Archive for 'FOOD'

October 17

Inspired by my best friends at [Sargeant Creative] back in California who built an urban farm in their front yard, and the stores bursting with new herbs, I decided to give gardening a go and would ask for help along the way. Little did I know that it would become that great home project that would provide me with delicious herbs in full abundance. I don’t think I’ve purchased any store bought rosemary, mint, basil, chives, oregano, thyme, and aloe vera since April!


First off, I cannot say that I am an expert on this at all. I only started gardening in containers this year when I moved to Georgia because the spring was so lush and beautiful. It’s one of the perks of living in the “forest” in Georgia! There is nature all around me, the squirrels are always running about, the hummingbirds looking for feeders, the tree canopy over my home lend tons of shade on hot summer days. This blog post is only from my experience and consistent learning from YouTube videos and the helpers at Home Depot.

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Start small. I only started with a few herbs in case this hobby didn’t pan out. I bought rosemary, mint, sweet basil, and chives at Home Depot. Each cost me $3.65 and I also bought containers with good drainage holes for each one, and a good bag of potting soil.  These herbs are the most hardy in cold and they don’t need great soil to survive. Once we got the hang of it, I expanded to jalapenos, sweet basil, thyme, parsley and cilantro.

Don’t buy seeds. Buy the pre-grown plants with a stronger root holding. I HIGHLY recommend for new gardeners to start off with pre-grown plants from Home Depot or Lowes. Don’t start from seed if you’re new to gardening and/or impatient. I like to start the planting process with a small plant in a larger container so that it can establish roots and grow into the pot. All three of my pants grew really fast and in abundance, filling up my containers within a few months, so I already had to split and repot them twice since then!

Feed the soil. Amine likes to take the hose and just do a once over spray of water over the plants. For trees and bigger plants, this would be fine. Herbs, however, need good soil, so make sure to water the soil of the plants well and let it drain all the way through. I also add coffee beans to the soil and occasionally throw in crushed egg shells to keep pests away. My friend juices a lot so she’ll throw in the juice rinds and that seems to make her vegetables thrive like crazy!

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Basil: My basil plant had three stems on it and was quite small in the picture shown above. Now, it’s grown over 2 feet and I need to cut it down to size! Basil is quite hardy but needs good soil, so I add a lot of coffee beans and egg shells to the coals. I learned that you have to prune it often right on top of the nub where the plant splits. That way, the plant will develop more bushy leaves and produce more lovely basil to eat!

This picture below is right before I cut it down to half the size. I also took it out of the container and repotted it with fresh soil. I took apart the stems and separated the pant into 4 pieces. I cut a lot of the top stems off to propogate more basil in the kitchen window. From this one plant, I plan on propogating at least 10 more basil plants to grow by fall. It also makes for a great housewarming or “just cause” gift.


Mint: Mint is more fickle and needs attention, but when it grows, it grows fast!!! It will sprout new vines within the week and you’ll see buds almost immediately.  I put my mint in a separate container and it constantly overflows over the container. The vines grow horizontally so leave enough room for it to expand. Tend to the soil constantly with good compost and/or pest control. Pests will get into this plant no matter what I do so I change the soil up a lot. Egg shells help and I’ll add compost.


Aloe Vera:  I bought this aloe vera plant after the others and it grows quite fast! Aloe vera is great for soothing minor burns, scars, and is also great for moisturizing skin.


Thyme:  Thyme is awesome with steaks. That’s why I grow thyme. It’s a pretty easy growing herb, and I just snip off the long strands when it gets full. Throw them on a cast iron steak for extra flavor, or just strip off the leaves and use as seasoning.


Thai basil:  It isn’t an Asian household without Thai basil. I propogate this in abundance because we eat so much of it! Snip the purple flowers that grow on the tip so that it keeps growing and prune them to keep it bushy and full of leafy goodness. If there are yellow leaves, it might be that it needs more watering, or that pests have gotten to it. Break some egg shells and spread them at the base of the plant to help prevents pests and fertilize the soil.


Jalapenos:  We love jalapenos in our household. We throw them into most things that we cook, so it’s important that our jalapeno plants stay healthy! In the beginning, they were very slow to flower, but when the first bud came through and I could see the tip of the jalapeno, it just didn’t stop after that! They grow in abundance and I’ve split the plant into two, planting one into the ground, and the other in a container close to my kitchen. My container plant started to turn yellow the last month when I was traveling a lot so I’ve been nursing it back to health.  If the leaves turn yellow and have white spots on it, it might be diseased so cut the leaves off and change the soil. Hopefully it will come back strong again.


Rosemary:  Nothing smells better than fresh rosemary. My plant is actually quite small and hasn’t grown in size much. I’ve seen rosemary just take over it’s territory and overgrow into this crazy bush. Mine, however, stays close to its size and I’m not quite sure why. It produces and grows, but not as fast or abundantly as I see other rosemary bushes grow in my friends’ gardens. It’s enough for our household, but if I needed more, I think I’d plant another one in the ground.


PROPOGATING: I started propogating for the fall around late summer, when I realized that my plants might need some more help recreating. I snipped off long stems and put them in water for a few weeks to get them to grow roots. Once I saw they had significant roots that might survive in a container, I planted them into the soil.

urbangarden36  urbangarden38




August 18

Bo Luc Lac in Vietnamese basically translates to “shaking beef”.  I posted a bad late night picture of this dish awhile back on my Instagram and I got a lot of questions and requests for the recipe…along with just requests to come over and eat it! So today I finally had the chance to not just make the dish, but also photograph it in nice daylight just before the rain came.

This is a dish I grew up eating. My mom doesn’t make it as often as I’d like, but when she does, it’s a big treat and we’re all over it!  This recipe is adapted from my aunties and mom, and is a standard and really easy recipe that I use very often on a cast iron skillet.







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On a recent run to Costco, we decided to stock up on fish. I don’t cook fish very often, but that’s going to change because I love to EAT fish! I love the Costco Atlantic Salmon filets because they are the perfect size: thin so they’re extremely easy to cook everywhere, individually packaged for optimal storage in the freezer, and they defrost fast. I don’t like baking/roasting as much as pan frying these because I haven’t mastered the timing yet. Pan frying is also faster since you don’t have to preheat an oven, and I can keep an eye on the fish at all times. The final result is so good. The heat is amazing with the salmon, and this is going to be a staple dish in my home, so I’m blogging it here to remember and share!


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July 09

My first ever attempt at hummus was pretty much a fail. Although the consistency was perfect, the color was right, and even the presentation was impressive [check out my scalloped dish for $5 from TJ MAxx!].  What isn’t perfect you ask? The proportion of GARLIC I somehow decided to put into the mix. Blame it on the 2 am decision to make hummus, the recipe I found online calls for 4 cloves of garlic….I put in at least 10-12 cloves after processing and tasting. I don’t know why, I just kept adding more garlic thinking that was what it needed.


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July 02

Back when I lived in CA, we use to frequent this amazing boba place called Tastea.  Every summer, they had a seasonal drink called Watermelon Heaven. It had chunks of watermelon in the blended  mix and mashed to perfection. I lived for that drink. Now that I’m here in Hotlanta [right now it really is Hotlanta], all I’ve been craving for is cold juices and ice cream. We got a HUGE watermelon along with large boxes of fruit from Costco last night and I just didn’t have any room in my kitchen to store all this fruit. I youtubed some different ways to make watermelon juice, but this one by FullyRawKristina [you can view the video to see how she does it] is the one that I thought was the best. She uses herbs to infuse into her watermelon drink, and I so happy to grow all those herbs in abundance on my balcony!

By the way, I still have no idea how to tell if a watermelon is good and ripe. Please leave a comment to help me out!


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June 06

Trader Joe’s from beginning to end. The only thing outside of Trader Joes is the fresh basil from my garden. I tried to sit outside to eat…but thunderstorms and rain came upon me and I had to bring it inside. As soon as I finished my plate, the sun came out again. Figures.

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I made these for the kids and their moms before we all trooped off to see Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson, the Immortal Tour. We scored good prices and tickets from TravelZoo, which took us all the way to the FRONT ROW! If you haven’t seen the show, you must. They were amazing and the music of course took us back to our elementary school and teenage days of watching Michael Jackson marathons on MTV. We were out of our seats for half the show, dancing along to Thriller, Bad, Beat It, They Don’t Care About Us and many more favorites.


Spring rolls are one of my favorite foods of all time. They are so easy to make, tastes so fresh, and incredibly healthy to eat all the time! My mom use to pick herbs from the garden, just throw them all in a basket and put them on the dinner table. Julienne some veggies like fresh lettuce, cucumbers, jicama, carrots, add whatever meat or fish you’re making that day,  and voila…a spring roll. She usually makes a fish sauce for dipping, but I tend to prefer peanut sauces with spring rolls.

I’ve been wrapping spring rolls my whole life, and I have a few ways of doing it. My old favorite was just having my wet rice paper on a small dish, throwing everything into the middle lined with good fresh lettuce leaf without the rib, and fold in the sides to not have any open ends until you bite into them. This is my dad’s way of rolling them because he makes the BIGGEST spring rolls filled to the rim with everything and everything. He also says that he gets lazy and doesn’t want to roll a lot so just do a few enormous ones to save time. I learned to love that way of rolling from him, but for photography and aesthetic reasons, this open ended way by Steamy Kitchen is much prettier!

I usually make a peanut sauce with hoison on the stovetop learned from Ravenous Couple because I LOVE Bo Bia and they haven’t let me down on a recipe yet… but Jaden of Steamy Kitchen caught my attention on my Feedly blog roll with her recent post on Vegetable Spring Rolls and in particular, her feature of The Blender Girl’s Orange Almond Sauce for Vietnamese Spring Rolls [her cookbook is a bestseller on Amazon]. Sorry, that was a lot of links, but I’m a firm believer in citation due to law school. The sauce is easier to make because you don’t have to heat anything up. Instead, you can use a blender or food processor to mix all your ingredients. I made some adjustments to the sauce to cater to my taste: I used regular JIF peanut butter instead of almond butter [because I just love the pure peanut taste], and I almost doubled the amount of peanut butter from the suggested amount, and I used less lime juice. The sauce is quite thick with just 1/4 cup of water, so I added little bits of water as I blended until I was happy with the consistency. 




April 25

We take long walks a lot in the area. The tree colors are all changing from brown to green, and there is so much to take in. We stumbled onto this fair a few days ago and we decided to come back today right around sunset. We planned on having “dinner” here, which I was anticipating as hot dogs, nachos, and cotton candy. However, we ended up having the most yummy falafel, gyro, baked potatoes, and the best lemonade over. We even got in a few wine tastings from Total Wine! I took home a freshly popped bag of kettle corn too.

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