Asian Honey Garlic Noodles

Sometimes All the time I crave Asian food. However, I don’t usually cook Asian dishes because they require ingredients specifically for Asian cuisine that can only be found in specialty Asian supermarkets. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the small grocery store across the street had ingredients like mirin (cooking rice wine). Mirin is an essential Japanese condiment that is used to bring out strong flavors. Besides using it in these noodles, I’ve also made salmon with it and am next going to try using it on chicken.

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I adapted this recipe from Dennis the Prescott, one of my favorite food Instagrammers. His photos are all incredibly drool-worthy and I’ve wanted to make all of his dishes, especially this one. The recipe is just for the noodles but I also baked Honey soy sauce chicken thighs to go along with it.

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These noodles are a quick and easy dish that are guaranteed to satisfy a craving for Asian food. Of course, they’re nothing compared to my mom’s homemade dumplings but they’ll have to do until I visit home in the summer!

 

ASIAN HONEY GARLIC NOODLES

Ingredients
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
4 cloves finely sliced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
500g chow mein noodles
1 bunch green onions (scallions) chopped
1 tbsp. finely diced ginger
1 lime
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions
In a large bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, honey and sesame seeds. Whisk to combine.

Cook noodles for a couple minutes until firm, but slightly softened.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan or wok on high heat. Add noodles and ginger, and stirfry for a couple minutes. Add sauce, and cook for about 1 minute, making sure that the noodles are completely coated in sauce. Add scallions, juice of 1 lime, and toss to combine.

adapted from Dennis the Prescott

Dijon Pumpkin Spice Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are one of those foods everyone hates as a kid but then loves as they grow older. I know I used to avoid them at all costs because of their bitter taste and because all my friends hated them. Now, I absolutely love them. My favorite way to cook them is with bacon, which I taught to my cooking class in the beginning of the year. I’ve also tried them roasted with cinnamon but they ended up being too dry for my liking. This recipe, however, solves that problem.

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My friend Keri, who is on the Spoon University at Hopkins team with me, is actually the creator of this amazing recipe. When she first mentioned “pumpkin spice” and “Brussels sprouts” in the same sentence I was a little thrown off. I usually associate pumpkin spice with fancy Starbucks lattes and Fall desserts but never would I have imagined to combine it with a vegetable. So of course, I had to try it and see for myself.

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One bite of these sprouts and I knew this was my new favorite recipe for these veggies. The flavor was so complex, delicious, and new that I was completely blown away. The sweetness from the spice and maple syrup perfectly counters the bitter sprouts and the spiciness of the Dijon mustard ties it all together. I bet even the little kid version of myself would approve.

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DIJON PUMPKIN SPICE BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Ingredients
2 ½ cups Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon + ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional)
¼ cup cranberries (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Trim Brussels sprouts and cut in half lengthwise.  (Make sure sprouts are patted dry so they will get soggy when cooking).

In a medium bowl, mix sprouts with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.

Bake for 25 minutes or until edges start to brown.

While they’re baking, whisk together Dijon, maple syrup, and remain olive oil and pumpkin pie spice.

Take sprouts out of the oven and drizzle the mixture over the sprouts. Add optional nuts or dried fruit and bake for another 10 minutes.

Blackberry Brie Bites

Brie is awesome. Its ooey-gooey creaminess makes us melt with delight as we spread it on crackers at dinner parties. But it can be spread on much more than crackers. For a light snack in the Spring or Summer, try making these blackberry brie bites. It’s the perfect combination of a burst of fruit and cheese, wrapped in a buttery, flaky blanket.

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These are perfect crowd-pleasers for parties, meetings, or just for fun. They are literally bite-sized so they won’t make a mess but enough to impress your friends and leave them wanting more. Of course, they’re best served warm, right after you take them out of the oven. If they do get cold, you can simply warm them up in the microwave and get the same taste.

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I spontaneously made these after school one day because I had leftover brie and wanted to bake it in with puff pastry. These are actually very similar to the Cuban Guava Pastries I made last year, which were made using guava paste and cream cheese. There are soo many variations of puff pastry+fruit+cheese. Next time, I’ll try using other fruits like figs and maybe add some honey!

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BLACKBERRY BRIE BITES
(makes 16)

Ingredients
1 pkg puff pastry, thawed
1 quart blackberries
5 oz brie cheese, cut into cubes
3-4 tbsps blackberry jam
1 egg, for egg wash

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the thawed puff pastry into equal squares.

Place a cube of brie in the middle of a square, spoon 1/4 teaspoon of jam onto it, and place blackberry on top. Fold two opposite corners into the middle and pinch corners together. Then, pinch the other two corners to meet in the middle so all 4 corners come together. Repeat for each square.

Beat the egg until mixed. Brush egg wash on the outer parts of puff pastry surface.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Crockpot Turkey Meatballs

Last summer I made these Easy Turkey Meatballs that I thought were incredible. They had only a few ingredients and all I had to do was bake them. They were so simple and perfect for times when I was in a rush or didn’t have a lot of time for preparation. However, I recently discovered an even better way to make turkey meatballs that also isn’t time consuming but have much more flavor.

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One morning before class, I quickly formed the meatballs and plopped them into the crockpot. There wasn’t any need to turn on the stove and I only had to use one big bowl. I let the meatballs cook in the sauce all day and when I came back, they were ready to be devoured by a very hungry and tired student.

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These meatballs were soooo tender, they basically melted in my mouth. They definitely had much more flavor and if I had more time, I would have added more herbs and garlic as well. My friends all tried some and were surprised by how it was as if “the sauce was cooked into the meat.” Of course, all credit goes to the crockpot

 

CROCKPOT TURKEY MEATBALLS
makes 20-24

Ingredients
Meatballs
20 oz (1.3 lb) ground turkey breast
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg
salt and pepper

Sauce
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions
In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, cheese, and egg.

Form into small meatballs

Pour tomatoes into crockpot and add parsley.

Drop meatballs into the sauce. Cover and set crockpot to low, 4 to 6 hrs.

adapted from Skinny Taste

Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Compote

Last week I bought my first-ever tub of ricotta cheese. Although I can’t say I’m a die-hard fan of cheese, I do always have various selections of cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, and a shredded cheese mix) stocked in my fridge. I’m not too familiar with ricotta but I’ve browsed through countless recipes for sweets and desserts that use this famous Italian cheese.

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So why did I suddenly decide to purchase ricotta? Well, to make the fluffiest pancakes ever. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of pancakes but it’s about time I take a break from my favorite Greek yogurt pancakes and try something new. Greek yogurt pancakes are thick and chewy, but ricotta pancakes are quite different. They’re melt-in-your-mouth pillows of brunch-y happiness that make you wonder why you don’t have pancakes every day. Seriously, they’re SO fluffy.

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Since I wanted to incorporate some fruit, I made my own strawberry compote by heating up strawberries in a small pot until they broke down into the consistency of a chunky sauce. The tanginess of the strawberries was undeniably satisfying and paired beautifully with the ricotta pancakes. It was my first time making a fruit compote and mine was probably one of the most simplified versions: just fruit and water. The best part was…not having to add extra sugar :)

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RICOTTA PANCAKES WITH STRAWBERRY COMPOTE
(makes 10-12)

Ingredients
3 cups fresh strawberries, de-stemmed and chopped in halves
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
3 large eggs, separated into whites and yolk
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese

Directions
Heat up chopped strawberries in a small pot on medium-low. Add water. Stir occasionally as they begin to sizzle and add more water for a thinner sauce.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, milk, and ricotta.

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients into the bowl with wet ingredients.

Beat egg whites using a hand or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold into the pancake batter.

Heat a pan to medium-high. Spoon 1/4 cup batter at a time onto the pan. When the pancake starts bubbling, flip and cook until both sides are golden brown.

Serve with warm strawberry compote and/or maple syrup.

adapted from Food and Wine 

Baked Sweet Potato Chips

It’s officially March and we finally had a snow day. After multiple incidences of having our high hopes for a snow day being crushed, we had not one, but TWO snow days in a row here in Baltimore. The thrill of having a day with no classes propelled me to bake something and I wanted that ‘something’ to be healthy.

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My good friend Jeana came back to school from winter break with several Ziploc gallon bags stuffed with baked apple chips. She shared them with a bunch of friends in class and we were all immediately hooked. Her mom uses a dehydrator to make large batches of chips, without adding anything else! This inspired me to make my own version of healthy chips with sweet potatoes, that have been lying around in my pantry waiting to be put to use.

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I love sweet potatoes – not only are they delicious, they can also be cooked in a variety of ways and are good for you. They are rich in vitamins and minerals but are most well-known for having many carotenoids, which explains their orange color. These carotenoids improve vision as well as increase immunity to disease, such as cancer. What more can you ask for in a simple, yummy, and addicting snack?!

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BAKED SWEET POTATO CHIPS

Ingredients
2 large sweet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet (or 2) with parchment paper.

Rinse and dry sweet potatoes. Slice them thinly with a mandolin or sharp knife. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil and salt. Place on parchment paper (they don’t have to be very spread out since they shrink in the oven).

Bake for 10 minutes. Flip chips over and bake for another 10 minutes. Watch closely towards the end. Take out the browning chips, which are usually the smaller ones.

Let the chips cool for 5-10 minutes so they crisp up. If they are still moist/chewy then you can put them in the oven again for 1-2 minutes.

Repeat with remaining sweet potato slices.

 

adapted from The Minimalist Baker

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken Tacos

You know that feeling little kids get when they get a new toy? That’s exactly how I feel with my new crockpot slow cooker. I know it’s not a typical appliance in most college dorms but it is definitely worth the investment. Having a crockpot makes it so easy to cook you won’t even believe it. There’s no need to worry about overcooking or undercooking meat, there are less dishes to clean, and the best part – you don’t even have to be in  your kitchen. Plus, you can make large portions and save leftovers for the rest of the week. For those of you who are concerned about cooking taking up too much time, you should definitely consider getting a crockpot!

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Crockpots slowly cook your food and can be set for a certain amount of time depending on the model – mine has settings for 4, 6, 8, and 10 hours. This morning I plugged in my crockpot, threw in the chicken breasts, poured some BBQ sauce over them, and went to class. I came back 5 hours later and my chicken was perfectly cooked and smelled delicious. The crockpot did all the cooking for me!

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I can’t wait to try more recipes with my crockpot like chili, soups, meatballs, and one of my favorites – pulled pork. I was initially going to try making pulled pork but the enormous, fatty pork shoulder at the grocery store was too daunting for a first time crockpot user. I’m saving that for another time… I’ve been looking up other crockpot recipes and found that you can even make breakfast and desserts with it. There are sooo many possibilities out there!

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CROCKPOT BBQ PULLED CHICKEN TACOS
(serves 6-8)

Ingredients
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
salt
1 cup + 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
flour tortillas
1 avocado

Directions

Place chicken breasts in crockpot in a single layer. Lightly salt them.

Pour BBQ sauce so the surface of the chicken breasts are all covered. Put lid back on and put the setting on high for 4 hours. (The crockpot will automatically stop cooking after 4 hours and just warm the contents.)

When the chicken is ready, take the chicken out. Use 2 forks to shred the chicken. Stir about 1/2 cup more BBQ sauce into the chicken and put it back in the crockpot to cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil on medium high in a small pan. Place tortilla in the pan and heat both sides for about a minute each.

Cut avocado into cubes.

Assemble tacos.

 

Zucchini “Spaghetti”

Something I never foresaw when I started this blog was being featured nationally. Shortly after the article from my university, a reporter from NPR contacted me for an interview and published an awesome article about my blog. My mind was blown away as I saw the number of viewers increase exponentially and especially when friends from high school were telling me they stumbled upon the article on NPR’s website.

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As more attention has been directed to this blog, I’ve been thinking about the direction that it’s going in. Most people are fascinated by the fact that I strive to create recipes that are healthy, something that many people aim to be and what college meals are not exactly known for. I’ll admit that a lot of the desserts I make are not healthy on their own, but rather are healthier alternatives to what they could have been. As much fun as it can be to make desserts healthier with all kinds of crazy substitutions, I’ve started to try to cook more healthy, quick dishes for lunch and dinner.

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I’ve gotten quite a few requests for vegan/vegetarian dishes. Well, here is a dish that is actually downright healthy, requiring few ingredients and can be made in minutes. Vegetable pastas have been becoming very trendy in the foodie world. I first made this “zucchetti” in my dorm when I was studying abroad. Sometimes after traveling and eating my way through Europe, I would feel the urge for a detox/cleansing period where all I wanted to eat was vegetables. This is an excellent way to eat lots of vegetables and for a low-carb diet. I was actually inspired by a small food booth in Copenhagen called PALÆO, which had a delicious vegetable spaghetti with meat sauce.

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The easiest tool for making zucchini spaghetti is a spiralizer but I used a julienne peeler, which worked just fine. I sauteed the zucchini in a pan, but you can also eat it raw if you want more crunch. I liked the zucchini spaghetti with just pesto; however, you can add meat or vegetables to it!

 

ZUCCHINI “SPAGHETTI”

Ingredients
2 zucchinis
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons pesto sauce
salt and pepper

Directions

Using a julienne peeler, peel zucchini vertically in strips all around the zucchini until you reach the seeds. (Toss the seed core away).

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the strips of zucchini and quickly sautee for about a minute (until just tender).

Turn off the heat and add pesto. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Mushroom Garlic Risotto

Cooking classes are fun because they’re social, you learn new cooking techniques, and you get to eat. Back home in Boston I took several classes with my mom on Italian cooking, paella, and gourmet dinners. When I was abroad, I took one in Southern France taught by an owner of a Michelin star restaurant. I’ve always dreamed of teaching my own cooking class and was surprised it was able to come true so soon!

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Over winter break I taught a cooking class at my school. There were 2 sessions over the span of 2 weeks: one was for entrees and the other was for desserts. My entree class had 9 students – together, we made a mushroom garlic risotto, bacon and Brussels sprouts, and honey soy sauce chicken thighs (my fave). To prepare for the class, I looked up techniques for making the best risotto possible and then tested it out on my friends the night before the class. I bought all the ingredients and packed all my kitchen utensils in a suitcase that I brought to a large dorm kitchen the day of the class.

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I had such a fun time teaching both classes and was glad to see the students did too! Not only did we make delicious food, but we also had a great time. At first, we didn’t all know each other but by the end of the 2-hour class we had all bonded from cooking together. It turned out to be a huge success so I’m definitely hoping to teach again next year!

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A week after the class, I woke up to several texts from friends saying the article about me had made the headlines of our school’s online newsletter, the HUB. Check it out here!!! Ever since, I’ve been getting so many encouraging comments about my blog and cooking, which has inspired me more than ever! Stay tuned for more :)

 

MUSHROOM GARLIC RISOTTO
(serves 4)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 small onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon celery, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (porcini, white)
1 cup arborio rice
5-8 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced

Directions
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add celery, salt and pepper.

In a separate medium skillet, saute mushrooms. Set aside.

In the large skillet, add rice. Stir well so that rice is coated in the onion mixture. Then, flatten the rice mixture so it is even. Pour chicken broth into the skillet until it just covers the top of the rice (about 4-5 cups). Continuously stir so the rice absorbs the broth. Make sure to take a break once in a while to let the rice sit. When the rice looks like its getting dry, add a cup of broth in, stir and repeat. The stirring should take 25-30 minutes. Make sure to taste the rice to test whether it is done. It should be al dente.

Once the risotto is cooked, add the butter, Parmesan cheese, parsley and mushrooms. Mix well and serve hot!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

My suitemates and I have a tradition of making each other Pillsbury dough boy cinnamon rolls from the can for our birthdays or other special occasions. They are so easy to make, already pre-cut into perfect circles. All you have to do is pop them in the oven and spread the prepackaged icing over them. So gooey and fluffy.

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I’ve always wanted to make them on my own but thought it would be too time-consuming. Well I finally got to it and it does take a bit of time, but it is worth it!!! And these are way healthier so that’s an extra plus. Believe it or not, I didn’t make them healthy on purpose. It happened because our house ran out of all-purpose flour, so I had to use whole wheat flour instead. I was scared the buns would be rock hard when I baked them but they turned out fine. They could definitely have been fluffier, which is why I would recommend using half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.

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The best part is that you don’t have to wake up really early to make them. You can just prepare the rolls the day before, leave them in the fridge overnight, and then all you have to do is put them in the oven the following morning. Easy peasy :D

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WHOLE WHEAT CHOCOLATE CINNAMON ROLLS
(makes 18)

Ingredients
Rolls
1 cup milk, warmed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour (half all-purpose, half whole wheat mixed together)
Filling and Icing
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
6 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vanilla Icing
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

Directions
Combine warm milk, butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand 2 min until yeast softens. With the bread hook attachment stir in the egg, salt and 3 cups of the flour mixture. Mix well, then add remaining flour and mix until dough pulls away from the bowl edges, about 5 minutes.

Form dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl, turning to coat all sides of ball. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a very warm place until doubled in size, about 3 hr. (I put the dough in a microwave with a large bowl of hot water).

Make filling by combining the sugars, cinnamon and chocolate. Butter two 8-by-8-inch pans and set aside.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 14-by-24-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Spread with the melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture. Starting with one long end, roll dough tightly to form a long spiral. Pinch the seam together. Cut into 18 slices, about 1¼ inch thick each, and place 9 in each prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning remove rolls from refrigerator and bring to room temperature in a warm place, 1 hr.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F and bake until rolls are golden and cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes.

Let rolls cool slightly and then frost them with icing.

Vanilla icing: Whisk confectioners’ sugar with 1 melted butter, vanilla extract and milk until smooth. (Makes 1 cup).

NOTE: If you make and bake them on the same day, don’t refrigerate after rolling; just let the rolls rise a second time before baking.

adapted from Bakerella