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Dan Dan Noodles

Yes, I roasted the peanuts and burnt some! :-(

This version of Dan Dan noodles doesn't really resemble the traditional one which is covered in spicy chili sauce. I didn't want it to be too spicy (aka Americanized), so I tweaked it, of course. 

A bit of trivia for you - did you know that dan dan is actually a shoulder pole? In the early days, peddlers would carry their wares (noodles, in this case) on a bamboo pole over their shoulders and sell them on the streets. This particular type of dish originated in Sichuan, and is still enjoyed there (and all over the world!) up to now.

What you need:

3 bundles of udon noodles
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound ground beef
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon chili oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons tahini 
1 teaspoon peppercorn
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons sliced green onions

What to do: 

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl of ice water. Let stand until cold. Drain well and set aside.

Heat canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef, season with salt and pepper and stir. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add ginger; continue cooking until beef is browned. Stir in beef broth, chili oil, vinegar, soy sauce, tahini, peppercorns and sugar.

Simmer until sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. Pour beef mixture over the noodles. Garnish with peanuts and green onions. 

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Traditional dan dan noodles use pork (use chicken stock with pork)
2. If using fresh ginger, use about 2 tablespoons.
3. Sichuan peppers would go great with this dish (I didn't have any so I used regular peppercorn).
4. Want it really spicy? Add more chili oil.



Another great food find in the Newark Airport area. The bakeshop is called "Crumbs" and we fell in love with their array of delicious goodies. It definitely changed the way I see “airport food.” I got the Dulce de Leche cupcake and here is what I thought about it.

What I liked:

Very moist chocolate cake
Cream cheese-frosting base really tasted like Dulce de Leche. It has that deep, caramelly, sugary flavor.
Moderate caramel drizzle on top is deep and dark.
Very simple cake – no fuss and frills, but the flavor is outstanding.
Perfect balance of chocolate and caramel.
Large, but not too large. Not overwhelming. Just enough. It is not an “on the go” type of cake. You have to sit down, use a knife, and enjoy every morsel of it.

What I didn't like: 

It seems to be a touch on the pricey side. But just one bite and you quickly forget how much you paid for it (as you contemplate getting three or four more cakes).

The verdict: 

Yes, a bit pricey, but really worth every penny. The cake was just so good, and NOT meant for sharing. I definitely recommend them, and will buy from them again. Enjoy your treat with your favorite cup of coffee. :-)


Warm Spinach-Artichoke Cups

I bought frozen spinach on impulse a few months ago (yes, months!) and it has been sitting in the freezer for quite some time now. I didn't even remember it until I saw it when I was trying to clear some space for ice cream in the freezer.

It just so happened that I have some wonton wrappers in my fridge. I was originally saving it because I wanted to make Peachy's Pizza Bites, but I ended up eating all the salami when I was hungry one afternoon. So I just dug up an old recipe from Kraft and tweaked it. 

The recipe was really good - even with frozen spinach. Perfect for pot lucks and parties. Just remember to serve them warm!

What you need:

24 - 30 pieces wonton wrappers
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped red peppers
3 cloves garlic, minced

What to do: 

Heat oven to 350°F.

Grease your muffin pan with cooking spray. Place 1 wonton wrapper in each of the 24 muffin cups, with edges of wrapper extending over top of cup. Bake the wrappers for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients. Then spoon artichoke mixture into wonton cups. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until filling is heated through and edges of cups are golden brown. Serve hot!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Not a fan of cheddar cheese? Omit and use a cup of shredded mozzarella.
2. Try serving it on flatbread or phyllo dough instead of wonton wrappers.
3. Add olives for a different dimension on the dish!


Easy Garlic Green Beans

Yes, I am a garlic addict. Vampires beware. 

There's something about garlic that makes a dish so... appetizing. I can't eat certain noodles without toasted garlic. I would eat garlic bread 3x a day if I could. I would pop garlic chips in my mouth like they're candy. I guess it's not really a bad thing since this lowly bulb has a lot of medicinal benefits.

My mother-in-law cooked garlic green beans a few weeks ago and it was so good that I had to copy it. This is a great side dish - tasty and very healthy. 

What you need:

1/2 pound green beans
1 head of garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and pepper, to taste
lemon (optional)

What to do:

Trim the ends of green beans and blanch it for about a minute and a half. Place immediately in a bowl of iced water to stop from cooking and retain color.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add olive oil in a pan or wok over medium-low heat. Saute garlic until light brown, then add the drained green beans. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving plate and squeeze lemon juice just before serving.

Mmmm... garlicky goodness!

Tricks, Tweaks and Tricks: 

1. Don't forget to drain the green beans before adding it to the oil!
2. Try adding shallots - and let me know how it tastes!

3. To get more juice from the lemon, microwave it for about 10 to 15 seconds.


Mochi 2

I never get tired of mochi! 


Restaurant Review: Smashburger

This burger joint is actually a hidden gem. We went to the Newark Airport branch, had a taste of Smashburger, and were blown away. The taste is not what you would categorize as “airport food.”

Smashburger, as the name implies, smashes the burgers. I don’t know how, since the burger arrived to me in a perfectly un-smashed condition. I can tell it was pretty good because I saw one of their employees eating their own fares for lunch. As hubby said, if he has been around their food that long and still doesn’t think it’s disgusting, chances are, it must be pretty good.

I tried the Garlic Swiss Mushroom Burger variety (with additional grilled onions) and here is my ten cents worth:

What I liked:

The patties were still juicy and very tasty – even though they said it was smashed.
Good quality beef. You can tell by how it tastes.
The bun is buttery and toasted. So delicious.
Big portion – good enough for two people (we ordered the double smashburger – extra patty!).
Good swiss cheese. Stringy and tasty.

What I didn’t like:

I wish there were more mushrooms. After all, it was a Mushroom Burger!
By golly, their Southern Sweet Tea sure was sweet. It almost gave me a headache. (This might be a plus for some people)
No mayo. Not that it needed it – the taste was more than enough. I just wanted some. I guess I could have asked for mayo packets.

The Verdict:

Smashburger was really very good. It was money well spent. Large portions, very flavorful, and the polite crew was an added bonus too. So yes, I definitely recommend it. And yes, I will eat there again – if we are in the New Jersey area. Or if they open a franchise in Florida! 

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Homemade Java Chip Frappuccino

Look at those crushed morsels at the bottom!

I found myself with a cold cup of coffee one day because I forgot to drink the cup that hubby brewed that morning. I could have zapped it in the microwave, but I did something better - I made Java Chip Frappuccino. It saved me a trip to Starbucks, and about $5 (since I have all the ingredients at hand!).

I got the recipe here, I just halved the amount to make 2 instead of four servings. Tweaked, of course, to suit my taste. Enjoy!

What you need:

2 cups freshly brewed coffee (I used Italian Roast)
3 tablespoons dark chocolate syrup + more for drizzling
2 tablespoons dark chocolate morsels
1 cup crushed ice
whipped cream

What to do: 

Put crushed ice in blender. Add coffee, 3 tablespoons chocolate syrup, and chocolate morels. Blend until thick and icy. Transfer to a glass and top with whipped cream. Drizzle with more chocolate syrup. 
view from the top

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Do not use hot coffee in this recipe. It will instantly melt the crushed ice.
2. Make sure you blend it well - and scoop out all those chocolate morsels that would get stuck on the blades of your blender.
3. Add more ice if you want a thicker frap.

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Amateur Volcano Roll

Imitation crab (or Krab with a “K”) was BOGO at our local grocery store so we bought two packs. We wanted to be adventurous (I am using that term very loosely!) and make sushi. We couldn’t make the real ones because we don’t know where to get sushi-grade fish in the first place. So this is probably the best that we can do.

I did look for a recipe for Seafood Dynamite and copied it. We love the baked seafood that restaurants usually put on top of Volcano Rolls, so  we kinda’ tried to make it – minus the scallops, crabs, and shrimps of course. That left us with the krab (hahaha). It was still very, very good and we will make some again if the price (of krab!) is right.

I use premium rice
What you need:

2 sheets of dried Nori
2 packs imitation crab
1 avocado
about 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
squirt of Sriracha
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup cooked Sushi rice
1 tablespoon (or more) Sushi Vinegar
1 carrot, julienned

What to do:

First, make the Seafood Dynamite. Use the first pack of imitation crab. Cut each piece into about ½ an inch and shred them. Make sure most of the fibers are separated (if you have worked with krab before, you know what I am talking about. If this is your first time, then you will know very soon!)

Place shredded krab sticks in a bowl. Add mayonnaise and sriracha. Mix well. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to an oven-safe container, place on top rack of the oven and broil for about 10 minutes.

Cook rice per package instructions. While still hot, add vinegar and mix well.

Place a sheet of Nori on top of sushi mat. Get about a palmful of rice and lay it on the Nori, making sure it is flattened. This would be kind of tricky but it will be the base of your sushi so be patient!

Layer the krabs, carrots and cream cheese. They should be on the end part of the Nori. When you have layered them according to how you like them, roll the sushi by lifting the mat and rolling away from you. Make sure your roll is sturdy enough to hold the ingredients, yet not too tight as the nori might break.

Cut the logs  into several pieces so you would have about 7 or 8 small rolls. To assemble them, think of pyramid-building. Basically, you have to stack them on top of each other, but placing more on the bottom and less on the top. So if you have 8 segments, place 4 on the bottom, then 3 on top of them, then one segment on the very top. Like this:

Place some of the baked krabs on the rolls. Anywhere will work. But if you are aiming at a great presentation, try to place it in areas where it would look like a triangle to give the illusion of a volcano.

Add “flair” (hahaha) by dotting the sides of your plate with sauce (I used Hoisin sauce). Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

  1. You can add chopped shrimps, scallops, or real crabs in the baked toppings.
  2. Need more veggies? Use cucumbers with carrots!
  3. Want more heat? Instead of hoisin sauce, use more Sriracha!
  4. If your Nori seems too dry, wet it a bit by dabbing it with a moist paper towel.
  5. Substitute Sriracha with Tabasco. Use more if you want spicier Seafood Dynamite.
  6. Seafood Dynamite is best topped hot! Broil it about 12 minutes before serving.
  7. No oven? Broil Seafood Dynamite on a toaster oven!

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