Grilled Ginger and Lemongrass Chicken with Roasted Cauliflower

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A no-fuss family dinner and I had prepared everything before we left for swimming lessons after school so that when we came home I could just cook everything. I used some of the fresh ginger I had left from making the won tons the day before to make this dish. I had already come up with an easy, quick family dinner recipe using the ginger and lemongrass from the tubes from the grocery store but wanted to use fresh grated ginger this time to kick up the flavor even more since my family had liked it so much from the won tons. It was definitely a hit!

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Grilled Ginger and Lemongrass Chicken:

  • 1 lb. of boneless cut chicken breasts
  • 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons of lemongrass from Gourmet Garden
  • 2-3 tablespoons of ginger from Gourmet Garden

Or

  • 1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger

Mixed all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, cover it and put it in the refrigerator to marinate for 2-4 hours. When it’s time to cook, I grilled the chicken on a medium heat grill pan for 6 minutes on each side and using another pan to cover it to add moisture back into the chicken while helping to steam it as well. Then I let it rest on a plate and covering it with tin foil for another 5 minutes to keep the juices inside.

Before I had started on the chicken though I quickly dressed my cauliflower florets (about 1 lb.). I had already pre-cut my cauliflower the other day into florets and had put them into a ziploc bag so it was ready to go whenever I was ready for it in the refrigerator. I usually like to prepare all of my veggies when I come home from the grocery store or once a week so they are all ready for me to use. In a large bowl using:

  • 1 lb. of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • Grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, about 1/4 cup

In a 425 degree oven, I roasted the cauliflower for 15 minutes. Then I took it out of the oven, turned over the cauliflower and sprinkled more grated Parmesan cheese on top and roasted it again for another 15 minutes. It tasted a lot like potatoes and everyone loved it! That’s like a miracle in my house.

We had leftover rice from another night so everyone else ate the chicken and cauliflower with rice but I opted only for the cauliflower since I’m trying to eat less carbs. Even though I try to be more carb conscious for myself, I still don’t have to change my family’s eating habits drastically or vice versa. I just don’t have to eat everything and load up more on the vegetables.

I’ve given this chicken recipe to a handful of friends before posting it on here and they have made it for their families and has now become part of their regular rotation. It’s a quick, easy and full of flavor entree, no fail, no fuss.

Won Ton Noodle Soup

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To me comfort food is something in a bowl, a hot soup with a clear broth filled with delicious savory flavors and noodles. Something that takes me back to my childhood, when my mom would be cooking in the kitchen brewing over a big pot of broth and making something filled with warmth and love. It’s my Ratatouille movie moment when the restaurant critic is blasted back to his youth when he takes in his first bite. To me, that’s in my won ton soup. The flavors of the grated ginger inside the perfect bite of pork that melts in your mouth with each won ton while you slurp the hot chicken broth is transforming and time stands still with each bite.

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It takes about an hour to make this dish from beginning to end but each time I make it I tell myself it is worth every bite and every minute it takes because it’s that good and comforting. Tonight my family loved it and my nine year old deemed it her #1 dinner! She said she didn’t know that her mouth would be bursting with the great ginger flavor until she took her first bite and that it was unexpected. She loved it! I used a little more ginger than usual this time because I really like the flavor. It’s a strong flavor but I just love it. Here are the ingredients you will need to make this dish;

Won tons:

  • 1-12 oz. (approx. 50) Package of Nasoya small square won ton wrappers (can usually find near tofu/organic section in produce, I buy Nasoya brand)
  • 1 lb. of ground pork (I buy lean ground pork)
  • 1/2 lb. of medium shrimp, peeled, deveined & cut into pea-sized pieces (optional)
  • Handful of shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped (optional), make sure they are the same size as the shrimp and/ other ingredients
  • 2-3 Shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. to 1 Tbs. of freshly grated ginger, depending on your preference

Mix together the rest of the wet ingredients and spices in a small bowl and then combine with the won ton filling mixture:

  • 1 tsp. of corn starch
  • 1 tsp. of sesame oil
  • 3/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground black pepper
  • 1-2 Tbs. of soy sauce (add more soy sauce if you are not using fish sauce)
  • 1-2 Tbs. of Vietnamese fish sauce (optional but I have found it in Target if you are not near an Asian super market)

Soup broth:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. of canola/vegetable oil/coconut oil (whatever you prefer)
  • 3 (32 oz.) cartons of chicken broth (12 cups total), with 1/4 cup dried shrimp added during simmering (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbs. of low sodium or regular Soy sauce (add more if you are not using fish sauce)
  • 1-2 Tbs. of fish sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • 16 fluid-ounces of water
  • 1 lb of Egg noodles (optional), cooked in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, drained and flushed with cold water. If I don’t have any egg noodles I will use 2 packages of Ramen noodles, just the noodles.
  • Vegetables of your preference: baby spinach, bok choy, mushrooms, etc.
  • Shrimp – you can also add some cooked shrimp to your bowl

Garnish: (All optional to your taste)

  • Sesame seed oil and/ chili oil, drizzled on top of the bowl
  • Sriracha hot sauce, to-taste
  • Chopped cilantro, scallions, thinly sliced white onions
  • Ground white and black pepper
  • Chili-Garlic mix

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One of the greatest inventions and one of my favorite kitchen gadgets that make sense is the microplane zester! This thing is so cool and not like other gadgets that just take up space in your kitchen when you could easily use a knife or spoon. I usually use it to grate fresh ginger or chocolate and even parmesan cheese. Fresh nutmeg adds a nice touch of flavor too.

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In a large bowl combine the minced shallots, garlic and grated ginger with the ground pork. Add the fish sauce and soy sauce and ground black pepper. Using a spatula or large spoon gently stir the ingredients together but not to over mix, this will make the filling tough. Then layout the won ton wrappers across a cutting board and fill each wrapper with about a tablespoon of the filling, about a bite size each. Using a basting brush wet all four sides of the wrapper. Pinch together two opposite ends of the wrapper and then the other two opposite ends so the edges all meet up at the top in a point. Make sure there are no air bubbles, gaps or openings in the won ton. You want to seal up the won ton completely or else your filling will end up breaking up all over your broth. I usually try to wet 3 to 4 wrappers at a time. Repeat until all of the wrappers and or filling are gone. This should make about 48-50 won tons. You could also add chopped shrimp and or finely chopped shitake mushrooms in the filling. I like to keep it simple so everyone in my family will eat it but it would certainly enhance the flavor!

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You can make the won tons ahead of time and refrigerate them until you are ready to serve but don’t cook all of the won tons at once. Only cook the ones you are ready to eat and refrigerate the rest. You will be able to make several meals from this and you can also pan fry them as dumplings too. When you are ready to eat, use half of the minced garlic and brown them in about a tablespoon of cooking oil on medium heat in a large pot.

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Be sure not to burn the garlic. Immediately once the garlic is browned (about 30 seconds to a minute), add the chicken stock. Add water using about a 1-4 ratio of water to chicken stock and 2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce to your liking and turn on high heat and cover until boiling. If you’re not use to using fish sauce and are intimidated by it don’t worry. It really enhances the flavor. Once the broth has come to a boil, add the won tons that you are serving only and cook for 5-6 minutes on medium heat. You can estimate serving 4-6 won tons per person. If you would like, you can add in fresh baby spinach or bok choy about a minute before the won tons will be done to wilt them. Drizzle some sesame seed and/ chili oil on top with ground black pepper and/or white ground pepper to-taste. I like to add a little Sriracha as well.

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I can’t believe my family gobbled this all up and asked for seconds. Guess it was comforting to them as well.:)

It Matters

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Happy Lunar New Year! I am not Chinese so I do not celebrate “Chinese New Year”. I am however Vietnamese and celebrate “Tết Nguyên Đán” or Vietnamese New Year. I was born in Saigon, Viet Nam but primarily raised in the U.S. I grew up celebrating this day with my family and struggling with trying to understand the meaning behind the most important day of the year for Vietnamese people. There was no internet back in the 1970’s when we came to the U.S. so I couldn’t just do a Google search for what I wanted to know. Instead, I observed my parents and my older brothers and sisters.

My family would take the day off from work and school and we would celebrate together. My parents would prepare for this day weeks in advance with traditional Vietnamese foods such as “bánh chưng” that we only ate during this time of year. It was painstaking laborious work but I think they enjoyed every minute of it because they did this ritual every year for as long as they could and they would always share our foods with friends and family too.

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As I grow older and am in a bi-cultural marriage I struggle even more so with trying to understand the Vietnamese traditions along with feeling the responsibility to carry on the torch for my parents who have both passed. I want my kids to know their heritage and traditions and carry them on as well. I’ve asked myself, “Why is this so important?”

Recently my kids and I watched some documentaries on Ancient Egyptian Kings and Queens. We watched as anthropologists studied mummies, ancestoral relationships and homicides from thousands of years ago to understand the culture. It occurred to me that I don’t want my grandkids or my kids for that matter to have to resort to just reading about their heritage and traditions. I want them to know them first hand and practice them and to be able to tell stories from their own experiences. I want my kids to be able to carry on the torch.

If that means beating a dead horse and retelling the same stories to my kids every year about how I used to “help” my mom (or eat rather) make the dried candied coconut ribbons then so be it. It doesn’t hurt to let them eat some treats when I’m telling the story either.

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This year I took them to a Vietnamese supermarket as a cultural field trip a few days prior to Tết and it was booming with activity, people buying foods to prepare for Tết and all the cornucopia associated with the holiday. Bribery works well too with the annual Red Envelopes or Lucky Money called “li xi”. My kids may not know a lot of the Tết traditions yet but they definitely know what’s in the li xi!

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So if my family and friends think I’m talking too much about Tết and making such a big deal about it I hope that one day they will realize that it matters.

Puppy Bowl Grub

It’s game day, time to make the homeMAD guacamole! Of course I could’ve gotten store-bought guac but I like mine chunky. Here are the ingredients I used; 4 fresh avocados from Costco, juice of 2 limes, 2 fresh jalapeños seeded and chopped pickled jalapeños, Tomato/Bell pepper/Onion Trinity from Publix, sea salt, freshly grounded peppercorns and cilantro.

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First I chopped up fresh and pickled jalapeños. I took out most but not all of the seeds from the fresh jalapeños and used rubber gloves to handle them. Already made that burning mistake once and learned my lesson. I also used a separate knife just for the jalapeños.

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Onto the avocados. I sliced them in half, stuck my knife in the middle of the seed and twisted it to take it out. Then I pre sliced half of the avocado going in criss-cross directions and then took a table spoon and scooped it out.

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Then, mix all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl including the Tomato Trinity, add sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and fresh lime juice to-taste. Mix in some of the cilantro but leave some for garnish. Don’t over mix the ingredients or the guacamole will lose it’s chunky texture. Serve with Xochitl chips.

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Last but not least, our Puppy Bowl pups! My daughter wanted me to post this on Instragram #puppybowlsuburu Roxy! to see if we could get Roxy on TV. Don’t think she made it. Oh well, there’s always next year.

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Both of our dogs, Niko and Roxy, enjoying some game day treats.IMG_2219

DIY Kids Corner

Storage, storage, storage. Organization, organization, organization. It’s the story of my life! We moved into an old house with little storage room to hide all of our “junk”. We don’t have a mudroom and needed a central place for the kids to easily access their coats, shoes, hats, scarfs, umbrellas and backpacks for school. Our entryway was a blank canvas so I turned it into the “Kids Corner”.

I first started out with a white hook board from Home Depot (<$30) and put it up at a level where my youngest could reach it, am always trying to find ways to make them more independent. After I got the function I wanted out of it I needed the form to follow. It wasn’t quite exactly welcoming yet.

To make the space into a more defined area I ordered a customized burlap printed family tree from Jane for $9 with our names and our anniversary date on it and used a dark frame from Michaels ($12) with a crisp white matte. I thought my husband would think it was cheesy but when he saw it he gave me a hug. That’s when you know you got ’em!

We are always in a rush in the mornings so I put a $4 clock from Target up so we’d know how much time we had left before sprinting to the bus stop. I also added the $3 white baskets from Target for the kids to throw their shoes in. I didn’t even attempt to do anything other than to make it easily accessible for them to find their sneakers in the morning. Time is a wastin’!

Then I ordered the wooden sign, “All you need is love“, from an Etsy shop ($26). Our wedding song was a John Lennon song and we (I) are a huge Beatles fan. It’s not just words up on the wall.  To make it even more personalized I got a $12 picture shelf from Target and put up a painting that we bought from our honeymoon in St. Lucia and pictures of our kids. The wooden “FAMILY” sign came from Michaels.

So this Kids Corner is not just about hooks and pictures and words, it has special meaning to our family as well. My kids love it because they know where to get and put their things, I love it because I get this unnatural sick sense of joy that my house is somewhat organized and my guests can use it too to hang their purses, coats, etc. when they come in our door. Hope you get some ideas from our Kids Corner for your home.

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Dish It Up

Some of my favorite homeMAD dishes that I’ve made in the past few months. I will post the recipes soon. Stay tuned!

Easy Chicken Curry Soup recipe that you can make in under an hour.

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Shrimp fried rice with roasted brussels sprouts with EVOO and aged balsamic vinegar.

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One pot paprika chicken with red potatoes and carrots in a white wine reduction

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Chicken pho

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Pork won ton soup with baby bok choy and shitake mushrooms

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Vietnamese caramelized pork with sautéed shrimp in a tomato sauce, Jasmine steamed rice and sautéed asparagus

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Easy Blueberry Banana Bread using store-bought banana bread mix, fresh bananas, frozen blueberries and added spices

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“Sex In The Salad” berry salad

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Vietnamese crab and stewed tomato soup with fried tofu. Bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil and thinly sliced white onions for garnish. I’m not gonna lie, this dish was not easy to make but it was made with a whole ‘lotta love! If you like seafood and are a foodie you will love this dish. You can taste so many different flavors exploding in your mouth at the same time. It’s not for the faint at heart.

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Fried rice with spicy chicken andouille sausage from Trader Joe’s, 2 cracked eggs, diced shallots, red bell peppers and green onions for garnish

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Hawaiian chicken with steamed coconut rice

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Mediterranean pasta and cucumber salad

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Breakfast egg muffins. We saved the leftovers to eat for breakfast during the week.

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Vietnamese egg rolls bought from Lee’s Bakery over rice noodles garnished with sliced cucumbers, cilantro and a mixed sweet and sour Vietnamese fish sauce with fresh garlic and red chili peppers

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Store-bought tortellini sautéed with butter and EVOO with pancetta and spinach

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Pork won ton noodle soup with egg noodles and spinach finished with sesame chili oil and Sriracha sauce drizzled on top

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DIY Chalkboard

We wanted a large chalkboard for our dining room to anchor a wall and for us to write seasonal messages and menus when we have dinner parties. The problem was that every large chalkboard that we found was expensive, more than what we were willing to spend. So my husband and I bought a mirror from Walmart for $25 and painted it with $10 chalk paint from Home Depot. It looked a little bare after we put it on the wall so I bought burlap ribbon from Michael’s for $5, folded it into a ribbon and then hot glue gunned it onto the top of the frame.

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For Christmas I added some berries to the ribbon to make it more festive and changed the message.

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Getting ready for Valentine’s Day…

Valentine's