Tina Made Blackberry Vinaigrette

I f-ing love salad. Not because it’s healthy or good for me or because I’m supposed to, but I genuinely think it’s delicious. EXCEPT when the dressing sucks. So maybe I don’t really love salad, I love salad dressing. Shrug.

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I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting proportions right when I’m making dressing. It’s always too oily or too tangy or too something. I keep adding the “missing” ingredient until I end up with 2 cups of mediocrity. -_- So. Here’s a foolproof vinaigrette dressing recipe (that I should follow more often). I used blackberry balsamic from Beyond the Olive, which pretty much guaranteed it would be delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup blackberry balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove chopped garlic

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Enjoy, herbivores.

Tina Made Avocado Toast

THIS. This is my absolute favorite snack in the entire world. Like ever, in life. Probably because like this recipe, it has perfect trifecta of ingredients (avocado, cilantro, lime).

Please try it. Unless you’re one of those unfortunate people who don’t like cilantro… then… I’ve got nothing.

Ingredients:

  • one slice of toasted sourdough bread
  • a few sprigs of cilantro
  • half a lime
  • half an avocado
  • salt & pepper

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Toast bread. Smash half an avocado onto your bread. Sprinkle salt and pepper on avocado. Sprinkle cilantro leaves on top.  Squeeze lime juice (maybe half a lime, maybe more/less). DEVOUR.

Tina Made Cilantro-Lime Bean Salad

I’m not even kidding right now, I’ve made this salad 4x in the last 2 weeks (just barely adapted below). It contains the best ingredient duo ever… lime + cilantro (pho, anyone?). Actually, it’s a trifecta of goodness, because it also contains avocados (tacos, anyone?). What is it about the combination of these three green ingredients that is so delicious? That was a rhetorical question. Make it now.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 T extra virgin olive
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1- 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1- 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 medium avocado, diced

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Cut your grape tomatoes in half, dice your avocado and red onion, and chop your cilantro.

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Rinse and drain your chick peas and black beans. Mix the minced garlic, lime juice, oil, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt in a bowl.

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Mix beans with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and avocado. When you’re ready to eat, dress with the vinaigrette. Serves 4-5.

Tina Made Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Why are mashed potatoes considered a holiday dish? They are delicious year round. Just like cranberry jelly in a can, which I really should eat more than once a year. But anyway. Yes, I did make garlic mashed potatoes over the holidays, and have been craving them since. I used this recipe, relying mostly on the accompanying video of Alton Brown himself. I compiled the written instructions with the video instructions, which were a bit different (or maybe just more specific).

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(Sorry for the crappy picture– sometimes, eating is a much bigger priority than stopping to take nice pictures)

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 16 fluid oz. (2 cups) half-and-half
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-6 oz. Parmesan, freshly grated

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Crush garlic cloves. Put in a small pot, and poach them in 16 oz. of half and half. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and put a lid on it. Wash, peel, and dice your potatoes.

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Soak your potatoes in water for 30 minutes. Then drain the water, put the potatoes in a pot submerged in water (with about 1.5 inches to spare). Add the 2 T of kosher salt, and put them at high heat. As soon as they come to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. While your potatoes are cooking, grate the parmesan cheese.

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The potatoes are cooked when they are crushable with a fork. Drain your potatoes. Mash them with a potato ricer (or use whatever tools you have). Pour in the garlic-cream. Add grated cheese (I ended up using about 4 of the 6 oz., but that’s just personal preference). Mix, and give it 5 min before you eat.

Urgh. So hungry now. Serves 10-ish, no gravy needed!

Tina Made Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Another dish I made for Thanksgiving! And then again the next day for a holiday potluck. Kinda sick of these little suckers now but I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough. I made 50 dates for the potluck (for ~10 people), so the recipe below will be for that many– but obviously, cut down (or increase) if you need to. It’s super easy (only 4 ingredients!) but is a bit tedious to assemble. Promise it will be worth it though. 😉 Original recipe and directions here; directions modified below.

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Ingredients:
  • 50 pitted dates (I used Deglet Noor because they were smallest– original recipe recommends Medjool)
  • 50 almonds, unsalted
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • half block of cream cheese
  • 50 toothpicks, soaked in water for 10 minutes

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Throw a bunch of toothpicks in a bowl of water and let them soak (take them out after 10 minutes and pat dry). Meanwhile, cut a slit into each of the dates. Cut small rectangular pieces of cream cheese (~3/4″ long, 1/2″ wide, 1/4″ thick) and use a knife to place them into each date. Pop an almond into each one. The cream cheese should “seal” the date back together so it doesn’t fall apart!   

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Cut pieces of bacon large enough to wrap around the dates, and secure with a toothpick. Soaking the toothpicks is not an absolutely necessary step, but prevents it from burning before going into the oven.

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Arrange dates in a shallow baking pan lined with foil. Bake for 8 minutes, then flip each date over, and bake for another 8 minutes. Flip dates again, and broil for 2 minutes. Flip dates for the last time, and broil for another 2 minutes. The bacon should be cooked after 16 minutes (or even less) but the broiling will crisp it up!

Bon appetit!

Snow-Line Orchard

A couple weeks ago, I went to a conference center called Oak Glen for my church’s annual retreat. It’s located in Yucaipa, land of plentiful apple orchards. My friends and I had a chance to check out Snow-Line Orchards, which was just down the street.

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We heard about Snow-Line’s infamous apple cider donuts + fresh pressed apple cider and had to check them out, i.e. eat them.

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I love me a legit autumn with pretty trees and colorful leaves. I believe if you visit in the earlier months, you can pick your own apples, but ’twas too late for us.

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Eunice, Michelle, Sunghee, and me. 🙂 The rafters of the building had the names of various apple varieties painted on them.

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Inside the store, there were… apples. A lot. And food products made from… apples. (-_-)

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We taste-tested a ton of ’em. Uhm, perhaps my apple palette isn’t refined, because they were all good.

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OH the donuts. Freshly made in front of us, they were miniature and warm and covered with cinnamon sugar.

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They came in bags of 1/2 or 1 dozen. Also, mini apple/pumpkin pies, which supposedly were good but cold. Why wouldn’t they warm before serving? Why? (My friends asked. They said no.)

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The apple cider came hot or cold; I tasted both and stood in the store for 5 minutes trying to decide which one I wanted because they were equally delicious. I went with the hot and was not disappointed.

Snow Line (and the rest of the apple orchards) is only about 1.5 hours away from LA, so it’s not too far of a trek if you want some fresh apples (and donuts and cider). There are tons of benches for picnicking, too. Catch is, I believe it’s only open during apple season (9/1 – 11/30) so you JUST missed it. D: Check out the website to plan a trip for next year? 😉

Snow Line Orchards
39400 Oak Glen Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399

Cranberry Couscous

My friend passed on a delicious cranberry couscous recipe to me a few years back (via allrecipes.com), and I’ve made it here and there, usually for potlucks (with a few modifications). However, when I clicked back on the recipe link recently, the original recipe had completely changed! Not sure when that happened, but I really like the first version, so here it is with the modifications (you can compare it to the recipe that’s currently up, linked above– there are pretty significant differences). I made it for Thanksgiving last week but I feel like the cranberries make it also appropriate for a Christmas meal, don’t you? 🙂 Recipe below is technically for 6, but I’d say that as a side, it can serve 8-10.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked couscous
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped seeded cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • juice from 1/4 orange

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All the ingredients– note that I only used 1/4 the orange, 1/4 of the onion, and 1 large persian cucumber and carrot each.

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In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Cool for 10 minutes. Seed and chop cucumbers, carrots,  and onions.

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In a bowl, combine the couscous, cranberries, carrots, cucumber and red onion. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, mustard, salt, pepper, and juice of orange.

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Pour dressing over couscous mixture; mix well. Cover and refrigerate. Toast sliced almonds by stirring on pan at medium-high heat. Turn heat to low as soon as almonds begin to brown. Tip: It will take awhile for the almonds to start browning, but once they do, they will burn fast, so watch carefully!

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Just before serving, mix in almonds. This dish explodes with so many different flavors/textures… sweet, salty, soft, crunchy, chewy, etc. Party in your mouth!

I’d recommend you make this dish at least half a day before serving, to allow the couscous to soak in the flavors of the dressing. If you’re in a time crunch, let it sit for at least a couple hours in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Lurvin’: Japanese Goodies

My friends Jason and Fara recently came back from a trip to Japan with a few goodies as a gift. Not that we all don’t know that Japan has some of the cutest gadgets and stationary and toys and paper etc…. but I had to share anyway.

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They packaged everything in the cutest kraft paper polka dot box. Included– washi tape, edamame keychain (actually gifted from a prior trip to Japan, but whatevs), a “cleaner-upper” gadget, alphabet stamps, and my fave, flavored kit-kats!

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This toy/gadget is so random slash cute. You can roll it across a flat surface (like your desk) to pick up crumbs (probably eraser crumbs, or if you’re me, kit-kat crumbs :X). As the wheels turn, the two tiny brooms rotate back and forth and sweep the crumbs into a compartment that can be emptied. Genius.

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The cutest gold polka dot washi tape + letter stamps. Knowing that this washi tape is actually from Japan makes it seem more legit. Polka dots err’where. I love it.

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Um, how cute is this edamame keychain? The middle bean POPS OUT (it’s attached by a small cord). Ack, Japan. Too much.

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Finally, flavored kit-kats! I know Japanese markets in LA sell flavors like green tea and strawberry, but Japan ain’t about those commonplace flavors. Pictured here: 1) zunda (crushed sweet edamame) mochi– a local dessert from Sendai in Tohoku– it’s regional so you can’t get it anywhere else!, 2) azuki (red bean) sandwich, 3) shinshu apple, and 4) pumpkin. My fave was the zunda– but of course, the one that’s hard to find, even in Japan. -_-

Thanks, J&F! 🙂

Tina Made Chicken Tortilla Soup

I know. LA was 90 degrees yesterday. Let’s disregard that, because I’ve got the perfect fall recipe for you, folks. This is the first and only chicken tortilla soup recipe I’ve tried (adapted from here), but I kinda love it so I’m sticking with it.

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Ingredients (recipe serves 6):

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts*
  • ~45 oz. low-sodium chicken broth (roughly 3 cans)
  • 1.5 cups chunky salsa
  • 1 can corn kernels
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic + 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon olive oil
  • tortilla chips
  • Optional (to garnish): shredded cheese, cilantro, avocado, green onions, sour cream

*LAZY PEOPLE– Substitute chicken breasts for one of those rotisserie chickens you can buy at the market… you know, like Ralph’s or something. Cuts down on cooking time + dishes to wash.

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Pictured above– soup ingredients + optional garnish ingredients

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Boil chicken in water with one clove of garlic. If you’re using a rotisserie chicken, skip this step, obvi. Chop onion. I mentioned this last time, but how to properly/easily chop an onion here. Remove chicken from heat and let cool.

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While chicken is cooling, saute chopped onion in olive oil until browned. Heat chicken broth on med-high heat in large pot. Shred chicken– careful, it’ll probably still be hot! If you’re using a rotisserie chicken, just shred that. Boom.

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Add shredded chicken, salsa, onion, corn, black beans (rinsed), lemon juice, cumin, garlic, chili powder to pot. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least an hour.

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To serve– Break up tortilla chips and put in bottom of bowl. Pour soup over chips and sprinkle cheese on top (optional). Garnish with additional toppings of choice (e.g. cilantro, avocado, green onions, sour cream). I chose avocados and cilantro.

Note: If the soup tastes watery or bland, just wait! It will taste exponentially better as time passes (err…until it spoils, of course). I would highly suggest that you make it in the morning to eat for dinner, or make it at night, then eat it the next day.

Badmaash

Last Friday, my girlfriends and I checked out Badmaash, an Indian gastropub in DTLA. Its soft launch was just 6 months ago, but apparently it’s starting to gain traction– owner and chef, Pawan Mahendro, was featured as Chef of the Moment in LA Times just two days after we went!

I wanted to check out Badmaash (found on Yelp) because it sounded different than any other place in DTLA. Verdict– Overall delicious food. Smaller portions. But YES. I’ll definitely be back.

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Chef Mahendro owns and runs the restaurant with his two sons. They feature traditional Indian dishes with a twist (but of course, would it be an LA restaurant if they didn’t?). The picture on the right shows a glimpse of their menu. Some popular dishes are their Chili Cheese Naan and their Spicy Lamb Burger.

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Left: Next to the bar, they project Bollywood movies on the white walls. Right: I kind of sort of fell in love with this striped wall with triangular mounts for the lights. *swoon*

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My friends and I ordered the Lamb Vindaloo, Chicken Tikka Masala (not pictured), Butter Chicken (not pictured, and a special for the night), Tandoori Shrimp, Rice Pilaf, and Naan. The vindaloo and masala were both moderately spicy, which was different than what I was expecting/used to, but still admittedly delicious. I really liked the butter chicken, which was a little less intense than the masala (didn’t have the almost-too-spicy kick). The rice and naan were pretty standard (but must be separately ordered at $3 a pop).

A few more (high-quality -_-) pictures of the interior that I found here, because I need to show you a better picture of that wall.

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A Gilt deal for Badmaash came out just yesterday [expires next Wednesday (11/13)]! $59 for 2 people, which includes 2 drinks (wine, beer, or soda), 2 appetizers, 2 main dishes, 2 sides, 2 desserts, and 2 bombay-style masala chai teas. Check it out.

Badmaash
108 West 2nd Street #104
Los Angeles, California 90012