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When I think of conventional baby food, mushy, gummy, easy to swallow textures comes to mind. You can pretty much put anything in a blender nowadays and make baby food, but my challenge was to make adult food that don’t need to go through a blender to be baby friendly. 

One of my go to recipes on a Sunday is some type of pasta with sauce… I would start the sauce mid afternoon and let it simmer until it was time to eat. Bolognese sauce came to mind because you can use ground meat cooked down with tomatoes and finely diced vegetables, very baby friendly. Pasta, on the other hand, is not so baby friendly unless you cut the pasta. When I was searching for recipes on foodandwine.com, I came across a polenta recipe and Bingo! Baby friendly pasta.

Another good thing about pasta dishes is that you can cook them ahead of time, and make a big batch and freeze it for later. Time saving recipes are a life saver when you don’t have time to cook during the week. 

The cooking process is pretty straightforward for the Bolognese sauce: brown some meat, add vegetables and broth, and simmer. I used veal and pre made Italian sausage from the grocery store. I think it’s important to brown your meat until a brown crust forms on the bottom of the pot… This means all liquid has been cooked off and the little bits of meat that’s stuck to the bottom of the pot will act as major flavoring agents when you add broth and scrape them off. By no means burn your meat, but cook it around medium heat until most if not all water dissipates. 

 
For the vegetables I added celery, onion, carrots, and garlic, finely diced. You can use a food processor for this. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release some of the crusty goodness from the meats. When cooking down the vegetables, you want to creat the same type of crust on the bottom of the  pan like with the meat. After adding the liquids, be sure to scrape the pan well so all the brown stuff gets cooked into the sauce. 

I left my sauce simmering until thick, but it really depends on your personal preference..as long as you keep the sauce on simmer it’s almost impossible to over cook it. If it’s too thin cook it longer, if it’s too thick add more broth or water. This recipe worked for me because I started it while my son took his afternoon nap and once he woke up the sauce was already simmering so it was very low maintenance.  

As for the polenta, I followed very basic instructions on cooking it while whisking ( I didn’t sift my polenta before cooking it which is why it looks lumpy in the photo).  I made double the recipe, and used the left overs to make pre packed meals for my son.

 
After the polenta gets to the right consistency ( approximately 25-30 mins on medium heat with constant whisking), I played for our dinner and poured the rest into a baking dish.  

As it cools the polenta will harden and make it easy to cut into equivalent portions.  

 I divided up the polenta and the Bolognese sauce into little 2oz containers, labeled them, and put them in the freezer.

So how did my son like the polenta with Bolognese sauce? He was unsure about it for the first couple times he tried it, but as he gets use to solids he likes it a lot now.  It does take multiple tries but I learned that you just have to keep trying and not get discouraged if babies don’t like it at first. 

 
Adapted from the recipe below:http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/polenta-with-meat-sauce

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WordPress tells me that it has been 727 days since my last post. So much has changed in 727 days: I started a new job, traveled a bunch, and had a baby. Although I stopped blogging about food during these 727 days, I continue to eat, cook, and obsess about food. 

Originally the purpose of my blog was about my experiences and learnings cooking different recipes ( none which are original). While this was fulfilling for a time, I got lazy with the upkeep of the blog as life got busier. 

Since becoming a mother, I’ve found myself obsessing over my son’s eating habits: how much should he be eating, what should he be eating, why isn’t he eating. My son is a healthy and happy 10-month-old, but eating has definitely been a challenge due to recent bouts of thrush and random baby illnesses ( cold, ear infection,etc). Only recently have we had any success with starting solid food. 

Since food and cooking is something I enjoy immensely, I aspired to influence my son as much as possible on the art and joy of dining. I had all these ambitions to make gourmet baby foods for my son when he starts on solids, but so far I’ve been remiss. As both my husband and I work full time with no family in town, it has been a challenge to find time to cook just for the two of us let alone being able to eat together as a family. I caved and bought some of those jarred and prepackaged baby foods, but after tasting them, I knew I was not going to feed my son something I wouldn’t eat my self. 

So on the eve of 2016, I’m making a New Years resolution to start cooking adult and baby friendly dinners. This would require a lot of planning ahead, scheduling, and diligence to stick to it. While I know it will be challenging, I am looking forward to sharing one of my most loved interests with my son.    

 

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I’m always suspicious of Americanized Asian food. For the most part they are deep fried, over seasoned approximations of Asian food at best, and tasteless mush of unrecognizable ingredients at worst. Of course Americanized Asian food has its benefits: Orange Chicken from Panda Express is my husband’s go-to hangover food.

I found this Thai chicken recipe from Andrew Zimmern, known for Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods shows and immediately wondered if this was an Americanized knockoff recipe. First of all the name of the dish is suspicious: “Sweet and Sour Bangkok Style Chicken”. Sounds like a dish from your local hole in the wall Chinese/Thai delivery place. Looking at the grocery list, it includes Ketchup as one of the main ingredient for the sauce, another red flag. I did some research online and found a photo of a dish titled “Bangkok Chicken” which looked most like the Zimmern recipe from the Thai restaurant Bangkok Crossing in Detroit Michigan. Through further research on Yelp on Bangkok Crossing, I found that it was indeed a dish that ‘tasted like sweet and sour Chicken”.

Now Zimmern claims that he had this dish in Thailand, and got the recipe directly from the street vendor. Perhaps he fell off the wagon and ended up at Bangkok Crossing in Detroit during a particularly good bender. Either way I was intrigued to test this dish out… worst case I learn a hangover recipe for times when Mark and I are too tired to get take out from Panda Express.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Hi All! Long time no see. I got a WordPress notification the other day and realized that it’s been SEVEN months since I’ve updated this blog!! During this time, I was caught up with work, found a new job, and cooked a lot of good food. Time flies when you are having fun, so here is a recipe that I enjoyed making recently. Read the rest of this entry »

We spent this past Thanksgiving at our friends family’s house in rural Texas shooting skeet and eating excellent southern thanksgiving cooking. It’s the first time I’ve had ambrosia and shot a rifle on the same day.

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It was a good break from the hustle and bustle that led to our backyard wedding 2 weeks before, in which my parents and I catered our reception for 50+ people. We decided to let somebody take care of Thanksgiving, and do a Thanksgiving for two people the day after. Since it was our first thanksgiving as husband and wife, I planned a special thanksgiving style menu for Mark and I.

Cooking for two for special occasion can be challenging, but with a little research and creativity, it wasn’t too long before I found a few dishes that would work for two people. When I think of thanksgiving, I think of Turkey, stuffings, cranberry dressing, and fall flavors. Read the rest of this entry »

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Along with the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, I also bought A Girl and Her Pig, the April Bloomfield recipe book. April Bloomfield is a chef from England who owns the renowned Spotted Pig restaurant in NYC. Her dishes are known for simple, but good quality ingredients cooked with precision, letting the ingredients speak for themselves rather than hiding it with too many levels of complexity. I was immediately drawn to her recipe for Gnudi with brown butter and sage sauce because I think it really showcases her cooking style. Read the rest of this entry »

My boyfriend loves Italian food like chicken parmesan and fettuccine alfredo. We also know how bad these foods can be for you if you eat them often. I decided to make a healthier version of chicken parmesan and pasta by substituting eggplant for chicken, and adding chicken sausage and kale to the fettuccine and skipping the alfredo sauce completely.

Eggplant Parmesan, or any type of ____ Parmesan is composed of the protein or vegetable battered and fried, then baked with layers of mozzarella, parmesan, and tomato sauce. It’s almost impossible for this dish to taste bad with the cooking process and ingredients! If you mess up on one area of cooking, there are other areas that you can work on to fix the dish, and that’s why I love making anything Parmesan.

To start the dish, eggplant slices are sprinkled with salt, and placed over a colander for 30 minutes until the moisture is released from the eggplant. Releasing the water from eggplants will help the overall dish be firm and not soggy.

While the eggplant is draining, the tomato sauce is made. Instead of using olive oil to fry up the garlic, I used 1 chopped up slice of bacon to render up some bacon fat, and cooked the garlic until golden.

Next, hand crushed canned whole tomatoes and fresh basil leaves are added to the pan along with salt and pepper, hot chile flakes, and simmered for 30 minutes until thick. The recipe called for fresh peeled tomatoes, but I found canned whole tomatoes a good fast substitute.

The tomato sauce is set aside until ready to use. After the eggplant slices are drained, they are patted dry on paper towels. An inch of oil is heated in a large pan, and the egg plants are ready to be battered and fried. First they are dusted in flour, shaking off the excess when you are done.

Then the flour dusted eggplant slices takes a dip in an egg bath.

Then the egg covered eggplants are battered with panko crust, shaking off the excess.

All the eggplant slices are battered and placed in a pan until ready to be fried.

The eggplant slices are fried in the pan with the heated oil until brown on both sides.

When ready to assemble the eggplant parmesan, a layer of tomato sauce is placed on the bottom of a baking dish, then a third of the eggplants are layered on top of the tomato sauce.

Then a a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese is layered on top of the eggplants, and the process is repeated twice. The eggplant parmesan is baked in a 375F degree oven for 40 minutes until the cheese is brown on top.

For the Fettuccine, Kale is chopped and cooked in a boiling pot of water for 6 minutes and drained.

Some chicken sausage is browned in a pan, and the kale added to the sausage.

Then chicken broth is added to loosen up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and cooked fettuccine is added to the pan with kale and sausage.

The dish is finished up with some shaved pecorino cheese.

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Eggplant-Parmesan-109739f
Fettuccine with Sausage and Kale: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Fettuccine-with-Sausage-and-Kale-233976

I decided to try the cover dish on the latest issue of Food and Wine, a braised beef stew with carrots and star anise, finished with Thai holy basil and chilies. I love the flavors in this beef stew as it combines many of southeast Asia’s many great spices: Lemongrass, star anise and five spice powder, ginger… As I read the recipe, I can almost taste the dish.

To make the dish, some cut up beef eye round steak is cut into large cubes, and marinaded in a mixture of garlic, lemongrass, soy sauce, and five spice powder. I pounded my marinade ingredients in a wooden mortar I bought from a trip to the Philippines, but you can use a food processor as well.

I only marinated the beer for 30 minutes, since I knew that the meat will need to braise for a long time, but for best taste, you https://dinnerwithweijia.wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.phpshould marinate the beef overnight.

I used a chinese ceramic pot to cook and braise the beef in. I first browned the beef in the pot with some vegetable oil.

It’s important to brown the beef in batches so they all get the proper amount of browning time. After I took the beef out, I tossed in chopped garlic, shallots and jalapenos into the pot to brown.

After the vegetable’s are tender, I threw in some tomato sauce. The recipe called for tomato paste, but I ran out…so I substituted tomato sauce.

The browned beef and beef stock are added into the pot and braised for a long long time…(2 hours for 1 LB of beef)

When there is about 30 minutes of cooking time left, I put in the carrots to braise.

To go with the beef stew, I decided to make a fresh green bean, cucumber, and tomato salad.

The dressing for the salad is composed of fish paste, lime juice, garlic, and palm sugar.

When the salad is ready to serve, the green beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes are mashed together with the salad dressing, then sprinkled with roasted peanuts.

I served the beef stew with some steamed fresh rice noodles.

Overall it was a tasty meal, and if you have time, I would suggest cooking the beef a day ahead of time, for the beef to relax and absorb the flavors.

I love making Ravioli. It’s a time consuming process, but it’s one of those dishes where you can personalize to your own taste, and it’s something fun that you can do with a friend or your family. You can also make them in stages if you don’t have a whole day dedicated to them, and the ravioli can be made ahead of time and frozen and be good for weeks.

The ravioli recipe I picked is one I’ve not tried before from Epicurious.com. It sounded interesting because of the Artichoke filling, and the cream and tomato sauce you make with it. To make the filling, some onions are browned over medium heat, and thawed artichokes (from a frozen bag) are added to the pan, and sauteed until lightly browned

The artichoke and onion fixture are then transferred to a food processor, and processed with some parsley, Parmesan cheese, and freshly grated nutmeg.

The filling is set aside until ready to use.

There was a ravioli recipe I made from Food and Wine that I liked a lot, so I substituted that recipe for the dough.

To make the dough, flour, eggs, grated nutmeg, salt, and oil are processed together until moistened crumbs form.

And then the dough is scraped out on to a floured surface.

You can knead the ball a few times and form it into a ball.

The ball is wrapped plastic wrap and chilled for at least 1 hour until ready to use. The dough will take this time to relax. When ready to make the ravioli dough pieces, first you split the dough ball in four pieces, and wrap the pieces that you are not using so they don’t get dried out. To begin with, you flatted the 1/4 of the dough into a rough rectangle, then fold the rectangle in thirds like a letter.

This folded rectangular piece of dough is then passed through the largest setting of the pasta press machine. You do this twice and then move on to the next setting.

My pasta press machine is hand cranked and has 9 settings, 9 being the thinnest. I like my ravioli dough just a little chewy so I stop on setting 8. Any thicker will be too thick. If your pasta dough piece gets too long, you can cut it in two pieces and proceed that way.

I used both cookie cutters and small can bottoms to stamp out my ravioli skin. I like having variation in sizes for my ravioli.

Be sure to cover the cutout pasta skin as you work, or else they will get way too dry.

When you are ready to assemble the ravioli, take one piece of ravioli skin, brush it with some egg whites. Put about a teaspoonful of filling in the the center of the dough.

Take another piece of ravioli skin and cover the filling with it, pressing on the edges gently. The egg wash will help the sides to adhere.

Make sure you dust the assembled ravioli with plenty of flour, other wise the ravioli will stick together. If the ravioli is make ahead of time, you can cook what you want that day, keep the rest in the fridge, or if you know you are going to eat it a few days later, you can freeze the ravioli at this point. The cooking time is about the same for frozen ravioli as the fresh.

The ravioli is cooked for 5 minutes in boiling water, then drained and oiled and set aside for the sauce to finish.

To make the sauce some tomatoes and artichoke heart spears are cooked together in a pan, half of the raviolis are placed in a baking dish, drizzled with half the artichoke and tomato mixture and a little bit of cream. The other half of the raviolis are placed on top, drizzled with the rest of the artichoke and tomato mixture, some cream and a little parmesan cheese. The dish is placed in the oven and baked until the cheese has melted.

Easy Ravioli dough recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/easy-ravioli
Artichoke Ravioli with Tomato recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Artichoke-Ravioli-with-Tomatoes-236983