Summertime treats

shortcake

Once I see asparagus at the farmers market , I can’t help but count down the days and weeks until all the summer produce come around. Of all the delicious produce to ripen up and overtake the markets, my favorite by far is the strawberries.

Strawberry picking isn’t my fav though. The berries are not at a very comfortable picking level, and they have little stickers or something that make my arms swell and itch… not the most inviting berry I would say, but the allergic reaction was well worth every tiny burst of juicy berry!(Pro Tip: the smallest berries are the sweetest berries).  After I gobbled as much as I could down fresh, I couldn’t help by make strawberry shortcake.

Excited to finally use the biscuit recipe from The Boat, A Whale and a Walrus, I was able to complement and elevate the flavor of the Oregon Strawberry, by adding just a touch of sugar to pull all the sweet juices out of the berries. You don’t want to add too much, because then you’ll loose the flavor of the strawberries in all the sugar, and all you’ll have left is sticky sugar. Same thing with the whipped cream. Make sure you don’t add too much sugar to the cream, I hardly add any sugar, because the cream, is mainly to make the dessert smooth, not to make it sweeter. (can you tell i’m anti-tons and tons of sugar in desserts?) And the biscuit. Well… that speaks for itself.

biscuits

Summertime treats

Lettuce is in the House.

plants-beginningplantsplantsprogressIt takes a significant amount of effort for me to not buy plants at the farmers market in the springtime. Every year I just need to purchase whatever my little porch will allow and hope for the best. In the past it’s been quite tricky trying to chase the sun around my shady apartment. At my first apartment, I would take my planter down three flights of stairs in hopes to get a few hours of sunlight. Then my second apartment, I would bring the planter from my front porch through the apartment to the back porch in hopes to get the most sunlight. Third year is a charm and so far my plants are doing wonderful!

Gardening is essential to truly appreciate good food.

There isn’t anything quite like having fresh out of the ground food and sometimes it can be a little tricky to obtain, but with a little love, time, water and sunlight you can grow your own summer veggies too.

Beginners Tips

Know your sun. Pay attention to how much sunlight you get in your yard or porch. If you don’t get very much sunlight, then hope is not lost, you just need to get different plants. From my experience, you don’t want to buy a dwarf blueberry plant, if you only get 3 hours of sunlight a day. But, lettuce is does great! Lettuce probably does better with just partial sun, because then it doesn’t bolt.

Know your space. …and size of pots lettuce allows for shallow pots, but carrots and root veggies need something a little deeper

Know your grower. I have never been been ambitious enough to start from seeds. To me, since my sunlight has been vary variable and everything is in pots, it is easier to just start from starters. Also, this way when I buy them from the farmers market I can ask a bunch of questions from the grower as far as what is and isn’t reasonable. Taking to growers is the best resource you have as a new gardener.

Know when to water. In the summertime I always water my plants in the early morning or late at night, that way if it’s a really hot day, the plants have plenty of water to last all day. Then, if I come home from work and notice they’re looking a little dehydrated, I can add a little more water.

Know how to try. It never hurts to try. That’s the beauty of gardening, is that sometimes things don’t work out and sometimes they do. Every time you grow something it always adds into a memory archive to help you grow a better garden the next year. I was always warned about growing lettuce because it comes out bitter, but it turns out that if it stays cool and you don’t wait too long to harvest, it will turn out great!

and of course, don’t forget to weed. My spinach was looking pretty sad and pathetic until I realized that a giant weed was hiding and sucking out all the nutrients from under my plant.

Let me know if you have any tips for me to grow my little plants!

Lettuce is in the House.

Spicy Lemongrass Soup

spicyLemongrass I love new cookbooks! This new adventure takes me back to my Bay Area Vietnamese roots, yet it’s not the same. All the recipes have a familiar ping, but with a new modern tone. The majority of the recipes have few ingredients, but are focused on the quality of the ingredients. This is my flagship recipe trial. Spicy lemongrass soup. I’m not exactly sure if I made it correctly, being as my version doesn’t look anything like the picture in the book. I changed a few things to make it easier for myself, which may have been why mine doesn’t look a thing like the example. spicylemongrass1 Instead of making the fish stock, I just bought some. easy way out, I know. I don’t know about you… but I’m not exactly sure where I would find  pounds of fish carcasses. oh yea, i’ll just hop on over to Fred Meyer and get some fish carcasses. Despite making a few changes, it turned out pretty good! Now onto the next recipe! Wish me luck!

Spicy Lemongrass Soup

New-Old Traditions: Lucky Dumplings

dumplings1 dumplings2

dumplings4 dumplings3 My favorite family memories consisted sitting around our dining room table, with a big bowl of  minced meat and vegetables, wrapping dumplings.

Our neighbor, Wendy, would come over on a Saturday afternoon with a bowl of freshly made dough, while my mom made the filling. An award deserving duo. My mother would elicit the help of anyone that she could lasso and most of the time we would willfully volunteer, knowing quite clearly that the faster we made the dumplings, the faster we could devour them!

Stories and laughter filled the kitchen as our fingers intuitively folded pleats into the pocket of each dumpling. And of course, the “non-competitive” competition of “whose dumpling looks better” arises every time.

This year, I ventured to continue my family traditions on my own. I adapted a recipe from JackieKaiEllis.com . I added a little more ginger, because I love the extra spicy kick and I always add more vegetables because I love how much more depth I get from more vegetables.

I couldn’t get enough of the sweet smell of chopped Chinese chives dancing through the air, releasing a new crisp movement every time my knife made another cut through the bunch.

My first attempt at making the dough, was quite the dilemma and debacle as every wrapper I made, I gained more respect for Wendy’s skill. Thankfully, I remembered my sweet husband bought me a pasta maker a while ago. I could finally get to the part that I was good at: wrapping the dumplings.

Now I can make new memories to add along to old traditions.

New-Old Traditions: Lucky Dumplings

Gung Hay Fat Choi! Year of the Sheep

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

newyearscandy

No fuss, no mess. My favorite holiday of the year: chinese new year. I love that it lasts for weeks and it’s all about family, good wishes and food.

As a kid we always had a new year candy platter with an impressive array of candy and sweets. Naturally, being the picky eater that I was, I finished off all the ones I loved and didn’t even look at all other options. As an adult on my own, I have the joy of only purchasing the ones I love and leaving out all the others.

My favorite will always be the dried candied lotus seeds. Maybe one year, I’ll learn the meaning behind each candy, but for now, I just love the crunchy sweet and subtle flavor.

The lucky candy will be snacks to take to school for weeks to come. Shiny red wrappers sprinkled around the house nostalgically remind me of new beginnings and the delicious meals in the coming weeks. Apparently, they’re strawberry flavored. I had no idea. all these years. strawberry? Really?

The candied coconut, I never liked, but I knew Bryce would like them. Lo and behold, it’s new years and they’re all gone.

Continuing family and cultural traditions, maybe not in the most traditional way, but in the way I remember and cherish. May the year of the sheep be succesful and be full of happiness for everyone who reads this!

Gung Hay Fat Choi! Year of the Sheep

Grassa

IMG_4390 Casual freshly made pasta. mmm it was melt-in-your-mouth good! The whole time Bryce and I were mmm-ing and ooh-ing with every bite. yenno, the sounds you make when you eat something really good. It’s an automatic reflex, no control whatsoever.

Here, we have pictured on the left is your black pepper tonnarelli with salt and pepper shrimp, lemongrass and fried jalepenos! The shrimp was the prima donna principle of the show. Slightly battered, which gives them a little extra crunch when you bite into it. Although, the jalepenos were a strong candidate for a supporting role. Suprisingly,  the crispy jalepenos weren’t very spicy, but I was too preoccupied with the flavor and texture, that I didn’t even miss it!

Who can say no to pork belly mac and cheese? Two of my favorite things combined into one bowl of greatness. The sauce was so creamy and deep, while the pork belly was like Christmas candy. It was crispy, it was sweet, it was savory. I’ve found my new mac and cheese go-to.

The best part about Grassa is that it’s atmosphere is nice enough to feel like I didn’t waste a Friday night dinner, but casual enough that I don’t feel like I need to wash my hair.

Grassa

Cacao

cacao

The first time I walked into Cacao I instantly fell in love. Probably because they were playing Erykah Badu (my all time fav), but also because they have delicious hot chocolate. This yuppity chocolate joint is the place if you want rich chocolate in multiple varieties and a chill environment. The hot chocolate was more rich than it was sweet, which is perfect! It had more dark chocolate flavors which makes my non-18-year-old taste buds sing sweet songs of elation. Not to mention, they can substitute milk with almond milk or soy milk. It is the quintessential place to catch up with some friends on yet another cold rainy day in Portland.

This last time I made the unfortunate mistake of ordering the Rivoli drinking chocolate with a shortbread cookie. The chocolate was delicious and the cookie was delicious, but after I had a bite of the sweet cookie my dark chocolate drink tasted bitter. bummer. lesson learned. don’t buy the sweet cookie with the dark chocolate… just like ice cream with lemonade….

And how can anyone forget the $50 golden Guadalupe chocolate, in which one day I hope to have the guts to buy.

guadalupe

Cacao