I make: Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken

I’m not Vietnamese, but I do love me some Vietnamese food. When I came across this recipe, I thought, “What the hell is Vietnamese Caramel Chicken”???? Convinced that this recipe was just made up by the Cuisine for Two Magazine editors, I proceeded to do some research online. Surprise surprise, it does exist and there are many people out there who love this dish.

Anyway, the concept is simple: melt sugar to caramelize chicken. However, if you’ve never made caramel (which is basically melted sugar) before, then simple may not be the right word to describe this recipe. The first time I made caramel, it was to drizzle over my homemade sticky toffee pudding, and I failed miserably! The key is to melt the sugar on medium (or lower heat if the sugar starts looking lumpy) and wait for the sugar to slowly turn into the color of ice tea. This process takes about 5-7 minutes. I usually don’t like to stir my caramel until the very end; I swirl my pot instead. You can stir the caramel if you like, but make sure you don’t over stir, otherwise the sugar particles will just lump together instead of melting and liquifying.

Adapted from Cuisine for Two Magazine

(yields 2 servings)
Ingredients:
3/4 cup dry jasmine rice
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (5oz each)
2 tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. minced shallots
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup bias-sliced scallions
2 tbsp. torn basil leaves

Directions:
1. Cook rice as instructed (I use a rice cooker)
2. Melt sugar in a saucepan on medium heat.
3. Combine fish sauce and chicken broth. After caramel forms (turns ice tea color), pour broth mixture and whisk, whisk, whisk! **When liquid is added to caramel, it will bubble furiously. Take off heat and set aside.
4. Heat 1 tbsp. of canola oil in skillet/fry-pan on medium/medium-high heat. Sear chicken about 3 minutes per side. You just want a nice golden brown color to develop on the chicken – you are NOT cooking the chicken all the way through. Remove from pan.
5. Heat remaining tbsp. of canola oil. Add ginger, shallots and garlic into pan and saute for about a minute or two, or until shallots turn translucent.
6. Return chicken to the pan and pour in caramel sauce. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens.
7. Plate rice with chicken on top. Scatter scallions and basil on top of chicken and spoon sauce over chicken.

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At first I was worried about the sauce being too sweet, but it came out just right. Having the chicken simmer in the sauce made the chicken incredibly flavorful! Now I know why so many people love this dish.

Bon appetit!

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I eat: Toast Bakery Cafe

When our original plan to go to Griddle Cafe fell through, we decided to meet at Toast Bakery Cafe for Saturday morning brunch. As with any LA establishment, parking is a painful ordeal. I ended up parking near Beverly Blvd. and walked two blocks down to the restaurant. Toast Bakery Cafe is located at the edge of a residential neighborhood which means no street parking on the weekends unless you have a permit.

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Although the restaurant does offer both indoor and outdoor seating, we opted for a table inside by the entrance. In the middle of the restaurant, there was a bakery counter filled with sweets such as cupcakes, cakes, brownies, banana pudding, cookies, muffins, etc. When I saw the red velvet cupcakes, I knew I had to order some to take home!

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The menu was pretty standard. Available were the usual breakfast items: scrambles/omelets, pancakes, french toast. I decided to forgo my beloved Denver Omelet (I seriously order this EVERYWHERE) and ordered the Breakfast Quesadilla (scrambled eggs, mozzarella & cheddar cheese, grilled chicken breast, served with sides of sour cream, pico de gallo & guacamole). My girls ordered the Favorite Omelet and the Thai Chicken Salad.

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As you can see from the picture, there was a lot more egg than chicken in my quesadilla. Despite this, I still enjoyed my breakfast and it was plenty to fill me up. I wouldn’t mind coming back to try the other items on the menu. However, if I had to wait in the line that we saw as we were leaving, I think I would have felt that Toast Bakery Cafe wasn’t worth the wait.

I also bought a half dozen cupcakes to take home: 2 red velvet, 1 blue velvet, 2 peanut butter/chocolate and 1 vanilla pudding/chocolate. I consider myself a red velvet cupcake connoisseur, having eaten a-plenty, and I can definitely say, TBC’s red velvet cupcake was terrible. The cupcake itself was really dry and/or not freshly baked. RED VELVET CUPCAKE FAIL! How dare you!

Verdict: 3/5
Toast Bakery Cafe
8221 W. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Acid

I started developing heartburn about a year and a half ago, or at least that’s when I actually noticed. What started out as a painful burning sensation in my chest quickly progressed into waking up in the middle of the night with stomach pains. Yes, the Dr. confirmed, I was suffering from an ulcer. I was prescribed a medicine to reduce the production of acid in my stomach (Protonix) and ordered to follow a strict diet.

I am not supposed to eat/drink:

  • Spicy foods
  • Tomato-based sauces
  • Chocolate
  • Anything carbonated and caffeinated
  • Citrus fruits or drinks

I am supposed to:

  • Eat slowly and chew thoroughly
  • Eat smaller meals, more frequently
  • Be relaxed at mealtime
  • Avoid eating within 3 hours of bedtime
  • Avoid NSAIDS
  • Avoid period of hunger and overeating

Have I followed these general guidelines religiously in order to save my health? No, and shame on me for not doing so. I drink tea everyday and soda/coffee a few times a week. I CANNOT give up spicy foods. I am guilty of falling asleep right after dinner. I eat my lunch while working and when it’s really busy, I don’t eat at all. So, it looks like I’ve broken EVERY single rule.

(picture found here)

Not surprisingly, my stomach started acting up recently – it was due time. I didn’t recognize the symptoms at first because somehow I never experienced another ulcer episode after the initial one; I thought I was just suffering from a bad case of food poisoning. I even made the mistake of eating an orange because I thought the citrus would “kill the bacteria”. Sometimes my logical reasoning baffles me.

Despite experiencing excruciating stomach pains for the 2nd time now, I’m still not sure if I can follow the rules. Hell, I even made mapo tofu for lunch last week. I don’t know whether I feel more guilty for breaking the rules or for not even trying to follow them.

Black and Purple

The playoffs have begun. It’s SOOO exciting for me especially since the Kings have not qualified for the playoffs since losing first round to the Avs during the 2001-2002 season.

Old picture from 2006?

The first two games vs. Vancouver have ended in OT, which is totally not good for my anxiety!!

I’m planning to buy tickets for the 2nd round! YES, THEY WILL MAKE IT. KINGS IN SIX!

I make: Crispy Fish

I’ve been testing a lot of recipes from the April issue of Cooking Light. Last week, I made spicy gumbo for lunch and saffron fish stew with white beans for dinner. I bought 2 pounds of cod and decided to use a little more than half for the fish stew and use the rest for another recipe: crispy fish with lemon-dill sauce.

The recipe was easy to follow and it really did only take 30 minutes to prep and cook, as the magazine advertised. Since the cod was breaded with panko and broiled in the oven (instead of fried), I didn’t feel guilty eating it. To keep in line with our healthy meal, I substituted low-fat mayo for the suggested canola mayo to make the “tartar sauce”.

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Note: it is imperative that a broiler pan is used, otherwise the fish will turn out a soggy mess.

This recipe was a quick, healthy alternative to fried fish that I would make again. I just wished the panko would’ve browned a bit more evenly; I have a love/hate relationship with my oven.

Bon appetit!

Adaptation

After more than a decade of getting an average of 5 hours of sleep per night, my body has finally reached its breaking point. I’m currently in the process of reworking my daily schedule to accommodate 8 hours of sleep, meaning I have to stop sleeping at 1AM!

Since I’ve been sleeping earlier, Henry has been informing me about my sleeping habits. Apparently I like to toss and turn and wrestle my blanket. I don’t use my pillows and sometimes I end up laying diagonally on my bed.

Apparently, he finds this hilarious.

Doesn’t everybody sleep like this?

I make: Sole Meunière

I’ve been meaning to spend my $20 gift card to Target that I received as a Christmas gift, but there was never anything that sparked my interest… until last weekend. As I was browsing through the book section, I came across Ina Garten’s Back to Basics cookbook. When I first started watching food network in college, I wasn’t really a fan of Ina’s. I think this was mostly because I wasn’t quite ready for her more mature style of cooking; I was still stuck in a phase where a meal was predicated on convenience. Being a poor college student, ramen noodles and boxed “one-meal” dinners were staples in my pantry. Fast forward six years and I now have the opportunity to splurge on quality ingredients/cookware and as time has passed, my tastes have changed and my cooking style has progressed. Now I can fully appreciate Ina’s culinary expertise and I’m really excited to try every recipe in her cookbook!

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For my first recipe, I chose sole meunière because I happened to have a few fillets of dover sole in the ‘fridge. All of the other ingredients (flour, butter, lemon, parsley) are staples in my kitchen and I’m sure they’re also stocked in yours.

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Simple ingredients, quick preparation and cook time, absolutely delicious. This has now become my go-to dish when I’m in a pinch for time. Lemon + butter = LOVE.

Bon appetit!