Pesto Pasta

I think I’m on a green colored trend at the moment.

In only 25 minutes, I cooked dinner for two.  Pesto sauce is super easy to prepare and only requires a few ingredients.  Although, having a food processor would be helpful.  Here’s the recipe–

4 ounces of fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup of pine nuts

3 cloves of garlic

3/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated

olive oil

S&P to taste

  1. Combine basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts in a food processor and chop.
  2. Add in the cheese and blend a little more until incorporated.
  3. Start drizzling olive oil into the basil mixture and process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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Rise and Shine: Eggs and Avocado


Still on the avocado trend–I’ve been eating them straight out of their shells for the past week, sprinkled with a little sugar. But this morning, I made eggs and toast and added a few slices of the buttery fruit.

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Neighborhood Coffeehouse: Bagel and Lox

I’ve been frequenting this neighborhood coffee shop, Zosa Cafe, for months now and it was only today that I had the pleasure of tasting their Bagel and Lox. Very good!

This Bagel and Lox is prepared on a toasted bagel, cream cheese, thinly slice red onion, tomato, smoke salmon, dill and capers. Very good! I don’t have my camera with me, so I had to resort to my camera phone :/

Happy weekend!

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Shrimp and Avocado Tostadas

‘Guac’ Party resulted in a surplus of ripe avocados. So, in the spirit of not wasting food, I cooked up some shrimp and avocado tostadas.  This was my first time preparing home-made tostadas shells, which were fried up from the leftover corn tortillas.

There were three layers to this tostada:  cumin black beans, pico de gallo and the shrimp and avocado.  The only part of the tostada I didn’t prepare were the beans, which came from a can. I did, however, add a couple teaspoons of cumin to the mixture during heating.

After peeling and deveining the shrimp, I tossed in a few seasonings with lime juice and marinated for 10 minutes before skewering and grilling. Here are my recipes for the pico de gallo and shrimp/avocado mix.

Pico de Gallo–yields 2 cups

1/2 red onion (finely chopped)

2 roma tomatoes ( chopped)

1/3 cup cilantro (roughly chopped)

juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 jalapeno with some seeds (finely chopped)

In a medium sized bowl, toss all the ingredients together.


Shrimp and Avocado Tostadas–more than enough to top 10 tostadas

2 lbs. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 teaspoons of cumin

1/3 cup of cilantro

1/4 teaspoon of cayenne

1/2 jalepeno and seeds (chopped)

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

juice of 3 limes

3 ripe avocados, removed from shell and cubed up

1.  Toss everything together (no avocado) and let the shrimp sit for at least 10 minutes.

2.  Soak your skewers before putting them on the grill to prevent burning.  I had 4 shrimp for each skewer. Discard liquid.

3.  Place on a heated grill until shrimp are cooked on both sides. Fully cooked when pink.

4. Remove shrimp from skewers and toss with avocados. Sprinkle a little more lime juice over the mixture.

5. Layer a tostada with beans, pico de gallo and shrimp and avocado. Top with a few splashes of hot sauce if desired.

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‘Guac’ Party

A typical block party is when a neighborhood comes together to celebrate an occasion worth celebrating.  And last night,  Lisa hosted Cranium night.  We didn’t seal off a block in Long Beach, but we did close down Lisa’s place for a night of foolishness that included Cranium play-offs, Xbox Dance-a-thon and a whole lot of eating.

We opened the evening with a Mexican inspired fare of beef and/or chicken tacos, fresh chips, fresh salsa and fresh GUACAMOLE!  The beef and chicken were purchased from my local meat market and grilled at chez Lisa’s. The chips and salsa were from a restaurant we typically frequent.

All photos courtesy of Andy Hope

However, the highlight of the night was my GUACAMOLE! Some elbow grease, 10 avocados and my power ingredient—cumin, hailed from the toughest critics, enduring praise, admiration and munching. Recipe below.

After dinner festivities were all about Cranium. If you aren’t familiar with the game, get with the program. It’s the ULTIMATE board game that includes charades, Pictionary, trivial pursuit and more to keep the momentum going all night long.

We concluded the game with a hot cup of Ibarra, served with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and sprinkling of cinnamon.  When I prepared the hot chocolate, I added a couple dashes of cayenne pepper and a lot of cinnamon to the hot mixture.  The heat of the cayenne complimented the chocolate perfectly. I think everyone dug the cayenne.

A spicy ending to a great night.

All photos courtesy of Andy Hope


Guacamole Recipe (scaled down version) serves 3-4

3 ripe avocados

Juice of 1 good sized lime

1/3 cup red onions (finely diced)

1/3 cup Roma tomatoes (diced)

1/3 cup cilantro (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (finely diced)

Half a jalapeño with a few seeds (finely diced)

1/2 heaping teaspoon of cumin

1/3 teaspoon cayenne

1/3 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Reserve a seed to keep dip from browning.

(adjust seasonings to taste)

Scoop the ripe avocados from their shells into a large bowl.  Add the dry ingredients and lime juice to the avocados and mash with a fork or masher.  Mash to desired consistency. We like ours smooth-chunky.

  1. Fold the fresh ingredients into the mashed avocado. Put in the seed. Serve with chips or eat with a spoon.

Or—a guacamole recipe sufficient to feed 10-12 people

10 ripe avocados

Juice of 3 fat limes

1 cup red onions (finely diced)

2 Roma tomatoes (diced)

2/3 cup cilantro (chopped)

2 jalapeños some seeds and vein (finely diced)

2 teaspoons salt

1 head of garlic (finely diced)

4 heaping teaspoons of cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

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The Virtue of Sharing Food

Picture it:  Evening out with friends at a newly discovered eatery with plenty of character.  Days counting down to the big event, you do your research and see what reviewers are saying and recommending. You’ve looked over the online menu and have carefully decided what you want to order.

Finally. Saturday night.  You and your party have arrived. Seated and menu in hand. Then, your server proceeds to list the the evenings specials.  Instant dilemma.  The chef’s special–leg of lamb with Moroccan spice rub sounds wonderfully delicious.  Do you stand firm and order the Chilean sea bass or switch?

Your dining companions all order different dishes. You stick to your guns and order the sea bass.  Moments later, everyone’s dishes arrive and start eating in unison.  This is your chance to ask for a taste of the leg of lamb from your mate, who is siting adjacent to you, ordered. He pleasantly agrees and in turn, you willingly return the favor.

The idea of sharing was instilled in us ever since youth.  Sharing is a virtue, considered to be generous and thoughtful.  Share your toys. Share the space on the park bench. Share your food. Heck, Asians have practiced this for ages: family style dining.

Not only is sharing a great way to sample different dishes, but it helps with eating healthier portions and reduces food waste.  When you eat out, how often will you finish the entire plate of food? Yes, you may wipe your plate clean dining in higher end restaurants–but what about everyday chain restaurants? Portions are gigantic!  Yes, there is the option to take food home, but admit it, there are many times when leftovers are left in the fridge for days, uneaten and eventually discarded.

So, if you decide to eat out tonight, split a meal with someone.

Food Ninja and Portable Utensils

What is a food ninja, you ask? In the simplest form, a food ninja, is one who can stealthily sneak food from someone’s plate when they aren’t  looking. But, this is not me.  I’m just prepared. If you have food around, I make no qualms about munching on it.  If your food is unguarded, its a free for all.That’s why I carry my portable utensils around where ever I go.

I bought this set when I was in Vietnam for approximately $2.50.  The spoon served its purpose on those hungry Cambodian nights in my room when the fire was already exhausted. I had a water boiler and some instant oatmeal and my spoon. Oh, and a bowl.  Invest in one today.  Happy Sunday. I’m gonna go eat crepes.

Chinese Comfort Food and Jen&Wilson’s New Home

Hi. Its been a while since I’ve posted. Apologies.  I’m visiting my good friends Jen and Wilson in their new home.  They moved in only 14 days ago and tonight was the first night they prepared chinese food for dinner.

The classic tomato, beef and egg dish is made by Chinese mamas all over. Every mom has her own recipe and its almost impossible to learn from a mom because they usually just throw in and estimate seasonings based on taste and experience.  The dish consists of chunks of tomato and beef and a sweet/savoury sauce produced by cooking down the juices of the tomato.  It’s super easy to prepare and perfect with a warm bowl of rice. And, tonight, Wilson made some classic tomato and beef, sans egg, but still quite delish!

Tomato and Beef Recipe (serves 6-7)

3 beef steak tomatoes

clove of small garlic, minced

5 slices of fresh ginger

yellow onion

1-lb flank steak

Marinade for Beef (20 mins, longer the better)

teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon white pepper

5 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

corn starch teaspoon

healthy splash of hennessey

splash of pure sesame oil

1.  Wilson marinated the beef for 20 minutes today. But, the longer the better.

2. Blanche tomatoes. When you cut up the tomatoes, its important to use a good, sharp knife. You don’t want to lose the juice of the tomato because its essential to the sauce creation. Put aside.

2.  Heat the pan on medium heat, oil and throw in onions, cook down until transparent.  Throw in the garlic and ginger.  When the garlic and ginger are cooked, throw in the meat. But, turn the heat up to high and sear the meat on the sides. Then, throw in the tomatoes and let sit until it becomes tender.   Stir in some more soy sauce, oyster sauce and a teaspoon of sugar. Careful don’t break the tomatoes.   Plate and serve over a bed of rice.

Alternately, you can add some scrambled eggs into the sauce. SOOO GOOD.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Sorry, some of my photos aren’t so sharp due to lack of light. I normally prefer to shoot during the morning, when the light is the softest.

Almond scones

almond biscuit, muscle whipped creme and blackberries

I’m at a friend’s place and she has no hand mixer. Again, I was planning on baking thumbprint cookies but she has no hand mixer to cream the butter. Who doesn’t own a hand mixer?!? So, I just made scones again, which required no special equipment.

I took out a few ingredients from the other recipe:  I didn’t use orange zest and chocolate chips (I am in a purist mood today). Instead of using vanilla, I used 2 teaspoons of almond extract, which gave the scones a pleasant fragrance and subtle flavor. And, I felt like making round scones, so I used a glass to cut the dough.

Taste Off

What do two Korean-Americans know about lasagna? I dunno either but the other night, Julie K. and her older brother went head to head in a competitive, exclusive cook off, which I was cordially invited to participate and help determine the “best lasagna”.

The night was eventful as we watched jeopardy and wheel of fortune waiting for the lasagna to be ready.  There were even moments during the cooking competition where the cooks came and played along to wheel of fortune.

The highlight of the evening, however, occurred when the night was almost ruined by an accidental overheating of the oven caused by burning cheese. High levels of smoke spat out of the oven when its doors were opened.  Luckily, the kitchen was not equipped with smoke detectors. No one was harmed during the competition. ‘Accidental’ is what the two cooks called it, but it more in lines with sabotage if you had tasted these lasagnas.

For the contest results, continue reading the post below.

The Contenders Profiles

Don't let the shirt and gloves fool you, he's no doctor!

Name:  Julie’s Older Brother

Favorite Fruit: Golden Kiwi

Pet Peeve:  People who’s jaw clicks when they eat

Least Favorite Food:  Lasagna

Shoe Size: UK Men size 3

Life Goal:  To climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with only one canister of oxygen.

Eating protein

Name:  Julie

Favorite Color:   Vermillion

Occupation: Graphic Artist

Favorite Book:   Anything by Danielle Steel

Favorite Past time:  Thrift store shopping

Spouse: David K. aka “Bone Crusher”

The Judges Profiles

Name:  Bone Crusher AKA Julie’s Husband

Political Affiliation: socialist

On his right to vote:   “I am abstaining.  I don’t want to sleep on the couch tonight.”

Name:  Jon

Claim to fame: Resident sommelier

Suggestions to the cooks: Lasagna shouldn’t be spicy and the broccoli was undercooked.


Name:  Mr. Sun, Math Teacher

Found the two dishes to be extremely soggy and spent the evening calculating the sauce to cheese to lasagna ratio.

Me and Pomegrante

Name:  Diana

Favorite activity: Watching Golden Girls on dvd

Favorite moment of the night: eating dessert

Name:  Mother to Julie and Julie’s Brother (not pictured)

Quote of the night: “Should’ve saved the time and money and purchased the Stouffer’s $9.99 lasagna.”

The judges chose to score the lasagnas based on the following criteria:  taste, texture, creativity, presentation and best overall.  Each criteria was out of ten points, even best overall…???

It was a close race. With a point value of 250 maximum, each contestant was awarded with 169/250.  TIE!  No one could believe it and blamed me for miscalculating. Why didn’t the math teacher add up the points then? So, the judges decided on omitting the electoral vote and using the popular vote method instead. Even with Bone Crusher abstaining from exercising his democratic freedom, 3 of 5 votes elected Julie to have the better tasting lasagna.  Here is the photo of the winning lasagna and of the winner.

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