Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hamburger Steaks with Brown Gravy and Rice

The dish, Hamburger Steaks with Brown Gravy and Rice, does not sound like a Hawaiian dish, but it is a staple of Hawaiian plate lunch restaurants. If you add a sunny side up egg you have the Loco Moco. I am a big fan of Hawaiian cuisine, especially with my ties to Filipino and Japanese cuisines. I like this for other reasons, too. Rice is my go to starch, I prefer it to potatoes. I discovered this when I started to go to Hawaiian Plate Lunch places back in my mid to late twenties. This became my go to dish, since many of the other dishes I make by myself at home. I have a rule at Hawaiian Plate lunch locations, if I can make it I do not order it. Sadly as of December 2016, I can no longer order it.

The reason why it does not sound Hawaiian to many people is on face value, it does not seem East Asian in origin. Remember Hawaii is a state in the United States of America. It is their interpretation of meat and potatoes with gravy. They of course substitute rice for the potatoes. It is also similar to Salisbury steak. It is also traditionally served with a serving of macaroni salad. With my feelings about pasta, that part of the dish is usually avoided. I usually ask for a larger amount of rice at the Hawaiian plate lunch places.

Hamburger steaks with brown gravy and rice

One of the things holding me back was gravy. I never made brown gravy from scratch. With my experiences with various sauces and Hungarian Paprika Gravy, I decided to tackle this. I however did not make it at home first. I made it at work. It was a big hit. I used beef broth, hamburger drippings, and Imagine Foods’ Portobello Mushroom soup as my bases. I also used garlic, paprika, onion, and mushrooms to make the dish. The Portobello mushroom soup is a perfect replacement for cream of mushroom soup. First it has stronger mushroom flavor. Second no milk and no wheat/gluten. Third it is organic.

On January 27, 2017, I made this at home. First step was to fry the hamburgers on a skillet. Then I removed the hamburgers and added onions and garlic to be sautéed in the hamburger grease. Then the mushrooms were added. Finally half beef broth or stock and half mushroom soup. I added the hamburgers back to the dish. I added other seasonings. I simmered for 30 to 45 minutes. A thickening agent was added to the dish, this part is up to the cook. I served it over rice. To get a Loco Moco add a sunny side up egg. There is not exact recipe for this. This is all on the fly and by taste. This is an improvisational dish.

I may try making Loco Moco next time. In the past I avoided ordering Loco Moco. I am not a fan of egg whites; to the point of all eggs must be scrambled. I have watched several dishes on various cooking shows using sunny side up eggs or poached eggs, where the yolk was used to add to the richness of the dish. March 17, 2017. I had Portuguese sausage and eggs on rice at a local Hawaiian plate lunch place. The eggs were sunny side up. I loved it. My aversion to egg whites is not as strong as it used to be. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016


I made paiche (pronounced pie-CHAY) twice, paiche fillet with corn & roasted poblanos and pan seared paiche with spicy avocado sauce and greens. Paiche is an Amazonian fish that Whole Foods is selling. They are selling a farm raised variety, which according to Whole Foods’ site has taken the pressure off of the wild stocks and helped the communities farming it. It is a huge fish, that is meaty and high in protein. Since mom has been not feeling well in April 2016, I have been cooking for her. She bought this and I prepared it.

                              Paiche fillet with corn & roasted poblanos

The first dish was paiche fillet with corn & roasted poblanos. I made it on April 5, 2016. The fish is roasted or baked in the corn husk with the corn and poblanos mixture. Next time I plan to use tamale corn husks. The ones that I harvested from the ears of corn did not stay together well. The paiche fillets were large tail pieces. I placed the corn and poblanos mixture in the middle of the fillet, then wrapped it in the husk then in aluminum foil. It was very good, but I need practice in trimming corn kernels from them ear. I went to close to the cob, a few times.

                Pan seared paiche with spicy avocado sauce and greens

The second dish was pan seared paiche with spicy avocado sauce and greens. I made this dish on April 7, 2016. I used Swiss chard and beet greens for the greens. The meatiness of the fish contrasted nicely with the creamy avocado sauce with its jalapeños. The chard had a smokiness with the roasted garlic. I thought this was going to take longer than it did. It was mostly prep work. I also needed to wash the greens better.

On July 18, 2016, I made citrus roasted paiche in collard wraps. This was simple to make, but not as flavorful as the previous two dishes. The collard greens needed to be tenderer, and the citrus juice gave it too much acid in some cases. It was good, but the other two dishes were phenomenal.

I like this fish and these three recipes were very successful. These were a gift from mom, so I may not be able to afford them for a while. It is nice to know they are out there. My problem with my current economic situation is that fresh seafood is in most cases out of my price range. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mexican Arroz con Pollo

In my twenties, I started really experimenting with what I ate at Mexican restaurants. My go to dishes of the chile relleno-enchilada-tamale combination, chile verde, chorizo & eggs, chile Colorado, taquitos, nachos, fajitas and carnitas had become old. I discovered Mexican arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), most of the versions I have had included mushrooms. It became a regular dish. It typically is chicken, rice, onion, tomatoes, peppers (spicy and mild), and mushrooms. There is a sauce that is somewhat between a ranchero sauce and an enchilada sauce.

I call this Mexican Arroz con Pollo, because almost every Latino/ Hispanic culture has a version of this dish. It is a descendant of the Spanish Paella. Unlike Paella, Arroz con Pollo and its related dish Arroz con Camerones (rice with prawns/shrimp) only have one protein. Paella has multiple varieties of seafood, chicken, chorizo (the Spanish variety) and sometimes ham. The main difference in the Mexican variety versus others is the use of the spicier varieties of chiles or peppers. 

On June 19, 2016, I finally made this from scratch. I had a few substitutions. I used chipotle powder instead of cayenne and at a slightly less amount. I had some left over piquillo peppers that I used instead of red bell peppers. Piquillos are typically pickled and are sweet. I also did not have nor could afford the saffron it called for, so used my annatto oil. Annatto oil is a typical substitute for saffron found in Latin American cooking. I also added some fresh chopped jalapeños. I topped it off with Mexican blend cheese.

I did cook it a little too long, but other than that is was great. Like the Pollo con Crema, I am going to try to make this at home rather than order this at a restaurant again. It had a bit of a kick in the finish. If I wanted less kick I would use Ortega mild green chiles or Anaheim chiles and a milder chile powder, like ancho or a mild guajillo. With my job cooking as an in home caregiver, I am learning how to tone down dishes for people unable to eat spicier foods. Overall this was a great experience. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pad Thai with Shredded Green Papaya

 I have had Pad Thai in many ways, from restaurants, grocery delis, microwavable dinners, and box dinners. It is a national dish of Thailand and traditionally made with rice noodles. It was promoted by Thai Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram in the 30’s and 40’s. It was part of a campaign to get the Thai people to stop eating Chinese wheat noodles and start eating rice noodles, since Thailand was a major producer of rice. There is evidence that the dish is possibly of Chinese origin. No matter what the origin it has become a national dish and is synonymous with Thai street food.

I personally prefer rice noodles to wheat due to my intolerance of wheat. I also have been trying to eat fewer carbohydrates. My mom brought the idea of using green papaya after we bought one. I thought we were going to go obvious with Thai green papaya salad. Mom wanted Pad Thai. We picked up a device that does noodle like shreds.

I made it with mom on June 14, 2016. We ended up blending two recipes. The main reason for that was several ingredients on the main recipe were missing the exact amounts and we did not want to guess. The reason we did not want to guess was that one of the ingredients was Thai chili powder. Guessing the amounts of that could be disastrous. We took a recipe calling for rice noodles and substituted green papaya shreds. The ingredients were tamarind water, fish sauce, palm sugar, green papaya, canola oil, pork, sweet pickled radish, Thai ground chili powder, eggs, bean sprouts, garlic chives, and garnished with lime juice and peanuts. On the second and third days of the dish we added shrimp. We added shrimp again on the third day, because mom thought there was not enough shrimp. The dish also called for dried shrimp, but we did not have that particular item.

Since having this, I now prefer the green papaya version to the rice noodle version. I love rice, but low carbohydrate versions are better overall. Both versions are good for those on a gluten-free diet. There is something one should be careful with if going gluten free. Not all Thai fish sauces are gluten free. If you are making this gluten free, you need to find a gluten free brand. I have noticed that the traditional version of Thai dishes tend to be more sour than the versions found in restaurants in the U.S. I like the increased sourness in this version of Pad Thai it works very well. It  is a bit more sour due to the green papaya. Mom and I loved this. Will I make it again? Dang Skippy, I will. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pork in Guajillo Sauce with Avocados

I had a pork roast and no idea what to make. Usually I wing it with roasts, this time I hit my cookbooks. I found this recipe, Pork in Guajillo Sauce with Avocados (Cerdo en Salsa Chile Guajillo con Aguacate in Spanish) in 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore. According to the recipe, it is made traditionally with avocado leaves that give it an anise flavor. The recipe calls for anise instead due to the fact it is harder to find avocado leaves than anise at the store. The dish also calls for potatoes that are roasted.

My love of guajillo chiles started with the turkey breast marinated in guajillo chiles roasted in banana leaves from the Winter Holiday meal of 2015. I had heard about them from Aaron Sanchez’s Taco Trip on Cooking Channel. Guajillos were an ingredient in many dishes on the show. I even remade my pipián sauce with guajillos instead of anchos in the second batch. I left the seeds and veins in; it gave it a bit of heat. I bought some guajillo powder, but unfortunately it was a mild version.

On June 8, 2016, I made the dish. The ingredients were guajillo chiles, onions, garlic, olive oil, cumin, anise, salt, oregano, chicken broth, pork, red potatoes, and avocados. The recipe wanted this roasted in the oven; I however cooked this in the sauce in a slow cooker. The roast and sauce cooked for 6-8 hours. I roasted the potatoes in the oven as the recipe directed. The avocado was sliced and served on the side. I simmered the sauce and thickened it with masa flour.

The dish was wonderful; the avocado cut the fat and heat from the pork and sauce. The potatoes and sauce together were hearty. This is a meat and potatoes dish that is not your Standard American meat and potatoes. I am going to add this to my menu rotation.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kitchen Comeback Update 4

January 2016 ended with two Thai dishes. My second attempt at Thai peanut sauce was more successful. Adjustment is still needed, less red curry paste, more soy sauce, and more of the sweetener. The massaman curry was good, but again some adjustment needed there too. That I need to lower the amount of tamarind and lime juice just a tad.

                                          Thai chicken massaman curry

In the beginning of February 2016, I made Tortilla Española, again. This time I used a smaller frying pan and half of the recipe. This worked out wonderfully. It looked and held together the way it was supposed to. I ate it with piquillo peppers, chorizo Español, and salchichon (Spanish salami). I had bought manchego cheese and Serrano ham, but I ate them the night before. I have been eating bagel and lox sandwiches with cream cheese onions, and capers in February and March of 2016.

                                                    Tortilla Española

My work to increase the amount of vegetables in my food continues. I worked with calabacitas (Mexican zucchini) in February 2016. In March 2016, I made chayote squash and taro leaves. The calabacitas were great and the taro leaves were amazing. I do need to adjust the amount of lemon juice on the coconut milk braised taro leaves. The chayote was made into a great hash. The recipe called for eggs. I removed the eggs since this was a dinner side dish. The hash had chayote squash, recaito, tomatoes sauce and some seasoning. With my inarizushi I made a cucumber namasu salad using the Veggetti device.

                                                   Indian saag paneer

In February 2016, I made two spinach dishes; Indian Saag Paneer (Indian curried spinach with paneer cheese) and a Greek inspired spinach egg bake (spinach, garlic, onion, feta cheese and eggs). The Saag Paneer could have used a bit more heat. I made a variation of my Grandma Mac’s 7 Layer Salad. I made serrano pepper coleslaw and added vegetables to much to what I made. I chose the Cuban style yellow rice over the Puerto Rican version, because the Puerto Rican had rice, seasoning, and annatto oil. The Cuban style yellow rice included peas, onions and red bell peppers.

Enchiladas Suizas

                                                   Calabacitas ralladas

I made Hawaiian chicken teriyaki in March 2016. I over compensated with the amount of soy sauce. Using the juice from canned pineapple and lowering the amount of honey worked very well. The drinking pineapple juice I used the first time was too dang sweet. I also paired this dish with the coconut milk braised taro leaves. Uwajimaya in Beaverton and H-Mart in Tigard are becoming great resources of Asian and Polynesian ingredients.

Rick's tacos with serrano coleslaw

I discovered a variation of the enchiladas Suizas, I have yet to do. That is adding sour cream or crema Mexicana to the salsa verde. I will try that next time. I am remaking dishes I forgot to take pictures of. Enchiladas Suizas was the first. The next was Cuban mojo marinated pork shoulder. I think the roast was slightly overcooked on the second go around. I also did a better pairing with the sides. I made Cuban style yellow rice and Puerto Rican chayote hash. I also did not remake the sauce. I used the discarded marinade, the roast pan drippings and cornstarch.

Inarizushi special

Cucumber namasu salad

I worked to recreate my Grandma Mac’s hamburger hash. That was a fun experience trying into to make something from memory, actually my mom’s memory as well as my own. It was a great exercise in cooking. I also made another pot of beans this time using a ham hock. I prefer the smoked pork shank, more meat less salt and less fat. That is just my preference. I tried a variation of the serrano coleslaw. I removed the dry mustard and caraway seeds. I added the juice of half of a lime. It turned out to have the right balance of heat, sour, and sweet.

                                       Grandma Mac's hamburger hash

With saag paneer, inarizushi, Thai massaman curry, enchiladas Suizas, and the bagel and lox sandwich, I am making things I crave instead of going to a restaurant, deli, café, or diner. These are dishes I missed and wanted again. Some of them are still works in progress, others I have perfected like my tacos, chili con carne, and others.

Cuban mojo marinated pork roast

                               Cuban mojo marinated pork roast sliced

January 2016

Rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce, ham and mashed potatoes, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and Thai chicken massaman curry with jasmine rice.

Cuban style yellow rice

                                             Puerto Rican chayote hash

February 2016

Tortilla Española (Spanish tortilla) with Spanish chorizo, piquillo peppers, and salchichón (Spanish salami), cream cheese and lox bagel sandwiches with onions and capers, Saag Paneer (curried spinach with Paneer cheese) with basmati rice, enchiladas Suizas with calabacitas ralladas (shredded Mexican zucchini), shrimp salad (shrimp, avocados, spicy sushi mayo), crunchy tacos with homemade taco meat and serrano coleslaw, beef and bean burritos with homemade meat filling, spinach egg bake (spinach, onions, garlic, egg and feta cheese), 11 layer salad, ground turkey tacos with serrano coleslaw, beef and bean burritos, pork chops with rice and coleslaw, pork loin roast with coleslaw, peas and corn, and beans with ham hocks.

                                                  Cuban mojo sauce
March 2016

Cream cheese and lox bagel sandwiches with onions and capers, turkey cheese bratwursts with mashed potatoes, Hawaiian chicken teriyaki with coconut milk braised taro leaves, chorizo and eggs with corn tortillas, inarizushi special (fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice and topped with salad shrimp, avocados spicy Japanese mayonnaise, and sesame seeds) with cucumber namasu salad, hamburger hash, cucumber noodles with tonnato sauce, bean and cheese burritos, Cuban mojo marinated pork roast with mojo sauce, Cuban style yellow rice, Puerto Rican chayote hash, ground turkey tacos with serrano lime coleslaw, beans with ham hocks, eggs with hash browns, chili con carne and shoyu chicken with jasmine rice.


I have a long storied history with quesadillas. For the longest time, I did not know what they were called. When I was ten, I started making something I called fried cheesy tacos. These were cheese filled corn tortillas fried in butter. It was not until I was in college that I discovered the typical quesadilla of cheese filled flour tortillas and the name associated with any cheese filled tortilla dish.

In Mexico, they are made with corn tortillas typically filled with Oaxaca cheese. They are made in a cast iron or earthenware griddle called a comal, which is also used to make tortillas. Typical fillings are potatoes with chorizo, squash blossoms, mushrooms, epazote, huitlacoche, and different types of cooked meat. They are cooked dry on the griddle. When they are fried with oil they are called quesadillas fritas. Typically they are one tortilla flipped in a half moon shape. When cheese and meat, typically ham, are sandwiched between two tortillas and cut into wedges, that is called a sincronizada. In Mexico the use of flour tortillas is more common in the Northern region.

Quesadillas tradicionales (corn tortillas Oaxaca cheese, and cotija cheese)

With the restarting my cooking from scratch, I originally made them using the microwave. I later was frying the corn tortilla versions, first in butter then in olive oil. I stopped frying them for two reasons. First reason was I needed to eat healthier. The second was I wanted to see if I liked the more traditional version. I did like the traditional version. Now I use my electric skillet/kettle for the corn tortilla quesadillas. I started using my toaster oven for the flour tortilla version. My typical fillings have been a Mexican cheese blend, taco sauce, and/or hot sauce. Sometimes I use various chile powders instead of hot sauce. The powders are a combination of chipotle, ancho, guajillo, and New Mexican chile.

         Quesadilla (flour tortilla, Mexican blend cheese, taco sauce, hot sauce)

I have experimented. I have added various lunch meats and Spanish style chorizo. Spanish chorizo is more like a mild pepperoni. Another of my weird quesadillas is my Quesadilla Española: Spanish chorizo, manchego cheese, and piquillo peppers. The piquillos cut the saltiness of the Spanish chorizo and the Manchego cheese. I have made my Jalapeño Popper Quesadilla, cream cheese and pickled jalapeños. I could see using nopalitos, pickled nopales, in a quesadilla as well. I also make my Pepper Jack Quesadilla: Monterey Jack and pickled jalapeños. It has a good flavor, next time I may use pepper jack cheese to see how that goes.  Lately I have not been too big with the frills, so I have served them without any salsa or guacamole. The idea of me posting about my history with this dish was due to a friend’s post about Mexican cooking. I brought up my Jalapeño Popper Quesadilla. I hope you, my readers, get ideas from what I have wrote.