Category: Specialty

Spring Roll Party

A great way to spend an afternoon with friends and family is to invite them over for a culinary adventure!  I asked two of my friends, Gene and Hong, to walk me through Vietnamese spring roll making, and they both agreed to educate and share their experience with me.      

 To save money and time, Gene, Hong and I decided to share the task and cost of preparing some things at home the day before doing the spring rolls.  I boiled two pounds of shrimp, Gene BBQ’d a pork loin, and Hong brought some fried tofu from a local vendor.  Here’s how Gene and I prepared our stuff…     

 Gene’s BBQ’d Pork Loin     

  1. In a ziploc bag add ground black pepper, garlic powder and a squirt of Sriracha hot chili sauce.
  2. Add loin to mix and shake it up
  3. Marinade for1 hour
  4. Grill, sear and smoke the loin
  5. Add BBQ sauce at the end

Yvette’s Shrimp Boil      

  1. Thaw a 2 lb bag of frozen shrimp, devained and shelled
  2. Boil water and add shrimp with shell on
  3. Scoop the shrimp out when they float to the top (small strainer helps)
  4. Let them cool and then peel off the shell

(I could have put some Cajun spices to the boil but I didn’t think of it)     

On the day we planned to make these spring rolls, we first went to an Asian supermarket, and for me this was the intimidating part!  Most staff are willing to help but the easiest way is if you have an Asian friend to take you on a small tour. (Thanks, Hong!)  This author was surprised to discover fresh and inexpensive herbs there!   Compare prices at your local Asian market vs. regular grocery store and be amazed!  

Here’s how we did all the prep work the day of of spring rolling…     

 Peanut Sauce Prep     

  1. Saute 4-5 shallot cloves, chopped
  2. Once the shallots are caramelized, throw in 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  3. 1 cup of hoison
  4. 1/3 of a jar of peanut butter
  5. 1 cup of water (or as much as desired in thickness)
  6. Dash of rooster sauce or Tabasco sauce to taste

Rice Noodle Prep      

  1.  Boil the rice noodles or bun (pronounced like boon) for about 5-8 minutes for a softer noodle
  2. Separate the noodles in small clumps in a large strainer for easier pickin’s
  3. Rinse the bun two times in cold water

Herb Prep      

  1. Wash the curly lettuce twice
  2.  Soak and wash twice the cilantro (Ngo), Thai basil (Que), mint (Kanh Gioi), lemon herb (Rau ram). thin leeks (He).  For a spicier mix add spearmint (Hung Cay) or peppermint (Hung Hui).

 Okay!  Let’s put all these things together!!!  

For a recipe on crispy spring rolls, check out my article on Associated Content.  

           Introduction to Asian Cuisine with Dorothy Huang
If you were ever frustrated about how your attempts at Asian cooking turn out, it’s possible you might be tempted to give up and just order in.     

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The One Week $25 Challenge

I’ll be conducting several challenges this year, the first is to cook and eat on less than $25 dollars from Monday to Friday. Normally, I only have coffee for breakfast and eat out for lunch two or three times a week. But for the purpose of this challenge, I will eat three meals a day. I will not be counting beverages or staples that I have on hand at all times, such as salt, pepper, butter, sugar, flour, garlic, seasonings, oil, etc.

I went to the store for the first shopping trip today (Sunday) and stocked up for breakfast and lunch for all five days plus dinner (mostly) for the first three days. I took a strategy of using products more than once such as bread, eggs, rice and potatoes. Each day I will update this post with my meals and recipes.

Here is the grocery list and the prices.

Item Cost
1 lb Chorizo 1.93
2 lb Grade A chicken thighs 3.33
12 oz Center cut Bacon 2.00
Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls (8 cnt. Tube) 0.00
1 white onion 0.33
1.1 lb Red potatoes 1.08
1 head Iceberg lettus 0.88
3/4 pound broccoli crowns 0.73
1.2 lb Roma tomatoes 1.11
1 8oz can cream of chicken 0.88
16 oz Cavatappi Pasta 1.00
16 oz. Linguine Pasta -0.93
16 oz Small Red Beans (Dry) 1.15
16 oz Long Grain White Rice 0.74
1 Small loaf white bread 0.69
1/2 dozen grade AA large eggs 1.19
8oz Monterey Jack Cheese (1) 1.67
Green Bell Pepper (2) 0.78
Calamata Olives (3) 1.04
Tomato Sauce (3) 0.29
White Onion (3) 0.33
Prime Ribeye Steak (4) 4.75
TOTAL 24.98

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Scrambled egg and buttered toast.
  • Lunch: BLT
  • Dinner: Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

I needed some cheese for the casserole so I had to pick up an 8 oz block of Monterey Jack ($1.67). Even though I tried to cut the recipe amounts back so I would not have leftovers, I still had enough for lunch the next day plus some.

Dinner recipe ingredients: 1/2 pound chicken, 1/2 cup rice, 2 medium broccoli crowns, 1 can of cream of chicken)

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Poached egg with toast
  • Lunch: Leftover Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
  • Dinner: Red Beans and Rice with Chorizo

Leftovers AGAIN. I am finding it very hard to cook a single serving, but then again how can you cook 1/8th cup of rice? I guess I could have pre-cooked the rice yesterday and reserved 1/2 for tonights meal. If I try a challenge similar to this in the future, I will definately precook rice. Supplies are holding out well. I expect that when the challenge is over I will still have at least 1/2 of the rice and beans left and probably most of the pasta.

Dinner recipe ingredients: 1/2 pound Chorizo, 2/3 cup rice, 1/2 cup red beans, 1/2 medium white onion, 3 cloves garlic, Cajun seasoning.

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Fried egg toasted Sandwich
  • Lunch: Leftover Red Beans and Rice
  • Dinner: Chicken Fajitas with Spanish Rice

Ok, leftovers have become a strategy at this point, however, I do not plan to have the same dish more than twice. Once for dinner then again as leftovers for lunch the next day. I’m going to have plenty of bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and bread to work with since I have abandoned the daily BLT for lunch.

Dinner recipe ingredients: 1 pound chicken, 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 medium white onion, 1 green bell pepper, 1 Roma tomato

Day 4

  • Breakfast: Cinnamon toast with bacon
  • Lunch: Leftover Chicken Fajitas and Spanish Rice
  • Dinner: Linguine with Red Meat Sauce

Dinner turned out alright, but I do think that the Cavatappi would have been the better pasta to use.

Dinner recipe ingredients: 6 oz Linguine, 1/2 pound Chorizo, 1/2 medium white onion, 1 green bell pepper, 1 can tomato sauce, 2 oz Monterey Jack cheese, 4 oz Calamata olives, 2 cloves garlic, 2 slices of bacon, 1 egg, almost a full head of lettuce

Day 5

  • Breakfast: 2 egg omelet with bacon
  • Lunch: Leftover Linguine with Red Meat Sauce
  • Dinner: Rib-eye with Roasted Red Potatoes

Well I was able to save enough money to treat myself to a Rib-eye on day 5! Smaller than I normally have and choice not prime, but a Rib-eye none the less. I also had enough bacon left to add a few slices to the potatoes as a topping.

Dinner recipe ingredients: 8 oz Rib-eye, 3/4 pound red potatoes, 3 slices of bacon

Bonus Food

I had all of the Cavatappi and cinnimon rolls left, 1/2 pound chicken, 2/3 of the Linguine, 3/4 of the red beans, 1/4 of the rice, 1/2 of the Monterey Jack, a couple of tomatoes and potatoes, 1/2 white onion and a couple of slices of bacon. I was able to go ahead and use most of the ingredients in the next few days. I still have all of the pasta, it will keep, but I did have to throw the chicken out.

So there you have it 3 meals a day for the work week without using any processed packaged food — with food left over. Of course on Saturday I cooked a very nice mushroom risotto that probably cost me $15-20 in ingredients.

-Chef Stacy

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Slow Cooked Apple and Onion Stuffed Chicken

Apple and Onion Stuffed Chicken with Bacon and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Apple and Onion Stuffed Chicken with Bacon and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

When I first conceived this recipe, I was going to fry the chicken in butter for about 4-5 minutes a side. However, I had purchased a new slow cooker and was looking for an interesting way to use it. It was suggested that I do a stuffed chicken recipe. Serendipity at its best. I already had all of the ingredients.  So below you will find the altered recipe. The slow cooker gave me plenty of time to relax and fix a side dish of bacon and garlic mashed potatoes, and Bananas Foster for dessert.


  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Green Apple, diced (Granny Smith recommended)
  • 1 Small Red Onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons Oregano
  • 2 Pieces of bread, toasted, (you can substitute 3/4 cup store bought bread crumbs)
  • 8-10 ounces diced Tomato
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed or quartered
  • 1 tablespoon dried Oregano


Pounding Chicken Thighs

Pounding Chicken Thighs

Between two pieces of plastic wrap, unroll and pound flat chicken thighs.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and apple and cook 6-8 minutes until onion is translucent and apples are slightly softened. Cut toasted bread in to small chunks and add to onions and apples. Add 1-2 teaspoons of salt an pepper. Stir until well mixed then add diced tomatoes. Continue stirring, then remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.

Stuffed Chicken in Slow Cooker

Stuffed Chicken in Slow Cooker

Place a spoon full or more of the onion/apple mixture on each thigh and secure with toothpicks. Place each rolled thigh in a slow cooker. Pour remaining mixture over thighs and add chicken broth and garlic. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste (1-2 teaspoons). Start cooker and cook on high for 2 1/2 hours. In the last 15 minutes of cooking add oregano.

Finished Product Ready to Slow Cook

Finished Product Ready to Slow Cook

Serve by plating Stuffed Chicken first then topping with remaining mix. The left over cooking juice can be used as a gravy or additional sauce for the chicken.

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Italian Sausage Meat Sauce

Fucilli tossed with Meat Sauce and garnished with Grated Romano Cheese

Fucilli tossed with Meat Sauce and garnished with Grated Romano Cheese

Any pasta can be used with this meat sauce which is also known as a bolognese.  I normally use Fusilli because the meat sauce clings to it easily. I serve this meal in a bowl with a spoon and top it with fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Serves: 4


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, medium chop
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper diced (red preferred)
  • 2 tomatoes diced (approximately 1 3/4 lbs)
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 4 1/2 ounce can mushrooms, drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed


Meat Sauce

Meat Sauce

In a large pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until semi soft being careful not to burn them. Add Italian sausage and cook until browned. Drain sausage.

In pot with drained sausage, stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Mix in oregano, basil, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, mushrooms, cumin, fennel seed, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for about 1-2 hours, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.

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Perfect Pantry: Grains

This is the first in a series of articles on how to stock the perfect pantry. This post will be updated from time to time to add additional information. Grains typically have long shelf lives, commonly 2-4 years, so stocking up on a variety of grains is a good pantry habit.



Polenta is cornmeal that has been boiled in water. It is widely used as a staple of Italian cuisine. It can be used as is, grilled or fried. Prepared polenta can be found at most grocery stores.



Arborio is an Italian short-grain rice. The rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy when cooked. Arborio has a high starch content. It has a starchy taste but blends well with other flavors. It is primarily used to make Risotto.

  • 1 cup rice, 3 cups water, yields 3 cups cooked rice


Basmati is a variety of long grain rice, grown in India and Pakistan notable for its fragrance and delicate, nuanced flavor. India and Pakistan are the largest cultivators and exporters of this rice. The grains of basmati rice are longer than most other types of rice and are available in both white and brown varieties. Cooked grains of Basmati rice are characteristically free flowing rather than sticky, as with most long-grain rice and can be identified by its fragrance.

  • 1 cup rice, 1 3/4 cups water, yields 4 cups cooked rice

Cooking tip: Soak rice in water for 20 minutes before cooking to maximize grain elongation.


Jasmin rice, sometimes known as “Thai fragrant rice”, is a long-grain variety of rice that has a nutty aroma and a subtle and pandan-like flavor. Jasmine rice is originally from Thailand. The grains will cling when cooked, though it is less sticky than other rices.

  • 1 cup rice, 1 1/2 cups water, yields 3 cups cooked rice


Sushi rice is a short-grained, Japanese rice. It is usually cooled to room temperature before being used. Sushi rice has a consistency that differs from long-grain strains such as those from India. The essential quality is its stickiness. Rice that is too sticky has a mushy texture; if not sticky enough, it feels dry.

  • 1 cup rice, 1 1/4 cup water, yields 3 cups cooked rice



Couscous consists of spherical granules made by rolling and shaping moistened semolina wheat and then coating them with finely ground wheat flour. The finished granules are about one millimeter in diameter before cooking. Traditional couscous requires considerable preparation time, therefore, a more-processed, quick-cook couscous is suggested for the pantry. Traditionally couscous is served under a meat or vegetable stew. It can also be eaten alone, plain, flavored, warm or cold.

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