Yogurt & Berries

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Sometimes we just need to keep things simple. Looking at my former posts, I realize that I must seem like a carnivore. While I am definitely a meat and potatoes/rice kind of girl, I also work in a field where I preach a healthy lifestyle. So in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and health goals, I thought I’d start with some lighter and healthier meals. I’ve been meal prepping for the past 3 years, and it has transformed my lifestyle and relationship with food. I’ve noticed that my waistline has gotten smaller and I’m happier and more comfortable in my own skin. Meal prepping makes healthy food easy, convenient, and fast. One of my favorite meals to prep ahead of time is yogurt and berries for breakfast. In this yogurt and berries breakfast, I often use frozen berries which are easy and delicious. Fruits that are frozen are often picked at the peak of ripeness and frozen immediately, often making them incredibly sweet and tasty. If berries are in season (AKA summer), then definitely use fresh blueberries, strawberries, and any other berries that you like. If you need just a touch of sweetness, try drizzling a bit of honey on top. This doubles as a delicious light dessert if you have a sweet tooth and want to stay away from ice cream.

I like to refrigerate this dish overnight because it allows the berries to thaw. When I get to work in the morning, I then mix the berries into the yogurt to create my lighter version of fruit on the bottom yogurt. One of my co-workers used to eat this everyday in the morning. Rather than adding sugar or honey, she would add a generous pinch of cinnamon for extra flavor. Eating it this way always reminds me of her.

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Servings : 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes

Ingredients
1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
(optional) 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
(optional) 1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
1/4 cup frozen berries
1 tsp honey

Directions
(Optional) Mix vanilla extract & brown sugar into yogurt

Place yogurt into a container and top with berries

Drizzle with honey

Refrigerate overnight and berries should be thawed and ready to eat in the morning

In the morning, mix berries into the yogurt and add additional honey as needed

 

 

Truffle Pan Seared Steak

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Another truffle recipe from the same truffle that I was gifted months ago. Truffle is a special ingredient in that it does not require any fancy preparation or cooking. With its deep earthy umami flavor, it simply needs shaving/grating, and then gets incorporated into a dish that does not mask its flavor. In my experience, black truffle pairs very well with beef, potatoes, and creamy pasta dishes. It’s also great with a simple bread and butter combo.

The key to this truffle steak recipe is a quality piece of meat. Although it is an admirable feat to transform humble ingredients into a mouthwatering dish, some dishes necessitate high quality ingredients. I oftentimes buy my steak from Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, or Sprouts because they tend to have higher quality meats that are within my price range. I prefer New York Strip or top sirloin because of their high flavor profile and affordability. I avoid rib eye for health reasons because of its high fat content and higher price tag, but that would be an excellent cut for this dish as well. My favorite accompaniments to a well-seared piece of steak? Homemade creamed spinach, creamed corn, and some buttery fluffy mashed potatoes. Those recipes will likely follow in future posts.

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Cooking and eating bring so much joy and comfort to me. Although I try to avoid extreme emotional eating on most days, some days you just need a full steak dinner to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. I like to make special dinners for my fiancé and me on Fridays, because it marks the end of our workweek. Sharing a special dinner just helps to jumpstart the beginning of a relaxing and fun weekend. Without further ado, I hope you make good use of this truffle steak recipe to celebrate a romantic evening at home with your significant other.

 

img_1855img_1873Cooking notes/tips:

Invest in a cast iron skillet or heavy skillet for optimal searing of steaks and meats. You won’t be sorry!

I almost always sear my steaks/pork chops/chicken breasts, and then finish cooking in the oven.

Always. I mean, always allow your steak to rest 7-10 minutes before serving. This will allow its juices to redistribute prior to cutting, preventing a dry steak.

Recipe
Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 tsp truffle salt
pepper, to taste
2 tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
6 top sirloin steaks

Directions 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pat steaks dry and season generously with truffle salt, pepper, and any additional salt to taste.

Heat cast iron skillet on high heat. Place a pat of butter and 2 cloves of garlic into the pan. Continue moving garlic around, allowing it to flavor the butter. Then add sprig of rosemary into melted butter and allow this to flavor the butter.

Sear steak in 2-3 batches. Place steaks onto pan and allow to sear for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown.

Continuously turn sprig of rosemary and garlic cloves to prevent burning. Remove garlic cloves from pan once they are golden brown

Flip steaks and allow the other side to sear 3-5 minutes.

Place garlic cloves and steaks in the oven and allow to roast for 10-20 minutes at 350 degrees, depending on thickness and desired level of doneness. For medium steak, roast for 10-15 minutes.

When steak is at desired level of doneness, take out of oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Slice steak and shave fresh black truffle on the top. Serve immediately with roasted garlic cloves.

 

 

 

 

Herb Butter Turkey with Stuffing and Gravy

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Turkey is a must for a holiday spread. However, it is a tricky bird to prepare and oftentimes yields mixed results. To quote my grandmother, a major problem is that “turkey is so dry!” That was a complaint that we often got as a Chinese family trying to figure out our own traditions for an American holiday. My family tried roasting our own turkey for several years, but eventually gave up because it was tedious and time-consuming, with minimal reward. After years of turkey fails, I have pieced together the pitfalls of preparing a Thanksgiving bird. My remedy for turkey troubles is threefold:

  1. deconstructing prior to roasting
  2. brining
  3. delicious herb butter under the skin.

I prepared this turkey not for my family this year, but for the Veterans that I have the honor of working with every day. The holidays can be a challenging time for many Veterans. With the specific hardships and challenges that Veterans face, some spend their Thanksgiving without turkey, without pie, and some without friends and family. So this year I wanted to do something to give back. I made a tray of roasted turkey with stuffing and gravy for members of my group therapy class and the look on their faces made it all worth the effort. It was a reminder of why I cook. What makes a meal special is not the rarity or lavishness of ingredients that comprise a dish. Nor is it the gourmet skill or complex techniques that went into preparation. For me, what makes cooking special is the fact that I get to share the end result with others. I love the fact that bringing a turkey and stuffing to my patients can help them create a sense of community and belonging.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe with those that you love!

Cooking tips:

Follow your favorite youtube video to guide you in breaking down the turkey by its parts.

Allow the brine to completely cool before you place your turkey in it. Boiled turkey is not what we’re going for.

For best results, use fresh herbs for the herb butter. And, in general, try to use fresh herbs rather than dry. Fresh herbs have a brightness of flavor that is often lost when they are dried.img_1923

My uncle taught me to taste brines and marinades prior to placing the meat inside of them. This will help you to adjust the salt to taste

 

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Brine Ingredients
4 quarts of water
½ cup of salt
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp garlic salt

Turkey Broth Ingredients
Turkey backbone, neck, ribs
2 quarts water
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage

 

Turkey Ingredients
1 10-lb turkey, defrosted and divided into different parts
1 stick unsalted room temperature butter
1 head garlic, crushed
4 tbsp fresh rosemary
4 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp salt to taste
2 tbsp pepper
1 stalk celery
1 yellow onion, sliced

Stuffing Ingredients
2 loaves day-old French bread, cut into 2-inch pieces
roasted celery and onion (from roasted turkey recipe)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh sage
3 eggs
1 ½ c chicken broth
1/2 cup turkey pan juices
1 cup home-made turkey broth

Gravy Ingredients
3 cups home-made turkey broth
1 cup canned chicken broth
1/2 cup turkey pan juices
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp pepper

Directions

2 days before serving turkey: prepare brine and turkey broth

Brine Recipe

Bring brine ingredients to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Once the brine is completely cooled, submerge turkey pieces into the brine. Refrigerate and allow to sit in the brine for at least 24 hours.

 

Turkey Broth Recipe

Season rib, neck, and backbone pieces. Roast in oven at 425 degrees until golden brown.

Place roasted bones into hot boiling water with fresh herbs and simmer for 2 hours.

 

Day of serving turkey:

Turkey Recipe

Preheat oven at 425 degrees.

Remove turkey from brine and pat the skin dry with a clean paper towel.

Prepare herb butter by mixing minced garlic, and chopped herbs with room temperature butter. Once it is well mixed, gently peel underneath the skin of the turkey pieces and evenly distribute herb butter into every piece.

Roughly slice onions and chop celery and place on baking sheet. This will serve as the bed for the turkey during roasting. Place pieces of turkey onto bed of onions and celery.

Brush surface of the turkey pieces with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending on the part, with legs and thighs (45 minutes, done at 165 degrees F) requiring longer cooking time than breast (35-40 minutes, done when thermometer reads 165 degrees F).

Once turkey is done, remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Slice turkey and pour remaining pan juices after making gravy and stuffing.

 

Gravy Recipe

In a large saucepan, melt 4 tbsp of butter. Add in flour and mix well. Allow roux to turn light brown to cook out the raw flour flavor.

Add in fresh chopped herbs and sauté for 1 minute.

Add in fresh turkey broth (recipe above), canned chicken broth, and turkey roasting juices.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Stuffing Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Mix eggs, turkey broth, chicken broth, and turkey pan juices together.

Pour egg mixture over bread and distribute evenly.

Combine with roasted celery and onion, and chopped herbs.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.

 

 

Truffle Penne Carbonara

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I’ve been on a truffle tour lately. It’s not usually an ingredient that I use in my everyday cooking since it is very fancy with a fancy price tag, but I was fortunate enough to be gifted some truffle salt and even a fresh black truffle recently. So, when life hands you lemons, make delicious lemon curd, right? With this recipe, you can easily replace truffle salt with regular salt and forego the truffle altogether. Without the truffle, this recipe is just one of classic and delicious carbonara. With the truffle, there is an added earthy richness that complements the cheesy creaminess of carbonara.

I’m both fascinated and peeved by the elusiveness of truffles, both in the difficulty of locating them as well as the bashful nature of their flavor. Wild boars are employed to scavenge expansive forests for wild truffles. Once you have your truffle in hand, you must handle it very gingerly because its flavors are so delicate. Pairing with flavors that are too strong or cooking the truffle will mask its subtle flavors. To be honest, I had to do an extensive google search on how to cook with truffle and how to wash/clean and store truffle before this post.

Cooking Tips

Making a classic carbonara is comprised of simple ingredients, but what makes or breaks a carbonara sauce is the precision in technique that is required to make sure that the end product is a rich and velvety sauce, rather than curdled egg. The main tips I have for carbonara are:

1. Use egg yolks only, not whites. Egg whites will increase the likelihood of the sauce curdling

2. Use real Parmigianno-Regiano cheese (please, no Kraft); preferably grate your own cheese, but pre-grated will work as long as it is real cheese

3. Use heavy cream, not half-and-half or low fat substitutes.

Some people prefer to cook carbonara with the heat turned off for fear of curdling the egg in the sauce. I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to eating raw egg because of reports of Salmonella. So I prefer to take the halfway point by borrowing from the same technique that is used to cook egg-based custards: low heat with lots of constant mixing.

 

Recipe

 

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 package dried penne
1 package smoked bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic
¼ diced onion
1 tsp truffle salt
4 egg yolks
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 bunch chopped parsley
optional: ½ small black truffle, grated

 

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

While water is boiling, sauté bacon. Heat skillet on medium high and place bacon in the pan. When the bacon begins to crisp up, add onion and garlic. Saute for another 2-3 minutes, then set aside.

Mix together egg yolks and cream until smooth. Set aside.

Boil pasta according to package directions (approximately 7-10 minutes), then drain and add into bacon and onion mixture. Add in egg mixture and cheese to pasta. Turn heat on medium low and stir constantly. Add a splash of pasta water to adjust consistency of the pasta sauce.

When pasta sauce begins to thicken, turn heat off and remove pan from heat. Cooking further will lead the sauce to curdle.

Shave truffle into the pasta and toss thoroughly.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.