Sunday, July 18, 2010

Zucchini Bread

I love zucchini in general and zucchini bread is like the icing on a cake. I got this zucchini bread recipe from my co-worker. The first time I had her zucchini bread was at one of our office potlucks several years ago. I think it was the best zucchini bread I ever ate. I was so happy she shared the recipe with me. Now I don't have to wait for the next potluck to take a bite of this scrumptious treat!

Recipe Courtesy of Karri Smith

Makes 2 loaves


Mix 1

3 C. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
2-3 T. cinnamon

Mix 2
2 ¼ C. sugar
3 eggs
3 t. vanilla
1 C. vegetable oil (I’ve used 2/3 cup oil and the bread is still moist!)

Cooking instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Once Mix 2 is combined, stir in 2 to 3 cups of grated zucchini.

3. Add and combine half of Mix 1 at a time to Mix 2. Pour batter into 2 loaf pans (I used 1 bundt pan).

4. Bake for 60 minutes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese literally means "Salad, Capri style." This simple Italian salad only has 3 main ingredients: sliced tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. Just layer them around a platter and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar (if you like), salt and black pepper.

I wanted to have a little fun so I decided to make the salad into bite size pieces. I used grape tomatoes and small mozzarella balls (you can find them in a small container). I cut the tomatoes in half, rolled the basil leaves, then skewer them with a toothpick. They make adorable and colorful appetizers.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Creamy Tomato-Basil Sauce

Today, I'm proud to announce that made pasta sauce from scratch for the very first time. I've heard many people say it's so easy but somehow I've been intimidated by it. I went to the market to pick up a bottle of pasta cause and a Creamy Tomato-Basil sauce caught my eye. Then I got the urge to try to make it myself. So, I read the ingredients on the bottle. Hmmm...the basic ingredients seem simple enough, it's just going to be a matter of figuring out how much of each ingredient to get. What really opened my eyes while reading the ingredients was that there are so many unnecessary additives and preservatives in the sauce you buy at the store.

So I got really excited about making it myself. I put the bottle back on the shelf and picked up fresh ingredients to make my very own Creamy Tomato-Basil Sauce. Oh my goshhh....I can't believe I waited this long to try it!! I'm going to become one of those people who will say "it's so easy!" :) I cant' wait to try making other sauces.

The sauce came out delicious. I can really taste the freshness of the tomatoes and basil that I can't get from sauce that come in a bottle. I served the sauce with Linguini and Pan Fried Fish Fillet. Next time I'm going to try it with seared scallops...yummm!

Makes about 5 cups


10 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, diced
6 garlic cloves
10-12 fresh basil leaves
1 t. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 C. heavy cream
3 oz. aged Asiago cheese
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. butter
Crushed red pepper (optional)
Pasta of your choice, cooked according to box instruction

Cooking instruction:

1. Heat oil in a large pan. Add onions and garlic and sautee for 3-4 minutes until onions turn opaque.

2. Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 8 minutes. Turn off heat.

3. Stir in butter until melted.

4. Transfer tomato sauce into a blender or large food processor. Add heavy cream and cheese, and blend for 15-30 seconds.

5. Pour back into pan and cook until just bubbling, then turn off heat.

6. Serve hot with pasta. Add crushed red pepper, if desired.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Zuppa Toscana

Zuppa Toscana is one of the soup offerings at the Olive Garden chain restaurants and it's my favorite! It's a creamy soup with Italian sausage, potatoes, and kale. I rarely eat at the Olive Garden but once in a while I would crave a bowl of Zuppa Toscana.

I searched online for the recipe and apparently there are quite a few people out there who also love this soup. The recipe I used is adapted from Tuscan Recipes website. The site states that someone who used to work at the Olive Garden gave them the original recipe and it's been adapted to serve 6-8 people. I couldn't resist...I had to try it and I'm glad I did! It's very close to the original. If you're a fan of Zuppa Toscana, the next time you crave it, try this recipe and enjoy a hearty bowl in the comfort of your home.

Makes 6-8 servings


1 lb. hot Italian sausage (ground)
1/2 t. crushed red peppers (more if you like spicy)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C. bacon, diced
4 red potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
10 C. water
5 bouillon cubes
1 C. heavy cream
4 Kale leaves, chopped

Cooking instruction:

1. Saute sausage and crushed red pepper. Drain fat and set aside.

2. Saute bacon until crispy, set aside. In the same pot, saute onions and garlic on medium heat until soft, about 10-15 minutes.

3. Add in water, bouillon cubes, and bring to a boil.

4. Drop in potatoes and cook until soft, about 20-30 minutes.

5. Add heavy cream and stir. Then add kale leaves, sausages, and bring to a boil.

6. Serve hot and top with the crispy bacon pieces and more crushed red pepper, if desired.

Spicy Braised Kale (Padang Style)

There is a traditional Indonesian side dish from the city of Padang called Sayur Daun Singkong (Braised Cassava Leaves). Since cassava leaves are hard to find where I live, I found that Kale is a great substitute for this dish. Collard greens is another option to use although so far I've only made this dish using Kale.

My family can't get enough of this so I usually make a large batch at one time. But food containing coconut milk won't keep for too long in the refrigerator so what I do is take enough for us to eat for about 1-2 days then divide the rest into several containers to keep in the freezer for later on in the week...or even the following week.

Makes 8-10 Servings


4 bunches Kale
5 shallots
3 cloves garlic
3 red chili
5 Thai chili (or more)
5 candlenuts (kemiri)
1 medium tomato
1 t. minced ginger
1/2 inch galangal root
1 T. salt
1 T. turmeric
1/2 T. ground coriander
2 T. oil
2 cans coconut milk
4 C. water
4 bay leaves

Cooking instruction:

1. Remove stems from Kale. Cut leaves into 1" pieces. Set aside.

2. In a food processor, puree the next 11 ingredients.

3. Heat oil in a large and deep pan. Pour in the spice puree and stir for about 2 minutes.

4. Add coconut milk, water, bay leaves, then bring to a boil.

5. Slowly add in Kale and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve with hot jasmine rice and/or meat accompaniment (like Pan Fried Fish Fillet or Beef Rendang).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pan Fried Fish Fillet

A while back I was at the market and saw Swai fish fillets on sale. I don't think I ever remembered seeing Swai fish before but decided to buy them anyway to try. Once I got home, I "googled" Swai and found out that it's a river catfish farmed exclusively in Southeast Asia. The ones I bought stated it's farm-raised in Vietnam. They look similar to catfish or tilapia.

I was kind of bored with just seasoning with salt and pepper when pan frying fish so I experimented on something new. It turned out to be the easiest seasoning ever and works really well with white fish. You still get the natural sweetness from the fish with added burst of flavor! This is probably how I'll cook white fish for the rest of my life! :)

And what's great is that this seasoning makes the fish quite versatile. I've eaten it "American" style with potatoes and vegetables, "Italian" style with pasta, and "Indonesian" style with Spicy Braised Kale....the possibilities are endless!


White Fish Fillets (like Swai, Cod, Tilapia, Halibut, etc.)
Garlic Salt
Mrs. Dash (Original Blend)

Cooking instruction:

1. Make sure fish is fully thawed and pat dry.

2. Lightly sprinkle with garlic salt. Then sprinkle Mrs. Dash more generously. Turn and season the other side.

3. Heat skillet on high. Drizzle about 2 T. oil.

4. Place 1-2 fillet at a time and cook for about 2.5 minutes on each side.
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