftovers, frozen veggies, and a couple pantry staples, this Shepherd’s Pie was ready to fill the tummies of our little munchkins in no time!
Shepherd's Pie


Note: Eeek! I stand corrected! After posting this, I was reminded that if made with beef, this is actually called “Cottage Pie”. Shepherd’s Pies are traditionally made with lamb. I jokingly said that if made with turkey, it’s called “Thanksgiving Pie”. 🙂


Shepherd’s Pie
Serves Approximately 6-8


1 Pound Lean Ground Beef (or substitute with Ground Turkey)
½ Cup Yellow Onions, diced
½ Cup Celery, diced
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1½ Cups Frozen Vegetables (Peas, Corn, Carrots, etc.)
1½ Cups Beef Gravy
3 Cups Mashed Potatoes
3 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onions, celery, and garlic and cook until they are translucent but not browned—approximately 5-6 minutes. Remove to a clean dish. In the same skillet, add the ground beef and cook until browned. Using a large spoon, discard any excess fat/grease. Add the onions, celery, and garlic mixture back to skillet and stir well. Add the worcestershire sauce, thyme and cook for an additional minute. Add frozen vegetables and gravy and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover a large casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour the ground beef/vegetable mixture into the dish and spread evenly. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top and carefully spread to create an even layer. Sprinkle parmesan cheese all over the top and place the dish in the preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn the oven broiler on and brown the top of the Shepherd’s Pie until it turns an even golden brown color.

Remove from the oven and allow to set for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Beef · Condiments/Sauces

Beef Fajitas with Fresh Tomatillo Salsa and Pico De Gallo

I love Mexican cuisine. Something about the spice and citrus flavors remind me of my own heritage’s cuisine—though, in a completely different light.

Lucky for me, I live in an area where Mexican and Spanish ingredients are readily available for my culinary experiments. Plus, the BF has become quite adept to making some stellar salsas and pico de gallos

One night, we decided to try our hand with tomatillos. It is, after all, my goal for 2010 to cook with ingredients I’ve never tried before. So we headed to our local Mexican grocer, Mercados Suvianda in San Jose, California to pick up some supplies. Sure, this trusted establishment has their own array of pre-marinated proteins to choose from. However, I was up for the challenge and wanted to marinate my own carne asada with chipotle peppers.

The overall results? Muy Bueno!!! Of course, I think salsas get better over time. And in fact, our Tomatillo Salsa and Pico de Gallo improved after each day. We opted to cook the Tomatillo Salsa a bit to mellow out the “green”—almost “not yet ripe” flavor that it has. That choice proved quite successful. As for the beef, I was quite heavy handed with the chipotle peppers. Therefore, if you like a less “smoky” flavor, decrease the amount to only 1.5-2 ounces of the peppers.

We were quite pleased with our midweek Mexican eats. And since we knew exactly what was going in it—it was all fairly healthy. Whole-wheat tortillas, good fats from the avocado, moderate amounts of beef, tons of veggies. And that’s the key to balanced eating. Fresh, bright, flavors will make you a balanced foodie 🙂

Prepping the Tomatillo Salsa



Simmering the Tomatillo Salsa



Assemble and ENJOY!



Beef Fajitas with Fresh Tomatillo Salsa and Pico De Gallo
Serves 4-5

Beef Fajitas
1 Pound Carne Asada (Beef skirt steak or flank steak)
3 Ounces of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, diced
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

Tomatillo Salsa
3 Pounds Fresh Tomatillos, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons Cilantro, diced
1 Large Jalapeno Pepper, diced
1 Medium Serrano Chili, diced
1 4-Ounce Can of Roasted and Peeled Green Chiles, diced
¼ Cup Yellow Onions, diced
1 Tablespoon Garlic, diced
½ Tablespoon Lime Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Pico de Gallo
2 Pounds Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
¼ Cup Yellow Onions, diced
1-2 Tablespoons Cilantro, diced
½ Large Jalapeno Pepper, diced
1 Medium Serrano Chili, diced
2 Tablespoon Lime Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Side Accompaniments
1-2 Ripe Avocados, diced
8-12 Tortillas
Grilled Bell Peppers and Onions
Tortilla Chips
Lime Wedges

Take the first 8 ingredients of the Tomatillo Salsa and place in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste before moving to a medium sized sauce pan. Simmer on low for 7-10 minutes. Let cool before moving to the refrigerator. Chill for at least one hour. Taste to check seasonings prior to serving. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Take the first 6 ingredients of the Pico de Gallo and mix in a medium sized bowl. Salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour. Taste to check seasonings prior to serving. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Take all ingredients for the beef fajitas and place in a gallon sized ziploc bag. Be sure to get most of the air out of the bag before sealing it. Let marinate for 30-40 minutes.

Heat grill pan to medium-high. Lightly cover pan with cooking spray. Cook beef for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove to cutting board and rest for 5 minutes before slicing into strips. Plate along side grilled onions and bell peppers.

Assemble each wrap with beef, grilled bell peppers & onions, avocados, and salsa/pico de gallo.


Beef · Pastas/Noodles

Breaking in the New Dutch Oven with a Short Ribs Ragu

I have dreamed of having my very own Le Creuset Dutch Oven for a long time. And for a “long time”, I mean longer than I even knew what it really was or how fabulous they really were. I think the first memories I could recall of it was back in the day when “The Frugal Gourmet” had one on his stove in the 80’s. And although as a kid I thought it was just a “pretty pot”, I knew I wanted one when I grew up.

As I grew older and found out how much they actually cost, I could not bring myself to buy one. This is not to say that I didn’t think it was worth it but a few hundred bucks is pretty steep! Alas, I had to be content to utilize my siblings’ when the chance arose.  🙂

But this past Christmas…my Culinary Life changed when my awesome sister gave my boyfriend and I a gorgeous 7.25 quart round Dutch Oven. I squealed in delight as I hugged our new beauty—finally, we had one of our very own. Dreamy.

Then the next question arose….what were we going to make to break in our new dutch oven??? As silly as this may sound, I wanted a recipe that would require us to utilize as many components of the pot as we could—searing, braising, roasting, sautéing, etc. Heck, it was the first time we would be using it after all! 🙂

I finally settled upon a recipe by Bobby Flay for a Short Rib Ragu with Pappardelle. Although I have NEVER been a fan of how Bobby Flay portrays himself on television, his food more times than not, looks delish.

We followed the recipe with the exceptions a few edits and were happy to find that it was pretty simple (although somewhat laborious and lengthy). The end results? D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. The ribs were succulent and tender with the aromatics giving the meat a rich flavor.

A few things about our take on the dish:

  1. We omitted the Port & substituted with beef stock. Ruby Port is often too sweet for me in my savory dishes.
  2. We decided not to remove the beef from the bones and served it directly over the pasta. Next time, I think we’ll do it though to get rid of some of the excess gristle and fat.
  3. Although the recipe doesn’t state to, season with extra salt and pepper before dishing over the pasta. My “Better Half” thinks a bit of heat would complement the dish. Perhaps some red chili flakes?
  4. This recipe could easily serve 6 adults.
  5. We had the leftovers a few days later and served the ribs over mashed potatoes—YUM!

I would definitely recommend this recipe and will make it again (with a few tweaks). If you’re planning on tackling this one, keep in mind–it needs at least 3 hours in the oven for the ribs to get tender. It’s okay though, time goes by quickly if you have a snackie and a glass of vino. 🙂




Heavily season the Short Ribs with fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt.

Browning the ribs. The more brown bits the better! 🙂

Browned Ribs = Tons of flavor! 🙂

Cooking down the Shallots and Mirepoix

Short Ribs back in with the liquids & bouquet garni and ready to be put in a 325 degree oven for 3 hours. Yup, I said THREE! 🙂

The finished Short Ribs (with bone -in) over Pappardelle. Garnished with Pecorino Romano and Flat Leaf Parsley.

Did I mention how much I LOVE our new Dutch Oven! And yes, it really does make a difference! 🙂