I make: Mapo Tofu

When I found this recipe in Cooking Light Magazine, I welcomed the change since the only other Asian recipe we make involving ground pork is our Ground Pork with Green Beans. Is it weird that we don’t make a lot of Asian food?? Anyway, this recipe is traditionally made with soft tofu, but my preference is medium-firm because it holds up nicely while cooking and is soft enough when eaten. Also, though I love eating spicy foods, my stomach can’t handle that much heat anymore so the recipe, as is, might be too tame for some people (you can tell by the picture below since the sauce isn’t BRIGHT RED).

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine (April 2010)

(yields ~6 servings)
Ingredients:

Meat
1 lb ground pork
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried sweet basil
1 tsp less-sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tbsp minced ginger
1 (14 oz) package medium firm tofu, drained

Sauce
2 tbsp Sriracha (increase as desired)
1 1/2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp black bean garlic sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp less-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp chili oil (increase as desired)

White rice
Scallions for garnish

Directions:
1. Place tofu on paper towel; cover with paper towel. Top with heavy skillet and let stand 30 minutes. (One reason why medium firm tofu works better vs. soft tofu, plus I just prefer firmer tofu anyway). Cut tofu in 1 inch cubes.
2. Season meat: Combine all ingredients under “Meat” section. Let rest for 10 minutes.
3. Sauce: Combine Sriracha through sugar in one bowl. Combine chicken broth through chili oil in another bowl; whisk until smooth.
4. Heat canola oil in a large skillet (or wok) over medium heat.
5. Add garlic and ginger; stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
6. Add pork; stir-fry for 5 minutes or until almost cooked through.
7. Add Sriracha mixture; combine thoroughly and cook for 1 minute.
8. Add broth mixture; bring to a boil and cook until sauce thickens.
9. Stir in tofu.
10. Serve over white rice and garnish with green onions.

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No beauty shot this time – just straight out of the wok, but you get the point 🙂

Note: I changed the ratio of tofu to ground pork because Henry specifically requested less tofu.

Bon appetit!

Half

I ran my first half marathon!

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My goal was a 10 minute pace, which is not at all unreasonable. I’m comfortable running a 5K distance so two weeks before the half marathon, I increased my distance to 6 miles and then to 10 miles the week before. I had planned to run about 12 miles on Friday, rest and carb up on Saturday in preparation for the half marathon on Sunday. When I started my run on Friday, I noticed sharp pain and tightness in my right calf. I thought I could just run it off, but I wasn’t able to make it out of my driveway (I have a long driveway :P)! I spent the rest of Friday and the whole day Saturday drinking lots of water and stretching out my calf. By the time Sunday came around, I wasn’t 100%, but at least I was able to run. I tried to maintain my usual pace, but I had to slow down when I felt my calf tightening up.

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Henry can’t hang so I conned his brother into running with me 😀

Time: 2:16:03
Pace: 10:23

Considering I wasn’t sure if I would be able to run two days before the race, I’m satisfied with my time. There’s definitely room for improvement!

Surprise

I didn’t think he had it in him.

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I asked him to be more romantic. And he went above and beyond by surprising me with a home cooked meal.

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Butter Poached Lobster

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Pan Seared Rib-Eye with Sauteed Mushrooms and Asparagus

We finished our meal with red velvet cheesecake and coffee.

Perfect Valentine’s day. ♥

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Who remembers this Simpsons episode?? LOL

I eat: Mélisse

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Let’s go back. Way back… Ok, maybe not that far. Back to 2010 when Henry and I dined at Melisse for my 26th birthday. Even though I’m a little fuzzy on the details (I can barely remember what I did last week :P), I’ve considered Melisse one of my top ten restaurants ever since.

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Bread and Amuse Bouche

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Seard Foie Gras, Yellow and White Peach, Hibiscus-Rosemary

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Egg Caviar, Poached Egg, Lemon-Chive Crème Frâiche, American Ostetra Caviar

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Lobster Bolognese, Fresh Cappelini, Black Truffles, Basil

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Santa Barbara Spot Prawn, Cuttlefish, Sea Urchin, Nasturtium

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Sonoma Lamb and Sausage, “Ratatouille”, Red Pepper, Jus d’ Agneau

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Liberty Duck Breast and Confit Leg, Figs, Forrono Beets, Jus d’ Epice

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Millefeuille of Fruit Rouge, Vanilla Ice Cream

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Sticky Toffee Pudding, Mocha Malt Ice Cream, Red Berry-Hibiscus Consommé

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Petits Fours

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I would describe our meal as refined simplicity. Each dish showcased individual ingredients that combined beautifully. Melisse is worthy of it’s two Michelin stars.

Verdict: 4.5/5
Mélisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

I make: Roasted Chicken Breast

This recipe is one of my favorites and one that I make most often. It’s quick, easy and the chicken breasts always come out so flavorful and juicy. I’ve also used the marinade on chicken thighs and they’ve turned out just as delicious.

Adapted from The Fine Cooking, The Best of Chicken

(yields ~ 4/5 servings, 1 chicken breast each)
Ingredients:
1 pack of bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts (the ones I buy come in 5)
6 tbsp dijon mustard (I like to substitute 1 or 2 tbsp of honey truffle mustard if I have it available)
6 tbsp olive oil (I use Stonehouse Roasted Garlic Olive Oil)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
(Additional kosher salt/pepper before baking)

Directions:
1. Whisk together mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar until smooth. Marinade chicken breasts for at least 6 hours – for me, it’s usually about 8.
2. Preheat oven to 400°.
3. Bake chicken in the middle rack for 20 minutes. Baste chicken with its own juices.
4. Continue to bake for 10 minutes. Baste again.
5. Continue to bake for 10 minutes. Baste again.
6. Continue to bake for 10 minutes.

THAT’S IT!

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Bon appetit!

Smile

A rollerblading accident during the summer after 7th grade left me with two broken wrists, teeth knocked out of place and two permanent scars on my face (one below my nose and one on my chin). I spent that VERY HOT summer with a half cast on my left arm and a full cast on my right. 😥 Though my wrists eventually healed, I’ve had to deal with my snaggletooth and scars ever since. At first I was really self-conscious about my face and smile, but over time, I just got used to it.

I had the opportunity to get braces in high school, but I didn’t take it because I didn’t want to look like a dork. 🙄 Also, my parents would have had to pay for everything out of pocket since I didn’t have dental insurance. Increasing my parents’ financial burden was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t have insurance at the time of my accident so the bills for the ambulance, hospital room, x rays, out-patient follow ups added up to more than $6,000.

In college, getting braces was out of the question. Hello?! So not cute!

It wasn’t until I graduated and started working full time that I seriously considered getting braces. I had good insurance, had the financial means so … why not? I couldn’t come up with a good answer so in August of 2009, I made the jump.

Source: cartoonworks.com

Well folks, after 2.5 years, I’m finally braces free! I’ll have to wear retainers for the rest of my life and believe me, I will do so religiously – I’m not taking anything for granted.

I eat: Bar + Kitchen

One of the benefits of working in Aerospace is the 9/80 schedule, which many companies are on. For those of you who don’t know, 9/80 = working 9 hours M-Th and 8 hours on alternating Fridays.

Yesterday was my off Friday. Yesterday was also the last day of dineLA.

On our day off, Henry and I braced ourselves for traffic and terrible parking as we ventured into DTLA for a dineLA lunch at Bar + Kitchen. I decided on lunch as opposed to dinner because I was more intrigued by the items on the lunch menu.

Bar + Kitchen is located in the lobby of the O Hotel. I found it interesting that there is no distinct separation between the lobby and the restaurant. The first level of the O Hotel truly epitomizes the open floor plan concept. Tables with half booth seating run along the side of the wall with the exception of a communal table (or table for a large party) situated behind the hotel’s front window.

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In addition to the dineLA menu, we also ordered mussels off of the regular Winter menu.

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PEI mussels fennel, saffron, tarragon aioli, grilled bread $9

The mussels were tender and I loved the spicy kick of the broth. Grilled bread with mussels is a must!!

Appetizers

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Crispy pork belly, pickled sunchokes, plum puree

Perfect execution! The pork belly was indeed crispy on the outside, but tender with the right amount of fattiness on the inside. I liked the play on sweet and sour from the plum puree and pickled sunchokes.

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Butternut squash & ginger soup, créme fraiche, spiced pepitas

Very comforting. Incorporating ginger into butternut squash soup never crossed my mind, but it really works! The ginger breaks up the sweetness of the butternut squash and adds depth of flavor. The spiced pepitas were a nice touch, providing a contrast in texture.

Entrées

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Shrimp & grits, spanish chorizo ragout

This was the dish I was most excited about, but it disappointed me. The ragout was so so so salty, even when mixed with the grits! If not for a heavy hand with the salt, this dish would have been great. At least they didn’t skimp on the shrimp (5).

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Mustard glazed kurobuta pork loin, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts

The pork loin was tender and the mustard glaze gave it amazing flavor. Note to self: must try to recreate this at home!

Desserts

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Warm chocolate & peanut butter cake, banana ice cream, peanut brittle

There wasn’t anything wrong with this dessert; it was just very ordinary.

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Butterscotch pot de créme, whipped cream, shortbread cookies

I preferred this over the chocolate/peanut butter cake because it light. My only complaint would be that the consistency of the custard was a little thicker than what I’m used to.

Given the short time frame of dineLA, my goal was to try two new restaurants.
Waterloo & City ✓
Bar + Kitchen ✓
Done! I’m very happy with my choices this time around. Best dineLA run so far!

Verdict: 3.5/5
Bar + Kitchen
O Hotel
819 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90017