Poke! From Costco. Oh.


Actually it’s not that bad. It’s no Foodland and not even in the same universe that is Da Poke Shack but if you can’t afford an island vacation or like me, made the unwise and ill-informed decision of Disneyworld in June (Really? It’s 90 degrees in Orlando now? Oh good…) then make a stop at your nearby Costco. And get your fill of ahi poke, wasabi poke, shoyu poke, etc. Prices are pretty modest at $16.99/lb.

We added some sriracha aoli to this one and made it a spicy ahi poke. If you shut your eyes real tight and play some Iz, you’ll be transported to Kona. Or Maui. Or just lunch with the peeps who talked you into Disneyworld. In June. In 90 degree heat.



if Tamale never comes…


There was a time when food trucks were called Roach Coaches, regarded as a step below fast food and just above Applebee’s but a lot has changed in the last few years.  Street food has become en vogue, Off the Grid has a following and entire festivals are devoted to reinventing your grandma’s old recipes.

Enter: the humble tamale

Lard and masa or cornmeal are the magical base of your tamale.  I got my lard at a local Mexican grocery store, the thankfully saved from bankruptcy chain, Mi Pueblo.

For the masa harina, I just used Maseca, available in most grocery stores.


I made two kinds of tamales: one with salsa verde and the other with pasilla chilis, the red variety.


Soak pasilla peppers in hot water to soften and make more pliable


I used the Costco rotisserie chicken, shredded it and combined with the soaked pasilla peppers along with 1 cup of the water the peppers soaked in.


You also need to soften the tamale wraps by soaking them for an hour or so in hot water


Wrap and steam as much as a bamboo steamer can hold.  For a tutorial on how to wrap, click here.

IMG_0087Source: Epicurious


20 or so corn husks


Shortcut: shred one whole Costco rotisserie chicken

Tomatillo Sauce

Shortcut: 1 jar of your favorite tomatillo sauce, mine happens to be the Trader Joe’s variety

Tamal dough

  • 2 1/2 cups masa harina (cornmeal for tamales; Maseca brand is recommended)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of canned chicken broth (reserved from poaching chicken)
  • 3/4 cup fresh lard or solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Prepare the Corn Husks
Bring a large pot of water to a boil then remove from heat. Add the corn husks, making sure to submerge them under water, and cover the pot. Soak the corn husks in the pot for 20 minutes. They should be soft and flexible, and take on a deep beige color. Remove the corn husks from the water and wrap them in a damp paper towel until you are ready to use them.

Prepare the Tamal Dough
To make the masa, combine the masa harina with 2 cups of the reserved chicken broth and mix well. The masa should have the consistency of a stiff dough. Set aside.

Put the lard in a mixing bowl. Beat the lard with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add half of the masa and beat until well blended. Add the 3 tablespoons of the reserved chicken broth and the remaining masa and continue beating until a teaspoon of the dough dropped into a cup of cold water floats, about 10 minutes. If after 15 minutes of constant beating your dough does not float, move on (despite it not floating, the dough will be fine).

Sprinkle the baking powder and the salt over the dough and mix in well.

Assemble the Tamales
Place a corn husk lengthwise in front of you with the wide side closest to you. Spread 2 tablespoons of the dough all over the bottom half (wide side) of the corn husk, leaving about a 1-inch-wide border on the left and right sides.

Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling lengthwise down the center of the dough. Pick up the two long sides of the cornhusk and unite them. Allow the dough to surround the filling by pinching together the corn husk where the dough comes together. Roll both sides of the corn husks in the same direction over the tamal. Fold down the empty top section of the cornhusk and secure it by tying a thin strip of corn husk around the tamal (the top will be open).

Repeat this process until all the corn husks or tamal dough are used up.

Steam the Tamales
Arrange the tameles in a bamboo steamer over gently simmering water.   Cover tightly with a lid and simmer for 40 minutes.

Serve with salsa or Mexican crema

Mommy! There’s no wi-five here!


I am not a camper.  Never have been.  I did spend the early part of my childhood in a third world country so one would think that I am equipped to handle the rugged outdoors.  I am not.  This past week-end was spent enjoying/tolerating/respecting the awesome that is Yosemite.  We camped for 3 days and 2 nights with limited access to a shower–and by limited I mean–we snuck into the public restroom/semi-private showers in the Wawona Hotel.  And so while you feast your eyes on this incredible sight


woke up to this view every morning

this magnificent find amidst funk, bug bites, sweat and dust was my saving grace.


All told I counted 22 mosquito bites, most of which ballooned to gargantuan hives; no pictures needed to convey the grotesque.

I walked so much that this happened


…ok so they were 18 years old but still…

Despite having been a buffet for the bugs, the trip was well worth it


Pro Yosemite tips:

  • Most reserved campsites are booked 6 months in advance.  Plan ahead.
  • The Wawona Village campsite is pretty awesome.  Bathrooms were pristine and smelled pine fresh.
  • We stayed at spots 90 and 91–steps away from the bathroom, plenty of shade.
  • Park rangers are extremely friendly and accommodating so don’t piss them off by not heeding the bear box laws.
  • Early summer temps: 80s-90s during the day, mid 40s at night.  You’re at 4,000 feet–do the math
  • Don’t miss the Mariposa Grove: tour by tram or do the 4 or 6-mile hike.  We opted for audio guided tram.
  • Have music playing as you drive into the valley.  That majestic view of Bridal Veil and Half Dome deserves a soundtrack.  We chose John Williams and the Boston Pops.  Some choose Enya.  Be creative.
  • Lunch at Wawona Hotel will run you about $25-$30.  For more budgetary options, try the Golf Club with hot dogs, nachos or hamburgers at less than $10

Behold…the Sushirrito


I had my first sushirrito last summer while shopping with my Mom.  We were looking at Louis Vuitton bags that I had no intention of buying, but I am a mom pleaser and so I tolerated hours of watching her pose with various LV purses with price tags that rivaled the GNP of some small African countries.         


To compensate for this painful experience, we decided to eat at my favorite lunch spot in San Francisco, Sushirrito.  A sushirrito you ask?  It’s a marriage between my two favorite foods on earth: sushi and burritos.  It’s like Ken Watanabe hooking up with Salma Hayek, or dipping into a sauce made of  wasabi and Cholula or dropping a sake bomb into a frosty mug of Corona.  It’s fresh ahi tuna, tempura shrimp and thinly sliced cucumbers on a thin bed of rice and wrapped inside nori and shaped like a medium sized burrito but a giant sushi roll. Sushirritos’ prices range from $8-10 and worth it as they are jam packed with fillings such as the aforementioned tempura shrimp and ahi tuna along with microgreens, vegetables and my personal favorite, pork belly.  Inspired, I decided to try my hand at making this at home. sushirrito I don’t have enough Korean food expertise to make kim chee, much less kim chee fried rice so I found TJ’s version and used that instead–good choice as it was cheap and tasty.  I also opted for soy paper as opposed to nori which the sushirrito is traditionally wrapped in, as it is less chewy and has more give when you bite into it. 20140614-084835-31715101.jpg I loaded my sushirrito with thinly sliced cucumber, TJ’s kim chee fried rice, micro greens also procured from TJ, spicy Korean chicken and drizzled the whole concoction with sriracha aioli. 20140614-084835-31715677.jpg Keep the filling on the lower 3rd of your soy paper wrap and roll tightly away from you, using a sushi bamboo mat.  I found this part a little tricky, mostly because I tried to stuff my burrito like you would a duffle bag with found money. 20140614-084835-31715848.jpg And behold the sushirrito. 20140614-084836-31716016.jpg

And if you want to see how the pro’s do it:

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.30.12 PM

The Magic Shell


Now that summer is upon us, there are fewer things better than ice cream except maybe having 2 whole months off and not having any responsibilities or anyone to answer to.  Today if I did that, it would be called a sabbatical or worse yet, stress leave–both of which are a polite way of saying that you’ve lost your marbles.  I believe the clinical term is ‘gone scooters’.

I digress.

Actually, the only thing better than homemade ice cream is the Smuckers Magic Shell, that cloyingly sweet, crunchy chocolate topping that hardens upon coming in contact with something cold, like ice cream!  So since I was too lazy to make my own ice cream, I opted instead for TJ’s French Vanilla for my experiment.


2 ingredients are all you need for this magical concoction: coconut oil and chocolate chips.  The beauty of it is you control the sweetness of your magic shell with the kind of chocolate chips you use: semi-sweet, dark or milk.  For an added crunch, I included pinipig which I found in a Filipino grocery store.  If you can’t find pinipig, Rice Crispies cereal makes a good substitute

Magic Shell

1 cup of coconut oil

1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips

1/2 c of pinipig or Rice Crispy cereal

Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler over low heat.  Once melted, spoon over your ice cream , letting excess chocolate drip.  Before the shell hardens, roll your vanilla ice cream in a cone over some pinipig.  Shell should harden in less than a minute.  The first one comes out a little gnarly but you’ll find that as you practice, they do get prettier.


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Homemade BBQ Sauce


When I moved out of my parents’ home and into my own apartment about 10 minutes away–it was more of a statement than anything else–I bought my first cookbook LaBelle Cuisine and attempted the buffalo wings.  I forgot to tell my then lactose intolerant boyfriend Pru that it was coated in butter and Tabasco sauce and so he spent many hours realizing that fact in the bathroom.  I was remorseful.  My second attempt was the homemade BBQ sauce because of my love for all things sweet and fatty at the time, many years and 50 pounds ago.  My love for cooking was born and I never looked back.  My still lactose intolerant husband Pru happily participates as guinea pig who gives feedback and comments freely on improvements needed.

Today, I collect cookbooks more for the beautiful, colorful pictorials and the sweet smell of a newly cracked book and tactile sensation of flipping actual pages–all things missing from Googling recipes.


This awesome BBQ sauce is adapted from Miss Labelle’s version and my introduction to the wonder that is liquid smoke.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon hot red pepper sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

For the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, hot pepper sauce, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often to avoid scorching, for 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the liquid smoke. Use immediately or cool completely, cover and refrigerate.

*Note: I’ve been known to use and keep a bottle in my fridge for months, though the recipe originally indicates to keep for 5 days.  No one has been the wiser.







An Open Letter to Preschools


This has nothing to do with food.  But I feel compelled to post this PSA now that we’ve just emerged from another school year smarter and relatively unscathed.  We sent our son to preschool for the first time this year and the experience was nothing less than amazing–he is loved and cared for, learns the joy of being with other kids (he’s an only child).  The process of searching for a preschool was nothing less than harrowing and stressful and suffice it to say that there were moments when I thought humanity was doomed given the state of some of the places we visited.

But I have hope.

So here’s an open letter to pre-schools everywhere before the advent of the next school year:

I am offering the following advice as an anxious parent entrusting you with my only child for the first time.  I intend for this to be helpful so forgive the snarky tone but as you’ll read below, said snark is warranted.

  • Clearing out your house of all the furniture and calling it Learning Adventure Academy doesn’t make it a school.  You may want to update the formica counters and 70s wood laminate cabinets if you’re going to do that.
  • If you call yourself the director, consider wearing something other than a tanktop that has cutouts down the front of your chest revealing cleavage.  Your aide should probably lose the “It’s Official.  Second sucks” No Fear tee.  Neither of these outfits inspires confidence.
  • Please don’t use an old and semi-deflated truck tire as a playground toy.
  • Don’t ask me to donate my child’s old toys before I even enroll him  in your school.
  • When I ask you for advice on whether you believe that a full or part time program is best, please give me an answer that conveys your expertise as an educator or at least something more helpful than, “It’s up to you.”
  • When I ask if you provide meals and snacks, I’m really hoping for an answer that doesn’t start with “The cook quit recently and we only offer vegetarian options.”  Because that really translates to, ‘No, so  we’re hoping your kid gets full on some celery sticks and a handful of baby carrots.”
  • Sticking 24 kids in a 20×10 room and having them sit on a multi-colored rug all day spells trouble.  I don’t care if you call it a “magic carpet” or  “indoor play.”  You don’t have a playground, those kids are stuck inside all day, you do the math.
  • You might want to do the enrollment process in a private setting so that I don’t hear questions like “Will you reinforce the restraining order I have against my ex-husband at the school?”  That would make any parent want to flee, including this one.

A parent now considering homeschool

Mini Key Lime Pies


Nine years ago, I weighed about 50 lbs more than I do now.  That’s 15 pounds less than my 5-year old.  Then I lost a bunch of weight, largely propelled by lots of back handed compliments like, “You’d be pretty if you weren’t so fat.” My personal favorite was “How far along ARE you?”  A question my Auntie Precy repeatedly asked me despite being well aware of the fact that I was 19 and single at the time.  But whatever.  By the way, my secret was not eating carbs for like 2 years.  I’ve since gained about 12 pounds of it back (after 9 years, not bad!) but at least I weigh less than a baby pachyderm.

Since then, I’ve reintroduced carbs back into my diet and learned that which has eluded me nearly all of my childhood and adult life: portion control.  That’s why I like to make shrink down food to cute, Lilliputian sizes.


photo 4

Zest the key limes before you juice them

photo 3

Squeezing key limes by hand is like seeding strawberries–invest in one of these

photo 3(1)

..and one of these…they call them tampers.



photo 5

Cute, aren’t they?

*The original recipe called for 2 cans of condensed milk but I couldn’t quite bring myself to adding that second can (see intro above).  So, it came out a little tart, but nothing that a little dusting of powdered sugar couldn’t fix.

Mini Key Lime Pies

12 squares (1 1/3 package) of graham crackers, pulverized in your foodprocessor
3 T Sugar
3/4 stick butter (about 1/3 cup)
3 egg whites beaten
1 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup lime juice (about 20 limes)
1 T Lime zest
1/2 c sour cream


  • Press 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of a cupcake liner, pressed down
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes then set aside
  • Mix together egg whites, condensed milk, lime juice, lime zest, and sour cream
  • Use ice cream scoop to evenly fill lined muffin tins 3/4 way full
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes and cool.
  • Keep overnight in the fridge if you prefer to set fully