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Archive for November, 2007|Monthly archive page

Thanksgiving…Lanaberry style!

In Apartment Cooking on November 25, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Thanksgiving this year was at my parent’s home in Ventura, CA…just an hour or so up the coast from L.A. (beautiful drive that gets me in the right mood if I take the PCH/Malibu route). When we arrived, my mom had a nice spread of munchies to hold everyone over until the main show. I got there at 3pm and dinner was served around 7pm. After 4hrs straight cooking, with my mom playing Sous Chef and even saying “yes Chef” to me haha, I invited everyone to help themselves to, what I later realized, was a huge spread!

My mom roasted the turkey and made the dessert. I prepared the rest of the 8 side dishes! I purposely made large quantities because I wanted to invited friends over for leftovers the next night. Mission was accomplished! Let me walk you thru the meal. These pix are from Thanksgiving day…the next night I reheated everything for a buffet for my wonderful friends!

Mom’s Munchies

My mom is so cute…every holiday dinner she creates this “tablescape” (another Sandra-Lee reference). She goes to the fabric store and picks out really cute stuff…like at Easter there are mini-Easter baskets for everyone…super cute. She also celebrated our hometeam…GO PACKERS, with the green and gold napkins. The food spread was some great, basic junk food…chips, veggies, and dip, chocolate, gummy bears, nuts, and my favorite…deviled eggs. My mom makes sure any guests in her home are completely taken care of.


Part of the Thanksgiving Spread

Here is how everything looked that was in this area…there was another part of the buffet as well…and now I will explain what we have here.


Turkey Gravy

Gravy has got to be thick…with the best flavor. Nothing like a gravy made with turkey pan drippings from roasting, and neck meat broth…with the neck meat in the gravy. Incredible. I’m happy this turned out because my Gramma always makes the gravy on the holidays, but she wasn’t there this year. I was really concerned it wouldn’t turn out as wonderful. But thanks to my mom’s advice along the way…I nailed it!


Black-Eyed Pea Cornbread Stuffing

I made this stuffing for Christmas last year as well. Something about it’s flavor just reminds me of this time of the year. It’s not traditional stuffing, no. But the ham and bacon, cornbread and black-eyed peas…compliment the standard celery, carrots, mushrooms, sage, white pepper, and chicken broth extremely well. Best when eaten with gravy…just like the traditional stuffing.

Cranberry Sauce

Ah yes…cranberry sauce. I really only like a small bit of it on my plate. But the tart taste kinda clears my pallet while I’m eating so I like to have a small forkful now and then throughout my meal. Homemade cranberry sauce is quite easy. Last time I made this, it was too sweet…this time I made sure to capture that tart flavor that we love so much about canned cranberry sauce. Pretty easy…just cranberries, sugar, orange juice, a bit of vanilla, and a cinnamon stick.


Mac & Cheese

Homemade baked mac & cheese is a must. My friend NatNat in Atlanta reminded me of that when we were talking about our menus and I was at that point still debating if I should do Mac & Cheese. So happy I did! It was a hit at my leftovers party. Personally, I’m still perfecting “my” Mac & Cheese…I was really happy with this one because the way I heated the cooked noodles with the flour, butter, milk, and cheese and thickening it before pouring it into the pan to bake worked well to ensure clumpy, creamy mac & cheese…as opposed to hard, crusty-cheese Mac & Cheese. I used basic cheeses: Sharp Cheddar, Mild Cheddar, and Monetery Jack…next time I will use Gruyere and experiment with other cheeses to find my perfect combo. The onions, cayenne pepper, and Old Bay Seasoning created the perfect flavoring.


Sweet Potato Casserole

If you love this part of the Thanksgiving meal, which…(lucky for me)…not everyone does…this casserole was so good it made my toes curl when I first tasted it before pouring it into the pan to bake. The formula for successful candied yams or sweet potatoes is quite simple. Boil the yams till they’re really soft, mash them, add lots of butter (lots), add cinnamon and brown sugar and a bit of nutmeg, mix. pour it into a pan…and I chose to top it with crushed roasted pecans, gold raisins, and marshmallows (topping suggestion from NF, I think it’s the way his mom makes it!)



Well my mom made the turkey…she brined it overnight as I requested, and did a great job of roasting it. The stuffing she put inside added the perfect flavor to the turkey…it was moist and perfect with that gravy!


My new warmer…with more sides!

I got this awesome 3-dish electric warmer as a gift…this was the first time I used it and I loved it! I didn’t use this for my leftovers party, I just used the stove and oven to keep everything hot until it was time to eat…but this is the classier way to achieve the same thing…pro-style!



Ohhhh the greens. The greens, the greens, the greens… These were tied as the all-time favorite. I have had greens before at holidays, and there is this bbq joint nearby that makes delicious greens that my mom will usually order pick-up for special occasion meals at their place. But in this case, the place wasn’t open…so I decided I’d give greens a shot. If you haven’t had greens, you should try them. And if you have…these were the soft and mushy, slow-cooked, salty, fabulous greens that your momma makes. I summonsed my inner soul-child. Very simple tho…mixed greens, garlic, soy sauce, chicken broth, jalapeños, onions, bacon (fry first to get that good grease started)…simmer for 5hrs or as long as you can. The secret to great greens is you need to simmer them for a long time, and you need to simmer them with a ham hock, and smoked turkey wing…or bacon if nothing else. In this case, they were out of the hocks and the wings so I found salt-cured pork and threw that in. Man…they got a lot of comments, I think I hit home with those!


Mom’s Mashed Potatoes

My mom also made the mashed potatoes. She insists they’re not good. And they’re not NOT good…but she admittedly was “over” cooking at that point (I had to excuse her from the kitchen to sit down for a bit and have some tea after a few hours or so in). My mom was a wonderful helper and I really couldn’t have done this without her. Well, I could have, but woulda taken much longer…and I wouldn’t have found things in her kitchen so easily. She made the potatoes the way I do…but just not with as much love and finesse: add butter, cream/milk, salt/pepper…and I’m not sure what she sprinkled on top…pumpkin spice? Not sure. They tasted great with the gravy.


Creamed Corn and Onions

Hard to even think about this dish without having to wear a bib for drool. This was the breakthru hit of the night. This is the one that was tied with the Greens. I cannot tell you how simple, yet incredible this dish is. One of them you’d just have to try. Basically, I decided to combine creamed corn with creamed onions. You really just start with butter, then flour, and equal parts cream and milk and let it thicken, then add the fresh corn from the cob kernels and the skinned pearl onions…let them simmer for awhile. Amazing, guys…really. Let that sit for a night and reheat and you may faint. The onion flavored cream…the fresh corn…the soft little onions (that my leftover party friends thought were grapes! hehe)…just combine into something extraordinary. We were all astounded at the way this turned out.

My plate with my favs

The problem with so many sides is taking too big of portions of each side. I definitely induced serious food coma for everyone because of that reason, in addition to the turkey-effect. But there are my favorites…mac&cheese, greens, sweet potatoes, and creamed corn & onions!


Pumpkin Bars

My mom wouldn’t consider herself a good cook, but man can she bake! These pumpkin bars were a great alternative to a standard pie. They were kinda a pumpkin cheesecake bar with more of a thicker crust that you’d get with a pie. We weren’t able to get to these on Thanksgiving day, but for the leftovers party, I cut them into smaller pieces and they were devoured!


In closing, I must say I had a great Thanksgiving holiday. I was able to really explore and challenge myself with new dishes that I had envisioned in my head, and at the same time get in touch with all parts of my ethnic roots thru this meal. I got to cook for several hours (I didn’t want it to end!), I got to spend much of that time with my mom, happily bouncing around her kitchen (a fun challenge to use someone else’s kitchen), each and every dish turned out wonderful, and everyone I served were so satisfied, it was obvious, and that made me feel great! I gained much confidence and joy from the experience, and among other things, I’m thankful to share my passion with good friends and family. Can’t wait for Christmas and New Years dinners, breakfasts, and desserts!


Happy Holidays!

My Turbulent Love Affair with Food!

In Apartment Cooking on November 21, 2007 at 11:27 am

Foods that I used to hate, that I now like:

  • onions, in any form
  • mushrooms, uncooked
  • meatloaf
  • salami, pastrami, summer sausage
  • eggs benedict
  • french dip sandwich
  • yams
  • cranberry sauce
  • egg nog
  • omelets (well…i only like the ones i make)

Foods that I never ate till I moved to Cali:

  • spicy food
  • mexican food  beyond soft tacos at Taco Bell
  • sushi
  • avocados
  • indian food
  • thai food
  • snobby cheese
  • hummus
  • falafel
  • artichoke hearts

Foods that I no longer enjoy:

  • chocolate ice cream (like it, but not the same…now chocolate malts…mm!)
  • mom’s chocolate chip pancakes
  • pumpkin pie (all about the sweet potato pie!)

Foods I’m just not sure about:

  • olives…i know i don’t really like them, but i always try them…and then i consistently don’t like them.

Foods I still don’t like:

  • raw onions! love green onions, hate raw onions!

so i made the infamous Roasted Chicken and Fingerling Potato Meal…

In Apartment Cooking on November 17, 2007 at 11:38 am

 i say infamous because i first heard of this recipe from my friend on her lovely “Alosha’s Kitchen blog” where she posted about it here. but see, she got the inspiration to try out this dish from another beloved blogger, “Accidental Hedonist” who posted about it here. the veggie that accompanied this was sauteed fresh green beans.

the recipe is incredibly easy, and knowing that the chicken will be roasting for over an hour really promises a delightful outcome. i started out by prepping the chicken (i used separate drumsticks and thighs) by washing, patting dry, and rubbing with garlic i had just crushed. then i threw the garlic into the roasting pan with the chicken..that part excited me cuz roasted garlic is heaven.  next i sliced up the shallots, yellow onions, and pears and sprinkled them around the chicken in the pan. squeezed two very juicy lemons on top and studded the pan with the remaining lemon wedges. poured some OJ into the bottom of the pan, and shoved that pan into my 400-degree oven for an hour (then 30min at lower heat) and let the magic work. here’s what happened:

Citrus and Pear Roasted Chicken Quarters 

the beautiful coloring…it looks like an autumn tree with those reddish browns and golden yellows. the flavor of the sauce tasted of citrus with drippings from the roasted chicken. while trying to pick up the drumsticks, the meat was falling off the bone…now that is a roast people. so i plopped two pieces of chicken onto my plate, smothered them with the sauce and the slivered onion, shallot, and pear bits (an some roasted garlic cloves too)…added my sauteed green beans to the plate…and added my fingerling potatoes, which i basically just boiled…then did my half-smash, drizzled them with olive oil and showered them with kosher salt. my predecessors who created this dish before me were damn right about those fingerling potatoes. you don’t need to add anything else to them…they carry plenty of sweet, delicious flavor on their own.

Half-Smashed Fingerling Potatoes 

the plate heard many “mmmm’s” from myself and NF, we loved it…completely flavor packed, the potatoes were so good and that chicken was so moist. what i loved about the preparation of this meal was knowing who before me had done the same thing. that’s one thing i love about recipe sharing, is knowing who before me prepared this same thing…which gets lost with a cookbook, doesn’t seems as personal when it’s a cookbook offer compared to a friend or fellow blogger. the only thing it seems the three of us did differently is Accidental Hedonist roasted her potatoes, Alosha sauteed them, and i boiled mine. nice cooking with you ladies!

It's not chilly, but we can still make Chili!

In Apartment Cooking on November 15, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Southern Cali Chili w/ Green Chile Cornbread

it was another 80-degree winter day in Southern California…and i realized it’d been awhile since i’d made chili. last winter, in fact. so i started to envision this chili that represented my region…which is my main and favorite style of cooking…Cali Cuisine melded with Mexican. this style is completely indicative of the population in this area…the architecture, language, advertising and media, everything. the slow-cooked pot of chili turned out amazing, and got better and better each leftover dinner. the condiments i add to my bowl take the experience well beyond delicious. and the sweet and spicy cornbread was the chili’s perfect partner.

Southern Cali Chile w/ Green Chile Cornbread

by Lana B


2lbs ground beef, and your favorite combo of meat seasoning

2 cans fire roasted chopped tomatoes (with juice), 1 can black beans (juice drained), 1 can whole kernel corn (juice drained), 1 can condensed french onion soup, 1 sweet yellow onion (chopped), 1 chile pepper (diced), 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can tomato paste (i actually forgot this and the chili wasn’t thick enuf), 1 cup red wine, 2-3 tbs cinnamon, 1-3 tbs red pepper flakes to taste, 3-5 tbs ground cumin to taste, 3-5 tbs chili powder to taste, salt & pepper to taste


1 package of cornbread mix, 1 small can of roasted green chiles

condiments for Southern Cali Chile: chopped green onions, handful of shredded cheddar cheese, dollop of sour cream


1) brown ground beef with your favorite combo of meat seasonings

2) add everything to a slow-cooker, mix

3) cook on low heat setting for 4-6hrs

4) follow directions on cornbread mix and add the drained green chiles, then bake according to package

5) place the cornbread on the side of the bowl and pile the chili on top…finish it off with the condiments



Hors D'oeuvres…for breakfast??

In Apartment Cooking on November 14, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Breakfast Hors D’oeuvres!

when it came time for breakfast the morning after my anti-pasta bruschetta, NF (who btw has an awesome blog) decided to get creative. i love when he cooks cuz he’s really good at it and really experimental, as you can see. the hors d’oeuvres is a variation on his Breakfast Sandwich and continues to retain his title of Breakfast Champion. in this dish, he scrambled eggs, cooked and chopped chicken maple breakfast sausages, and piled them on top of a layer of strawberry jam on a baguette slice he toasted. totally unique and tasty!

Anti-Pasta for a Pro-Pasta girl!

In Apartment Cooking on November 14, 2007 at 2:10 pm

after being momentarily poverty stricken, i got my hands on a few dollars and of course had to cook something. i went with a few Italian anti-pasta to accompany my Poor Girl’s Pamesean Pasta.


Grilled Balsamic Vegetable Cream Cheese Bruschetta 

lately, i’ve become completely enamored with baguettes. always crisped up in the oven with some olive oil. when i have the time, i roast a garlic bulb and squeeze the delicious garlic paste out and spread it on the bread. many times i use cream cheese as my baguette cheese of choice. for some reason, the mildness and creaminess of the cream cheese is preferred. this time, i did a thin layer of cream cheese underneath grilled balsamic bruschetta (very Semi-Homemade w/ Sandra Lee). So good!


Chopped Caprese Salad 

thank you to my friend and reader, Peter, for telling me how he made this the other day. i said i was going to try it out and i meant it. as simple and devine as it is, i had never made my own caprese salad.

i know the traditional is the layered tomato slice, then mozzarella slice, then basil leaves, and drizzled with olive oil…but here is the chopped version. what amazes me about this dish is how it’s simplicity of prep and ingredients translates to so much flavor. chop up some tomatoes, throw in the mozzarella balls (i bought the herb-marinated kind from TJ’s), chop the basil, salt & pepper, olive oil. let the flavors marry a bit and you’re set for a seriously refreshing salad.

Poor Girl's Pasta

In Apartment Cooking on November 12, 2007 at 4:40 pm

Poor Girl’s Parmesan Pasta

so after throwing way too much money in to my “advance my cooking skills” pot, i found myself broke, thanks to additional circumstanced. but hey, at least the DMV got paid, right?

it was one of those nights when i can’t even afford a combo at McDonald’s. i find this kind of poverty (momentary poverty) kind of comforting in a way. it’s humbling.

however, going hungry isn’t an option. at the same time, i don’t really stock and horde much too work with as far as food in the pantry or fridge. i realized i did have the means to make some pasta…which i will call Poor Girl’s Parmesan Pasta. it was satisfying and completely flavorful…and filling thanks to all those carbs!

here’s how you can make Poor Girl’s Parmesan Pasta when your pennies are pinched!

1) boils some pasta

2) sautee some garlic in butter

3) once pasta is drained, add butter and olive oil to the pasta…be sure noodles are well-coated

4) add sauteed garlic to pasta

5) salt and pepper the pasta…add any herbs or other ingredients you may have on hand to you liking

6) add generous amounts Parmesan cheese which you hopefully have in your fridge…if you’re a pasta/italian food lover, you always should!



Ravioli…two ways.

In Apartment Cooking on November 12, 2007 at 3:37 pm

 ya like that? you know how they always say that on Asian cuisine menus? “Fried Rice 2 ways” hehe. it’s cute, so i used it.

Ground Sirloin & Basil Ricotta Ravioli

Butternut Squash Ravioli 

alright, so i finally tried to make ravioli with the wonton wrapper. screw those stupid wonton wrappers!

the ravioli fillings i made were delicious. the butternut squash was made from a puree of fresh squash, with cinnamon, brown sugar, butter, cream, and salt added.  the meat and cheese filling was devine…sauteed mushrooms chopped and simmered in with my tomato sauce and ground sirloin, and the ricotta with fresh basil.

creating the actual raviolis with the wonton wrappers was simple. i’ve worked with them before when i made these Nutella and mascapone dessert eggrolls for a party. very easy to use.

but things went downhill when it came time to boil. perhaps my water was WAY too hot. basically, i started boiling my large pot when i started creating the raviolis, thinking thinks would culminate at the same time. not so. the raviolis took forever, and my water was boiling like a roaring jacuzzi jet stream.

i dropped the first batch in for a few minutes, as directed. took them out and they were mush. delicious mush, but still mush. the second batch went in, this time only for about 30-60seconds. they were less mushy, but still didn’t have the nice firm, supple shell that i love about ravioli.

we dined, they tasted good. but i was displeased. a costly meal that was far less than perfect. sometimes when i create my own things, it turns out great…sometimes it falls short of my vision. next time…it’s make-my-own-dough time. i’ll get it right!

with the leftover meat and ricotta filling, i ended up making baked manicotti the next night, man that was good!

if anyone has a suggestion about why my wonton raviolis were a total flop, please let me know. was it just that the water was too hot?

The 80-20 Rule for Relationships: Why you don't CHEAT!

In How to be a Princess on November 6, 2007 at 11:18 am

the other night i went to the theater to see one of the best romantic comedy / dramas i’ve seen since Brown Sugar (slight spoiler below, not too bad). Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married”, starring Janet Jackson and Jill Scott was true to life with the good and the bad. i included the trailer below, but it doesn’t even really do the movie justice…it’s not predictable or cheesy. the entire cast nailed their roles…both jill and janet both made me cry tears of sadness and joy for what they were going through at different times in the movie.

but the reason why i wanted to write about this is because i wanted to share with everyone the “80-20 Rule” for relationships. this rule was discussed by the four guys while they were sitting outside. the two “good men” were explaining the logic behind the rule to the two less than good men. don’t confuse this rule with the economic and philosophical rules out there…this one applies to relationships.

The Rule:

In our relationships, our partner is most likely only able to offer 80% of what we need. There are times when we will find someone who fills in the wholes, offering the other 20%…and because it’s been missing for so long, you think you’ve finally found what you truly need. But be carefully taking risks of cheating, or leaving your 80%…because what you will be left with, is that 20%. Obviously this is no where near as fulfilling as being with someone who offers 80%

this rule is TRUE! in the movie, one of the guys hates that his wife is as big as she is…he constantly makes fun of her weight and finds himself a thinner hottie. he wants to leave his wife for her, and does. then later in the movie, he realizes he has this hot, thin woman on his arm…but she doesn’t have any of the qualities that his ex did. so he’s left with 20%. same thing can happen if you cheat with that 20%…you may get caught, get the boot, and lose your 80%.

in real life, i’ve seen this occur in my friends relationships and thoughts have entered my head during my previous relationship as well. you have a man, but there are things he just doesn’t do for you. maybe it’s that he doesn’t want to DO anything fun, maybe he doesn’t like to gossip or talk about mushy stuff, maybe he’s not as attractive as other guys, maybe he doesn’t satisfy you under the sheets. and then…here comes along this guys who can satisfy that missing link. tempting, eh?

but you have to ask yourself if the list of things missing is longer than the list of what’s there, time to move on. but if your list of what’s there is longer than the few things missing…try to talk to your man and make it work! but if it’s still a lost cause and the thing that’s missing is unfixable, might be time to leave this one. i’m a firm believe that most of those things i listed, if they are missing and they are important to you, then you can’t be satisfied by your relationship. if you are okay with finding a friend to do the fun activities with, then no problem. but if it makes you sad that your man isn’t a fun activity partner, than it’s really just a waste of time. imagine if you just ignore your dissatisfaction and you find yourself married 10yrs later, totally unhappy and feeling locked in ::shutter::

good luck out there! don’t ruin a good thing if you got it, and if you don’t got it…move on!