Cold Asian Soba (Buckwheat Noodle) Salad

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Soba or buckwheat noodle is a Japanese staple and can be served both hot or cold. As a child I would often order Zaru Soba (cold buckwheat noodles) whenever my family decided on Japanese for a Friday night out on the town. Zaru Soba, which consists of chilled noodles and a cold dipping sauce is served with just a few toppings on the side—chopped green onion, grated radish and wasabi (spicy horseradish). This was the type of food I liked as a kid, minimal with very few veggies. As an adult I can proudly say that I have successfully overcome my fear of variety, and in fact now believe that the more colorful and diverse the veggies the better!

Today's recipe is an evolution of a childhood favorite. Loaded with a ton of crunchy vegetables and tossed with a light zesty dressing, this recipe is far from your typical pasta salad. It's jam-packed with flavor and the rainbow of bright beautiful colors makes it just as much a feast for your eyes as it is for your taste buds. Enjoy this cold soba salad on a hot summer day for a sweet and tangy, refreshing and vitamin-packed side. I paired it with these Sweet and Savory Soy Ginger Baby Back Pork Ribs, but I can't wait to try it again with a piece of nicely seasoned pan-seared salmon.

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Ingredients:

  • 12 oz buckwheat noodles
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • 3 green onions, sliced

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Method:

  1. Boil the buckwheat noodles according to package directions, for about 6-7 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sriracha, and sugar until sugar is melted. Slowly stir in olive oil. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, toss all the vegetables until well combined. Then toss it with the buckwheat noodles and salad dressing.

Inspired by Sweet and Savory

Sweet and Savory Soy Ginger Baby Back Pork Ribs

My husband's family joined us in Lake Arrowhead for the weekend and to say our family get togethers are of epic proportions is an understatement. We love to cook and eat, and after the quality time spent (often in the kitchen) chatting and nibbling away, I always find myself returning home rejuvenated, inspired and ready to channel it all into a new dish.

Today's recipe which blends Korean flavors with All-American barbecue is a new spin on what one might expect when they hear the words "baby back ribs." The soy ginger dressing is inspired by my mom's Korean pork barbecue marinade. The marinade consists of pineapple which helps break down the meat making it super tender, honey creates a thick and sweet sauce, and ginger adds the perfect amount of complexity and spice.

Give these ribs a try at your next Asian-inspired party for a fun twist on a summer barbecue classic. I finished mine off under the broiler for a caramelized crust, but you could easily throw them on the grill to give them a nice smoky char. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 (approximately 3 1/2 lbs) rack of baby back pork ribs (also referred to as pork loin back ribs)

Marinade

  • 3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp minced pineapple with juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger

Method:

  1. Combine ingredients for marinade in a bowl and set aside. 
  2. Prepare two large ziplock bags. Cut rack of ribs in half. Place half of the rack in a bag with half of the marinade. Place the second rack in the other bag with the rest of the marinade. Zip up the bags and make sure that all sides of the racks are coated in the marinade. *Tip: Remove any excess air in the ziplock bags so that the bags lie flat, meat side down so that the marinade can coat all of the ribs. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 3 hrs or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap the marinated ribs separately in two pieces of foil. Place the two sets of ribs side-by-side on a baking sheet, meat side down. Bake for 2 - 2 1/2 hours then unfold the foil and broil for 5 minutes. Flip the ribs over and broil for another 5 minutes. Cut the ribs into single portions, place on a serving platter and serve warm.

Rustic and Fork-Tender Korean Short Rib Stew

We are visiting my brother in Lake Arrowhead, California for the week and boy has the kitchen been busy. With a mother and brother who are both incredible cooks, you can bet that the cabin has been filled with a steady stream of mouthwatering aromas and delectable dishes. Enjoying the tasty mix of traditional Korean and contemporary American food—it's been an inspiring week of cooking, catching up with family, and taking in the fresh mountain breeze.

This recipe for a traditional Korean stew was the perfect rustic one-pot dish for our family reunion in the mountains. Using soy sauce, brown sugar and Japanese cooking wine (mirin)—the sweet and savory flavors blended nicely to create an ultra satisfying and well-balanced meal. Cooked low and slow, the short ribs were hearty and fork tender. Just be sure to allow enough cooking time for the meat to become soft and buttery, (the longer you cook it the softer the meat will be). The carrots, potatoes and fluffy white rice provided the perfect base for slopping up all of the finger-licking good sauce. 

Try this rustic dish at your next family get-together for a warm and satisfying meal everyone will love.

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb ribs (trimmed of any excess fat)
  • 8 tbs low sodium soy
  • 2 tbs mirin
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 of large onion or 1 small onion sliced
  • 2 1/2 cup water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sesame oil
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 large potato
  • 2 carrots
  • Optional: Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallion

Method:

  1. Soak short ribs in cold water in a large bowl for at least 30 minutes and change the water a few times.
  2. Boil water in a large pot. Put in the short ribs and boil for 5-10 minutes. Take out the ribs from the boiling water and wash them with cold water to remove unnecessary fat or floating bubbles. Throw away the boiling water and clean the pot. Place the clean beef short ribs back into the pot.
  3. Prepare a bowl to make seasoned water. Mix 2 1/2 cups of water, 8 tbs low sodium soy sauce, 8 cloves of minced garlic), ½ sliced onion, 2 tbs mirin, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and 3 tbs brown sugar. Add it to the short ribs (meat side down) in the pot. Boil it over medium heat for 20 minutes then reduce heat to low simmer for 1 hour.
  4. While it simmers, you can prepare the other ingredients. Cut the carrots and potatoes into 5 cm-size cubes and round the edges to make several balls (the size of the balls should be like ping pong balls). I used a vegetable peeler to round the edges.
  5. After an hour, open the lid of the pot and taste the sauce at this point. If you'd like it to be more sweet or salty add additional sugar or salt here. Then add the carrots and potatoes to the pot. Let it simmer for an additional hour over low heat. Stir the ribs and other ingredients with a wooden spoon from time to time, spooning the liquid from the bottom of the pot over the top of the meat.
  6. After another hour has passed, open the lid and check if the meat is cooked fully. Use a chopstick to poke the meat. The meat is tender enough when the chopstick passes through smoothly. 
  7. Once the meat is tender add 1 tbs sesame oil, ½ tsp black pepper, and heat it up over high heat. Mix it well until liquid evaporates. Transfer stew to a platter before serving.

Crispy Baked Lemon Pepper Chicken Drumsticks

Summer is without a doubt my favorite season. And after spending the last week at my sister and brother-in-law's house, I remembered just how this came to be. The kids are on summer break and mom is keeping them busy with all of the fun summer activities I couldn't wait to do growing up—getting to sleep in, swimming at the pool with friends, road trips to visit family, and a slew of other super fun activities. Seeing the season through the eyes of children, I was reminded of its wondrous magic. It's when lemons are picked, grills are fired, and eating outside under the warm summer haze is a luxury that can be indulged in day after day. 

Today's recipe is perfect for such an outdoor meal with bright fresh flavors and no utensils required. It parboils the drumsticks in heavily salted water which helps retain moisture and prevents undercooking. The parboil also renders out the fat, resulting in the crispy skin we all look for in our drumsticks. This is a versatile dish that would be great topped with whatever seasonings or sauces you desire. I kept mine light with some fresh lemon and seasoning powders which added just the right amount of salty, lemony goodness—but I could definitely see myself slathering on the barbecue sauce and finishing it off on the grill for some added smokiness.

We enjoyed these crispy and tender drumsticks with sweet potato wedges and corn—baking everything in the same oven at the same temperature (the corn should be wrapped in foil and placed in the oven for the last 20 minutes). The result was a super easy, tasty, and carefree meal that is just right for a warm summer day.

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Ingredients:

  • 5 raw chicken drumsticks
  • Table salt and pepper to taste
  • Onion powder (1 tbsp)

  • Garlic powder (1 tbsp)

  • Nutmeg (1 tsp)

  • Olive oil

  • 1 lemon quartered

  • Garnish with cilantro (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven with a baking sheet placed on the middle rack.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt to the water and stir. Add drumsticks and parboil drumsticks for 7 minutes.
  3. Once parboiled, remove drumsticks and place on a cutting board. Using paper towels pat the chicken dry.
  4. Drizzle drumsticks lightly with olive oil. Spread the oil using a brush or the underside of a spoon. Season all sides of drumsticks with onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, a squeeze of 1 lemon slice, salt and pepper to taste. (I placed each seasoning in the palm of my hand and eyeballed.)
  5. Open the oven and using a towel or mitten pull out the rack and the baking sheet. Using tongs, place the drumsticks on the baking sheet making sure to leave about a 1/2 inch between each drumstick.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn over halfway through to brown the under side. Once the drumsticks are a golden brown remove from the oven. Be sure to keep an eye on them. Depending on how many you cook and your oven, the time for them to get golden brown may vary. Cooking too long can result in dry drumsticks.

Spread the Awareness: Dangers of Rinsing Raw Poultry Prior to Cooking

As a public health dietitian, one of my daily responsibilities was to survey families on their knowledge of food safety. A question often incorrectly answered was in regards to poultry. "Do you rinse your chicken prior to cooking it?" With an air of I know this one, I would often hear a confident "yes, of course!" After all, our mothers, grandmothers and even great grandmothers all rinsed their chickens prior to cooking, didn't they? It was what we were all taught to do and doing otherwise was considered dirty and unsanitary. 

Why is washing your poultry prior to cooking considered dangerous? The main concern is the increased risk of spreading the bacteria Campylobacter. Watch this video to learn more about the long-term diseases that Campylobacter can lead to and how you can lower your risk of exposure to this foodborne illness inducing bacteria.

Whether you decide to take the warning of this video to heart or choose to continue your current rinsing practices, here are a few of the steps I always take to protect my family after preparing raw chicken:

  1. I wash my hands with hot soapy water immediately after handling.
  2. I make sure to wash and sanitize all surfaces with hot soapy water and non-toxic cleaners during cleanup.
  3. Then I throw my sponge and plastic cutting board into the dishwasher to ensure they are adequately sterilized and ready for when I prepare our next meal.

Recipe Inspiration for a Tasty Summer Camping Trip

My husband and I are planning a trip to Bend, Oregon to visit our friends, Lisa, Henry and their gorgeous pup Cole. Not only have they been kind enough to open up their home to us, they've also planned what we consider to be the perfect summer getaway—a camping trip! As two nature lovers, Eugene and I couldn't be more excited. The topics of hiking, late night conversations by the campfire, and barbecuing on an open flame are all we've been talking about lately. And because all of this excitement is impossible for me to contain, I've channeled my antsy energy into researching recipe ideas for the delectable campfire meals to come. 

For those of you who've been camping before and have cooked on an open flame, you've more than likely experienced how tricky it can be. An unpredictable wind can wreck havoc when trying to maintain an even flame. But once you work through the initial unruly phase and finally become one with the elements, the results you can achieve are absolutely unparalleled. The smoky flavor provided by the hand-gathered bark in the surrounding woods and the experience of cooking over a crackling fire are unbeatable, and enjoying your hard earned meal with loved ones under a starlit sky—to me, these are the moments that make life beautiful, these are the memories I hold dear.

With our trip exactly one month away, you can see that the anticipation of spending time in the great outdoors with two great friends has gotten me a bit philosophical. I guess that's what nature can do to some. The beauty of what we're so often removed from always moves me in ways I seem to forget until I'm in it again. To those who can understand my sentiment—I'd love to hear your experiences; and any suggestions you might have for fail-proof camping recipes would also be very much appreciated. 

Whether camping is on your agenda or not, I wish you all a wonderful start to an amazing summer filled with tons of fun, time spent with loved ones, and lots of yummy food!

Here are four camping recipe inspirations I can't wait to try this summer:

  1. Dutch Oven–Braised Beef and Summer Vegetables
  2. Jicama Slaw
  3. Grilled Whole Trout with Lemon-Tarragon Bean Salad  
  4. Quesadilla Grilled in a Basket

Spicy Grilled Corn with Green Onion Oil

With a bag of corn in the pantry, and an itch to step outside of the box, I decided to move away from my usual method of cooking corn, (steamed and drizzled with butter,) to this I am a Food Blog recipe for spicy grilled corn with green onion oil. Not only is it a nice way to get in your heart healthy fat, it takes plain summer corn to new heights with pungent aromatic asian flavors. Who knew fish sauce would be so tasty on corn! 

This recipe is perfect for a summer bbq at the park or on the beach, just be sure to prep the dressing ahead of time. I paired the savory and fragrant corn with steak and mashed potatoes, (which was a hit with the family,) but this corn would also be a great side for succulent shrimp kabobs or a hearty rack of ribs. Get creative with your pairing and be sure to share how it all turned out below! Happy grilling!

Ingredients:

  • 4 ears fresh corn
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil (I used grapeseed oil)
  • 1 bunch of green onion, thinly sliced (I used 4 stalks)
  • 1 thai chili, finely diced (I used 1 tsp Korean Red Chili Flakes)
  • 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce (depending on your taste)
  • Optional: I garnished with 1 tablespoon chopped watercress. You could also use cilantro.

Method:

  1. On the barbecue or in a cast iron grill pan, grill the corn over medium to medium high heat until the corn deepens in color and the kernels turn toasty brown, turning occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, heat up the oil in a small deep sauce pot over medium high heat until the oil is hot and shimmery. Move the pot off the burner and add the green onions. Be careful! The onions will splatter. Stir and when the onions have calmed down a bit, add the chili and stir in the fish sauce.
  3. When the corn is slightly charred and hot, immediately spoon on the green onion oil to taste and enjoy.
  4. If you prefer corn off the cob, go ahead and carefully cut the kernels off and then mix with the green onion oil.

Recipe slightly adapted from I am a Food Blog

Korean Home Cooking: Mackerel Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Soybean Sauce

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In Korean this dish is called Ssam Bap (the literal translation is wrapped rice). Using broiled mackerel, fresh lettuce, a spicy soybean sauce and rice—preparing this meal couldn't be easier. All you have to do is turn on the broiler, wash the lettuce, and mix together the sauce. Another benefit of this dish is the mackerel itself, a fatty omega-3 rich fish (it contains twice as much omega-3 as salmon) making it great for your brain, eyes and skin. It also protects you from various ailments like cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease. The meaty fish also adds the rich saltiness that makes this dish so delectable. For those concerned with its mercury level, Atlantic Mackerel is on the low list and is considered safe to consume. The recommendation for both adults and children is a 2-3 ounce cooked serving once a week. 

Note: Once the fish is broiled and the sauce is made, serve it with a bowl of rice and the clean lettuce. To eat: place a small spoonful of rice, a piece of fish, and a little bit of the sauce on a couple of pieces of lettuce, fold the lettuce over like a taco and take a bite.

Serves: 4     Prep Time: 1 hr (marinating time)     Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • One 1 to 1 1/2 lb Atlantic Mackerel, filleted
  • Salt
  • A bundle of your favorite lettuce (I like baby romaine and perilla leaves), wash and pat dry with paper towel
  • 4 cups cooked rice

Method:

Mackerel 

  1. When purchasing Atlantic Mackerel ask the butcher at the store to fillet the fish. At home, rinse and liberally season with salt on both sides, then place the fish in a ziplock bag and refrigerator for at least one hour. If you don't plan on using it right away, you can place it in a ziplock bag and store it in the freezer. Just slightly defrost for 1-2 minutes before using.
  2. Preheat oven on broil. Place fish on foil lined baking sheet and place in oven. Broil for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, open the oven and rotate the fish 180 degrees. Broil for another 5 minutes.

Soybean Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp soybean paste (doenjang)
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp onion; minced
  • 1 tsp sesame seed
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp honey

Method: 

  1. Mix all ingredients together and serve. Also a great dip for fresh cut cucumber and carrots. 

Korean Home Cooking: Quick and Easy Cucumber Kimchi

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This is a makeshift version of what usually can take up to a few days of fermentation. My mom also likes to refer to it as a cucumber salad. Growing up I always heard tales of the entire village gathering together to make boat loads of kimchi in preparation for the cold winter months. Though the village did not come with her, mom continued the tradition even after moving to the states, making tubs of kimchi, and always sharing her bounty with family and friends. I find making enough kimchi to (literally) feed a village no longer necessary—luckily mom feels the same way too. So she came up with this super simple and reasonably portioned version, which suits our modern needs just perfectly. Bonus: The smaller more practical amount is also great for those suffering from limited refrigerator space.

Note: If you are unable to find the daikon radish or Chinese chive this recipe can be made without them, just add an additional cucumber for bulk.

Serves: 4     Prep Time: 10 minutes     Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 persian cucumbers
  • 16 sprigs Chinese chives (1 cup sliced)
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1/3 of a small daikon radish (1 cup julienned)
  • 1 tsp Korean red chili flake
  • 1 tsp sesame seed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp salt and additional to taste

Method:

  1. Rinse off all vegetables and pat dry. Trim the edge of the cucumbers, cut in thirds then quarter. Larger cucumbers may be cut into quarters, just make sure all pieces are uniform and bite-sized. Place in a large mixing bowl with 1 tsp of salt; set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the remaining vegetables. Slice chives into bite-sized pieces similar in length to the cucumbers. Julienne the daikon radish (also making the length uniform to the other ingredients). Chop 1 scallion. After 15 minutes, add the additional vegetables to the bowl and toss ingredients together. After 5 minutes minutes drain the bowl of the water that has seeped out. A salad spinner works well for this, otherwise you can use a colander or simply tip the bowl over the sink and use your hands to prevent the vegetables from falling out. 
  3. Add 1 tsp Korean red chili flakes, 1 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp fish sauce, and 1 minced garlic clove. Mix well and taste. You can add additional salt if necessary.

Pan Seared Lemon and Thyme Crusted Pork Chops with Asparagus and Rice

These pork chops are super easy to make using ingredients you more than likely already have in your pantry. Juicy and flavorful, the magic is all in the brine. If you haven't started brining your pork or poultry yet, this recipe will definitely convince you to do otherwise.

Serves: 2     Prep Time: 30 minutes (brining time)     Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless pork chops approximately 3/4 to 1 inch thick 
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoon minced onion 
  • 1 lemon
  • dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 14 asparagus spears 
  • 2 cups cooked rice

Simple Brine:

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold water

Method:

  1. Dissolve salt in water and mix well. In a bowl just large enough to fit the chops and brine, place the pork chops in and poor the brine over. The chops should be fully submerged. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. (You could also place in a ziplock bag.) This is a good time to get your rice started if you haven't already.
  2. Meanwhile, prep the rest of the ingredients. Take 2 cloves of garlic and smash (using a flat side of your knife); remove the peel and set aside. Finely mince 2 tablespoons worth of onion. Rinse the lemon and remove one peel using vegetable peeler and finely mince; cut lemon into wedges for later. Rinse asparagus spears and trim about an inch off of the bottom, removing the tough portion of the stem. 
  3. Once brining is complete remove chops from fridge. Lightly rinse then pat dry with paper towels. Season top side with pepper and dry thyme. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium high heat. Once pan is hot add minced onions, lemon peel and 1 garlic smashed garlic clove. Saute for 1 minute, infusing the oil with the flavors. After 1 minute remove the garlic clove (so it doesn't burn). Add the chops (season side down) to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes (depending on the thickness of your chop, thicker will require longer cooking). Season the chops with pepper and thyme and flip over. Squeeze one wedge of lemon juice over the chops in the pan. After 3 minutes check to see if the underside is browned and the side of chop looks only slightly pink. Remove and cover with foil. The juices with redistribute and the inside will continue to cook a bit more.
  4. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the second smashed garlic clove and heat the oil for about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus and season with salt and pepper to taste. Move the asparagus around occasionally so that the garlic doesn't burn and the flavor of the pan is fully distributed to the asparagus. Saute until asparagus is tender (8-10 minutes). (Best way to check if it is done and seasoned well is to take a bite.) Adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve with remaining lemon wedges and enjoy.