Thursday, May 28, 2015

Baked Tilapia Fillet with Fresh Herbs & Breadcrumbs

Making fish for dinner is fuss-free and foolproof. Even though it is easy to prepare, and it is also elegant enough to serve guests. Summer time is a good time for me to prepare this recipe with all the fresh herbs that are growing strong in my garden. Fresh ingredients coupled with creative personal style allows cooks to take 100 percent of the credit for something that looks, and tastes really homemade. I use equal amounts of a variety of herbs because I believe that all herbs are good natural medicine that can be added to the recipe. These herbs are fresh from the garden and waiting for me to snip them off.  This is a good recipe for using fresh herbs of any kind.

Two 6 oz. tilapia fillets
1/2 tsp of each of the following fresh herbs:
Parley, thymes, chive, and tarragon, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbs coconut oil, olive oil, or butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

In a small saucepan, heat coconut oil on low heat. Add garlic, stir, cook until fragrant, but not burned.

Combine the fresh herbs in a small bowl. Add lemon juice, zest, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Add half of the coconut-garlic oil and mix well.

 Place the tilapia in a baking dish and divide the herbs mixture onto the fish. Let marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400° and bake fish for 15 minutes.
While fish is baking, bring other half of the oil-garlic mixture to hot.

Add breadcrumbs and cook until crispy. Remove fish and top with crispy breadcrumbs. Serve.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Easy Vietnamese Meatballs

I have always dedicated my blog to presenting many quick, easy, healthy recipes. I believe that Asian recipes are healthier choices than Westerner recipes because Asian recipes don’t use cheeses and a lot of fat. Lately, coconut oil has become a healthy choice for cooking and baking. So this meatballs recipe will keep my blog’s promise. We always want to be smart and happy, so choosing a good food is a stepping stone to guide us there. Taking a few extra minutes in the morning to have a good breakfast with enough nutrients to start the day and also finding some time to prepare a good dinner is a must for the whole family. Most of my recipes are very simple to prepare with easy-to-find ingredients to find and, most importantly, produce very healthy dishes.

1 lb. ground chicken or pork
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 tbs finely chopped white onion
Marinade ingredients:
1 tbs baking powder
1 tbs fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs water

10 bamboo skewers, about 8 inches long, soaked in water

In a mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, garlic, shallots, and minced white onion.
In a small bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients and mix well. Add the marinade ingredients to the meat mixture. Mix together until mixture becomes sticky. Cover and refrigerate overnight or 6 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator and divide the meat into approximately 30 or more portions and form the meat into small meatballs.

Line a baking sheet with coconut oil and place the meatballs on the baking sheet. Preheat oven to 450° and bake the meatballs until halfway done (about 15 minutes). Let cool and then skewer the meatballs with the soaked bamboo sticks.

Heat a grill pan. Add a little more coconut oil and char-grill the meatballs until both sides appear brown (you can omit this part of cooking and instead let the meatballs bake in the oven until the meatballs brown on both sides).

Serve this dish with steamed rice or rice noodles with lettuce, cucumbers, and Vietnamese dipping sauce. This dish also can be rolled inside rice paper to make good fresh spring rolls, called "nem cuon".

Easy Almond Macaroons

These are classic French cookies. They are additional type of easily prepared cookies for entertaining at an afternoon tea in France. There is only a short list of ingredients required in the recipe and even a beginner baker, as I, can make a wonderful batch of cookies.

2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs whites
1tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 375° and line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
Use a hand held electric  mixer and beat all the ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined.

Place teaspoon-size amounts of batter neatly onto the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until golden (about 12 to 15 minutes).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Vegetarian Tofu Curry

This curry dish is different. Instead of using chicken or beef, tofu replaces the meat, and the vegetables are cooked with varying combinations of herbs and spices. The curry paste that I use in this dish is Thai red curry paste.  The Vietnamese curry powder is very mild compared to Indian or Thai, but the hot chili and ginger can add greater depth of spicy for this curry dish. This simple curry dish improves its flavor if made ahead of time, and it freezes well. My mom used to prepare this dish for the Quang Minh Temple in Chicago years ago to serve for a large group of people every Buddhist celebration. For religious reasons my mother never included eggs in this dish; however, last year I went on a cruise with my family, and I really enjoyed the curry dish that was served, which contained eggs. I am introducing this dish on a smaller scale for home cooking in remembrance of those old days.

14 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1 ½ inch squares
1/2 lb. Idaho potato, peeled and cut to the same size as the tofu
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch lengths
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 cup sweet pea
5 hard-boiled eggs (optional)
Spice ingredients:
2 shallots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs fresh chopped lemongrass
1 knob of fresh ginger, chopped
1 tbs red curry paste
1 tbs curry powder
1 red hot chili
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tbs salt
2 tsp sugar
1 large tomato (cored and seeded, cut in wedges )
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups coconut milk
1 tbs cornstarch

Garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro

In a mini food processor, combine lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger, red curry paste, curry powder, hot chili, salt, black pepper, and sugar. Process to a very fine paste.

Heat 1/2 cup of peanut oil in a cast iron pan and deep fry the tofu until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove tofu from the pan.

In the same pan, add potatoes. Brown potatoes on all sides for 5 minutes. Remove potatoes from pan with the slotted spoon and place on a paper towel.

Remove all but 3 tbs of oil from the cast iron pan.  Add the curry-spices paste to the hot oil and cook until fragrant.

Stir in the onion wedges and bay leaf.

 Add tomato and cook for 2 minutes. Add fried tofu, potatoes, and carrots to the spices (if using eggs, add them to the spices at the same time as the tofu). Add broth and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are tender.

Dissolve the cornstarch with coconut milk and add to the pan with the green pea when the cooking time is finished.

Bring to simmer and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened (about 10 minutes).
Serve with hot rice or French bread.

Madeleine cookies

An afternoon tea is one of the most elegant ways of entertaining. Generally, it is intended as a get-together for a few good friends over a cup of tea or coffee and is usually accompanied with different kinds of cookies and cake. The afternoon tea is more popular in England and France because of their slow, easy lifestyles. The afternoon tea is more elegant if served at the table covered with a white tablecloth and China dishes, which we have all seen in the movies. Most of the pastries are small or more like individual portions of cake. However, one of the cookies to serve at this get-together is the Madeleine. This cookie is a kind of butter or shortbread cookie, but the way it is presented is more elegant. This cookie is my favorite French cookie. Finally, this recipe is easy to make, and I will share its recipe now.

1/2 + cup melted butter, let cool and reserve enough for greasing mold cavities
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted and reserve enough for dusting
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Grease Madeleine mold cavities with butter and lightly dust with flour (Note – Madeleine mold pans vary in number and sizes of cavities, such as 6, 12, 18 and standard or mini. The quantity of batter in my recipe should fill about 20 standard size Madeleine cavities).

Using a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs for 5 minutes. Do not skimp on this process (the egg and sugar mixture should look pale and triple in volume).
Slowly fold in butter, vanilla, pinch of salt, and flour. Chill the batter for 1 to 2 hour in the refrigerator.
Pour the batter half full into the prepared mold cavities and bake in a preheated oven set to 400° for 8 to 10 minutes.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Leeks and Potato Soup

Leeks and potato soup can be served hot or cold. The version of this recipe is prepared by using coconut milk instead of heavy cream or half and half as part of improving healthy eating habits used in my cooking. I even omit the bacon fat and use coconut oil instead. The chicken broth is used adding more flavor to this soup. My garden is in full bloom with chives and leeks, so this is a good time to make this soup.

2 tbs coconut oil
1 leek, white part only, sliced
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb. potato, peel and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup coconut cream or milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with chopped chives

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan and add leeks, celery, garlic, and onions. Cook and stir occasionally over low heat for 15 minutes or until all vegetables are softened but not browned.

Add potato and chicken broth and bring to boil.

Reduce heat and allow to simmer (covered for 20 minutes).


Allow the soup to cool a little before pureeing in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to clean pot.

Bring the soup gently back to boil and stir in the coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup in a terrine or single serving bowl garnished with chopped chives.


French Chocolate Almond Cake

The foods of France preside over the world's great culinary arts of cooking. From simple potato leek soup, to warm croissants, to exquisite chocolate cake, French food has been known for requiring technical skills and extravagant expensive ingredients. However, for simple chocolate cake, the recipe I will introduce here is excellent and a must-keep recipe to show off to friends or family members.  This recipe does not require much technical skill as does most baking of French food, and the ingredients are very easy and affordable.

5 oz. dark chocolate
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs separated
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup self-rising flour

Preheat oven to 350°.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover a bottom of an 8 inch square cake pan and grease with coconut oil or butter. Set aside.

Chop chocolate and place on a double boiler with simmering water over low heat to melt the chocolate. Let cool.

Into a stand mixer, add cream, sugar, butter, and coconut oil until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and continue beating until well combined.  Add cool melted chocolate into egg yolk batter and almond flour.

Using a clean bowl and clean whisk, add egg white into a stand mixer bowl and whisk until stiff. Fold egg white into egg yolk batter, alternating with self-rising flour (the batter is quite difficult but do your best not to deflate the egg white).


  Make sure to gently stir enough to produce a homogenous batter. Pour batter the prepared cake pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.