Monday, September 10, 2018

Vietnamese Street Food Cooking Class

It's time for another cooking class! I love cooking class! I love learning new things, meeting new people, and trying new food.

The most recent cooking class I took focused on Vietnamese food. I first had Vietnamese food from a food truck. I tried the ban mi sandwich, which felt familiar like a po boy with a baguette, meat, pickled veggies, and a flavor-packed sauce. It was both familiar and different. And, it was most definitely delicious.

Since I loved the flavors, why not take a cooking class to learn how to make it at home? So, I did.

We made three dishes: shrimp banh mi, Vietnamese-inspired sausage rolls with a nuoc cham dipping sauce, and Vietnamese coffee ice cream. Let's dive in!

Let's start with the banh mi. Banh means bread, and mi means wheat. (At least that's what the Internet told me as I am not fluent in Vietnamese). So, this wheat bread refers to the baguette that is the vehicle for the sandwich. Usually, banh mi include chicken or pork. I've had both, and both are delicious. The banh mi we made in class featured shrimp, which I love! It's a quick-cooking protein that really absorbed the marinade. 

To assemble the sandwich, top the bread with spicy Sriracha mayo, shrimp, and crunchy pickled veggies. It was super flavorful with the succulent shrimp, vinegary and acidic veggies, and finished with a hint of Sriracha spice.

Next, we made Vietnamese-inspired sausage rolls and nuoc cham dipping sauce. This reminded me of pigs-in-a-blanket with Asian flair. The nuoc cham, which loosely translates to fish sauce for dipping, was a liquid-y, acidic sauce that cut through the fattiness of the pork sausage. 

My only disappointment with the usage rolls was that the puff pastry was a bit soggy on the inside. Next time I try the recipe, I think I will brown the sausage before rolling in the pastry dough to keep it crisp.

Last, but certainly not least, we made ice cream. This was my first time to make a crème anglaise, the base of the ice cream (milk, cream, eggs). I was really excited to try this homemade ice cream. I hesitated to make homemade ice cream before because I was worried about scrambling the eggs in the crème anglaise, and secondly we don't own a ice cream maker. I made the crème anglaise in class. It was simple and totally doable at home. You need a pot, thermometer, ladle, whisk, mesh strainer, 2 bowls (one slightly smaller than the other), and an ice cream maker.

Let me walk you through the crème anglaise. First, add the milk, cream, salt and ground coffee beans to the pot heat over medium until the mixture simmers. Turn off the heat, and steep the coffee for 20-30 minutes and strain. Strain the mixture through the strainer to remove most of the coffee grounds. Let the mixture cool a bit.

Stream a ladle full of the hot cream mixture into a bowl with the eggs while whisking. Continue to slowly add cream to the egg mixture until you've added about a quarter of the cream to the eggs. This heats the eggs slowly and prevents scrambling. Now add the egg mixture to the rest of the cream mixture in the pot. Whisk continuously. Now heat the mixture to 170-175*F while occasionally stirring. Making sure nothing is sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan. When the thermometer reads 170-175*F, pour the crème anglaise through the strainer into the smaller bowl.

Make an ice bath by placing the smaller bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice. Stir the crème anglaise to help it cool. Then, add to your ice cream maker. Let the ice cream maker churn and do it's job. Then, enjoy! I LOVED this ice cream. It has a texture similar to gelato, super creamy. The coffee flavor cuts the sweetness of the ice cream. It might just be my new favorite ice cream flavor!

For more tips, encouragement, and recipes for a healthy lifestyle, you can follow me on FacebookPinterestInstagram, and Twitter.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy:

Monday, August 27, 2018

4 Healthy Eating Tips for Busy Schedules

Do you ever feel too busy? Like you are being pulled in several directions at once? Busyness is one of the main barriers to healthy eating. Busyness does not have to keep you from living a healthy lifestyle.

Fall can be a busy season, and it's time for back-to-school season! I loved going back-to-school; yes, I was that kid. I was ready to see my friends every day, meet my new teacher, and learn something new! With new school supplies in hand (or backpack), I was ready.

The preparation for back-to-school was minimal as a kid. Go shopping with Mom for new clothes and shoes. The biggest decision I had to make was color-coding my school supplies for each class. I got matching folders for homework, binders or notebooks, and textbook covers. I remember science was always green. Did y'all do this?

As adults, back-to-school preparation is a whole different ball game. This is true if you are going back to school as an adult, taking college or graduate school courses, or, if you're sending kids back-to-school. To make this transition easier, here are some nutrition tips to ease you into back-to-school season and beat the busyness.

1) Prep ahead.
The morning rush can be just that - rushed! Think about ways you can make the morning less of a frenzy. Can you make tomorrow's breakfast or pack a lunch tonight?

Action steps: Try packing tomorrow's lunch tonight. Try a make-ahead breakfast; I like making granola on the weekend for a quick and easy breakfast.

2) Cook once eat twice.
When you're cooking dinner, think about making a little extra. Then, you can turn last night's leftovers into tomorrow's lunch!

Action step: What recipe can you double to make leftovers?

3) Eat the rainbow.
I like using the MyPlate model to build a healthy lunch. Aim for at least 3 of the 5 different food groups to get a variety of nutrients. Try to include at least one serving of fruit or vegetables every time you eat.

Try to "pack a rainbow." This means packing a colorful lunch, which helps you build a tasty, healthy, and satisfying meal. Colorful food is visually appealing, and helps you avoid a boring desk lunch.

Action step: Pack a colorful meal. Try making a salad or a rice bowl with lots of veggies. Try a spinach wrap instead of a sandwich.

4) Pack healthy snacks.
- Snacks are small portions of food that fuel us between meals. We want snacks to be quick, portable, tasty and nutritious! The afternoon lull can tempt us to re-caffeinate or grab a dessert from a vending machine. If you packed a snack, you are prepared to resist the vending machine temptations.

Action steps: Try packing peppers with hummus, fruit salad, veggies and cheese, or peanut butter and fruit for a tasty and satisfying snack.

Are you excited for the new school semester or are you dreading it?
Did you color code your school supplies? Or, is that a type-A personality tendency??
How do you prep for success during busy season?

I'd love to know your thoughts. Comment below or on social media.

For more tips, encouragement, and recipes for a healthy lifestyle, you can follow me on FacebookPinterestInstagram, and Twitter

If you liked this post, you might enjoy:

Monday, August 13, 2018

Taziki Sauce

Taziki sauce is a creamy, herby, fresh sauce. It's used in Mediterranean dishes. Have you ever tried it?

I love it! The Greek yogurt is super creamy. It's great for dipping veggies (or crudité if you're feeling a bit fancy). It pairs well with meat, rice, spanakopita (recipe to come) and pretty much anything Mediterranean.

Also, I'm definitely using the term "recipe" here lightly. It's such an easy "recipe" that I'm not sure if it qualifies as a "recipe." Anyway, you should definitely make it and enjoy it!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes

1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I prefer 2% or whole yogurt here for a creamy dip)
¼ cup English cucumber, minced (~1.5 – 2 inches of cucumber)
1 teaspoon dill, minced
1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
The zest of one lemon (optional)
1 teaspoon Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Cutting board
Chef's knife
Small mixing bowl
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons

Add Greek yogurt to small mixing bowl. Add cucumber, herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

I like to make this at least 30 minutes before serving, so the flavors can mix and meld. This can be made ahead and refrigerated. So, it's great for entertaining or weeknight meals. Enjoy!

For more tips, encouragement, and recipes for a healthy lifestyle, you can follow me on FacebookPinterestInstagram, and Twitter

If you liked this post, you might enjoy:

Monday, August 6, 2018

Italian Cooking Class

It's time for back-to-school. Since, I've graduated traditional schooling. I opted for back-to-the-kitchen schooling, aka cooking classes!

Have you ever wanted to take a cooking class? I love it! Cooking classes are a fantastic way to learn new skills, try new recipes, and have fun! My motto is always keep learning!

The most recent cooking class that I took focused on Mediterranean food, specifically Italian flavor profiles. This menu was fun and super tasty. It would be a fantastic meal to make for company. You know those company meals that are just a little elevated from everyday weeknight meals. But, it's not too fancy, fussy, or stressful for company.

Here's the menu: homed spinach and ricotta gnudi, steak and peppers, and peaches with cookies and cream. So delicious!

Let's get started.

We made the gnudi first because the dough will need to rest. Gnudi is a ricotta-based dumpling. It's similar to gnocchi, which is a potato-based dumpling. You can think of gnudi as gnocchi's less-fussy sister. To make gnocchi, you need to cook and cool potatoes. With gnudi, you mix the ingredients together. No extra cooking or cooling time needed. So it's quicker and easier!

We mixed together all the ingredients. Then, we added flour as needed and kneaded the dough. Add flour until the dough isn't sticky. The recipe called for the dough to be chilled for 24 hours, so this would be a great recipe to make on weekend to meal prep. Then, use during the week. During class, we chilled the dough for about 1 hour in the freezer. It worked great!

This was super tasty. The gnudi are pillow-y, cheesy dumplings that are fantastic vehicle to enjoy spinach. The gnudi were coated with sage-infused butter. Yes, please!

Next, we made dessert! We cut the peaches and removed the pit. Leaving half as an edible bowl, a vehicle for the delicious filling. I recommend using slightly firm peaches for the "bowl."

The filling was a combination of peaches, cookies and cream. So, we made peaches and cookies and cream! Such a delicious combination! Peaches and cream were made for each other. And cookies and cream is a classic, childhood favorite of mine.

In the future, I would work on the presentation. It was a delicious tasting, but a bit brown. Next time, I think I'll save some peach slices and add fresh mint to garnish. The whipped cream in the top picture did add a little something to the presentation.

Lastly, we made hanger steak with peppers and onions. 

The entrée was perfectly balanced and seasoned well. The steak was savory and meaty. The peppers added beautiful color and crunch. And, the sautéed onions added a hint of caramelized sweetness. A trifecta for the entrée.

Have you ever taken any cooking classes?
Is there anything you want to learn to cook.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment below.

For more tips, encouragement, and recipes for a healthy lifestyle, you can follow me on FacebookPinterestInstagram, and Twitter

If you liked this post, you might enjoy:

Monday, July 30, 2018

Asian Slaw Salad

I love when you get to share a meal. There's something extraordinary about a seemingly ordinary meal around a table. Sharing a meal seems to bring added intimacy and an opportunity for great conversation.

My friend, Claudette, invited my husband and I over to her lovely home and made a delicious meal. The stand-out dish for me was this amazing Asian slaw salad. It was salty, a little sweet, and had a ton of crunch. She served the meal on a variety of colorful Fiesta ware. It was casual and felt special without being precious. You know that feeling? When you know someone made an effort, but it's not too fancy that you're worried about breaking something or accidentally putting your elbows on the table.

This Asian slaw salad is my entrée version of the side that I had at my friend's house. I hope you enjoy it! Here's the recipe.

2 cups shredded purple cabbage
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup English cucumber, julienned (cut into long strips)
1 pack of ramen noodles
1/4 cup almonds, toasted
1 pound chicken
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

For the salad dressing:
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons granulate sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cutting board
Chef's knife
Large mixing bowl
Small mixing bowl or Mason jar
Small sauté pan
Large, oven-safe sauté pan

Preheat oven to 400*F. Preheat a large sauté pan. Add oil if pan is not non-stick. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Sear chicken on both sides for 5-7 minutes until golden. Transfer chicken to oven and cook until 165*F internal temperature.

In a dry sauté pan, toast almond over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Set aside to cool.

Shred purple and green cabbage. Place in a large bowl. Julienne cucumber. To julienne, cut the cucumber in long strips. Then, cut each strip into matchstick-size rectangles. Place in the large bowl.

To make the dressing, pour canola oil, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper into a small mixing bowl or Mason jar. Whisk until combined.

About 30 minutes before serving, pour 4 Tablespoons of dressing onto salad mixture to lightly coat. Toss to distribute evenly. **If you're not eating all the salad, wait to dress the salads individually.

Divide the salad into four bowls. Top with sliced chicken. Add a tablespoon of broken, uncooked ramen and toasted almonds. This adds delicious crunch and texture, which is super important in salad.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Make it and share it with a friend. If you want it to be a side salad, you're welcome to leave off the protein. Let me know if you make this recipe; tag me on social media!

For more tips, encouragement, and recipes for a healthy lifestyle, you can follow me on FacebookPinterestInstagram, and Twitter. 

If you liked this post, you might enjoy:

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Vegetable and Cheese Board

When you think about entertaining, how do you feel? Are you excited, nervous, anxious, tired? Entertaining can be all of those things, but it doesn't have to be. Entertaining can be fun, easy, and enjoyable. To help make hosting easier, I'm sharing an easy appetizer. It's a vegetable tray with some cheese. It's friendly and not fussy.


I love having an appetizer ready for guests. It gives them something to munch on if they're hungry before dinner is ready. It also gives me a buffer if dinner is running late. It means that my guests aren't starving and smelling dinner.

This appetizer is super simple. It's 4 steps: wash, dry, chop, arrange. I like to include seasonal fruits and vegetables. For one, they are local, which means fresher because they weren't shipped far. Secondly, they tend to taste best in season. Fruit is sweeter, and veggies are crisp.

Adding fruits and vegetables to your cheese boards has several benefits. First, fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense. In other words, they have a ton of vitamins and minerals. So, they're super tasty and great for your health! Secondly, fruits and vegetables tend to be more economical (read less expensive) than cheese. So, you can make a huge fruit, veggie, and cheese board for a fraction of the cost of a cheese board. Third, I love the colors and textures that fruits and veggies add to a cheese board. Visually, there's more interest and I find it more aesthetically pleasing. So in summary, fruit and veggie cheese boards are good for you, good for your budge, and visually pleasing.

If you've ever felt nervous about hosting, here are a few tips.

5 Tips for Low-Stress Hosting 

1) You're hosting not entertaining.
These two terms, host versus entertain, make a world of difference. To me, an entertainer sets a stage and has a flawless performance. A host offers a place to come and gather. An entertainer has the focus on the performance. In contrast, a host gets to welcome and offer a safe space for people to gather, be themselves, and enjoy community.

2) Consider your guest's preferences.
Sometimes the barrier to having guests is the fear of not knowing what to make. So ask! I like to give 2-3 options that way guests have input on the meal.

Also, I think it's important to ask about food allergies. You can also ask if people have any foods they hate.

3) Prep ahead.
I am a planner, type A kind of person. I feel stressed when things are left to the last minute. I don't like to procrastinate. To help me keep my sanity, I like to prep ahead as much as possible. This looks like, menu planning. I try to clean a day or two before the party. I try to have some parts of the meal or appetizer ready to go.

4) Make easy meals.
I encourage you to make easy meals. Make familiar meals; make something you've cooked before. I wouldn't try a new recipe or challenging dish when I host. It just increases anxiety. What if the dish doesn't turn out right? What if it tastes bad? Instead of worrying, cook a go-to, tried and true, tasty meal.

5) Ask for help.
You don't need to be a one woman show. Ask guests to bring something. Or if you're the guest, ask if you can bring something.

What dinners work well? Try a pot luck. Host a taco night - make the entrée. Have a guest bring an appetizer - chips and dip. Encourage someone else to bring a side or dessert. In the Fall and Winter, I love a baked potato bar with fixings. Or, try soups and sandwiches. Also, there's no judgment here for ordering pizza. Who doesn't like pizza?

Try a cooking club. Have people over to cook and then eat together. That sounds so fun! Don't feel like you have to do everything.

Have you ever thought about hosting versus entertaining?
What keeps you from hosting more? 
What motivates you to host?
What are your go-to recipes to make for company?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

For more tips, encouragement, and recipes for a healthy lifestyle, you can follow me on FacebookPinterestInstagram, and Twitter

If you liked this post, you might enjoy: