Category Archives: Recipes

Oatmeal Crisp Apple Pie Bars with Salted Caramel Sauce (with Gluten Free Option)

photo 1How quickly the holiday season is upon us, and that means someone, particularly my husband and daughter, wants me to make an apple pie. Meh. It’s not that I don’t like apple pie, I do, as long as it is a good apple pie! Thus lies the problem, a good apple pie can be really hard to make or even buy! A lot of apple pies have a least one of these problems: overcooked apples, undercooked apples, too many apples, not enough apples, too much spice, not enough spice, too wet, too dry, bland crust, tough crust, or soggy crust. Not to mention that they are somewhat labor intensive to make! Being that I don’t absolutely LOVE apple pie, I’m not willing to invest too much time into making one.

Therefore this year, I decided that I would find and tweak an apple pie recipe that would satisfy my apple pie loving family, yet impressive enough for me to feel enthusiastic about making it. I found it in this apple pie bar recipe (adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction blog site)! It has all the components of a good apple pie, yet only requires half of the time (at most), and is made with ingredients that I have in my pantry! I’ve made is several times already, and I am telling you, it is way easier and better than most of the apple pies I have tasted in my lifetime. I hope you think so too!

** Gluten Free Option (GF) – I’ve included a gluten free option for those who cannot tolerate it (for whatever reason) and still want a delicious treat! If you are making this for someone who is gluten free, you must be diligent about avoiding cross contamination. As a flour substitute, I use Betty Crocker all-purpose gluten free rice flour blend, but you could use another type of gluten free baking mix. I also add almond flour to improve the texture and flavor. Oatmeal is naturally gluten free, however, most oatmeal is processed in a facility that also processes flour and cross contamination is common. I specifically buy oatmeal that is labeled “gluten free” that also includes a note indicating that it is processed in a gluten free facility.


An 8 x 8 inch pan yields approximately 9 bars or double the recipe for a 9 x 13 inch pan! (highly recommended to double because you will eat about 3-4 of these babies yourself, and you still want to have some for everyone else)

Shortbread Crust

1/2 cup – unsalted butter (Note: NEVER margarine, gross), melted

1/4 cup – granulated white cane sugar (Note: sugar cane sugar is superior tasting than sugar made from sugar beets. Spend the extra $1 and buy sugar made from sugar canes, such as C & H brand found in all grocery stores. If it doesn’t say “made from sugar canes” than it’s made from beets or something else.)

1 tsp – vanilla extract or equal amounts of vanilla bean paste (Note: please use only real vanilla extract, artificial vanilla extract is way inferior and just terrible!)

1 tsp – salt

1 cup – all purpose flour (GF option: 3/4 cup Betty Crocker GF rice flour blend and 3/4 cup almond flour)

Apple Pie Filling

3 medium – Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly (no more than 1/4-inch thick)

2 tbsp – all purpose flour (GF option: 2 tbsp Betty Crocker GF rice flour blend or GF cornstarch)

2 tbsp – granulated white cane sugar

1 tbsp – lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp – ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp – ground nutmeg

Oatmeal Crisp Topping

1/2 cup – old-fashioned rolled oats (GF option: gluten free old-fashioned rolled oats, not steel cut)

Hint: if you don’t normally have old-fashioned oats at home, you can buy only the amount you need if you go to the section of your grocery store that sells bulk items in a bin

1/3 cup – brown sugar, light or dark (Note: again, look for the C & H brand of brown sugar from sugar canes. Don’t buy the cheap stuff that has been “sprayed” brown)

1/2 tsp – ground cinnamon

1/4 cup – all purpose flour (GF option: 1/4 cup Betty Crocker GF rice flour blend)

1/4 cup – unsalted butter, cold and cut into small squares

Salted Caramel Sauce

Homemade salted caramel sauce may seem like a daunting task because people will tell you that you have to use a thermometer and cook it to a certain temperature, but relax, you don’t need a thermometer; it doesn’t have to be hard! Yes, for those purists, I could have posted a salted caramel sauce recipe that only contained sugar, butter, cream, and salt (like what is posted Sally’s Baking Addiction blog, which I make on occasion). However, if you are a first time caramel sauce maker you can easily burn the caramel and yourself. I found a good salted caramel sauce recipe (from Averie Cooks blog), which I also use frequently, that is more forgiving. Since I use her recipe, just follow this URL below and it will link you to her site; you’ll appreciate her well written instructions! There will be some leftovers after using it for this recipe, but that is a good thing, as you will find all sorts of ways to use up the excess (including just eating it with a spoon, body paint, or whatever). And if you don’t have time, you could use a high quality store bought sauce, but you won’t feel as accomplished.


Turn on your oven and preheat it to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 x 8  inch baking pan (or 9 x 13 inch pan if making a double recipe) with aluminum foil, leaving about a 1-inch overhang on all sides of the pan, an then crimp down. Set aside for now.

photo 1[1]

To make the shortbread crust: Stir the melted butter, granulated white cane sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour together in a medium bowl until combined (Hint: I use a food processor and pulse it a few times until it comes together). With your CLEAN hands, press the mixture evenly into the foil lined pan. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes while you prepare the filling and oatmeal crisp 2[1]

Note: If you are using a food processor, wipe it out with a clean paper towel when you are done because you can use it for the oatmeal crisp topping.

To make the apple filling: After peeling, coring, and slicing the apples, toss them in the lemon juice (to slow down the browning, aka oxidation, process) in a large bowl. Then add the flour, granulated white cane sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together until all of the apples are evenly coated. Set aside. photo 3

To make the oatmeal crisp topping: Take the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour and mix them together in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender (pressing down) or two knives (in a scissoring motion), “cut” in the chilled butter squares until you have coarse crumbles (you can also just use your hands).  Set aside.

Hint (preferred and easiest method): Since I already have my food processor out, I use it to make the crisp topping! I place the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour into the processor and pulse it a few times. I then add the squares of butter and continue to pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. I dump everything into a medium sized bowl and then stir in the oatmeal. Set aside.

To assemble: Remove the shortbread crust from the oven and place it on a wire baking rack to cool for a few minutes, and then crank up the oven up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Evenly layer the apple mixture on top of the warm crust. It will appear that there are an excessive amount of apple slices, so layer them tightly and then press them down to fit. Sprinkle the apple layer with oatmeal crisp topping and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the oatmeal crisp topping is golden brown. photo 4

photo 5

Remove from the pan from the oven and allow to cool (on a wire baking rack) for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours (Hint: don’t skip this part as it really helps to keep the bars tight). Lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. Once cut, pour salted caramel sauce on top. These apple pie bars can be enjoyed at room temperature, warm, or cold (I prefer them at room temperature or a little warm). A scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top is fabulous! The bars will stay freshest in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and can be kept for at least 3 days or in an airtight container at room temperature for a day. photo 2


Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes

photo 5Mmmmm…potatoes. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like well prepared shredded hash brown potatoes. You may say you don’t, but please, quit lying to yourself. Crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, I don’t give a damn if you are on a low carb, Paleo, or other restrictive diet, you know you are going to try and eat some off my plate when you think I am not looking! I am looking, I just choose to allow you to sneak some 🙂

Many of you swear that the best hash browns always come seem to come from a dingy diner. In general I don’t disagree, but after a near fatal (okay, I am exaggerating a little) meal at a popular dive breakfast chain in Atlanta (if you have lived in the South, yes, you know you have been there at least once in a drunken stupor) I decided to skip the side of salmonella that came with the hash browns and started making my own. And for clarity, when I say homemade, I am not meaning pre-packaged loose refrigerated or frozen or patty hash browns (basically giant tater-tots) that have been “cooked at home”. I am talking about transforming a raw potato into something glorious.

I know many people that try to make homemade shredded hash browns but they never seem to turn out quite like the diners’. When I first started making shredded hash browns (and those friends, including my mom, who have made me shredded hash brown potatoes), they tended to have a weird gooey(ish)/soft texture, kind of limp and sad. Yes, the breakfast equivalent to erectile dysfunction. However, I didn’t give up, I was on a mission to get it right. After some trial and error, and gathering information about the “science” behind potatoes (rinsing/soaking the starch away), I came up with a winning technique that delivers consistently awesome results. My husband loves them and so does my picky daughter (who hates to eat breakfast but will never pass up huge plate of these). Don’t take my word for it (or theirs) try it yourself and be prepared to have your friends and family bow down to your culinary greatness. Well, maybe not, but they will be super happy.


Serving: Makes enough for 1 real-person. You can double the recipe to make it for 2-people. You can triple (etc.) for more people, but make separate potato rounds (i.e., no more than 2-person size otherwise it’s harder to get crispy and steams them too much). Start prepping these before you make the rest of your breakfast!

Before you start get out a largphoto 1photo 2e bowl and fill with cold water!

2 cups (heaping or about 12-ounces) – peeled (or not) russet potatoes, shredded to make long strands (note: if you have a food processor, it makes this a cinch and actually produces better results since the cell walls of the potato are damaged less because of a processors’ preciseness and speed! If your food processor allows it, put the potatoes in sideways. it produces beautiful long strands. You can use a manual shredded or mandolin too. After you shred them, immediately put them in cold water. Swish them around the water for a minute to remove the starch and to stop the interaction between the enzymes and oxygen (it is what makes them soggy and start to turn pink/dark). Drain the water out and add more cold water to completely cover them. Let them sit in the clean, cold water for 10 minutes before you use them <— this process is key!

3 tablespoons – olive or canola oil

Cooking spray

salt and pepper to taste

** If you want caramelized onions, cheese, bacon, or chopped bell peppers with these, PLEASE cook those separately and just add them as a topping after you make these. Don’t add them to the raw shredded potatoes.  It changes the texture and will make them soggy – trust me.

*** Russet potatoes work best.  Avoid any waxy type potatoes (such as red) they don’t work as well.


Add the 1.5 tablespoons of oil to a large non-stick sphoto 3killet and turn the burner to medium heat (not high) for a few minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. If you have a salad spinner, spin the water out of the potatoes. If you don’t, then take a large kitchen towel and pat the potatoes dry (no need to squeeze the potatoes dry). Immediately put them into the skillet and gently use your spatula to form into a circle about 1-inch thick (don’t press down on the potatoes, just coax them into a circle). Once the potatoes are in a circle, LEAVE THEM ALONE for about 10 minutes (set a timer). Season with salt and pepper.

After 10 minutes, spray the top of the potatoes with cooking spray and then place a plate on top of the potatoes, and while holding the plate in place with one hand, use the other to flip the pan over, add remaining oil, and then slide the potatoes back into the pan. Season again with salt and pepper.  LEAVE THEM ALONE for about 10 minutes (set a timer). After the timer goes off, flip them again one more time to re-crisp (about 1-2 minutes). Then serve!

If you want to make enough for 2-people, you can make a larger hash brown (again 10 minutes on each side). Just make sure that you don’t make it thicker than 1-inch.


Mini (or full-sized) Sweet Potato Pies with Toasted Marshmallow Meringue

photo[5]After spending 6 years in Atlanta, this is my first Fall back in the California Bay Area.  One of the things I really enjoyed about living in the South was the abundance of sweet potato pies.  Unfortunately, out in California, they always seem to be considered the ugly stepsister to the classic pumpkin pies.  Not any longer! I created these mini sweet potato pies and elevated them to superstar status! Even if photo[7]you swear you don’t like sweet potatoes, I beg you to try these.  They will convert you!

When I was developing this recipe and making test batches, I brought all the pies into work.  My co-worker Donald instantly fell in love with them.  I mean, SERIOUSLY in love with them.  So much so that he begged me to teach him so he could make them for his mom’s birthday in November.  How could I say no to a man wanting to cook for his mom? So I held an impromptu pie making class for him and a few other co-workers and they were very successful in making these pies 🙂

***This recipe also can be used to make a 9-inch deep dish pie (note: you will have some left over filling.  If you double the filling recipe, it will be enough for 3 pies). If you are going to make a whole pie with this recipe, I suggest using a different pie crust, one that is more sturdy. One that works very well is an all butter crust by King Arthur flour.  It makes 2 pie shells. The URL is here ( The marshmallow meringue will only be enough for one 9-inch pie, so if you are making 2 pies, you will need to double the recipe.

Cheers to Donald and his mom!


The pies (without the meringue topping) can be made a day in advance, but only make the meringue the same day you will serve them.

Makes (12) 3.25 inch mini pies or (24) 2.5 inch mini pies or (1) 9-inch deep dish pie

** Use 3.25 inch or 2.5 inch aluminum tart pans. I suggest buying 12 individual pans (for 3.25 inch pies) and 24 individual pans (for 2.5 inch pies). They are very inexpensive (less than a $1 each) and can be found at places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. DO NOT put these pans in the dishwasher because they WILL rust.  Hand wash them and dry them immediately.

Cream Cheese Pie Crust (recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour) – use only for the mini pies. Use this recipe for a whole 9-inch deep dish pie (

**This pie crust recipe is very forgiving and is hard to overwork!

6 tablespoons – cream cheese, softened

6 tablespoons – unsalted butter

1 teaspoon – sugar

1/4 teaspoon – salt

3/4 cup – all purpose flour

Sweet Potato Pie Filling

29 ounce can – cut sweet potatoes/yams (well drained; yields about 1.5 packed cups or so). – I prefer canned for these pies because it produces the most consistent results. You can use fresh roasted (1.25 pounds flesh) sweet potatoes/yams, but you have to make sure it isn’t stringy, so use a food mill.

1/2 cup – unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)

3/4 cup – granulated sugar

1/2 cup – evaporated milk (approximately a 5-ounce can) or whole milk

2 – large eggs

1 teaspoon – pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon – vanilla extract

Toasted Marshmallow Meringue (recipe adapted from the Urban Baker)

**Only prepare the meringue right before you want to top the pies. This meringue is pretty similar to the marshmallow fluff you can buy in jars, except better! You can spoon any leftover meringue into a hot mug of cocoa!

4 – egg whites (large eggs) room temperature – (save egg yolks for up to 3 days and use for something else like custard, ice cream base)

1 cup – granulated sugar (I prefer superfine sugar, not to be confused with powdered sugar, but you can use regular granulated if you want)

1/8 teaspoon – cream of tarter

Make the pie crusts first:

photo[8]photo[9]Using a mixer or food processor (my favorite), or by hand, cream together butter, cream cheese, and salt. Mix in flour (on slow if using a mixer or gently pulse if using a food processor) until everything comes together. Remove dough and flatten into a 1-inch disk, tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to 3 days).

Remove dough from fridge. For 3.25 inch tart pans, form walnut-sized balls. For 2.5 inch tart pans, form large marble-sized balls. Roll out dough and gently place into tart pans (do not butter pans – there is no need). Using the palm of your hands to remove excess dough. Save the excess dough scraps, you will need to re-use them. After all dough is used, place tart pans on a large baking sheet with a silicon mat on it and place in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.




Then make the sweet potato pie filling:

Preheat the oven to 350 photo[6]degrees F. Put the sweet potatoes in a food processor and pulse until sweet potatoes are broken down. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Remove the baking sheet from the fridge (with the chilled pie shells on them). While still on the baking sheet, fill the pie shells ¾ full. Put the baking sheet with filled pies in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 – 35 minutes (50 minutes for a 9-inch deep dish pie). The pies will puff up and will fall a bit after removed from the oven. If the pies crack a bit, that is fine. The cracks will reseal once they cool and will be covered with meringue anyway. Cool the pies (in their pans) on a baking rack. After the pies are cooled for a minimum of 1-hour, pop the pies out of their pans. I use the tip of a very thin knife blade to gently coax them out. The pies should not stick at all.

Finally, make the marshmallow meringue:

Combine all ingredients into a large metal or glass bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). Continually whisk until the mixture is approximately 145 degrees (6-8 minutes – you are want to melt the sugar but not cook the eggs).

Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to your stand mixer bowl (or just use the same bowl if you are using your hand mixer). Using your whisk attachment, beat on low speed until the mixture becomes foamy, then increase the speed until the mixture becomes stiff and glossy peaks form (when you pull your whisk attachment off, the mixture should firmly stay on the whisk when turned upside down) approximately 8 minutephoto[4]s.

**Make sure the pies have been cooled to room temperature (at least 1 hour) before topping with marshmallow meringue.

Place the meringue mixture in a large pastry bag (or sturdy plastic zip-type bag) with a plain tip or star tip (if using a plastic zip-type bag, take scissors and cut ¼ inch tip off). Pipe a 3 to 4 layer swirl on top of the cooled pies (don’t completely cover the pies with the mixture, you want to see some of the filling so folks can see what they are eating). Use a hand held torch to gently toast the marshmallow meringue. Use short bursts doing one side at a time. If you don’t have a hand held torch, you can place the pies on a baking sheet and put them under your ovens’ broiler for approximately 2 – 3 seconds or so (watching carefully as every broiler is different). The pies can be stored a room temperature and is best eaten the same day as prepared.

Garlic Chicken Tikka-style Kebabs (prepare 12-24 hours prior to when you want to eat them)


This post is dedicated to my friend Tyler.  He’s my super smart electrical engineer, surfer/swimmer, cyclist, and environmentalist.  Almost every weekend he is firing up his grill in his San Diego backyard (who wouldn’t in that year-round awesome weather?).  He often posts a picture of the grilling in-progress on social media and that usually starts some friendly banter between his friends.  Each week it seems like he is elevating his grilling and I’m always encouraging him to up the flair on the seasoning.  Tyler, put the BBQ sauce down this week and give this a try!

So….I am in LOVE with Indian food.  However, some of my friends aren’t.  I am convinced it is because they have only eaten Indian dishes in crappy restaurants (or frozen meals) where the dishes are overly pureed, overcooked, and/or with substandard ingredients.  It’s criminal!  If you ever have the opportunity to have a home-cooked meal prepared by someone of Indian descent, DO IT! It’s a true privilege! I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful home-cooked Indian meals from my Indian friends (especially a particularly memorable feast made by my friend Conal’s mom, Mrs. Charles).  In the mean time, try this recipe for Garlic Chicken Tikka-style Kabobs.  It’s a good introduction to some common flavors of India.  This recipe also is used as a base for some other curry dishes that I will post later.  The recipe is adapted from Neelam Batra’s 1000 Indian Recipes cookbook.  I know, I know, you are probably thinking, 1000 recipes? Sounds like a gimmick for a substandard cookbook.  I assure you, it is not.  It is by far, my favorite cookbook that I own.  Really.



2 Tablespoons – fresh chopped garlic

1/2 Tablespoon – fresh chopped ginger

4 Tablespoons – fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon – light olive oil or canola oil

1 Tablespoon – ground coriander

1 teaspoon – ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon – garam masala

1/2 teaspoon – ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon – salt

1/2 teaspoon – ground green cardamom

2 lbs – skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1.5 inch pieces (or you can use chicken tenderloin pieces left whole)

bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 30 minutes) so they don’t burn

** If you only have garlic or ginger in a jar or lemon juice in the plastic fake lemon, I suppose you could use that (although I gag at the thought).

*** You should be able to find all the spices in a regular grocery store.  If not, you can definitely find them at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  Don’t baulk at the price of the spices (not too bad I think).  Once you make these, you’ll fall in love with them and you will be making them over and over again .


Finishing sauce (after they come off the grill) – totally optional.

1/4 cup-  melted butter – optional

1/2 teaspoon –  garam masala – optional

3 – green onions, sliced – optional


Combine all the ingredients (except for the chicken) in a small food processor, or blender (if you don’t have the “equipment” then make sure that the garlic and ginger are very finely chopped almost until a paste).  Put the chicken pieces in a gallon plastic seal-type bag. Pour the blended wet rub over the chicken.  Close the bag and make sure most of the air is removed.  With your hands outside of the plastic bag, “massage” the chicken pieces to make sure they are well coated.  Let the chicken sit in the wet rub for at least 12 hours, preferable 24 in the fridge.

After the chicken pieces have absorbed all the goodness, skewer some pieces of chicken and then brush a bit of olive oil or use some cooking spray to lightly coat (sometimes I chop an onion and green bell pepper into 2 square in pieces and weave the pieces between the chicken pieces).  Throw them on a preheated (medium-high) grill for 10-15 minutes (5-7 minutes on each side).  * The timing really depends on your grill.  Test one to make sure the chicken is cooked.  You can also bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes if access to a grill is not possible.


**Optional – After the skewers are cooked, combine the melted butter and garam masala and brush onto the chicken.  Sprinkle with chopped green onions.  I usually like to serve the kabobs over a bed of basmati rice or an Indian-style pilaf (recipe for next time).

Note: If you are only cooking for one or two persons, you can freeze 1/2 the chicken (after it’s marinated, but before it’s cooked) and use it later.  It defrosts wonderfully in the fridge and makes the flavors even better!

Shepherd’s Pie

I have been battling a hoIMG_1197rrible cold for the past week and was in desperate need of some comfort food.  Being that I was in danger of the family making me some boxed meal, I dragged myself off the couch and decided to make something myself.  When I think of comfort food, one of the dishes I think of is Shepherd’s Pie.  The reason is two-fold.  First, who doesn’t like meat swimming in gravy topped with cheesy mashed potatoes? Shepherd’s Pie checks all those boxes.  Second, it brings back warm memories of when I lived in England.  I went to a boarding school, London Central High School (LCHS), where I developed wonderful lasting relationships with some amazing people.  I didn’t intend to update my blog (I’m also trying to finish my dissertation), however, after posting a picture of the completed Shepherd’s Pie on a social network site last night, I was publicly shamed by my friend Charles (LCHS alum). He, not so gently, reminded me that I haven’t posted any recipes to my blog in the past 6 months! The recipe is loosely adapted from an antique cook book (Radiation Cookery Book) that my friend Chris (LCHS alum) brought me back from England on a recent visit.  Cheers Charles and Chris!

**I’ll try to add a recipe later for homemade gravy, but now the dissertation is calling me.

1lb. – ground beef (or any type of ground meat.  I’ve even made it with a meat substitute before)

1 – large onion, diced

1 cup – cooked carrots, diced

1 cup – cooked green beans, diced (I would use peas, but my family doesn’t like them)

1 cup – brown gravy (I make my own, but you can use store bought if you want)

2 – cloves garlic, diced

1 tablespoon – tomato paste

1 teaspoon – Worcester sauce (optional)

3 pounds – Yukon gold potatoes, cooked (peeled and diced)

2 – eggs, beaten

¾ cup – milk, warmed

¼ cup – butter, melted

1 cup – shredded cheddar (this isn’t traditional of course, but you know, I am American.  We like a bit of excess)

¼ cup – grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste


Put potatoes in large pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and enough water to just cover the potatoes.  After potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes), drain them and then mash with the butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.  I love using a food mill for potatoes, but you can mash them by hand or use a stand mixer.  You want them smooth.  Set aside to cool.

On medium-high heat, brown ground beef with onion and garlic until no longer pink and then drain any excess fat.  Add tomato paste, Worcester sauce (optional), and prepared gravy.  Gently mix in cooked carrots and green beans.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the meat mixture and place at the bottom of a quart sized glass casserole dish and smooth out, set aside.

Take the cooled potato mixture and add the beaten eggs.  Gently fold in the cheddar cheese.  Then place the potato mixture on top of the meat mixture.  To make it more decorative, I put the potato mixture in a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe it on top of the meat mixture.  If you do this, you need to make sure that the potato mixture is free of lumps.  You can also make a nice design by just putting equal sized dollops of potato mixture using a spoon.

Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan.

Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly (photo is of Shepherd’s Pie prior to being baked).


Korean Style Spicy Pulled Pork Sliders


What do you bring to a Super Bowl party? Korean Style Spicy Pork Sliders of course! Six years ago when I was making my decision on where to go to graduate school, I had a few criterion.  One of them was the availability of Korean groceries.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was a well established Korean community in Atlanta with no less than 4 huge Korean grocery stores (H-Mart — the Korean version of Whole Foods)! I developed this recipe as a way to combine my love of southern food with my Korean heritage. The combination of sweet and spicy allows one to get a taste of Korean cuisine without causing a 5-alarm fire in your mouth! If you have leftovers, lose the bun and replace with corn tortillas and you have some tasty Korean tacos!

Korean Style Spicy Pulled Pork Sliders (makes 36 sliders)

Oven Roasted Pork Butt

6-7lb. pork butt

3 tbsp – smoky paprika
1 tbsp – granulated garlic
1 tbsp – brown sugar
1 tbsp – dry mustard
2 tbsp – coarse salt

36 slider buns

Combine the spices and rub all over the pork butt (do not trim fat from pork).  Wrap coated pork butt in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 12-24 hours.  Afterward, remove pork from the fridge and let come to room temperature (approximately one hour).  Next, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from the pork and place in a roasting pan.  Roast fat side up for 7 hours.  Remove roasting pan from oven and let the pork rest for 30 minutes (cover with foil).  One and a half hours prior to the pork being finished roasting, prepare the Asian Slaw and Spicy Korean Sauce.

Asian Slaw

1 medium – fresh daikon radish, peeled and thinly shredded

1 – English cucumber, thinly slicedIMG_0678

4 medium – carrots, peeled and thinly shredded

1 – red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

½ cup – cilantro leaves (no stems)

6 tbsp – unseasoned rice vinegar

3 tsp – granulated sugar

½ tsp – salt

Shred the daikon radish and carrots using a food processor (longwise so you can have longer strips).  Finely slice the cucumber and red bell pepper using a food processor or mandolin.  Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large glass or plastic bowl.  Add the vegetables and cilantro, and then toss gently.  Put in the fridge.

Spicy Sauce

3 large – onions (cut in half and thinly sliced)

2 – jalapenos (seeded and minced)

12 large – garlic cloves (minced)

2 inches – peeled ginger (finely minced)

1 1/2 cups – Gochujang paste (there is no substitution for this Korean red pepper paste.  It can be found in

Asian grocery stores (e.g., H-Mart or online)


½ cup – honey

3 cups – water

6 ounces – tomato paste

1 tbsp – vegetable oil

Heat a large saucepan on medium heat, sauté the first 4 ingredients in the vegetable oil until softened (approximately 5-7 minutes).  Combine the remaining ingredients and add to the saucepan.  Bring up to a boil, stirring constantly, and then reduce heat.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes and stir every few minutes to insure the sauce does not burn.  Take off heat.

After the pork has rested, use 2 forks to “pull” the pork (do not remove the charred pork bark). It’s the best part! Add the spicy sauce and gently combine.  If you would like more spice you can add extra gochujang paste.  You can keep the pork mixture warm in a crockpot on low.

Split apart the slider buns, top with spicy pork mixture and then top with slaw.

Shanghai Style Lumpia (Filipino spring rolls)

I am sure you are thinking, “Wait, what the hell, why is she posting a recipe for Lumpia on Thanksgiving?” Well, because I was asked to. I’m in Seattle for Thanksgiving this year and was invited for Thanksgiving dinner at my friend Karen’s home.  I text her last week and asked what she wanted me to bring.  After deliberating with her family, she texted me back with, “everyone wants you to bring your spring rolls”.  Huh? Seriously? Well, okay, why not?! Is it really that unusual? I’m sure most of your families serve that one dish that doesn’t quit fit the Thanksgiving “theme”.  However, if  you were to dig a little, I’m sure you would find some back story as to why the dish shows up on the Thanksgiving table.  If you notice something odd at the table this Thanksgiving, instead of judging, ask about it!

So why Shanghai Style Lumpia, as opposed to some other type of spring roll? It’s because of my fond memories of some wonderful Filipino people. Growing up in a military family has enabled me to meet and work with many people from the Philippines. They are some of the hardest working and kindest people I have ever met.  They also tend to have HUGE tight knit families! Their family unit always extends far beyond blood relatives. If you know a Filipino woman for more than a couple of months and are in her good graces, then you become part of her extended family.  I am serious when I say that I have more Filipino aunties than I can count.  The honorary designation of “niece”  means that you are automatically on the guest list when they are throwing a party.  With such huge families, Filipinos are throwing either a birthday, Baptism, wedding, graduation, or holiday party almost every weekend (seriously — I’m not kidding)!  This means that there is going to be copious amounts of delicious food.  One food item that will always be present (and the first items to be eaten) at any Filipino party are Shanghai style Lumpia. These are little pork filled spring rolls that are complete gastronomic bliss! The filling for Lumpia are fairly straight forward and simple.  However, the challenge is wrapping those little suckers up.  Filipino women are simply masterful at it.  I have always been in awe at how perfect they can roll these (Lumpia are very small and dainty, unlike Chinese style egg rolls) and they quantity they can churn out (for parties, by the 100’s).  What is unique about Shanghai style Lumpia is that the meat is not cooked in advance, are small (the width of a cigar), and contains very little vegetables (heaven for children).  If you have never had Lumpia before, then you definitely are missing out! You simply must give these a try!

The following recipe is inspired by my three favorite Filipino aunties of all time: Auntie Maria, Auntie Cindy, and Auntie Vivian. Auntie Maria is my mom’s good friend who can throw a HUGE party together with practically no notice — I swear the food just magically appears. She has a smile that stretches from ear to ear and has a laugh that can be heard from miles away (sort of like mine)! Auntie Cindy and her family were our next door neighbors when we lived in Hawaii.  Her and Uncle Les are of Filipino and Hawaiian descent and had a MASSIVE family network — Kevin Bacon has nothing on them.  I swear they are related in some way to everyone who lives on Oahu! Not only is she an amazing cook, but she is an amazing seamstress too!  Her brother worked on the show Magnum PI and made it possible for me to meet and get a picture with my then heartthrob, Tom Selleck! Finally, there is Auntie Vivian.  When I was getting my undergraduate degree in California, I worked part-time for some extra pocket money.  Auntie Vivian and I worked together.  She took me under her wing, always magically had extra food to share at lunch, was my fierce protector, and a fantastic confidant.  The recipe for my Shanghai style Lumpia is an amalgamation from these three wonderful women!

Shanghai Style Lumpia (makes 30-35 little Lumpias)

1lb. lean ground pork (Note: If you can’t find lean ground pork, make your own.  Take a pound of pork loin, chunk it, and pulse it several times in a food processor.  It works great.)

½ lb. finely carrots, peeled and finely chopped (Note: us a mini food processor)

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves

1 inch fresh peeled ginger, sliced thinly into medallions.

3 green onions, roughly chopped

¼ cup Kikkoman (or other good brand) soy sauce (Note: NO CHUN KING brand soy sauce – that is an abomination and I will judge you)

1 tablespoon fish sauce (Optional) (Note: You can buy fish sauce in just about any grocery store these days.  WARNING – Fish sauce is very pungent smelling (seriously).  Your family may ask you if something died.  However, it really enhances the flavor and is totally worth it.  So open the windows, turn on the fan, plug your nose and suck it up.)

1 package Lumpia wrappers/spring roll wrappers (Note: These wrappers can be found in the frozen section of Asian grocery stores.  Defrost the wrappers (still in the package) by placing the package in the fridge overnight.  DO NOT use egg roll wrappers, they are completely different and way too doughy.)

1 beaten egg (for moistening the wrappers)

Oil (for frying)

1 bottle of Sweet Chili Sauce (Optional).  (The use of a dipping sauce is not necessary but some people feel lost without some sort of dipping sauce.)


Combine ground pork, chopped carrots and onions in a large bowl.   Put the garlic cloves, sliced ginger, and green onions in a food processor.  Pulse them until they are very finely chopped.  Add them to the bowl.  Add the soy sauce and fish sauce to the bowl and then combine all the ingredients very well.  Set in the fridge to cure for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight – after several hours I always (ALWAYS) take a small spoonful of mixture and form it into a patty and fry it in a sauté pan.  I do this so I can taste the mixture.  If it needs more seasoning I would add another 1/8 cup of soy sauce if needed).

Lumpia Assembly 

Take pork mixture out of the refrigerator and set aside.

Beat the egg in a small bowl with 2 TBS of water and then set aside.

Take the Lumpia wrappers out of the package.

Cut the wrappers in half (diagonally) with a clean pair of scissors.  Gently separate the Lumpia wrappers.  They dry out quickly so cover the ones not immediately in use with a damp paper towel.  Take one wrapper and lay it on a clean surface.  Place 2 TBS of the pork mixture about ½ inch from the edge of the longest side of the wrapper.  Roll the edge towards the middle of the wrapper, then fold both sides in, and then roll to the end of the wrapper.  Moisten the end with a dab of the egg mixture.  Repeat with remaining wrappers.

[Note: Lumpia can be frozen before they are fried.  If you freeze them, lay them on a cookie sheet (lined with wax paper or parchment paper) so they are not touching and place flat in the freezer. After they have been in the freezer for several hours until frozen.  After, you can remove them from the cookie sheet and put them in a plastic storage bag (or vacuum seal them).  Freezing them individually first ensures that they will not stick together in the freezer.]


Heat several inches of oil in a pan to 350 degrees.  Deep fry the Lumpia until they are golden brown (3-4 minutes per side).  Drain the Lumpia on paper towels.  Let them cool for a few minutes before tearing into them.  Serve with the aforementioned sauce if you want.