Starting Over

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“You know what’s funny? This is the first time in my life there’s no one waiting at home for me. I don’t even have a home to come back to.” -Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love

After re-watching that scene, I can’t help but feel the jolt of goosebumps travel from my shoulders, down to my toes, and back up again. The feeling is eerily familiar. I had just experienced my own similar Eat Pray Love journey not too long ago. Liz was leaving behind everyone she loved; everything she knew. I, too, left behind everyone I loved and everything I knew.

I had reached a point in my life back in California, where nothing felt right. 

I began to feel the pangs of every decision I had made up to that point. Wasn’t this the life I had procured for myself? I (just like Liz) actively participated in creating this life, so why wasn’t I happy? I began to accept something I knew deep down inside for a very long time–I needed to start over. I wanted to move somewhere where I could become inspired again. I wanted to go to a place where I didn’t know a single person. After telling my story to a well known astrologer/medium in the Bay Area, she agreed and told me (as Ketut Liyer prophesied to Liz in Bali) that I needed to move and start over somewhere new. Together we consulted the spirits, and of all the cities and countries we examined, they (we) chose Portland. That was the moment I decided that I would have to figure out a way to move out of Oakland, and then save up enough money to make my way up North.

I didn’t have any housing planned, nor job lined up. Just the sheer determination and faith in the process that I would make it work. The only thing that had kept me in Oakland for as long as it did, were the friends I made within the four years I lived there. Saying goodbye to those friends truly was the hardest part; my friends are an extension of my family. After four years, I guess you can say I fell out of love with Oakland, as Liz fell out of love in her marriage. So she ended it. And I did as well.

I admit, it wasn’t an easy process, but thanks to my willingness to never give up, and meeting a group of truly amazing people (the new friends I’ve made here have been such a blessing and have helped me get through the many obstacles I encountered) I managed to set out and do exactly what I intended to do: start a brand-new life. The rush of being inspired again gives me goosebumps. The good kind. So while my journey here is far from over, I believe that I’ve started a new chapter in my own Eat Pray Love story.

Because it’s February (with the Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day just a few away) I thought I’d partake in the festivities and create a menu of Eat Pray Love-inspired recipes, featuring cuisines from the countries Liz visited.

I hope my story (or Liz’s) inspires you to partake in your own Eat Pray Love journey.

MENU

ITALY:  Roasted Asparagus with Black Olives, Lemon Vinaigrette, Pecorino Romano and a Soft-Cooked Egg

INDIA: Butter Chicken with Rice and Homemade Naan

INDONESIA: Gemblong Sweet Rice Fritters with Coconut-Caramel Sauce

 

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)

A Sweet and a Meat

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I last travelled to the Philippines over 15 years ago with my family. My aunt and her husband were renewing their vows on their 25th wedding anniversary in the Philippines where they met as teenagers. At least, that’s how I remember the story. Our entire family on my mom’s side went to the islands to celebrate this beautiful occasion.

My mom, born and raised in the Philippines, had not been back to the homeland since she was about 20 years old.  My mom was really excited to show me, my brother and father, where she grew up. We got to see the grade school she attended and the house she lived in as a child with her other nine siblings. It was a sweet and humbling experience.

Being half-Filipino, I was only exposed to, I guess you can say, half of the cuisine. While my other half was exposed to the Italian-Spanish-German American cuisines my dad was brought up with. When we stayed in the Philippines for the month we were there, my brother and I had the same breakfast every day: longanissa (Filipino sweet pork sausage) or beef tapa with garlic fried rice and a fried egg (a longasilog) with ube ice cream. (We indulged. We were on vacation!)

A recent trip to the local Asian food supermarket gave me flashbacks to my childhood and that family vacation, where I found longanissa and ube ice cream in the frozen food aisle! I was giddy with excitement. For this week, I posted a recipe on homemade English Muffins. Then I thought afterward, why don’t I make my own sausage breakfast sandwich with the muffins and longanissa? Why not add an egg and cheese, too? This dish is a sweet little mish-mash of my Filipino-American heritage. And I’m happy to share it with you!

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Filipino-Style Breakfast Sausage Sandwich
Yields 1 sandwich

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 links longanissa sausage, casings removed
1 slice sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ea. sandwich-size English Muffin
butter, for spreading

METHOD
Defrost the sausage (if frozen). Remove the sausage from the casing by using a knife to cut a small slit. Shape the meat into an equal-shaped patty. Heat a non-stick skillet or cast-iron to medium-high heat. Drizzle the pan with the oil and place the sausage patty onto the skillet, creating a nice sear on the side. Cook it for about 4 minutes. Flip the patty and cook for another 4 minutes. Check the center for doneness. Cook further if needed. Turn off the heat and place the cheese on top of the sausage patty. Use the skillet’s lid to cover the patty, allowing the residual heat to melt the cheese.

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In another skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, making sure the entire base of the pan is coated evenly. Crack the egg into the pan, allowing the egg to cook fully. Swirl the pan a bit to make sure the white is entirely cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

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Cut the English muffin in half and place into the toaster to re-heat. Spread some butter on the inside of the bread and place the sausage with cheese onto the base. Top with the egg and cover with the other half of the muffin. Easy.

Nooks and Jammies

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As a child of the ’80s, I can recall watching some of the best commercials like it was just yesterday. Remember this one? Thomas’ English Muffins were a breakfast mainstay when I was a kid. The “nooks and crannies” are key–they’re like little pools collecting all the butter and jam or whatever you put on the bread.

I’m a breakfast person but I’m always on the go in the mornings, so it’s sometimes difficult to have a decent breakfast before I start my day. Making these homemade English muffins ahead of time is a great option when you’re on-the-go like me. And the best part is, you can top them with whatever butter, jam, or spread you like. Or you can make your very own breakfast sandwiches. Endless options, really.

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Homemade English Muffins
Recipe slightly adapted from The Woks of Life
Yields 14 muffins or 7 sandwich-size muffins

INGREDIENTS
3 2/3 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup plain yogurt
semolina flour, for sprinkling
canola oil, for frying

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METHOD

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add water and yogurt, and mix into a soft dough. Knead the mixture for about 10 minutes, until smooth, adding more flour if it gets too sticky. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

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Roll out the dough to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Cut out 14 circles with a 3-inch round cutter (I used a Mason jar lid). Sprinkle a sheet tray with semolina. Cover the portioned muffins with a damp towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until almost doubled in size.

For sandwich-size muffins (like the ones pictured above)  pair up the muffins and stick them together my pinching the side creases with the tips of your fingers to create a seam for one large muffin. Repeat this process for as many larger-size muffins you want to make.
(Cook’s note: I do this step after the muffins have been proofed because the slight separation of the two muffin halves post-proofing makes it super easy to cut them in half at serving.) 

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a flat griddle pan to medium-high heat and brush with oil. Add the muffins and cook for 6 minutes, three minutes per side, till golden brown. Once both sides have been seared, transfer to a sheet tray and finish in the oven for about 3-6 minutes. Serve with butter, jam and coffee.

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Tom Tom Club

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Feels like I’m dreaming but I’m not sleeping.

My mom introduced me to Thai cuisine at a young age. She and I frequented a local family-owned Thai restaurant almost monthly. We’d always order the Tom Yum Soup and Pad See-Ew dishes. Those were our favorites. We’d crave them all the time, discussing the delightful sourness of the soup and the tender bites of Chinese broccoli in the noodle dish. We became such regulars that the owners of the restaurant had already placed our orders by the time we sat down and got our drinks (I always had Thai Iced Tea with my meal).

My first obsession was Tom Yum soup, then came my meeting with Tom Kha Gai. In Thai, the dish literally translates to Spicy Galangal Chicken Soup (Tom = Spicy Soup, Kha = Galangal, Gai = Chicken). Thai cuisine reminds me so much of my mom, so I crave this food when I’m missing my family most. I’ve tried Tom Kha Gai soup in almost every Thai restaurant I’ve visited, but this recipe (with my own personal tweaks) is the closest to the authentic Thai flavors I grew up tasting.

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Tom Kha Gai
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
1 each galangal, peeled and cut into 3 2-inch pieces*
3 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
10 each kaffir lime leaves*
6 each Thai bird chiles
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves
Hot chile sauce (such as Sriracha), to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

*Cook’s note: Galangal is a rhizome related to ginger, although it has a tougher skin that’s lighter in color. It also has a distinct peppery flavor much different than ginger’s.
 Kaffir limes are native to the Southeast Asian countries and have astringent qualities. Their leaves carry a lovely and distinct aroma. Galangal and kaffir leaves may be difficult to find, depending on where you live. Check out your nearest Asian markets for these speciality items.

METHOD
In a large saucepan, bring the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai bird chiles and broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until flavors are well pronounced, about 30-45 minutes. Strain the broth into clean saucepan; discard the galangal, but keep half the amount of chiles and half of the lemongrass.

Add the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the mushrooms, skimming occasionally until the chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are softened, about 20–25 minutes.
Mix in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and fresh herbs. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
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A Holiday Tradition

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Just the other day at work, I was chatting with a newly single male co-worker who had recently (and reluctantly) joined a dating website. Since his divorce he hadn’t dated much, and hated the fact that online dating was the new way to meet fellow singles.

“Why can’t I just meet someone the old-fashioned way, like at the grocery store or something?”, he lamented.

I smiled and agreed, telling him he shouldn’t give up on that notion. That someday he’ll have his meet-cute.

“What’s a meet-cute?” he asked.

“A meet-cute is a way in which two characters in a story are introduced,” I explained.

“Are you talking about The Holiday?” immediately chimed another male co-worker.

I was shocked that this co-worker knew what I was talking about; it made me smile and giggle.

“My wife watches that movie a lot,” he huffed. “So that means, I’ve watched it… a lot.”

For the past 7 years, I’ve had this unofficial tradition of watching The Holiday around Christmastime. If you haven’t already seen it, the film is actually a great story with a stellar cast playing relatable, sympathetic characters. (Eli Wallach’s Arthur Abbott steals every scene he’s in. And you can’t help but sympathize with Kate Winslet’s character Iris Simpkins, who deals with the heartbreak that comes with loving a man who will never love you back.) The characters’ interwoven story lines, teamed with the sentimentality of the holiday season, are a joy to watch every year. But what’s also really great are the scenes where food is the common thread for comfort and togetherness during the holidays. Because of that, I was inspired to create a menu dedicated to the movie.

For the full recipes, click on the following links below.

MENU

Amanda Woods’ Christmas Eve Toast with Proscuitto, Burrata, Hazelnuts, Balsamic Reduction

Christmas Chicken Fettuccine with Grana Padano and Fines Herbes

Adult Hot Chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps and Whipped Cream

Arthur Abbott’s Hanukkah Chocolate-Covered Hazelnut Macaroons

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

[Adult Swig]

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Adult Hot Chocolate
Serves 1

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups milk
8 ounces dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon sugar
sprinkle of salt, to taste
1 tablespoon Peppermint Schnapps
1/2 cup whipping cream

METHOD
Using a stand mixer, whisk on medium-high the whipping cream till hard peaks, about 8-10 minutes.

In a small deep sauce pan, heat the milk. Stir often to avoid scorching. Add in the chocolate chips, sugar and salt. Heat till chocolate is melted. Turn off the heat. Transfer the hot chocolate into a large mug. Stir in the peppermint schnapps. Finish with 2 big dollops of whipped cream.

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

Festive Fettuccine

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Christmas Chicken Fettuccine
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
For the pasta
10 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta

For the roux
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour

For the Alfredo sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
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2-3 cups milk
1/2 pound grana padano, (6 ounces grated and 2 ounces shaved for garnish)
salt, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 pound chicken breast, cut into medium-sized chunks

For the fines herbes
1/2 teaspoon tarragon, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon chives, finely chopped

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METHOD
In a deep sauce pan, fill with water and heat till boiling. While waiting for the water to boil, in a sauté pan, melt the butter on medium then add the flour. When it starts to bubble, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula mix till completely cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and place in a plate, set aside.

In the same pan, add the oil and sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the milk and heat. Once hot, return the roux to the pan and stir till thickened, about 6-10 minutes.

Add the grated cheese and thicken into the sauce. Stir in half of the fines herbes, add salt and chili flake, season to taste. Set aside.

Once the water starts to boil, add the pasta. Stir and cook till al dente, about 3-6 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, heat a deep sauté pan with oil and add the chicken. Cook till all sides are browned. Add the sauce to the pan and stir. Stir in the fettuccine and coat with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add in a few spoonfuls of the pasta water. When the chicken is fully cooked, turn off the heat. Using a pair of tongs, plate the pasta into a wide-brimmed bowl. Garnish with the rest of the fines herbes and grated grana.

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

Amanda’s Holiday Toast

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Amanda’s Christmas Eve Toast
Serves 1

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
1 thick slice artisanal baguette
coarse sea salt, to taste
1 piece burrata, room temperature
2 slices proscuitto
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed and chopped

METHOD
Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pot over high until boiling. Lower to medium-low and simmer slowly till a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush bread with olive oil on both sides of bread. Place bread onto a sheet pan and into the oven for 3 minutes. Pull the bread out and flip onto the other side. Return to the oven for 3 more minutes or until medium golden brown. Slice the bread on a diagonal in half, then cut burrata in half and place on top of still-hot bread, sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt. Lay proscuitto slices over the bread and cheese. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the bread and sprinkle with the hazelnuts. Finish with the olive oil.

Serve with a glass of red wine.

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

The Dough Jones

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Portland’s Doughnut stock is up up up! PDX should really stand for “Portland Doughnut eXchange” ‘cause when it comes to doughnuts, they’ve got plenty to choose from. For this week’s post, I went on an unofficial Doughnut Diet, and devoured way too many to count. Here’s how each donuttery’s stock stacks against the rest. (And just in case you’re wondering, that was 4-6 doughnuts a day within a 5-day period.) Oh my.

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Stock up on:
+Meyer Lemon + Key Lime Curd
A whole brioche-style doughnut, filled with a smooth tangy key lime curd and dusted with powdered sugar. (It gets messy, so make sure you’ve got napkins handy.)
+Blueberry Bourbon Basil
A soft, fluffy, brioche-style doughnut with a purple-hued glaze and a hint of basil extract in the dough.
Why? Two words: Brioche, baby. Soft, buttery and sweet. Blue Star truly has some tasty combinations– Crème brûlée? Dulce de leche? Vahlrona Chocolate Crunch?

unnamed-6Voodoo
Stock up on:
+See my Portland Guide post HERE where I first publicly account my love for these devilish beings.
+Lemon Chiffon Crueler
The softest bites you’ll ever have. Like chewing into a pillow of lemon-y air. And those marshmallows, tho!
+Old Dirty Bastard
Chocolate frosting, Oreo cookie bites, and peanut butter. ‘Nuff said.
Why? Voodoo has done for doughnuts what Candace Nelson (of Sprinkles fame) did for cupcakes and what Roy Choi did with Korean barbecue-style tacos—niche branding. Brilliant.

unnamed-1Pip’s Original Doughnuts
Stock up on:
+Nutella + Sea Salt
+Candied Maple + Bacon
Why? Super fresh and crispy (they’re fried to order) cake bite-sized doughnuts. Like elevated Donettes, but better. Like WAYYYY better. Plus, they’ve got the BEST house-made chai lattes.

unnamed-2Tonalli’s Donuts & Cream
Stock up on:
+Blueberry Old-Fashioned
I’m going to be bold and say that this was hands down the best old-fashioned I’ve ever had. With those little blueberry bits mixed into the dough–I wish I ordered more.
+Bavarian Cream
Yeast-raised whole doughnut with chocolate glaze and a smooth creamy filling.
Why? HUGE selection of varieties and flavors to choose from. Still fully stocked well after 3 p.m.

unnamed-3Coco Donuts
Stock up on:
+Lavender
Cake-style doughnut with a refreshing lavender- flavored glaze
+Glazed yeast-raised
A perfectly executed take on a classic.
Why? They’ve got the classics down pat, and then some.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner…

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It’s National Cookie Day, and to celebrate this grand occasion (I think it’s worth a day off from work and school, whattya think?) I wanted to share a recipe much similar to the one my half-Italian grandmother made during Christmas. If you love the taste of anise (licorice) then you’ll certainly love these.

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Pictured above with my Aunt Sandy, my Grandma Irma always had her coffee table adorned with platters of various cookies and fudge she made during the holidays. Us kids would run to that table before having Christmas dinner and nosh on the sweet treats despite our parents’ scolding. But she didn’t mind. She loved it that we loved them so much. She, too, was a cookie monster, and devoured them with us when the parents weren’t looking. I’m pretty sure I got my sweet tooth and love of baking from her.

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Italian Anisette Cookies
Recipe adapted from Vittles and Bits
Yields about 2 1/2 dozen

FOR THE COOKIES
INGREDIENTS
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoon pure anise extract

FOR THE ICING
INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
4-5 T. milk (first try 4, then add a little at a time if necessary)
1/2 t. anise extract
1/2 cup nonpareils aka “Jimmy” sprinkles

METHOD
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

In large-sized bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and eggs on medium-low speed until combined. Lower the speed and gradually add in the flour mixture, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Increase the speed to medium-low, and whip till a dough forms. It may be a little dry. That’s OK.

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Using a small ice cream or cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop the balls of dough and roll them into uniform-sized balls.

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Place the dough onto a prepared baking sheet, and bake for about 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven’s convection) till puffed and lightly golden.  Allow the cookies to cool for one minute before transferring to a wire rack.

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Once the cookies have completely cooled, sift your powdered sugar through a sifter till all clumps are gone. This way, the icing doesn’t come out chunky. Whisk in the milk and anise until smooth. Check for consistency, it should be somewhat runny.

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Now dip the tops of the cookies into icing, and then finish with Jimmy sprinkles.  Allow for the icing to set completely.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container.