Valentine’s Day Recipe Roundup

6 February 2017
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I can’t help but think back to Valentine’s Day past.  Way back in elementary school when kids sent each other store-bought or homemade cards with a little candy taped on.  Or those terrible, chalky conversation hearts.

This year I received the adult/blogging equivalent of that homemade Valentine’s just you know someone’s crafty mom had worked all night to make perfect.  An invite to participate and share recipes from bloggers all over the world for our best Valentine’s Day recipes.  Organized by the super talented Laurence Makano (check out her strawberry pancakes below), all twelve of us came up with what we thought to be the best of our arsenal for showing love.  Check it out below and follow the links to your newest Valentine’s inspiration. Continue Reading…

5 Days of Pressure Cooking: Pressure Cooker Recipe Roundup (Day 5)

5 February 2017
Since I started this series, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Readers have written to me to tell me that they just received a pressure cooker for the holidays.  Some remember using pressure cookers with their mothers or grandmothers. For those of you who don’t, if you haven’t decided to get a pressure cooker yet, I hope you’ll consider it in the future.  The speed and efficiency can’t be beaten.

Top 5 Reasons to Buy a Pressure Cooker

  1. 9-minute chicken legs, need I say more?  Seriously, the speed of the pressure cooker is mindboggling.
  2. Close to no evaporation.  No evaporation = fewer lost nutrients.(updated 3/8/17 as a result of better research)
  3. No-soak beans are super easy in the pressure cooker.
  4. Super tender braises, stews, and soups in a fraction of the time of other methods.
  5. Pressure cooker cheesecake.  I know I mentioned it before and I haven’t made it yet, but I’ve had others make it for me.

To wrap up the series, I’m going to share a roundup of all of our pressure cooker recipes to date.  Hopefully, you find something new to try! Continue Reading…

5 Days of Pressure Cooking: Pressure Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon (Day 4)

3 February 2017
I have a surprise for you all: today’s pressure cooker boeuf bourguignon recipe has bonus slow cooker instructions, too.  That’s because this recipe is such a great one, I think everyone should make it for Valentine’s day.  It’s my consolation for my not sticking to a consecutive schedule for this series.  I have to tell you guys, I have been so burnt out.  Work has been crazy and I’m still adjusting to the full-time school schedule.

What are you doing for Valentine’s day?

We initially didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but suddenly I saw a cute blog post about an idea for Valentine’s day.  Next thing you know, I’m buying gifts and making arts & crafts.  Damn you, Pinterest!  Naturally, this means I also started thinking food.  There is nothing better than a decadent, boozy French beef stew, ala Boeuf Bourguignon, for a romantic evening.  In initial testing for this recipe, the husband confirmed this.

pressure cooker boeuf bourguignon

Pressure Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon

I’m going to give you instructions for both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker boeuf bourguignon, but I’ll give you a tip: they’re nearly the same.  I first starting making boeuf bourguignon (the French name for the same dish known as beef burgundy) after receiving a copy of America’s Test Kitchen 2001-2013 seasons cookbook.  In it, they had a recipe for a slow cooker version that was pure genius. Continue Reading…

5 Days of Pressure Cooking: Pressure Cooker Mongolian Beef (Day 3)

30 January 2017
This weekend we celebrated Chinese New Year by going out to a local Beijing-style restaurant.  There we ate two of the dishes the husband grew up with for Chinese New Year: dumplings and noodles.  Dumplings, because they resemble the shape of ancient Chinese money.  Noodles, to represent long life.  Additionally, we ate the Pressure Cooker Mongolian Beef we’re sharing in this post.  That is not a Chinese New Year dish.  It’s just tasty!


Chinese New Year meal – top left: noodles with meat and veggies; top right: steamed dumplings; bottom: mian bao, steamed and then fried dough with sweet condensed milk

The husband hasn’t celebrated Chinese New Year in a long time, but the last two years I wanted to celebrate it with him.  So far, we’ve only eaten out.  I’m too intimidated by the preparation of such a grand feast to do it myself.

Pressure Cooker Mongolian Beef


Pressure Cooker Mongolian Beef

Our first year together, I asked to celebrate Chinese New Year with the then-boyfriend.  We weren’t really sure where to go or what to do, so I searched Chinese New Year in our city.  It turns out that P.F. Chang’s was having an affordable deal for the holiday.  He laughed, said it was somehow symbolic of his background and we went.  It was delicious!  One of the dishes we had was a Mongolian beef that he really enjoyed.  This pressure cooker version is our copycat version. Continue Reading…

5 Days of Pressure Cooking: Multitasking & Pressure Cooker Chicken Carnitas (Day 2)

27 January 2017
The Instant Pot is no doubt a multi-tasker. It boasts saute, slow cooking, rice cooker, warmer, and — in some models — yogurt making in addition to the pressure cooking functions.  However, even a stovetop pressure cooker can do a lot more than making delicious pressure cooker chicken carnitas.  Although that’s  probably good enough.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Carnitas

3 surprising uses for your pressure cooker

We absolutely hate clutter in our household.  In fact, just last night I had a nightmare revolving around clutter.  So, of course, we also hate one-use products.  When I first got into sous vide, I set out to prove to myself that it can do so much more than just cook a good piece of salmon or steak. Luckily, pressure cookers carry their weight in the kitchen, and not just the aforementioned Instant Pot.

All pressure cookers are capable of being multitaskers and don’t feel limited to just doing braises.  Here are our favorite uses for the pressure cooker:

  1. Cooking dried beans without the usual 12-hour presoaking.
  2. Throw away your rice cooker…unless you have a Zojirushi.  Pressure cookers make wonderful rice cookers.
  3. Pressure cooker cheesecake, anyone?

Continue Reading…

5 Days of Pressure Cooking: Resources & Pressure Cooker Chicken Adobo (Day 1)

26 January 2017
Without further ado, we begin our 5 days of Pressure Cooking recipes!  We’re starting off with a list of our favorite resources and a recipe for Pressure Cooker Chicken Adobo.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can convert many of these recipes to sous vide or to slow cooker, but I haven’t taken the time to make that conversion for you.  Do your research and share your results!

The Pressure Cooker: Just Another Trend

Or is it?  For what feels like decades the hot kitchen gadget has been the slow cooker.  And why not?! The slow cooker has been every busy adult’s saving grace by basically giving us another hand in the kitchen.  Just throw some ingredients into a pot in the morning and dinner is ready by the evening.  However, the slow cooker has had some misgivings.  1. It’s slow.  Yeah, that’s kind of the point, but sometimes we haven’t planned a meal.  Sometimes we need something we can pick up on the way home from work or school and throw together–quickly–to feed our families; 2. not all models of slow cookers are created equally which sometimes leads to failure via too much evaporation of cooking liquid or, even worse, burning of dinner; and 3. all that evaporation = loss of valuable nutrients.

This is where the pressure cooker comes in.  Pressure cookers work magic by trapping in the moisture in your food via a very tight seal.  Since the moisture, or more accurately, water can’t leave, it’s forced to stay inside the pot as the heat rises and the water molecules get very excited building up heat.  This brings the temperature in the pressure cooker to skyrocket beyond the boiling point even within the food itself.  Because of all this, pressure cookers are one of the fastest methods for cooking out there.  Imagine an 8-hour braise taking just 20 minutes or less.  The science behind pressure cookers is not as simple as all of that, but that’s the general idea of them.

The modern marvel: the Instant Pot

And, if you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard of the Instant Pot, the multitasker electric pot that has a resume of skills most of us can’t boast.  In fact, NPR just ran a piece on the sudden rise of popularity of this new kitchen gadget.  For full disclaimer, I don’t own one of these and honestly, don’t know that I would.  I wouldn’t tell this to Instant Pot fans, though–they recently tore into America’s Test Kitchen for giving it a meh review on Facebook (I can’t find the thread, or else I’d link it for your viewing pleasure).  But I have been cooking with a pressure cooker for years and definitely can tell you it is worth the hype.

Just don’t take grandma’s secondhand one.  These things haven’t always been perfectly safe.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Adobo
Continue Reading…

Pudding Mix Dark Chocolate Brownies & Balancing School and Work

22 January 2017
You and I, we’re friends, right?  So then we can both admit that–if you had any– you’ve broken your New Year’s resolutions by now.  Come on, statistics are against us with this.  Well, if you haven’t you’re about to because these pudding mix dark chocolate brownies are too tempting to pass up.

Pudding Mix Dark Chocolate Brownies

But first…about balancing school and work

The new semester has started, which means my time has become a little more pressed.  As you may recall, I’m taking a full-time schedule this semester.  This is on top of my full-time work schedule.  I’m trying to find some way — any way — to fit more hours into the day. I’ve failed.  However, what I have done is found ways to be more efficient in other areas of my life.  So far, these are the things that have saved me the most time and hassle: Continue Reading…

Review: All Under Heaven & Cumin Lamb Burgers

11 January 2017
Carolyn Phillips (also known as Madame Huang), the accomplished food scholar and author of All Under Heaven, happens to be in a relationship which bears resemblance to mine: she’s white and her husband is Chinese.  She’s lived 8 years in Taiwan and is well-traveled and known throughout China, where she’s had the opportunity to learn from local chefs.  She’s even resorted to begging for old family recipes.  I like her already!

All Under Heaven: The many cuisines of China

I bought this book after searching for a resource for Northeastern Chinese cuisine.  In a country as large as China with climates that vary wildly, the cuisine of the Chinese is far from homogenous.  All Under Heaven is the only cookbook I found which included this oft-overlooked region of Chinese cuisine.  In fact, it purports to have recipes from all 35 cuisines of China.  Obviously, this is an ambitious project and I am not qualified to speak to how close she comes to properly addressing these cuisines.  However, I can say that the husband and my in-laws agree it’s probably the best they’ve seen.

Going through the recipes, my husband repeatedly would stop me, excited to see some dish he remembers (names of the dishes are in both English and Mandarin).

All Under Heaven: Russian Soup

Harbin, where my husband spent a chunk of his childhood, is nearly on the border of Russia and was once owned by the Russians. The architecture and cuisine both reflect this. Phillips shows this with the inclusion of one of my husband’s childhood dishes.

All Under Heaven: Structure of the Book

Phillips divides her book into 5 regions of China.  She also includes a section on Fundamentals, where she gives in-depth coverage to basic recipes, techniques, and suggested menus.  Any novice to Chinese cooking should start in this section, which is near the end of the book. Continue Reading…

Marrakech Travel Tips & Moroccan Kefta Tagine

6 January 2017
Before our honeymoon, we obsessively watched Youtube videos and read travel blogs for Morocco and, specifically, Marrakech travel tips.  Not all of them were helpful, and there were a few things that weren’t covered we wished we had known before, but now we get to share what we found with you! Oh, and a recipe for a Moroccan Kefta (meatball) tagine.  It’s spicy and filling–perfect for cold winter weather.

Marrakech Travel Tips

× Our top Marrakech Travel Tips ×

5 Helpful Phrases in Arabic/French to Know

The two most common languages in Morocco are Arabic and French, although many are conversationally fluent in English and Spanish, too.  The husband knew a few phrases in Arabic and understands French (he went to school in Canada).  However, I came in somewhat ignorant of Arabic and only know the common French phrases (Bonjour, Merci, etc.).  Here are the top phrases I ended up learning and finding most useful:

  1. Shukran/Merci (Arabic/French) – This means “thank you.” Even if you flub it a little, this one word will score you points with the locals.
  2. La (Arabic) – Meaning “no,” this is a must to know when going through the souks.  La, Shukran was our most used phrase as the merchants are so persistent.
  3. Salama ‘laykum/Bonjour (Arabic/French) – Salam-oo ‘laykum is the standard greeting in Arabic.  Some may greet you with the French, “Bonjour!” (especially if you look western), but the Arabic was received better by the locals for us.
  4. Ma’a as-salāmah (Arabic) – There are a few ways to say “Goodbye” in Arabic, but this is what we heard used the most.
  5. La afham (Arabic) – “I don’t understand” is always a practical term, where ever you are.

Aside from these terms, we mostly spoke broken English.  We laughed because it started to become our standard way of speaking, even when we were alone in our room.  If you want to use more Arabic, Maroc Mama has a great list of useful phrases.

5 Tips for Female Travelers in Morocco

If you’re female, you might want to know what to expect when traveling in Morocco.  I never felt threatened, but here are a few tips. Continue Reading…

New Year’s Resolution-Proof Vietnamese Pho

4 January 2017
It’s that time again–the new year.  While many are still winding down from what has been described a terrible year, still many are looking forward now to 2017.  Perhaps you are one of the people who make at least one New Year’s resolution.  You’re probably one of the minority of people who keep their resolutions, too.  Not me.  Thus, I no longer make resolutions.  Besides, if I would have made any, I already made them in October.

Perhaps I should resolve to eat more of this…

But if I had made any New Year’s resolutions, this is what they would be:

Let’s be clear, though, these are not my resolutions.  They’re my goals.  Repeat after me: not.  resolutions.  (That should get me off the hook, right?)

New Year’s Resolution-Proof Vietnamese Pho

This is a carb-free and low-calorie tweak of pho.  Using spiralized zucchini and daikon in place of the traditional rice noodle, you cut the calories by almost 40%.  It doesn’t hurt that the broth takes only 30 minutes and requires no special equipment!

So healthy! I feel healthier just looking at it.

Continue Reading…