Kimchi Fried Rice

It’s Saturday. The day where I take the time to make the foods I want to eat. Today was the day for kimchi fried rice. Every Korean child grew up eating this (at least, I hope). It’s salty, it’s savory, it’s just everything you want for an easy lunch. The best part is the rice stuck to the bottom of the pan. It’s crunchy and pretty much what I look forward to the most.

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This is also a great dish to add in pretty much whatever you want. You want more onions? You got it. Want to make it super spicy? Go right ahead. But today’s twist was: BACON. I’ve seen Spam used more commonly as a meat component to this dish. But to be honest…Spam scares me. It comes in a can that I feel like could sit around for decades and never go bad. Just not my cup of tea. But! The bacon in this was perfect. It added a nice fat flavor to the tangy kimchi, which matched perfectly with the fried egg.

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If you don’t have a cast iron pan, that’s fine…but I still suggest you go buy one. They are INCREDIBLY useful for any type of cooking. It was great for this dish because (1) cast iron pans retain their heat very well compared to their counterpart standard frying pans (2) it creates the nice layer of crunchy rice stuck to the bottom of the pan. If you have a bottle of kimchi sitting around, make this for an easy lunch!

Serves 2

Time: 35 minutes (20 minutes for cooking the rice)

Ingredients:
1.5 – 2 cups of cooked rice
2 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
1/4 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup diced kimchi
1/3 cup kimchi juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon butter
plenty of olive oil (or any cooking oil)
1 fried egg
1 cast iron pan

1. Heat up your pan over medium high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil.
2. Add the bacon and onions and cook until onions are translucent.
3. Add the rice, garlic, and butter. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.
4. Add your kimchi and stir.
5. Add your kimchi juice and sesame oil. Continue to stir the rice as it binds with the ingredients for about 3 minutes.
6. Lower the heat and allow the rice on the bottom to become crunchy.
7. Serve with a fried egg. Enjoy!

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New England Clam Chowder

Or shall I say, CHOWDA? Ugh…this is one of my favorite soups. Ever. I love the combination of seafood brine-y-ness with the cream and potatoes. It’s just…delightful.

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It also reminds me of the years I lived in California. Driving down the 1, there was a place that always sold clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. Yea, I know. This is pretty prevalent in northern California. I mean, you walk around Fisherman’s Wharf and there’s at least 15 places in sight where you can get a big bowl of soup served in a huge sourdough bread bowl. But back to that place on the 1. You drive down a scenic route alongside the huge cliffs of northern California, passing restaurants intermittently. If you’ve never driven down these cliffs, do it. The first time I ever went was when I was about 8. Ever since then, I still got the chills and blissful feeling driving down the same route year after year.

But this place was the one. I have no idea what the name of the place is. Never could remember it, even after all these years. All I know is that there was a landmark I always looked for to get to this place: smokestacks. Random, yes, but accurate? Oh yes.

The soup there was just perfect. Maybe it was nostalgia over the span of years I would visit there but god, I never felt happier visiting this place knowing I was about to consume a billion calories of soup-y goodness. The sourdough bread soaked in the goodness of the soup was my favorite part.

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This soup was pretty easy to make. I would say the only “difficult” ingredient is the clams. Luckily, I have my big ol’ seafood market here where I can get any type of seafood I need so I was able to get fresh clams. But I have read recipes where people just used canned clams so if that’s all you can get, go right ahead.

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Eat with some crackers or sourdough bread and enjoy it on a lazy, chilly Sunday!

Time: 1 hour
Makes about 6 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 pound clams (I used clam strips)
1 bottle clam juice (found by the canned tuna & sardines)
1.5 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large potato, cubed (I always use red potatoes, they retain their shape perfectly)
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 bacon strips, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 bay leaves
black pepper

1. In a large pot, cook your bacon on medium high heat.
2. Once lightly cooked, add onions and celery. Cook until onions are translucent.
3. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
4. Add butter,flour, and potatoes and cook for 1 minute while stirring constantly.
5. Add clam juice and bring to a boil.
6. Add milk and cream. (You can adjust here how much milk you want. I prefer my soup to be not so thick)
7. Add bay leaves and tons of black pepper.
8. Add clams and bring to a boil.
9. Let the soup simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes, or until the soup has thickened and potatoes are cooked through.
10. Serve with ground pepper and crackers. Enjoy!

*If you prefer a thicker soup, I suggest adding double the amount of flour.

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Balsamic Tortellini Salad

I LOVE tortellini. I can just eat a bowl of it without anything on it. But one of my favorite ways is to make a salad out of it.

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The one greatest thing about cooking is that you can really just do whatever you want. What I mean by that is if you want to add some onions, you can add some onions. If you want more garlic, add some more garlic. You get what I mean by now, I assume. This is also the reason why I do not get along with baking.

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So the reason I say the things above is that you can add absolutely anything you want to this tortellini salad. Olives, carrots, cucumber, bell peppers…I could go on forever! It is totally up to your preferences. But all I can say is that the combination of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and parsley with the pasta is to die for. It’s incredibly easy and super flavorful. It’ll also stay good for several days, meaning great for quick lunches.

Time: 20 minutes

1 package tortellini (I use Buitoni brand), cooked and cooled
1/4 sweet onion, diced finely
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly diced
10-12 quartered cherry tomatoes
1 handful of Italian parsley, chopped finely
1 large piece of roasted bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
dash of salt and pepper

1. Combine all ingredients except tortellini in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
2. Add the cooked tortellini (make sure it is cooled) and mixed thoroughly.
3. Allow to chill in the refrigerator.
4. Enjoy!

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Kimchi Noodles

Oh, this has to be one of my most favorite dishes my mom used to make me. I miss her cooking dearly.

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This simple and easy-to-make dish is full of flavor. But it is not for the faint of heart. If you’re familiar with kimchi, it can be overwhelming to eat a dish that revolves completely around it. “Be adventurous,” says your inner self. It’s also a weird concept (according to my fiancé) to eat cold noodles. Is it? I think it’s ingenious. Why eat hot noodles on a hot day?

These noodles are apparently called wheat flour noodles. I’ve just always known them as the super-thin-noodles-with-the-black-band-around-them. I think in Korean they’re called “somyeon.”

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If it’s a hot summer day for you and you have plenty of kimchi on hand, you won’t be sorry making this.

Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2 people

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped kimchi
1/4 cup kimchi juice (ew?)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 sheet nori, cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon sugar
2 servings of thin Korean wheat flour noodles, boiled and chilled
1/4 cup thinly sliced cucumber

1. Combine all ingredients except nori in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
2. Place into a serving bowl and top with nori.
3. Yes, that’s really it!

I told you this dish was easy to make.

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Creamy Tomato Soup

First of all, I’m finally back in Pensacola! Boy, that was a quick and busy trip to Los Angeles for wedding planning. After not having been there for over a year, I had forgotten how….well different it was. Living in Pensacola, I’ve become accustomed to only having two or three restaurant options, fishing on hot and humid days, and sitting at home with my little family rather than going out. Oh, and having the option of sweet tea everywhere you go. The south is great. We don’t have stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or department stores like Bloomingdales. I don’t think most people would even know what I’m talking about. I’m sure a majority of people from big cities would call me crazy, but I like this simple life style.

Getting onto the plane from Dallas to Los Angeles really reminded me what I didn’t miss about that place. Overly tanned, obnoxiously and promiscuously dressed women with hair larger than life, carrying their Louis Vuitton bags that shout “This bag is expensive. Yours isn’t.” Oh, don’t forget guys wearing their flat tops with pants sagging so low, I don’t understand how they stay there in the first place. There’s just too many things. I prefer the low key life here in Pensacola. No one judges you and in turn, you don’t judge others. Showing off money just doesn’t matter.

Anyway, even though it is hotter than the Devil’s ass here, I felt like making some tomato soup. Mostly because (a) we don’t have much food and (b) why don’t you go shopping you ask? We had a weather advisory about how hot the weather is. Feels like 105 F with humidity. This means walking from my car to the store, no matter how close, means I’ll be sweating profusely.

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One of the key steps of making this soup flavorful is to caramelize the onions and tomatoes. It makes a world of difference.

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Serves: 4 people

Ingredients:
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
1 can tomato paste (6 oz.)
2 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1.5 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

1. In a saucepan, caramelize the onions and butter on low heat. Be patient with this process. You’ll want to just get it over with but I promise, allowing the onions to caramelize properly makes the soup naturally sweet. If you aren’t familiar with caramelizing, it’s basically slowly cooking the onions, while constantly stirring, until they are brown. Try tasting some of the onion when it’s at this point; it’ll surprise you how sweet it gets.

2. Add the garlic and stir. Cook for 3 minutes.

3. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste and increase the heat to medium. Mix thoroughly and constantly stir for 5 minutes. This also gets the tomato to caramelize.

4. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

5. In a food processor, carefully blend the hot mixture until smooth. You can also use an immersion blender.

6. Return the mixture to a pot and add cream. Allow to simmer for a couple minutes.

7. Enjoy with crackers or a grilled cheese sandwich!

Don’t underestimate caramelizing your ingredients when you can. It’s actually quite amazing how it changes the flavor of the final product.

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Tortellini Pasta Salad

Summer time = cold pasta salads. At least for me.

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There’s this tiny market, here in Pensacola, that has a ton of international food products. Ranging from Greek to Lebanese foods, this place is packed with mysterious items. But the best part about this place is the prepared lunch items. Homemade hummus to fresh tabouli, the store is hard to walk out of without buying a ton of food. It might also be the fact that the Greek owner is quite the salesman. I tried to go in there just to buy red curry paste, but instead I walked out with $40 worth of things. Damn it. The fact that he gives you samples of everything never helps…

Anyways, during that trip, we were talked into buying his tortellini salad. It was filled with flavors, mixed with ingredients like olives, parsley, and green onions. And of course, the best part, tortellini.

Well, lo and behold, we devoured this pasta salad within two days. $11 worth of pasta = GONE. Pricey, I know. So, guess what? I decided to make my own.

This pasta is great for lunch, since it stays good for at least a couple days. It’s also great to bring to any picnics or barbecues!

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Serves: 2-4 people
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups tortellini, uncooked
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup roughly chopped green olives (I used thrown spanish olives stuffed with pimentos)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped (I only put this in for flavor, not to actually eat the chunks)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano (if you have fresh, even better)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1. Cook your tortellini al dente
2. In a big bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
3. Once the tortellini has cooked, make sure to allow it to cool.
4. Add tortellini to the oil/olive/parsley/etc mixture and mix.
5. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate.
6. Enjoy with fresh bread!

Extras:
1. If I had fresh feta cheese, I would have definitely added it. So you should too.
2. The more chilled, the better it tastes. It allows the flavors to really bind together.
3. Use any olives you like, I preferred the saltier kind for this salad.
4. Add sliced salami.
5. This salad and it’s “sauce” is an amazing dipping sauce for fresh bread.

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Balsamic Peach Chicken “Semi-pressed” Sandwich

What? I don’t know. Hold on, let me explain.

I have an abundance of peaches. Remember when I made peach pie? Well silly little me thought I needed several, several peaches for a tiny pie so of course, I had leftover peaches. So I thought…what goes well with peaches besides baked goods?

Oh I know, balsamic vinegar! But not just balsamic vinegar. I’m talking about the reduced kind. No, not reduced in fat; a balsamic reduction. I love making this reduction, especially with garlic in it. Reduction takes the pungent vinegar and changes it to a syrupy, sweet, and flavorful sauce. It’s great to make ahead of time to be used to salads, sandwiches, drizzled on pizzas (my absolute favorite), and even tossed with pasta.

But making it…jesus, does it stink up the entire house. Nose burning, eyes starting to squint, vent over the stove on full blast, it’s not a pretty sight. But it’s worth it, because in the end, you’re left with a dark and mysterious liquid.

So we decided to head to the beach today and I automatically knew I had to make sandwiches for us. But no! I do a mental scan of the refrigerator. We don’t have cold cuts. We don’t have tuna. We have nothing. But not really. I quickly thought to myself: chicken + mozzarella + balsamic + basil = yes? Yes, indeed. Except, as I was preparing my balsamic reduction, I glanced at this giant, beautiful but ripening too quick peach. We had a moment.

So I thought…caramelized peaches on this sandwich would probably be amazing. And amazing it was.

Ingredients:

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First: take 1/3 cup of balsamic and 2 cloves chopped garlic. Boil in a pot over medium heat for at least 5 minutes, or until it is syrup-like. You will see it thicken quickly, so don’t walk away! Once done, add to extra virgin olive oil and set aside.

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Second: toss sliced peaches on the stove and cook until they are caramelized.

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Third: start assembling your sandwich. See below:

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Fourth: wrap tightly with saran wrap and put heavy objects on top. I chose my laptop and a book.

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Fifth: after about 10 minutes, remove the objects and enjoy! I call this “semi-pressed” because a true pressed sandwich is left under such weight for a much longer period of time.

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Extra: you can definitely heat this sandwich up like a panini. I didn’t since we were heading to the beach.

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Can you spot the crab?

Brutally Easy Bruschetta Snack

Sad Dog

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I have an overabundance of grape tomatoes, if you haven’t noticed already. I also have an overabundance of mozzarella, as per the usual. And of course, I have an overabundance of basil growing in my little garden. Am I overabundantly using the word overabundance?

Anyway, with these ingredients, I thought making bruschetta toast would be a perfect lunch.

Bruschetta is an incredibly simple but flavorful appetizer. If you have ripe tomatoes, make this!

Ingredients:

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Note that I did not use any balsamic vinegar in this recipe (it typically is used in bruschetta so add it if you’d like). It might be because I forgot to add it in…but no one has to know.

First: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Dice your tomatoes (whichever kind you have. I find grape tomatoes to be the sweetest and most flavorful) and place in a bowl.

Second: add chopped basil, 1 clove smashed garlic, and some extra virgin olive oil and toss. Add some salt as well.

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Third: take any bread you have (I am using ciabatta), slice into 1 inch thick slices, and top with the tomato mixture.

Fourth: take a break to bother the dog.

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Fifth: top off with mozzarella. If you don’t have easy access to this cheese, using parmigiano reggiano or any other type of cheese (such as romano) will be fine as well.

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Sixth: stick in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted to your liking (I like mine super melted) and enjoy!

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Veggie Paninis

Paninis are a great lunch option. They are filling yet not too heavy that you feel like you just ate 10 pounds of rocks.

I usually opt for vegetable paninis but that’s mainly because I am too impatient to cook any meat to add in, such as chicken. My ingredients for this are whatever vegetables and cheeses I have in the refrigerator at the moment. Today I found mushrooms, roasted red peppers, sweet onions, basil, and havarti cheese. Havarti cheese is superb in paninis. It has a great melted texture, as well as a nice subtle flavor. Paninis are also a great way to fit in vegetables into your diet that you usually don’t enjoy eating on their own. For me, it’s usually eggplant. They are just a little too booger textured for me. Other ingredients that I highly suggest putting in this sandwich is Boursin cheese, goat cheese, brie cheese, pesto, prosciutto, eggplant, or sundried tomatoes (not all of these at once…unless you have a gigantic loaf of bread and a healthy appetite). Paninis really taste great with all sort of ingredients.

Ingredients:

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First: slice all of your vegetables. Remember to slice your ingredients evenly. You don’t want one undercooked piece of onion to surprise you during your chowing. Take these sliced vegetables and throw them into a frying pan with some olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper (never the pre-ground kind!) and saute over medium high heat.

Second: While these ingredients cook, start assembling your sandwich. I usually like to keep whatever cheese I have chosen to enter my belly as the first layer of my sandwich. I find that this keeps a lot of the ingredients from falling out easily once melted. Place the havarti cheese on the top half of the ciabatta bread. Next, place some fresh basil on the cheese. On the other half of the bread, place the roasted red peppers. I suggest you pat dry these after taking them out of the jar…unless you want an extremely juicy sandwich.

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Third: by this time, your vegetables should be cooked through. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and blast that vent fan! Allow this to simmer for a couple minutes. Allowing the vinegar to simmer makes it much sweeter and allows the vegetables to absorb the liquid. I’m an avid fan of not having a far too vinegary and dripping sandwich.

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Fourth: place your cooked vegetables on your pre-layered sandwich. If you have a panini press, then you know what to do. If you’re like me and lack such a glorious machine, take a frying pan and something heavy. I used a cast iron pan but you can use anything else that will be heavy enough to flatten the sandwich. A baby perhaps? Let the sandwich crisp up in the pan for about 2 minutes on each side on low heat. This will let the ingredients bind together inside the bread.

Fifth: Finally, slice your sandwich and eat away!

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