Basil Beef w/Sweet Potatoes

Alrighty...this is actually a misnomer...since I used a ground beef/turkey combo. Anyhoo...this is one of Sean's favorites in a long line of favorites. It's fairly simple to throw together and a complete meal served with (brown) rice. This was also the first time I used sweet potatoes. Normally, I use Japanese eggplants. It's my pseudo-Thai dish and it's supposed to be more on the sweet/savory side than purely savory.

The following is the ground beef(meat) version...you can also do it with thinly sliced beef.

Tan's Basil Beef

Ground beef & turkey (equal portions...roughly 1lb. of each)

Onion, diced

Red Pepper, sliced or diced

Carrots (not pictured), julienned, sliced, or diced

Sweet Potato (or Japanese Eggplant), small cubes

Garlic, smashed and minced

Ginger, minced (1 t.) or smashed large pieces (1 in. piece)

¼ cup Scallions, cut into 3 in. pieces (not pictured)

1 t. Sesame Oil

¾ t. Soy Sauce

1 t. Fish Sauce

3 T. Kecap Manis

⅓-¾ cup Basil, chiffonade

Olive Oil (or lighter oil if preferred)

Salt & Pepper

Microwave sweet potatoes until al dente. You want them nearly cooked through but not so cooked that they become mushy. Set aside.

Heat oil up in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Sauté onion, ginger, scallions, red pepper, carrots, & sweet potatoes until vegetables are soft but not mushy. Lightly season (as the soy sauce & kecap manis will add plenty of sodium later on) and add 1 t. garlic. Sauté for an additional 30 seconds. Remove from skillet/wok and set aside.

Add more oil to skillet/wok over high heat. Add ground beef & turkey, season, and brown. Drain any accumulated fat, if any (I use the leanest cuts so I don’t have extra fat that gets rendered). Add sesame oil, soy sauce, and kecap manis. Add 2 t. garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds.

Add vegetable mix. Add ½ of the basil. Let everything get happy for about 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning. At this point, the only additional seasoning you’ll want to add is the kecap manis since this dish is more on the sweet/savory side. Turn off heat and add remaining basil...adding more for a more pronounced basil flavor.

Serve on top of rice...with additional basil, if you dare.




I'm revisiting my old chili recipe...which is uber-healthy and totally satisfying. BUT...I've upped the ante and increased it's one-pot proteiny, legumey, veggie goodness and added...wait for it...


We love quinoa in this house. I've yet to post my quinoa salad recipe...but we absolutely *heart* this little powerhouse which the Incan's referred to as "the mother of all grains". Basically, this little bad boy's nutritional makeup makes it a complete protein. Once referred to as a grain...it counts spinach & swiss chard as it's cousins.

Anyhoo...try it, love it, eat it!

Tan's Chili Con Carne

Ground turkey/beef
Large Onion, chopped
6-7 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 T. Cumin
1 T. Chili Powder
2 t. Oregano

2 t. Adobo seasoning
1 t. Garlic Powder

1-2 bay leaves
1-2 Large can(s) diced tomatoes
Beer, 12oz. bottle
Small can of tomato sauce
Canned beans…however many you want (I typically add 4-6): kidney, black, pinto, etc.

1-2 cups Quinoa
1 bag Frozen Corn
Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Brown the turkey/beef in a few teaspoons of olive oil. Season w/salt & pepper. When thoroughly cooked, add onions. Allow to cook for several minutes. Add garlic and spices. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add beans. Cook for a minute.

Add entire contents of canned tomatoes, beer, & tomato sauce. Add water to canned tomatoes & tomato sauce…swish and add to pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes...or longer if you have the time. Add quinoa and simmer for another 30 minutes. 10 minutes prior to serving, add corn.

Serve w/plain Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt that’s been strained), chopped green onions, lowfat cheese, chopped jalapeno peppers, etc.



Grilled chicken breast with chimichurri, garlicky brussel sprouts, lime-cilantro rice, & cauliflower soup...mmmmmm.


Hot Dog Octopi...oops Octopuses

Skimming through my photos reminds me of something...I'm soooooooo behind on posting. So, at least I can try to pull some of these photos out and start blogging. This is something so simple & fun...I can't even remember where I saw/read the idea. It's for Hot Dog Octopuses. Easy, breezy, & oh-so-fun...;o)

Basically...just take a hot dog & cut the bottom 2/3 into sixths (which technically would be a hexapus...or hexapod...anyhoooo..) or eighths. Grill 'em, fry 'em, or *gasp* boil 'em up and watch the fun begin. You could kick it up a notch and put eyes on 'em to complete the fun!


Kale Chips

We've become obsessed enamored with a healthier alternative to potato chips in our household. Even my 4YO son who has a total aversion to anything green or has color...with the exception of spinach pesto....is the BIGGEST fan of these chips. I get so many smiles and chuckles when we're at the commissary (military grocery store) and he's yelling "KALE CHIPS!! CAN I HAVE KALE CHIPS, PLEASE?!?!?!"

So, I had read about this a loooooonnnnng time ago on Kath Eats Real Food. It's super easy to make and just incredibly yummy. This is the original recipe.

We actually just keep it nice and simple...extra virgin olive oil an kosher salt. It's so good and strangely addictive. Try it...Mikey Jaron likes it.


Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

YES! I did it! My first cookie that's not flat! Not only was it not flat, but it was puffy! Shoot...I'll just take anything that wasn't flat. Oops...maybe not my first. Starbucks recipe for its Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie was another success. But, I don't think I even took photos of that one. Hmmmm...have to check on that.

Anyhoo...I stumbled on this cookie recipe on one of the blogs I read when I get the time...My Baking Addiction. Besides having me at the words "oatmeal" and "peanut butter chip"...she also had me at "all butter"...no shortening needed to make this cookie un-flat! SCORE!

I doubled the recipe making enough for my fam to hork it down, share some with the neighbors, and send a gallon-sized bag with the hubby to share with the officers on the sub. Yea-uh!

So...make it, love it, and enjoy!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from My Baking Addiction adapted from allrecipes
makes: about 18 cookies

½ cup butter
½ cup white sugar
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup rolled oats
1 cup mixed peanut butter and chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Drop by tablespoonfuls (I used a medium cookie scoop) on to lightly greased cookie sheets (I used Silpats).

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges start to brown.

Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.


Kai Bear's 6th Party Menu

This is what I'm planning so far for my baby girl's 6th birthday party up in DC this weekend...I like planning. ;o) Somehow, it's funny since I'm a walking oxymoron...I'm also a huge procrastinator. Hahahaha.

Anyhoo...here it is:

*Warmed Brie with Apricot Preserves
*Barefoot Contessa Onion Dip
*crudite, crackers, chips, and Veggie Straws

*Salad (tomato, avocado, red onion, & baby spinach w/tomato dressing)
*Lime-Cilantro rice (white basmati rice)
*Latino-style black beans
*Mild Beef *Spicy Beef *Beans
*Lettuce *Tomatoes *Cheese *Green Onions *Olives
*All of the following in squirt bottles: sour cream/yogurt, aji, taco sauce/salsa, & gauc/avo crema

*Moist golden cake with Strawberry Buttercream
*Chocolate cake w/Vanilla Buttercream (or Choc. Ganache)
*Oreo mini cheesecakes
*Mint-filled Brownie Cupcakes
*Dirt "Cake"

*Choc. cupcake pops
*Kiddie goody bags


Soy Sauce Chicken

From Tanya Eats

Soy sauce chicken. Its name denotes this is a simple meal that is anything but simple...well, except in preparation. Its simplicity in preparation is ridiculous and its intricate flavors are equally ridiculous. And that, my friends, is fabulous! Soy sauce chicken is Cantonese in origins...see yu gai is what our family calls it...my father's side, so in Toishan (Toy-san) you'd say see yu gai. You have now learned almost half of my Chinese vocabulary.

See the lovely star anise above? Well, if you haven't used or tried it before, go out and get yourself some! You can get a good-sized bag of these puppies pretty cheap at your local Asian/International market. They're sweet licorice-ish flavor is an integral part of this dish. You cannot...CANNOT make it without. Well, at least my version.

From Tanya Eats

Another fun ingredient our family uses...rock sugar. See the boulders sticking out in the soy sauce soupy goodness? You need them. I guess you could use brown sugar, but I was raised using these bad boys and will stick to them. Plus, I just remember my paternal grandma giving my sister and I little pieces of these to eat when we were kids. I've continued that tradition with my little rugrats.

Alrighty, enough babbling...

Soy Sauce Chicken (Li-Lee style)

  • 1bunch of Spring Onions, cut into 3-4 inch pieces
  • Ginger (a good 3-inch piece or so), sliced and smashed
  • Star Anise, anywhere from 3-4 pieces (like my mama) or a good handful (like me)
  • Rock Sugar, 1 box (typically 14.1 oz.)
  • Soy Sauce, 1.5 cups or more (I usually do enough to submerge the chicken, but you could do more or less. If doing less, flip chicken over during braising process)
  • 2 T. Oil
  • Chicken pieces
  • Sherry, optional
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To start, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil up in a stockpot. Throw in spring onions and ginger. Allow to get fragrant and watch to make sure they don't burn. Pour in soy sauce, proceeding with caution since you are adding a liquid to hot oil. Add the star anise and rock sugar. Let simmer for 10 minutes or so while you prep the chicken. Make sure all that good rock sugary goodness is dissolved too.

At this point, trim away excess fat from the chicken. I'm not sure if I'd recommend removing the skin since the meat might get too salty. But, definitely trim away any excess fat since that all melts into the pot and makes for one greasy soupy mess. My maternal grandfather (who just celebrated his 99th birthday and who studied with chefs in Hong Kong) likes to rub the chicken with sherry first to enhance the brown color the chicken gets in this dish. I do it when I remember. The final photo is reflective of chicken not rub in sherry....since I didn't remember about the sherry-rubbing until I started writing this. I definitely do it when I remember...'cause my grandpa did it.

Throw the chicken into the pool of wonderful sweet savory soy saucy goodness. Season with some fresh ground pepper.

From Tanya Eats

Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Serve with rice and veggies and you've made an authentic Chinese (Cantonese, if you need the specific region) dish!


From Tanya Eats


Edamame Hummus

Did I make it? You bet I did! With an hour to spare before pushing, my hubby dropped me off at the hospital and took the kiddies home to grandma (who was already at the hospital). Our baby came in an hour and a half later and we couldn't be more thrilled!!! She is GORGEOUS and a GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD baby!!! We're missing her already.

Anyhoo...Jaron and I went to TJ's today, only to find they didn't have Sean's uber-fave edamame hummus (introduced to us by our lovely Kim). So, in honor of my awesome hubby who got off the sub and drove us up to DC in the nick of time...homemade edamame hummus. Which, I dare say, might be better than TJs and definitely healthier!

Tan's Edamame Hummus
1 cup shelled edamame (I used TJ's shelled edamame which yields an oz. more than a cup)
1/2 cup silken tofu
1/4 cup lemon juice, plus more for taste
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more till desired consistency
Salt, to taste
Optional ingredients: cumin, cilantro, parsley, white pepper, curry powder, roasted red pepper, basil, etc.

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor except salt (I used a Vita-mix). Taste and add salt to desired taste. Add more lemon juice or olive oil, if needed.

Serve with crudite, pita crackers, or whatever...but ENJOY!!!


Taco Lasagna

Tacos were always a family favorite of our's growing up. However, prepping for tacos takes some time and that's something I don't always have. So, last night I threw together my quick version of a non-taco-taco....and came up with my taco lasagna. Obviously, it's not a new dish...I first tasted it when we babysat some kids waaaay back when. This was just a easy, fun, & tasty way to have our tacos & put some veggies in our kids.

Even though I'm all about things from scratch...when it comes to taco seasoning, I ALWAYS use El Paso Taco Seasoning...it's just that good.

Besides this being an uber-easy meal to throw together, I had the pleasure of looking out my kitchen window and seeing these in my backyard:

Tan's Taco Lasagna
Ground meat (I use a combo of turkey & lean beef)
1 medium or large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped (more or less depending on your garlic preference)
2 cans of beans, your preference (I used black & dk. red kidneys), drained and rinse
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1-1½ cups frozen corn
1 packet taco seasoning, preferably El Paso
1 T. Adobo seasoning
1 can green chiles
1 can sliced black olives

Green Onions, chopped
Corn tortillas
Shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar & Sargento's reduced fat Mexican cheese blend)
Olive oil

Toppings: Pico de gallo, sour cream (or if you're in our house, plain yogurt), green onions, chopped jalapeno peppers, chopped cilantro, Tabasco sauce, etc.
*note: I didn't use these ingredients, but they would be mighty tasty in the dish

1. Brown the meat in a large pan (if using a nonstick pan, use a bit of olive oil) & season with pepper (not salt since the taco & adobo seasonings are salty enough). When meat is almost completely brown, add about 1 T. of olive oil and onions. Saute until onions are translucent. Add adobo seasoning & garlic. Add packet of taco seasoning and water (the amount called for on the packet). Throw in beans. Let cook until liquid has reduced. Add tomatoes (and chiles and olives if using) and cook until liquid has pretty much cooked away. Turn off heat and throw in corn.

2. Preheat over to 350°F.

3. In a baking dish (I used glass), grease the bottom of the dish with olive oil. Layer the bottom of the dish with a single layer of corn tortillas. Add meat mixture and top with a light layer of cheese (or more if desired). Add tortillas. Repeat until meat mixture is finished. Top with another layer of tortillas and a thicker layer of cheese.

4. Tent with foil by folding a piece of foil in half, then opening it up and placing it over the dish...thereby having the foil not touch any part of the lasagna but still is protecting the cheese from burning during the cooking process.

5. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Remove foil and add chopped scallions and bake for another 10 minutes or place under broiler until cheese is nice and bubbly.

6. Serve with assorted toppings or eat it plain...and ENJOY!!


Helloooooooooo Nurse...Snickerdoodle Muffins!!!

While checking out the newest posts on my fave food blogs, Em (aka The Repressed Pastry Chef) had posted about these snickerdoodle muffins. She pretty much had me at "snickerdoodle". The original recipe is from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. How can you resist the cinnamony goodness of snickerdoodles...let alone in cake form???

I tried it and our family fell in L-O-V-E...or "lurve" if you're Celine Dion. I kicked up the cinnamon & vanilla (of course). I only added cinnamon to the batter on the second try since initially I wanted to see how it would taste with no cinnamon in the batter...which was tough for me since we're cinnamonaholics. Definitely delish with or without cinnamon in the batter. The original recipe was very buttery and crazy moist. I wanted to try to trim down the butter and cut out half a stick on the second try. It still was very moist, but did not stay as moist as long as the original recipe's results had. I also didn't have sour cream and used yogurt. So, below is, I guess, my lower-fat/cal recipe for these delicious & addictive muffins. Try the original or mine...either way...TRY IT!!

Anyhoo...thank you Em for posting this recipe...my own muffin top thanks you...it's back to elasticized pants for me.

Snickerdoodle Muffins

1½ sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 T. vanilla
2 eggs
¾ t. baking soda
¾ t. baking powder
¾ t. cream of tarter
¾ t. freshly grated nutmeg
½ t. cinnamon
1 and ¼ cup plain yogurt
2 and ¼ cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar and 3 TBSP cinnamon mixed together for rolling

1.Cream the butter and sugar until soft about 3 to 5 minutes. Add in the vanilla. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until each is incorporated.
2.In a separate, mix together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and cream of tarter.

3.Add the flour mixture and the yogurt alternately to the egg-butter mixture in the additions. Start with the flour and end with the flour (ie. flour, mix, yogurt, mix, flour, mix). Scrape the bowl occasionally.

4. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out muffin batter one at a time and drop into a shallow bowl filled with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the muffin around in the mixture until it is covered completely in cinnamon sugar. Place muffin into a greased muffin tin.. Depending on the size of your tins, you should get about 12 to 18 muffins.

Bake them for approx. 20-22 minutes in a 350°F oven or until they are golden brown.


Tanya's Garlic Tomato Herbed Pasta & Lemon Garlic Herbed Chicken

I started cooking at a young age. My parents motto was that we'd learn how to cook by helping them out. Being cynical, even at a young age, I thought it was just a ploy for them to employ free child labor. JK. Kinda. ;o) BUT, of course, they were right. I learned how to cook from my parents and grandparents and anyone else we helped out in the kitchen.

In high school, I came up with this pasta dish. The original recipe was all butter (mainly because Mom didn't buy olive oil at that point)...and now has morphed into a more health-conscious dish that is all olive oil. In between the metamorphosis, I started using half butter/half olive oil. But, alas, heart healthy extra virgin olive oil is all I use now...which incidentally, helps your body absorb the lycopene from the tomatoes. Scizzore!

The chicken recipe I got is inspired by *gasp* Rachel Ray! This recipe is great since you can vary which flavors you'd like to have for that meal. My constant is the garlic & lemon...of course. BUT, I'll use capers or rosemary for the variants. Any herbs would be yummy with this recipe. I dredge the chicken, giving the final product a nice sauce to use. Use more wine for more sauce.

The best thing about both...SUPER SIMPLE and quick!!! Plus, you can serve both of these dishes together. If not and for some odd reason you have leftovers of the chicken, you can combine the leftovers with plain pasta to create this:

From Tanya Eats

Tan's Garlic Tomato Herbed Pasta
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
Herbs of choice (Italian, Herbs de Provence, Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, etc.)
~2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
White wine (optional)
Lemon (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
Pasta of choice (long pastas work better...I used Barilla Plus pasta for it's yumminess & healthfulness)

Boil salted water for pasta. Unless you're not good at multitasking, then this can wait till after the sauce is simmering.

In a large pan, heat oil, garlic, & herbs over medium heat. Heat until garlic is heated through, but not brown (brown garlic = icky). Turn heat up to high and add tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat. Allow to simmer until the tomatoes have disintegrated slightly. Season with salt & pepper. You may want to thin out sauce with white wine OR wait until combined with pasta and add pasta water to desire consistency.

Before tossing with pasta, add a healthy squeeze of lemon, if desired. Slicing lemons and adding to sauce work beautifully as well. Add drained pasta and toss.

Tan's Lemon Garlic Herbed Chicken

Chicken Breasts (I use boneless, skinless)
6-10 cloves garlic, smashed
1 lemon, sliced
3/4 cup white wine (or more if more sauce is desired)
Flour, for dredging
Salt & pepper
McCormick Montreal Chicken Grill Seasoning (optional...I often forget to use it)
Herbs of choice (fresh or dried)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season chicken breasts with salt & pepper. If using grill seasoning, tone down salt usage as the grill seasoning is salty. Dredge in flour and set aside.

Heat oil up on high in oven-safe frying pan. Add chicken breasts and allow to brown on each side. Add garlic & herbs. Add lemon slices, giving a few a good queeze before adding to pan. Place pan in oven.

Bake about 5 minutes. Add white wine and cook an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Spoon sauce over breasts before serving.

Serve over rice or pasta and ENJOY!


Coconutty Celebration

Mama Lee's birthday was last month and we went up to DC to celebrate her hot cougarness. I got hit by this wallop of a cold...definitely the worst one this year but not as bad as last year's flu. I also shared the love with my sister. What makes that even better is that the poor thing is 8 months preggers. I'm the world's best sister....ever.

Anyhoo...I had seen this cake on Bobby Flay's "Throwdown" show last summer and it screamed "MAMA LEE". My mom loves, loves, LOVES coconut cake!!! I totally wanted to make it for her and was really looking forward to making it...until I got hit with this cold. It was bad news bears after that.

Still...my mom only has one birthday a year...well, actually, girlfriend has TWO birthdays a year...thanks to my granddaddy not reporting her birth until the day after (I'm not sure how birth recordings work in Honduras, but my mom's legal birthday is the day AFTER her actual birth date). So, I was praying that even though I couldn't make most of it down here before heading up to DC, I still could work on it when I got there.

I was still sick...really sick. Besides the boo hoo hoo for me, I was more concern about baking a petri dish full of my germy goodness for the family and infecting them all. Luckily, I was washing and sanitizing myself all throughout and I think Kim got sick after one of the kids kissed me on the lips and then kissed her on the lips. SORRY SISTEE!!!

Anyhoo...the cake turned out fabulous despite me being out of my element. The custard could've been better...but that was my fault...hooray for tiny baby clumps! Not! I switched it up and did two layers of the coconut cream and one layer of the custard. I also did a lightly sweetened whipped cream for the frosting instead of the buttercream. My mom prefers whipped cream frostings and I knew the cake was already going to be too sweet with the buttercream.

The final product...delicate, not cavity-inducing, coconutty goodness. I'm relieved to find out my cake-making skills are getting better. Baking is so much harder than cooking...but the end results are worth it!

Click here for Bobby Flay's Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Filling and Coconut Buttercream.

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

From The Lee-Espiritu Fam


Pseudo Cuban Samiches

I hate leftovers. Well, hate is a strong word and it's kind of a lie because there are some leftovers I don't mind eating. OK, so that totally just blew up my initial sentence.

Anyhoo...I do like remaking leftovers that I'm tired of since I get bored easily. I get bored of lots of things easily...like when I talk. That's probably why I have such violent subject changes.

I digress. Big surprise.

After going to our friend's wetting down (he too became a Lieutenant Commander/O-4 in the Navy like my hubby) recently. His wife made Kalua pork. I had never had it, but LOVED it! So simple and yet, so good.

I recreated it and made it supposedly the authentic way with shredded cabbage. Unfortunately, I also used a lean cut of pork since I didn't want all the fat of a pork butt. For Jaron's party...I'll be using the butt (aka the shoulder of the piggy). It turned out well still...but not as tender. I wasn't surprised and still trying to think which was more important for my fam...healthy or a little less delicious. The former won.

Did I mention how ridiculously easy it was to make??? Take the pork, rub it with sea salt (I used Kosher), pour a bottle of liquid smoke on it, and set it & forget it in a slow-cooker. Yeaaaaaaaah. Shred that bad boy up, add shredded cabbage (if you like), and cook it until the cabbage is tender.

Anyhoo...Kaia and I love Cuban sandwiches. I grew up eating them & media noches whenever we'd visit my mom's fam in Miami. I just introduced the kids to them last year before we left FL. Jaron, not being a big fan of sandwiches then, thought it was just aight. Kaia totally *hearted* them.

So, with 1.5 hours to go before party time and my still needing to buy the birthday boy a present and make myself look semi-presentable...I went into overdrive. I did not make these sandwiches authentic, but aimed for getting the taste as close as possible. A real, delicious Cuban sandwich starts with possibly THE most important ingredient....Cuban bread. Mmmmmmmmmm. You have to try this bread. It is just some yummy goodness. There is the requisite roast pork, ham, pickles, swiss cheese, and mustard. Most of the Cubans I've had have been buttered on the outside and pressed hot...like a grilled cheese. I really hate to make any ethnic food unless I've tried the real thing and get a good idea of the right spices, cooking technique, etc. Still, I was hankering for a Cuban and figured the leftover Kalua pork would make a pretty close version of the sandwich.

I made my pseudo-not-authentic-but-close-to-the-taste Cuban with sliced La Brea wheat bread, buttered on the outside (with Smart Balance), a shmear of yellow mustard, slice of Swiss cheese, and the leftover shredded Kalua pork...we left out the pickles because we didn't have any and the kids don't like 'em.

Grill to perfection and enjoy...'cause we did!

We served it with my grandfather's cabbage salad. Mmmmmmmmmm.


Beta-Carotene Goodness

Did you know that carrots are one of those veggies that have more nutritional bang for their buck when cooked? So, with that logic, here's something that is not only delicious, but NUTRITIOUS.

Yeah, it's a stretch, but a gooooooood one! ;o)

The Hubs loves himself some carrot cake. I first tried this bad boy when Sean's first CO (commanding officer) on his first sub was leaving and they were welcoming the new CO...this ceremony is called a Exchange of Command. Anyhoo...one of the other officer's wives had made this fabulous carrot cake. FAB-U-LOUS. So fabulous that I made my fiance hunt this man down to get his wife to fork over her recipe. I'm so glad I did because I haven't used any other carrot cake recipe since then. I've tweaked it to my liking.

I made the one above for the wardroom (basically the group of officers on the submarine) Super Bowl party this year. Unfortunately, I don't know how memorable that cake was since basically everyone at the party came down with a stomach virus (incl. our fam) that incapacitated almost the entire wardroom. Yeah, needless to say, there were barely any officers around that week on the sub...save for the guys who weren't at the party and my hubby who managed to barely escape the plague that got us. I. Hate. Nausea. And. Vomiting. I will birth a child, tear a ligament, break a bone any day...but Lord do not make me queasy!!

Anyhoo...with that said. I love, love, love spices. So, I make this cake extra spicelicious. The cream cheese frosting tempers it quite nicely. But, if you don't like too much spice, just cut back on the measurements I gave on the spices...which are approximations since I go against the baking grain and just dump the spices until I think it's good enough. Luckily, since they're spices, my lack-of-measurement for them is technically not wrong since it won't affect any chemical reactions in it.

This bad boy is just some yummy, moist, spicey, carroty goodness.

Carrot Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 t. baking soda
1.5 T. cinnamon (I won't lie, I probably use about 2 T. or more)
1 - 1.5 t. ginger
1/2 - 3/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 t. salt
1 cup oil
4 eggs
4 cups shredded carrots (the original recipe calls for 3, I like to use 4 or more)
1 t. vanilla (again, I am guilty of using 1.5-2 t. vanilla)
8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1 cup raisins, rehydrated in rum (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together. Add the oil & eegs, one at a time. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Add carrots, pineapple, & vanilla. (This is where you would also add the nuts and/or raisins, if using.) Mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until done.

Done will be when it's no longer shiny on top, center is firm, sides are beginning to pull away, and there is just a touch of brown spots.

Let cake cool completely in pan before removing.

Frost with cream cheese frosting. Add garnishes, if desired. I added toasted coconut and toasted chopped walnuts in the photo above (since there were no walnuts in the cake).

Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 cup butter, softened (I use salted since I'm not big on way too sugary frosting/icing)
1 lb. (or less) Confectioner's sugar
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 T. vanilla (I. Love. Vanilla.)

Cream butter & cream cheese together. Add vanilla. Mix. Mix in sugar...sloooooowly, unless you like a snowy kitchen. I find working in it in 3-4 portions helps!

**Some healthy substitutions would be: whole wheat flour for the flour, 1/2 cup applesauce & 1/2 oil instead of 1 cup oil (which I used Smart Balance oil), & a lower fat cream cheese in the frosting.



Strawberry Cupcakey Goodness

So, while at Costco, the cover of the Martha Stewart Living Magazine was screaming at me to pick it up...so I did. The cover was actually a heat made out of multicolored cupcakes. So cute and I had to get it since my sister loves cupcakes and her baby shower is quickly approaching.

I found THE PERFECT strawberry cupcake recipe in it. Like Ina Garten, Martha rarely fails me. Well, I've only used one other recipe from her, but it's my fail-safe go-to easy-peezy meal: Spaghetti w/Brooklyn White Clam Sauce. We've been a huge fan of that dish since she was on Food Network waaaaaaaaay back in the day!

Anyhoo, I'm more of a cook than a baker. I'm still getting the hang of things but getting better. I get a bit nervous baking cakes from scratch but almost never use a box mix...because of the dreaded trans fats! So, after delving into one of these beauties last night (minus the buttercream which I made this morning), I was pleasantly shocked and completely amazed at the fluffy moistness that was very much like a boxed cake mix cake that this cupcake had! DELICIOUS! It could've been a bit more strawberry-er and had more of a strawberry muffin-like taste. Still...paired with a good strawberry buttercream...you can't go wrong!

I've been dying for a great strawberry buttercream. The strawberry buttercream I hold on a frosting pedestal is the strawberry buttercream from
Cake Love. Apparently, Warren Brown, owner of Cake Love, tells you right how to make it here. Surprisingly, out of the gazillion kitchen gadgets & utensils I have...I do not own a candy thermometer! Jaron's birthday is coming up soon...and my little man is going to have a strawberry cake...so we'll have to try Warren's recipe for my all-time favorite strawberry buttercream then!

For this weekend's cupcakes, I took my
usual go-to buttercream recipe and played around with it to get a strawberry buttercream. This was actually possibly my third attempt and it's so cliche, but third time really was a charm!!! If I go back to this buttercream for future strawberry buttercreams, then I will change it to 2 sticks salted butter instead of just one stick salted & one unsalted. It was a tad too sweet and slightly overpowered the delicate cupcake. One plus about the buttercream this time...I found an ORGANIC SHORTENING!!! Yea-uh, Baybee!!! Anyhoo...I added strawberry extract and will NOT be doing that next time, I will add a touch of vanilla and more strawberries. I really was looking for a strong strawberry taste.

Strawberry Cupcakes
Adapted from
Martha Stewart Living
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons strawberry extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped strawberries, plus small strawberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Reduce speed to low.

Mix any remaining wet ingredients (in this case the milk & extracts are the wet ingredients) in a bowl if needed. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Add chopped strawberries into the batter. Scrape sides of bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Once cupcakes are cool, frost tops with strawberry buttercream. Frosted cupcakes will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days. Top with a strawberry just before serving.

Strawberry Buttercream Dream Icing
2 sticks salted butter, room temperature
1 cup shortening
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 - 1 cup finely minced strawberries
1-4 tablespoons very cold milk

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract and combine well. Add sugar in about 3-4 separate batches and mix thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, add about 1-2 tablespoons of milk. Mix at medium-high to high speed. Slowly add strawberries until you reach the desired consistency...adding more milk if needed.


I'm Pho-real about my addiction...

My name is Tanya and I have an addiction.

Oh pho, how I love your hot, steamy goodness! My kids adore you and our family chooses you to warm our cold, winter days. We love you pho and are just so happy you are only 15-20 minute drive away now that we live in an area with more diversity. Thank you.

But seriously, we are so loving this fabulous Vietnamese noodle soup. I had loved them from back in the day in DC and of course, in CA where there are a veritable plethora of pho shops in the Bay Area. How could you not love this beefy broth, noodle, fresh herb, meaty goodness? O
oooooooh...so good. Now, if they could tone down the MSG, we'd be allllllll good!


G-town Cupcake

A few weeks ago we managed to sneak back home to DC for a short weekend. While there, my sister and I had a "Sister Day" and went into to Georgetown specifically to get these lovely beauties that had warranted a large section of the Washington Posts' Food Section a few months back. Georgetown Cupcake (right around the corner from our parents' alma mater)...has become the "IT" place of cupcakes in DC. I do not kid you that we stood in line for a good 20 minutes or more to get inside the bakery. What you see in the photo is the Chocolate Ganache, Toasted Marshmallow, Lemon Berry, Mocha, Chocolate Vanilla, Coconut (we got a reg. coconut and a Chocolate Coconut), Chocolate Cubed, and Vanilla Squared.

My sister and I are not big chocolate people...but if we had to opt for chocolate, hers would be milk and mine would be dark. Anyhoo...the cupcakes were fabulous!! My only gripe...the frosting. Too cream-cheesy for me. I like my buttercream to taste like buttercream. However, it did pair very well the cupcakes and the texture was unbelievably light and airy...but I was just hankering for good buttercream-buttercream. BUT...the clear winner for the both of us...dun dun duuuuuuuun...THE CHOCOLATE CUBED (that's the one in the foreground with chocolate sprinkles.

The ideal pairing? Cake Love buttercream (SOOOOOOO INCREDIBLY GOOD...but the cupcakes...dry & ughhhh) and Georgetown Cupcakes' cake! I tried two popular cupcake shops in NYC...Buttercup Bake Shop and Crumbs Bakery. The former I was really unimpressed with...you can find the same taste, consistency, AND quality in the grovery store. The latter was ginormous, moist, but tasted like a box mix...the buttercream was nothing noteworthy, not bad, but not standout.

Anyhoo...that's it!



Since we are all about Change in this house...which since the last time I posted, we have CHANGED houses...;o) I decided to catch up and start providing some new posts here and there. We are really fortunate to have the family that we have since we moved right before Xmas (the 23rd to be exact), our family came down and unpacked the rest of the most important room in our home...THE KITCHEN!!! It was a fabulous early birthday gift for me and I feel a little bit more functional among the sea of boxes here!

Anyhoo...the CHANGE in this recipe is taking boring but yummy edamame and making it something totally crave-worthy! We're talking simple but easy; yummy but healthy: GARLICKY EDAMAME. My Aunt Hilda made this for us years ago and we can't go back to plain edamame.
The recipe/process is simple. Mince up some garlic...I love LOTS of it! Lightly saute in extra virgin olive oil. Boil up a bag of edamame till a tad under desired doneness (yes, I'm all abotu making up my own vocab right now). Drain and toss immediately into the garlicky oil. Season with salt to liking and enjoy the goodness that is Garlicky Edamame. Seriously, it is soooooo addictive!

I should've made some for me and my baby girl, who I kept home from school to watch the inauguration. This is one of Kaia's FAVORITE things to eat. Girl can eat a whole platter by herself! But, I didn't. Regardless, we're so proud of our country right now and excited for the CHANGE to come! GObama!