Joule Love It, part 2


I just had to stop by and once again profess my love and allegiance to my sous vide, Joule.  Tonight, I cooked chicken breasts.  Actually, last night, I threw them in a bag with some salt, pepper and a couple of lemon slices, sous vide them for about an hour and refrigerated the breasts over night.  Tonight I browned said breasts in a cast iron skillet, about 6 minutes per side, squeezed some lemon juice and olive oil on them and here I am post dinner–blogging with a belly full of salad made of chicken, pine nuts and avocados and some goat milk feta cheese we procured from our recent visit to Maui’s Surfing Goat Dairy.

I was so excited that after years of overcooked dry chicken breasts–so much so that I now only cook thighs–I had to come here and share my excitement.  Over moist, juicy chicken breasts.

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Last night, we sous vide some pork chops and again, my Joule did not disappoint.  We had just returned from vacation and there was nothing in the freezer I was interested in except for some pork chops I’d frozen weeks ago and seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary.  Into the Joule they went and the result was a perfectly moist, cooked pork chop.  Again, so much excitement after years of dry, inedible pork chops–I gotta go lie down.


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Sous vide or not sous vide: That is the Question


Sous vide is:
A.  An appliance you don’t think you need
B.  A word you can’t pronounce
C.  French for ‘boil in a bag’
D.  All of the above

My friend Rose introduced me to the sous vide, pronounced soo-veed, and as I suspected, it’s essentially a snooty way of saying ‘boil in a bag’. Said sample came with a pork chop she made using the sous vide method and I was hooked. Rose’s pork chops were perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cooked pork chops that were beautifully brown and done on the outside but raw, leathery and tasteless on the inside. (A Kardashian analogy leaps to mind.)

There are a couple out in the market but the sous vide I decided on is the Joule because Rose once said, “Joule love it. Joule be pleased by how good your food turns out.”  I totally made that up.  That never happened because Rose is far too awesome to use silly puns.

The best thing about Joule is how fool proof and reliable it is.  I have cooked at least a dozen or so ribeyes this way and they have turned out perfectly each and every time. I have also cooked chicken thighs and results, same.  The only thing I’m not crazy about is how there is no status indicator on the Joule itself, you need to look at your mobile device to check your food’s progress.  But that small inconvenience is a first world problem that you can overlook.

No detailed recipes here because Joule is probably smarter than you and me. All I do is tell Joule how thick the ribeye is, whether it’s frozen or thawed and how done I want that steak. Joule does the rest.

  • Marinate your ribeye
  • Place in a vacuum sealed bag or gallon resealable Glad bags
  • Immerse your vacuum sealed bag in a container tall enough to fully submerge your bag.
  • If you’re using resealable bags, clip it to the side of your container to make sure no water seeps in
  • Program your Joule and sous vide to desired doneness.
  • Brown steak in a cast iron skillet or pan to give it that seared and crispy outside
  • Enjoy your perfectly cooked, tender steak.




Not All Gyros Wear Capes


Pru says that when I’m on a mission, it’s best to stay out of my way.  He has become adept at recognizing all the telltale signs: I stop talking mid-sentence, then get this faraway look in my eyes right before I launch into a series of non sequiturs, muttering to no one in particular.  It happened recently while working on an intense work project with someone I’m lucky enough to have as my friend and self-proclaimed bossy big sister.  This one’s for you Sally.  ‘Cause you’re my gyro.

My Middle Eastern menu consists of beef gyros with tzatziki sauce and tahini dressing.  The tzatziki  is easy to make and requires very little effort beyond procuring the ingredients and slicing the cucumber paper thin, a task made easier with the use of a mandoline.  For the tahini sauce, tahini paste comes in a jar, found in Middle Eastern grocery stores or Whole Foods.  Or you can make your own.

The beef gyro was a little intimidating at first, but use the food processor to ground your meat to the pasty texture it’s intended to be and you will make this part of your regular dinner repertoire.

Beef Gyro

Ground beef, 1 lb
Salt and pepper to taste
Oregano, 1 tsp
1/2 onion
garlic, 3 cloves
bacon, 3 strips


Combine ground beef, salt, pepper, and oregano in medium bowl. Mix with hands until homogeneous. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to over night.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 300°F. Place cold mixture in bowl of food processor with onion, garlic, and bacon. Process until smooth puree is formed, about 1 minute total, scraping down sides with rubber spatula as necessary.

Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. With moist hands, form meat mixture into rectangle.  Pat it tightly to avoid air pockets in your meatloaf-like brick.  Bake until center of loaf reads 155°F on an instant read thermometer, about 30 minutes. Allow loaf to rest at room temperature for fifteen minutes.  Then refrigerate for a couple of hours as this makes it easier to slice thinly.

Adjust broiler rack to highest position (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches from broiler element) and preheat broiler. Slice loaf crosswise into 1/8th to 1/4-inch strips. Lay strips on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and broil until edges are brown and crispy, about 2 minutes. Tent with aluminum foil.


1 c Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, thinly sliced

Mix all ingredients and allow flavors to blend together for a couple of hours.

Tahini sauce

Tahini is ground sesame paste and you can find it at Whole Foods or Middle Eastern markets.   It’s like peanut butter but without the sweet nutty taste.  You can probably get away with omitting it but you’ve come this far, you might as well take another tahini step. Sorry I’ll stop punning now.

Finely mince or 2 cloves of garlic and mix with 1/2 cup of tahini paste, some lemon juice and olive oil to taste.  The mixture should be something like very runny peanut better.  When you first crack open your jar of tahini, you will find a layer of oil on top which is not only normal but awesome because of all that rich and creamy goodness.  Just stir it well before using.

Stuff pita pockets with beef gyro and spoon tahini sauce and tzatziki over the beef, serve with cucumber and tomato salad.


Baked Macaroni with Tomato Cream Sauce


Baked macaroni is one of those dishes that originates from my Pinay roots, specifically my aunt and grandmas who were all about carbs and cheese and rich, savory sauces.  Their versions have cut up hot dogs mixed throughout, sweetened with sugar and topped with grated Kraft cheese that came in a blue can.  By the way, when I was a kid I thought it was ‘crap’ cheese–the Filipinos, we don’t have the letter ‘f’ in our alphabet.  I’m not entirely sure of the reason for my people’s fascination with sweet spaghetti sauce and canned cheese but the baked macaroni was a staple in every family party I’d ever gone to.

So imagine my delight when I made it for a family party this weekend and was asked for the recipe from my cousin Melisa whom I love and will happily make baked macaroni for anytime, minus the crap cheese.


1 onion, diced
2 bell peppers–green or red–grilled or roasted for 15 minutes, diced
1 head of garlic, minced
1 jar Alfredo sauce, TJ’s is my fave
1 can San Marzano tomatoes, 28 oz
1 lb ground beef
1 lb shrimp
Spices to taste: Italian seasoning, salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute onions, bell peppers and garlic in 2T of olive oil until all vegetables are tender and onions translucent about fifteen minutes. Brown ground beef with the vegetable mixture and add salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Add whole can of San Marzano tomatoes to sauteed vegetables and browned ground beef in large dutch oven and cover for another 30 minutes. Cook over low heat. This allows all the flavors to come together and the whole tomatoes to break apart. Add jar of Alfredo sauce and combine so both red and white sauces are thoroughly combined and cook covered for another 15 minutes over low heat. Add shrimp to tomato cream sauce mixture and cook for a final 15-20 minutes. Take care in not overcooking the shrimp, just cook long enough so that it’s heated through and no longer pink. Season to your desire. I even added a teaspoon (ok, two) of sugar in homage to my aforementioned Lola Chedeng, Lola Emilia and Tita Baby.

In a large baking dish, spread pasta along the bottom of the baking dish, top with tomato cream sauce and sprinkle with your favorite grated cheese. My favorite is sharp cheddar. Repeat with each layer. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is melted. Enjoy! And it makes great leftovers for lunch the next day.

baked Mac

Doro Wat


I first discovered Massawa when I worked at Planned Parenthood decades ago and a bunch of us got together after work—a mix of card carrying liberals, closet socialists, all feminists—washed down some spicy Doro Wat with Ngoma.  I know I just said a couple words there you may have never heard of but trust me when I tell you that hot, spicy Ethiopian food eaten without utensils and only the aid of spongy bread injera to shovel it all into your mouth, and then grasping a now slippery beer bottle with greasy fingers is probably one of the richer and more memorable food experiences you’ll ever have.  I took Pru to Massawa on one of our first dates and after his initial hesitation and recounting that awful (awfully funny, to be specific) line from When Harry Met Sally about ordering empty plates at an Ethiopian restaurant, he thoroughly enjoyed his first foray into Ethiopian food.

Moment of silence as we mourn the loss of this now defunct Ethiopian eatery…

massawaHere we are, 25 years later and I tried my hand at the spicy chicken stew Doro Wat, and it was actually fairly easy to make.  The most exotic thing about it is the spicy berbere spice blend which you can either buy or prepare yourself.  If you make it yourself, you can control the spiciness because Ethiopian food is notoriously numbingly spicy.  I made my own.

  • 2 ½ to 3 lbs chicken thighs and legs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions finely minced to a chunky puree in food processor
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
  • ¼ cup berbere (see recipe below)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup garbanzo beans
  1. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and pour lemon juice over. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan or dutch oven.  Brown chicken pieces turning over twice to ensure it’s browned on all sides.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, add the onions and saute, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon butter and continue to saute, covered, for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the berbere and the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and saute, covered, over low heat for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the browned chicken, garbanzo beans and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Adjust the seasonings, adding more berbere according to heat preference.
  8. Serve hot with injera bread or rice.

Berbere spice, adapted from The Daring Gourmet

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 whole allspice berries
  • Seeds of 4 green cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 5 dried red chilies, seeded, broken into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  1. In a heavy skillet over high heat, toast the whole spices (seeds) and chilies, shaking the pan regularly to prevent scorching, until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.
  2. Grind the cooled spices in a spice or coffee grinder. Add all remaining ground spices and salt and grind everything together.
  3. Store in an airtight container in a dark place.


Mac and Cheese


I went to a conference last week which I had been dreading for weeks.  This is unusual for me–I love that I get the chance to hear about innovations and creativity and what happens when hunches become ideas and then plans and then finally, action.  In short, I love learning and the excitement of applying lessons back in my own work.

Then my son was born.  And the thought of being away from him for more than a day was heartbreaking.  You’d think I was going off to Afghanistan, that’s how dramatic this whole scene unfolded.

When I finally broke the news to him that I was leaving for a few days, it did break our collective hearts–my husband included because he watched this whole conversation unfold while J and I sat on the couch with my boy on my lap, refusing to let go.

“But Mommy, when will you come back?”

“I’ll be back on Wednesday.”

“Is tomorrow Wednesday?

“No, honey.  Tomorrow is Monday.”

So that turned into a lengthy conversation and a lesson about the days of the week, the difference between work and vacation and just because you go on an airplane doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going on vacation. It all ended with an earnest promise in between sniffles, “I’ll be brave.”

It was a long three days barely eased by Face Time.

When I got back, there was a request for Mac and Cheese and then the bigger request, “Don’t go away again, OK?  Me and Daddy were sad because we didn’t have a Mommy in the house.”

So while it’s no substitute for a mommy, the Mac and Cheese like a mommy, brings comfort and warmth to your heart and to your belly.

Inspired by Homeroom, my new favorite restaurant in Oakland, I tried my hand at 3 different kinds: Sriracha Mac which is as awesome as it sounds, English Cheddar Mac with panko and Gruyere Mac trailer style with hotdogs and potato chips–only mine was made with chicken apple sausage. All were incredible.


Bechamel Sauce:

3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup of shredded cheese (I used 1/2 Gruyere and 1/2 English cheddar)

8 oz of Cavatappi pasta, yields about 6 cups of pasta


Preheat oven to 375.

Over high heat, boil the pasta about 7 minutes for al dente.  Drain.

Microwave milk about  3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a separate, heavy-bottomed pot. When the butter has just melted, add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Slowly pour the warm milk, about 1 cup at a time, into the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly. It will get very thick when you first add the milk, and thinner as you slowly pour in the entire 3 cups. This is normal.

Once all the milk has been added, set the pot back over medium-high heat, and continue to whisk constantly. In the next 2 to 3 minutes the sauce should come together and become silky and thick. Add the salt.


Stir in shredded cheese into the bechamel sauce until melted.  Add the pasta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is coated in the cheese sauce. Sprinkle Panko bread crumbs (found in most grocery stores) evely on top.  Bake in 375 degree oven until bubbling and brown, about 20-25 minutes.


Cavatappi with its ridges and corkscrew shape is perfect for the sauce to adhere to


Trailer Mac style: Add in 2 chicken apple sausage links or hotdogs, top with crushed potato chips.  Lay’s is the perfect potato chip in life and in mac and cheese.

Sriracha Mac: Add 1-2 tbsp of sriracha and 1/2 – 1 tsp of ginger/garlic paste in your cheese mixture.  This paste is commonly used in Indian cooking and can be made by taking equal amounts (4 oz) of ginger and garlic and 1 tbsp of olive oil and pureeing in a food processor.



Guinness Braised Short Ribs


One of my favorite people on earth is my friend Dorothy. She was one of the first faithful followers of this blog and so I’m thinking that merits at least one post being dedicated to her. Besides that, she’s tall and graceful and never makes me feel like a stubby little hobbit when we walk next to each other. She’s one of the few people who really appreciates my inner dork, the one who just lets me be. Early in our friendship, she once gave me a card that said:

I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was going to blame you.

That’s when I knew we were going to be friends for a very long time.

So when she asked for my recipe for beer braised short ribs this morning, rather than send her an email reply, I’m dedicating this post to her. And by the way, she’s not a Dot or a Dotty, as those nicknames don’t do justice to the presence and grace that is my friend Dorothy.

3 medium onions, cut into wedges
3 to 3-1/2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
1 bay leaf
12 oz Guinness or any beer you like
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp beef bouillon granules
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold water

Brown beef short ribs and set aside. This is an additional step, I know and you can probably get away with just putting the raw meat in the crock pot. But I really love the color and the psychological security of eating browned, fried meat so trust me on this one. Brown the meat.

Place onions in a 5-qt. slow cooker; add ribs and bay leaf. Combine the beer, brown sugar, mustard, tomato paste, thyme, bouillon, salt and pepper. Pour over browned meat. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove meat and vegetables to a serving platter; keep warm. Discard bay leaf. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer juices to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. Combine flour and water until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.


Pumpkin Spice Latte


Fall is quite possibly my favorite season of all.  I’d like to be able to say it’s the crisp autumn air, the sun setting earlier in the evening, and amber colored leaves that line the streets on a windblown day. But it’s really all about the food.

Well, maybe it’s not all about the food…


Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, 2010

The boys and I usually make an annual pilgrimage to one of our favorite fall destinations:


Apple Hill, Sacramento


Ardenwood Farms, Fremont

Fall food really is the best though.  Apple crisps, pumpkin pies, guinness braised shortribs in the crockpot to ward off chilly nights are what draw me to this season. But because California is in the midst of a drought this year and summer is really just beginning, the only way I realized that fall is now upon us was the first Facebook post on the arrival of the much anticipated Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. I know, I know that sounds a little sad…FB telling me it’s fall.  But FB also told me that there was no pumpkin, and nary a pumpkin pie spice in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Starbucks listed their ingredients as ‘fall flavors’ among which are cinnamon, caramel ‘food color’ and high fructose corn syrup.  It also costs about as much as a school lunch with way more sugar and roughly the same amount of calories.   With the aid of Pinterest, I decided to make my own with some modifications.


Pumpkin Pie Spice Syrup
1//2 c  canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2-4 T maple syrup
2-4 T agave nectar

1/2 c milk


To make the syrup, combine pumpkin puree, pumpkn pie spice, maple syrup and agave nectar in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add water to thin the mixture.  The amount of maple syrup and agave nectar can be adjusted to your preference–2T of each for me was not sweet enough so I added more.  Set aside.

Froth milk by shaking it in a tightly sealed mason jar or tupperware for 2 minutes then microwave for 20-30 seconds or until heated through.

Spoon 2 tsp of the pumpkin pie spice syrup nto your coffee and mix until dissolved.  Pour frothy milk on top and sprinkle pumpkin pie spice over the foam top.



Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich


Today was one of those days that was bad when it started and got worse as it progressed. I dropped off J at school so it was a good beginning.

“J, can I hold your hand?” I asked as we were walking from the car to the drop off point where the kids meet up with the teachers. “Or do you just want me to let go because you’re a big boy now?”

“No, I’m not that big yet Mommy. You can still hold my hand.”

My heart melted.

The day turned to pot after that with one setback after another–stuck in traffic, unproductive meetings, poorly hatched decisions, etc, etc. But when I take life and work too seriously, as I sometimes tend to do, I take a step back and write. I write about what I felt, I write about why that feeling and what created it. This is a good exercise because as my friend Jim likes to say, “Feel the feeling, don’t be the feeling.” This is not always an easy distinction for me especially when my instinct is to eat through my feelings as I imagine coming home, sitting in front of the TV and devouring a juicy bacon cheeseburger and salty chili fries. But I remember when I weighed 60 pounds heavier and all the feelings were stuck underneath all that food so I exercise restraint.

Today, however, was a day for ice cream sandwiches. Homemade ones with oatmeal and dried cranberry cookies and vanilla bean ice cream. There are days when being decadent is not only completely warranted, it’s necessary. And it’s OK so long as it’s one ice cream sandwich and not one per hour.

1 generous scoop vanilla bean ice cream
2 oatmeal dried cranberry cookies
1 T chopped peanuts

Scoop ice cream between the bottoms of 2 cookies. Roll sides on a plate of chopped peanuts. Freeze for about 30 minutes or until firm. Enjoy after aforementioned horrible day.



B is for Balance


It’s the first week of a new school year. But this one’s special. This week is the first week of kindergarten. J started kindergarten and it was more eventful for me than for him. He wasn’t into the uniform–“Moooommmm, my neck’s too tight!”–referring to the collared shirt he now has to wear. “Mooooommm, I don’t like the snaps!”–gone are the days of elastic sweats (hello, snaps and buttons). But apart from the struggle of his now tighter and daily attire, kindergarten is a blast. The kindergarten teacher, who heretofore will be referred to as Mrs. R, is a little frightening, not horribly so, just enough to remind me of my own Catholic school days with structure, discipline and with about as much flexibility as a freshly starched and newly ironed pleated polyester skirt. So it goes without saying that we already have homework; she was actually very clear about this. “Kids Club (the school’s after school program) is for doing homework. EXCEPT for kindergarten. We will save the homework for you so you can work on it together with your child!”

Our homework this week is to come up with words that start with the letters A and B, as well as to memorize our address. We got to B and after the obligatory “book, “bug” and “boobs” (he is a boy after all), I threw in the word ‘balance’. It started a rather eye-opening discussion for both of us as I started to try and create a definition that would be somewhat meaningful for my little 5-year old so that he doesn’t go back school and to Mrs. R and spit out gems like ‘boobs’ and ‘bunghole’ (please blame Pru for that one). “Balance is when we try and do a little bit of everything. Like when you go to school, have fun, play with your friends, play with your cars and your iPad and practice your letters–you have balance. But when you do too much of one thing, you don’t have balance.” The discussion trailed off and into thoughts of my own ongoing struggle with balance. I tend to, as I always do, get consumed by work. I intended to take the day off on J’s first day of kindergarten, but I had an afternoon meeting that I couldn’t miss. Of course, no one at work told me that I had to go to that meeting. I inexplicably decided that on my own. I also haven’t blogged in awhile.

So I am trying to reclaim my balance this morning with roasted tomato soup. San Marzano and cherry tomatoes grown in my and my neighbor’s backyard and roasted in a 325 degree oven for one hour were the flavorful base for this creamy and surprisingly easy and comforting soup.

2 pounds of roasted tomatoes, any variety
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups water or chicken broth
1 tsp of bouillon if using water, otherwise omit if using broth
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a pot and puree using an immersion blender. Cook over medium heat until all ingredients are warmed through. Best served with grilled cheese sandwiches or parmesan crisps. Croutons are optional but should really be mandatory because it just makes you feel better.


The “Smart Stick” sounds a little profane, but really is a handy tool. Insert inappropriate joke here.


B is for balance indeed.