Easy Creamy Spinach Dip

Summer means BBQs, pool parties, and picnics – and this is one of my go-to recipes for something fast and easy to make but also a crowd pleaser. This creamy spinach dip is great if you don’t want to show up empty- handed but want to bring more than chips and a jar of salsa.
20356543796_e5cb85f384_oThe first time I had this was 10 years (!) ago when my one of my roommates made it, I thought it was magical…she said it’s Knorr. I’ve been making it for BBQs every since. It uses simple ingredients that you can find in most major supermarkets, even the water chestnuts (Hint: they usually hide in the “Asian” or “Ethnic” food aisle.) 

20194822858_d971bd28e3_oThe best part is your shopping list is at the store, pick up a packet of Knorr vegetable recipe mix (there’s other brands of veggie mix out there but I just have not tried it.) and get started. 

  • 1 package of 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 16oz container of sour cream (use Lite if you’d like)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (again use a lite or “olive oil” version if you want)
  • 1 packet of Knorr vegetable mix
  • 1 80z can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 3 green onions (optional)

20194816858_fa0a4fc41e_oOkay, it’s not very pretty or appealing when you are making it and in such large quantities, if you are freaked out by how much mayo goes into this like I was, breathe….it’s worth it in the end! Super easy steps: prep all your ingredients, dump it all in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. Very important to give it the full 2 hours (or more) to chill and to really let the vegetable mix “meld” with the other ingredients.

A few tips:

  • make sure the spinach is “chopped” – you don’t want stringy leaves of spinach hanging from people’s mouths. Awkward.
  • use clean hands to squeeze out the water from the thawed spinach- it’s the best way to get all the water out and I’d usually squeeze in small fistfuls and at least twice
  • unless you or someone really loathes water chestnuts- I highly recommend adding them in. They really add texture to the dip and a great crisp crunch that balances out the creaminess.
  • This goes great with any sort of veggies (cucumbers, carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, celery) or crackers but my absolute favorite pairing is French baguette slices! I usually pick up two fresh baguettes from the store bakery section and ask them to slice them up for me.
  • Serve in a hollowed out bread bowl for extra fancy presentation! 20382795205_81dee26520_o

Hope you all are having a wonderful summer (with good people and good food)!

Mango Lassi

photo 1Lassi is a traditional yogurt drink really popular in India and Southeast Asian countries. It is absolutely delicious, refreshing and (sorta) healthy! Every time I eat Indian food I can’t help but order one. This is my own simple recipe I based on recipe research from Mango Lassi II and Veg Recipes of India

IMG_0575Makes 1 serving (~12 oz). You’ll need:

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 cup yogurt (greek or regular) -any flavor is fine
  • 1/2 cup milk (or your own preference of milk substitute)

Some recipes will suggest sugar or honey but since my greek yogurt is already honey flavored and the mango was very ripe- it was already very sweet.

IMG_0577  IMG_0579 IMG_0580Chop up the mango. I found a neat trick for cutting mangos, stand the mango up, slice off the sides and carefully score a grid without cutting through the skin, push it inside out, and cut off the cubes.

IMG_0581 IMG_0583Blend up the mango chunks first and add the yogurt and the milk and blend again. Add more milk if you’d like a more liquid consistency.

And just like that – a mango lassi drink! I was so excited to be able to make lassi at home and drink it whenever I want. With the warm summer weather, a lassi is a great alternative to smoothies!

Lassis can come in all flavors, you can use papaya, rose, or any flavor you want to try! photo 1


Spam Musubi

Yup that’s right…SPAM. Mystery meat in a can.

Before you make a face and turn up your nose, if you’ve never tried spam musubi- you need to try this! Spam musubi is the ultimate Hawaiian snack- it’s delicious, filling, cheap, and easy to make. 2015-04-18 22.25.15In this post, I will actually be showing you two assembling methods- using a musubi mold OR if you don’t have one-do not despair-you can use the original Spam can!

I actually did not follow a single recipe, but just to make sure I did not go in blind I reviewed Momfuku’s Spam Musubi recipe and Eating Richly’s recipe – both give you the basics and also shows you how Spam musubi can vary! There’s tons of recipes out there you can follow.

Pre-recipe step: make the rice! I used premium grade sushi rice. Sushi rice is moist, sticky, and slightly sweet and can be bought at most large chain grocery stores. But if you don’t have sushi rice, not a big deal, you can use regular rice too. I’ve actually used brown rice (for a “healthy” version) and it was fine, except it’s not as sticky, so the rice may fall out.

Prepare 2 cups of cooked rice according the instructions on the bag.

2015-04-18 22.32.32This recipe makes 8 servings.

You will need:

  • 1 can of spam (they have turkey, low sodium, teriyaki, etc.)
  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 4 large sheets of nori, cut in half (sushi seaweed you can get at Japanese/Asian grocery stores)
  • sweet soy sauce (optional)
  • a musubi mold OR save the spam can!!
  • saran wrap
  • small bowl of water

Slide the spam out of the can, cut in half and then cut those halves evenly, and cut them in half again. You should have 8 even slices. Spam from the can is not very pretty to look at, but I promise it will look more appetizing later.
2015-04-18 22.27.20Heat up a wide non-stick pan at medium heat. DO NOT put oil in the pan- it’s not necessary since there is fat in the spam. Place the spam slices in and cook on each side until it’s caramelized and a little crispy. If you want extra flavor, you can add some sweet soy sauce on the top before flipping it over. Wait until the sauce is bubbly and has thickened. 

2015-04-18 22.30.12Now we are ready to assemble! Here is my assembly station already to go (except for the wine!).  

2015-04-18 22.41.50First I’ll show you guys how to make the musubi with just the can! Wash the grease from the can and line it with saran wrap. Fill about 1/4 of the can with sushi rice. Pack it in with a spoon, make sure the rice is super-squished in. 

2015-04-18 22.43.16Lay a spam slice on top of the rice layer and fill up the rest of the space with more rice. Wrap up the saran wrap and gently pull it all out. Take the “naked” musubi and place it on top of half sheet of nori (shiny side down) and roll it up! 

2015-04-18 22.43.41While I think the can mold is a brilliant way to do it if you cannot get your hands on a mold. I really do recommend getting one though. You can get it online and I bought this one from the local Japanese grocery store for $3 and it was the best $3 spent!! Made a huge difference in neatness and speed of making them.  

2015-05-17 22.44.23With a mold, you want to set it on top of the nori sheet, slight off center. Again fill it will a little bit of rice. Use the little handle to press the rice layer down flat. 

2015-05-17 22.53.58Place a slice of spam on top, press it down with the mold so it “melds” to the rice better. 

2015-05-17 22.54.26Rice layer #2 and press again. Pushing down on the handle, lift the mold up….

2015-05-17 22.55.32It’s it perfect? Now tightly wrap the nori around it. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water and spread it across the edge of the nori to help it stick and seal close.  2015-05-17 22.55.51As much as I hate waiting to devour these, I’d advise to leave them for about 15 minutes so the nori soaks some moisture from the rice and spam and softens or else your nori will be crunchy and may rip and fall apart when you bite into it.

2015-05-17 23.01.03I like to wrap the musubis in saran wrap so the rice does not dry out and it makes  a really awesome grab-n-go lunch/snack! The musubis should be eaten within a day or two. You should fridge them after a day since it is meat,  but know that if you do -the rice can harden. You can microwave them too- they are really best when warm.

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On nom nom nom. Hope you like it!
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French Apple Cake


This French Apple Cake, or “Gateau aux Pommes“, from Food Network is simple to make but like anything French- feels kinda fancy. This cake is dense without feeling heavy, delicately sweet without frosting or cream, and has a nice rustic look to it. I imagine packing this on a picnic!

I bought too many apples and found this delicious way of getting rid of some.

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Pre-heat your oven to 400ºF.

For the cake you’ll need:

  • 9 inch springform cake pan, buttered
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (needs whole if you want that rich luxurious cake texture)
  • 4 baking apples (about 2 lbs) – peeled and cut into small wedges or squares
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Take a large mixing bowl and combine your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.

Add your wet ingredients one-by-one: vanilla, beaten eggs, oil, whole milk- blend.
2014-12-13 20.34.48While not crucial, I would recommend dicing your apples AFTER you mix your ingredients so they don’t start browning. I personally added about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and coated the apples.

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Add the apples to the batter and make sure it’s well-mixed and coated. Then pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the the cake looks firm and the top is golden. 2014-12-13 20.56.14

Not done yet! To create an awesome sweet crispy, creme-brulee-like top mix in a small bowl:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter

2014-12-13 21.17.46Take out the cake from the oven and immediately pour the topping mixture gently and evenly over the cake.

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Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the top has a medium golden brown color like creme brûlée. Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a rack until it’s room temperature (it will be very tempting to try a piece earlier!). 2014-12-13 21.59.04

Run a knife around the sides of the pan and release and remove the springform side. Serve and enjoy with a side of freshly whipped cream! 2014-12-14 09.16.26

Overnight Oatmeal aka “Summer Porridge”

Summer is no where near Seattle right now but I am completely obsessed with overnight oatmeal and it’s a great breakfast any time of the year. When I first tried this, I couldn’t believe how amazingly delicious and easy this was. After the first time I tried it my only thought was: “Next time, must double recipe!”

The Yummy Life has a great starter recipe with five different variations like Blueberry Maple which so far is my favorite one.

For the basic recipe you will need:

  • 1 airtight container or mason jar (everything tastes better in a mason jar!)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats (do not try to use steel cut or other kinds)
  • 1/3 cup milk (e.g. soy, almond, hemp, rice, cow, coconut)
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon dried Chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoon pure real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
    2015-01-08 20.38.09

Ch-ch-chia! These little guys are a great healthy, vegan source of Omega-3, minerals and fiber. When they come into contact with liquids, they form gelatinous coating and provides satiety.

2015-01-08 20.43.52For a busy grad student like me I need a meal I can throw together fast and overnight oatmeal is a dream come true. I grab a jar, throw in the oats, milk, yogurt, and chia seeds. Then I add the maple syrup and shake it all up! 

2015-01-08 20.46.212015-01-08 20.46.38









Lastly add the fruit and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

2015-01-11 12.56.22Voila, you have amazing, delicious, healthy, satisfying, convenient breakfast for any time of the year.

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Basic Zucchini Pancake

My mom calls this an “Italian Pancake” – I have no idea what makes it Italian (Google ‘Italian pancake’ and this does not come up)! But with this super easy, über-basic recipe you can definitely give it whatever cultural spin you want. This savory pancake is similar to vegetable fritters (less crispy and oily) or Korean zucchini pancakes called Hobak Buchim. When my mom made this years ago, I was blown away and asked her for the recipe. As a true home cook, she never used precise measurements but attempted to give me some guidance:

You’ll need:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • chopped deli ham (optionally of course)
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of water (or broth for extra flavor!)
  • a large shallow pan
  • large spoon or small soup ladle
  • spatula
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Makes about 2-3 pancakes about 6″ in diameter

Start off by washing, peeling and grating the zucchini with a medium cheese grater- you don’t want it to be too fine or else it starts getting mushy.

Combine the flour, eggs, broth or water in a large bowl then add your vegetable or meat ingredients last. Make sure it is well mixed and the zucchini is coated with the batter.

2014-03-31 18.50.18Heat the pan to medium and add the oil, wait until the pan is nice and warm-hot and drop about 3/4 cup of the mixture into the pan and cook like you would a breakfast pancake.

2014-03-31 18.32.26When you start seen bits of golden brown (after about 5-6 minutes) you can flip the pancake over and cook for about another 5-6 minutes.

2014-03-31 18.36.19These pancakes are delicious and best served piping hot. You can eat it by itself or get creative and eat it like a crepe! Below I made zucchini pancakes and added ham afterwards for a quick lunch!

2014-03-31 18.54.58You can go crazy with the recipe and substitute or add other vegetables or experiment with different types of squash. I would, however, avoid vegetables that have a high water content, cheese, or extra sauces so the pancake does not get soggy. Some ideas for additions:

  • bell peppers
  • jalapeños (for a KICK!)
  • mushrooms
  • fresh herbs
  • thinly sliced onions
  • sun-dried tomato slices
  • artichoke
  • julienned carrots
  • spinach
  • hashbrowns (!!)

Note: if you do decide to add much more ingredients then you may need to adjust the batter to make sure its well proportioned.

2014-03-31 18.51.06Thanks ma!


Easy-Peasy Corn Bread

Here’s a quick and easy basic corn bread recipe that makes a perfect compliment to chili, soups, BBQ dinners, or even breakfast! I borrowed this recipe from Food Network’s Moist and Easy Cornbread Recipe and added actually corn kernels to it for texture and extra sweetness.
2014-11-17 19.46.34


You will need:

  • 8 inch round baking pan, lightly greased with butter
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for baking dish
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup of canned or frozen corn (optional)

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Start by mixing all your dry ingredients in a large bowl: cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 2014-11-17 18.56.00Next in a separate bowl combine all your wet ingredients: eggs, butter, and buttermilk.

Pour in the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and fold in gently with a spatula. Make sure there’s not dry spots but it may still look lumpy and that’s okay. If you do want to add corn, fold in the corn into the batter. Then pour into your greased baking dish. 2014-11-17 19.01.51Bake for about 20-25 minutes and until it looks golden brown. You can also insert a toothpick to see if it’s done. Let it cool for about 10 minutes and serve!

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The corn bread came out fluffy, moist, and slightly sweet- I loved the burst of sweetness from the corn kernels. It went perfectly with my turkey chili!
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