Sunday, December 4, 2016

Paiche

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.

Quesadillas

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. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

One of the things I started doing was finding recipes for dishes I enjoyed that I ate in jarred, canned, frozen, boxed, or pre-prepared forms. So far they have included Cajun dirty rice, chili con carne, enchiladas Suizas, pepián rojo de pepitas, picante sauce, roasted garlic hummus, tzatziki sauce, Thai peanut sauce, Russian Stroganoff, and more. One of my favorite boxed meals was Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice. I decided for May 2016 I would make it from scratch. I looked for recipes. I found one on Food Network’s site by Emeril Lagasse. This version is closer to the version found at Popeye’s fast food restaurants than the Zatarain’s version. The Zatarain’s version is rice with whole beans. The Lagasse version was a creamy red bean mixture poured over rice.

In the past, I had added various ingredients to the Zatarain’s red beans and rice to mix it up. I have used Portuguese linguica, Polska kielbasa, Cajun andouille, and Spanish chorizo. I added fresh onions, roasted garlic, tomatoes, corn, and green chiles. I wanted a more traditional version of this dish. I have only eaten two versions of the dish one from Zatarain’s and the version sold at Popeye’s chicken. Popeye’s version is closer to a traditional version than the Zatarain’s.



I decided to make this on May 12, 2016. The ingredients are red beans, onion, green onion, green bell peppers, celery, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, cayenne, andouille sausage, ham, rice, salt, and garlic. It takes two and a half hours to cook. I used my electric skillet/kettle. Towards the end one quarter of the beans are mashed to thicken the mixture. I surprised with the ease of this dish. It is time consuming to make, due to the two hour simmer. The electric skillet/kettle lowest simmer setting is 200 degrees Fahrenheit, I had to watch the liquid and add water as needed.


This was tasty, but could have used some more salt. I was wary to add too much salt because of the ham used. The heat was just enough to get the taste buds buzzing. The recipe called for smoked ham hocks. I wanted to use smoked pork shanks, I do not care ham hocks. I was unable to find smoke pork shanks, so I increased the ham amount. I am toying with using turkey ham, smoked turkey wings, and a chicken or turkey andouille sausage. That way I can continue my lowering the amount of red meat I eat. I loved this dish. Now anytime I crave Cajun red beans and rice I can make it myself.

Red Beans and Rice

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pollo con Crema

Pollo con Crema is a Mexican dish I discovered at La Sierrra in Dundee Oregon. It is like a Mexican Alfredo sauce. It has a sourness to it. It is chicken, a cream sauce, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. It is usually served with Spanish/ Mexican/ red rice and refried beans. It is one of my mother’s favorites. The cream sauce is usually made with crema Mexicana (Mexican crema). Typically the store bought varieties have quite a few additives. In preparing for this dish, I found some recipes to make my own crema Mexicana. It is like a cross between heavy cream, sour cream, and buttermilk. Two of those are ingredients to make the crema.

                                                       Pollo con crema

I have been choosing to make more dishes that my mother likes. Luckily I chose to make this on Mother’s Day weekend of 2016. I had two recipes and was fusing elements from both. My first batch was made on May 6, 2016. The ingredients were homemade crema Mexicana, olive oil, chicken breasts, sweet onion, mushrooms, paprika, chicken base, chipotle powder, and sour cream. I made the crema the night before using a recipe from Mexican Cooking for Dummies by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. It is heavy cream and buttermilk left out for 8 to 12 hours. The crema came out perfect. The two sides I made were calabacitas ralladas (shredded sautéed Mexican zucchini) and Mexican style red rice (also from Mexican Cooking for Dummies). I added grated cotija cheese. The cotija plus the salt the dish called for made it slightly saltier than I had wanted

                                               Mexican style red rice

On Sunday May 8, 2016, I made the second batch with twice the onion. I also used yellow onion instead of sweet onion for more flavor. I used less chipotle powder and more sour cream. The sides were another batch of Mexican style red rice and refried black beans. The reason for the onion changes were mom did not notice the onion in the previous batch. Much of it was cooked down to nothing. Plus she did not taste it as much. Sweet onion is mild in flavor, so I decided to go with yellow onion instead. There was a little less mushrooms and chicken for this batch too. I also did not add cotija cheese to the sauce. I used it more as a garnish in the second batch.


                                                 Calabacitas ralladas

I was happy with both batches, but mom and I preferred the second batch. Traditionally Mexican cuisine uses mushrooms, but the most common edible fungus is huitlacoche. Huitlacoche is a corn smut that grows on ears of corn. It is a staple in Mexican cooking. There are other varieties of mushroom common in Mexican cooking, but they differ from the varieties found in the U.S. This was a successful outing and this dish will be in my list of recipes. It may get a few more tweaks, like adding bell peppers, Anaheim chiles, or poblanos chiles. Time will tell.

Pollo a La Crema
Pollo Con Crema Ala Donna

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cajun Dirty Rice

I discovered this dish through the Zatarain’s box meal. I had played with adding things to the box meal. I made a Southwestern style version by adding Ortega mild green chiles, fresh diced onions, roasted garlic, diced petite tomatoes, olives, corn, and cheese.  I added peas and carrots with onion and roasted garlic. I took it off my menus as I started to cook more and more from scratch. I thought it was just ground beef and rice with various Cajun/Creole seasonings.

In April of 2016, I decided to make the dish from scratch. I went looking for recipes. This time I had help. My mom was sending me tons of dirty rice recipes. Among them was Justin Wilson’s brother’s recipe. This was first published in 1965, by Wilson. Justin Wilson was a famous Cajun humorist and chef. He had various cooking shows on PBS from 1971 to the 1990’s. As a teenager I watched those shows. I watched them with my uncle Bob when I would visit Grandma Mac’s house when he still lived there. Bob owns several of Wilson’s cookbooks. He is definite a fan. I have fond memories of watching Louisiana Cooking with Justin Wilson with him, as well as Yan Can Cook with Martin Yan.



The recipe is fairly simple, but it is an old school recipe so it calls for some serious simmering. You simmer the meat mixture for 4 hours. The ingredients are ground beef, ground pork, ground chicken hearts and gizzards, Worcestershire sauce, green bell pepper, celery, onions, garlic, salt, bay leaves, parsley, green onions, rice, and cream of mushroom soup.  I added 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the dish. It is a huge dish, it is meant to feed 10 people.


I made it on April 22, 2014. I did my mise en place (prep work/chopping the vegetables) first. I had to grind the chicken giblets (hearts and gizzards) myself. The copy of the recipe I found said chicken giblets, but the video I watched Justin Wilson himself said hearts and gizzards. I went with Mr. Wilson’s instructions. I used my electric kettle to simmer everything except the rice and cream of mushroom soup for the requisite 4 hours. I made the rice in batches during the simmering. I was unable to use the electric kettle for the last simmering segment. This step is adding the rice to the meat and mushroom soup mixture. My kettle was not large enough. I had to do that step on the stove. I liked this so much better than the box. I can also play with the flavor myself. I love this version of the dish, but I want to use some more seasoning to it. More cayenne may be needed. This was a serious success, I guarantee. 

Justin Wilson - Dirty Rice on YouTube

Dirty Rice (Justin Wilson's Original)


Friday, April 22, 2016

Puerto Rican Pastelón de Amarillos

Pastelón de amarillos is the third recipe I have made from A Taste of Puerto Rico by Yvonne Ortiz. This dish intrigued me. The dish is layers of yellow plantains, and a ground meat mixture, that is topped off with green beans. It is kind of the Puerto Rican take on lasagna. I had fond memories of eating plantains as a boy. My dad had been deployed to Puerto Rico when I was young. He tried to have mom recreate some of those dishes. She did her best, but dad was not that good at explaining it. One dish was a baked and mashed plantain dish. It was like a baked potato. We added butter to it. It was slightly sweet.

Plantains, to those unfamiliar, are a variety of banana. They are starchier than standard bananas. They are kind of like a cross between a banana and a potato. They are used in Caribbean cuisine like the potato is used in American cuisine. Green plantains are not sweet, yellow plantains are sweeter, and black plantains, maduros, are the sweetest. Maduros are typically used in desserts.



Last year I went to Borikén, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Beaverton, Oregon. I had several plantain dishes there, mofongo con carne frita (mashed fried plantains with fried meat), alcapurrias (plantain fritters stuffed with meat), and tostones (twice fried plantains). I have a dream dish that includes tostones. When I was gifted the Puerto Rican cookbook, soon after the trip to Borikén, I was excited. I had a few Puerto Rican dishes in The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors by Jeff Smith, more is always better.

I made the dish on March 14, 2016. I shopped around to find the cheapest plantains. The ingredients are ground beef (I used ground turkey instead), yellow plantains, mozzarella cheese, eggs, green beans, plum tomatoes, tomato sauce, recaito, manzanilla olives, oregano, and salt. The recipe included golden raisins and black pepper; I did not use those due to dietary restrictions in the family. There were four main steps: cooking the green beans (this step was assumed in the recipe), browning the meat and adding the other components to the mixture, frying the plantains, and finally baking the components together in one dish.


The plantains and the meat mixture are layered together. I cooked the liquids down too much and baked the dish a little longer than needed. In the past I had trouble with eggs not setting. This led to a slightly drier dish. Next time there will be a little more liquid in the meat and less baking time. The flavors were spot on. The saltiness from the meat contrasted wonderfully with the sweetness from the plantains. This is dish in now in my repertoire.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork Roast

This dish is so completely tied into my culinary reawakening. I first heard of Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork Roast from the 2014 film Chef, which was written, directed and starred Jon Favreau. It told the story of a chef whose abilities had languished due to his creativity being hampered by the restaurant’s owner. The dish that started his path to redemption was the Cuban sandwich. The base for that sandwich was Cuban style mojo marinated pork roast. The roast is made by the main character’s sous chef. This film had parallels with my experience. I was limited to what and how I could cook by my ex. I had become stagnant and too reliant of pre-packaged foods.

                         Whole mojo marinated pork shoulder roasts

In the second month of my culinary reawakening, June 2015, I went looking for mojo recipes online. I found one by Roy Choi. That is an important detail. Choi had a small role in Chef, but he also was a Co-Producer as well as Culinary Consultant on the film. This was the recipe I wanted to make. I made a few mistakes making this the first time on June 28, 2016. First I used a 6-7 lbs bone in pork shoulder roast, not the 3 ½ lbs boneless the recipe called for. Second, I paired the dish with Zatarain’s Caribbean rice, a rice dish with coconut and pineapple. Third, I discarded the marinade and re-made the sauce without olive oil or mint.

                                                 Cuban style yellow rice

The roast was moist, but I did not take picture. I was bad and ate too much of the fatty bark. I ate it, because the roast took longer to cook due to the doubled sized of it and I was so hungry. The rice and the sauce were too close in flavor profile, so it felt one note. They both had sweet and sour notes to them. I decided next time to make classic Cuban side dishes to go with the roast. Cuban style yellow rice and Cuban style black beans were at the top of my list.

                                            Puerto Rican chayote hash

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to go back and make dishes I made prior, but did not take photos of. I also started taking photos of dishes that were my staples that I had not photographed before. Mojo Marinated Pork Roast and Enchiladas Suizas were at the top of the list. For March 2016, I decided to make the Mojo Marinated Pork Roast. I found boneless roast, but not in one piece. Instead I had two 1 ½ lbs small pork roasts. I also had a huge pot of beans at the end of February 2016, so making the black beans seemed like too much beans too soon. I decided to make Cuban style yellow rice (from The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors by Jeff Smith) and Puerto Rican chayote hash (from A Taste of Puerto Rico by Yvonne Ortiz) as my sides. The hash was because I wanted to try chayote, a squash found in Mexican and Caribbean cuisines. I also wanted the chayote to aid in my increasing of vegetable dishes in my diet.

                                    Sliced mojo marinated pork roast

On March 17, 2016, I made the planned Caribbean meal. Yes, I know that was St. Patrick’s Day. Since I am neither regular Irish nor Catholic, I did not really care. I staggered the sides while the roast was cooking and resting. The roast was flavored beautifully, but I think it may have been slightly overcooked. The yellow rice, which included onions, garlic, red bell peppers, and peas, came out the best of the rice dishes I made so far without rice cooker. The chayote hash was originally a breakfast dish that included eggs. I removed the eggs from the recipe. Next time I am going to double the amount of seasonings. I used the marinade with the roasts’ pan drippings and cornstarch to make a sauce. Due to my mom still being at the house, I used parsley instead of cilantro. She is allergic to cilantro. The sauce was great. I was very pleased how this meal came out. Next time I will shop around for a single 3 ½ lbs boneless pork shoulder roast.

Mojo sauce

This dish will always have fond memories for me. It is most assuredly in my menu rotation. The new side dishes paired so much better with the meal than the Caribbean rice. I am always game to try new foods, recipes, and ingredients. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Grandma Mac’s Hamburger Hash

My mom was staying with me while she got some business done in 2016. For March I asked her what she wanted to have. First March is her birth month and second I have been cooking for both of us. She wanted her mother’s hamburger hash. This was a situation where we had to recreate it from scratch. It is hamburger, onions, mushrooms, frozen corn, shredded potatoes, green bell peppers, sage, poultry seasoning, half & half, and salt. I have never made it before. Mom bought me an electric kettle/fryer/steamer from Goodwill. We used that device to do the last of the simmering of the dish.

I did not remember this dish that well. It did not taste like what I remembered; I realized it was missing black pepper. Mom is allergic to it. White and black pepper, cause an adverse reaction. This allergy was discovered when I was 7 or 8. Grandma’s always had pepper in it. I felt it needed garlic, but mom swore Grandma Mac did not use that much garlic. One thing we both remembered was towards the end Grandma added peas and carrots, the frozen medley variety. We used the more traditional corn as opposed to peas and carrots.



When I started this, I did not make sure I had all the spices needed. I thought I was out of sage and poultry seasoning. I was not out of sage, but still needed poultry seasoning. Mom went on a grocery run for this. I sautéed the mushrooms, onions and bell pepper in olive oil. Then I added the hamburger and sage. The poultry seasoning was added before I added the potatoes and half & half. Then I simmered it for 40 minutes then I added the corn and simmered another 10 minutes.

For a recipe, we were trying to recreate from memory, I think we did well. My mom used to make this when I was a kid. That has been decades ago. It came out wonderfully and creamy. This is not the most colorful dish. Potatoes, mushrooms, onions and hamburger tend to be very brown and grey. Taste wise it was on the spot.


Grandma Mac’s Hamburger Hash

2 lbs Hamburger
6-10 potatoes shredded (8 cups)
1 green bell pepper
1 lb mushrooms
1 cup of frozen corn
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sage
2 cups half & half
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a skillet or pot put the olive oil in the hot pan. Add the onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Sauté the vegetables on medium for 10 minutes. Add hamburger. Brown the meat 10-20 minutes. Drain the fat. Add sage, poultry seasoning, and salt simmer for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and half & half. Simmer on low for 40 minutes. Add corn simmer on low for 10 more minutes. Cool down for 10 minutes. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Inarizushi Special and Cucumber Namasu Salad

I discovered Inarizushi when I discovered sushi. It is a fried tofu pocket that is marinated in soy sauce and rice wine vinegar stuffed with sushi rice. Sometimes vegetables, cooked and/or pickled, are added to the rice. For decades it has been and still is a favorite of mine. Fred Meyer, a grocery and department store in the Pacific Northwest, has its own sushi counter in the grocery department. They have an item called Inari Special. It is deep fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice, and then topped off with shrimp, spicy mayo and avocados. The Inari Special is a favorite of mine. It is the inarizushi stepped up a few notches.

                                                      Inarizushi special

During my years of going to various Sushi Bars and Japanese Restaurants, I have grown fond of the cucumber salad that accompanies the meal. It is called a cucumber namasu salad. It is cucumber, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and salt. Sometimes I have had it with shrimp, or octopus (tako), or squid (ika) added to the salad. It also has been known to be garnished with sesame seed and seaweed. One Sushi bar that a frequented knew my preferences and would usually served me the salad with tako (octopus).

                                                 Cucumber namasu salad

I decided to make these dishes in March 2016. I made them on March 7. It was impossible to find unseasoned tofu pockets. I wanted to limit the amount of preservatives. The unseasoned also would allow me to season the tofu pocket how I wished. I used the pre-seasoned ones. This was the first time I made sushi rice. Sushi rice is not just rice. The rice is seasoned with rice wine vinegar, sugar (although I used honey instead), and salt. I had a friend who tried to make homemade sushi.  They did not know that sushi rice was more than just plain white rice. That led to very flavorless sushi. I bought seasoned rice wine vinegar, but it was too salty. The spicy mayo is Kewpie brand, Japanese mayonnaise, and sriracha sauce. I bought frozen salad shrimp and avocados. The then topped the Inarizushi with sesame seeds.

I originally thought about making my Thai cucumber condiment salad using the Veggetti device. The Veggetti device turns vegetables into noodles. I decided to make the Japanese cucumber namasu salad instead using the Veggetti cucumbers. I used the seasoned rice wine vinegar, but it left the dish a little saltier than I had wished. Next time I will use plain rice wine vinegar. Overall this was an enjoyable meal, and I will definitely make this again. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rick’s Tacos with Serrano Coleslaw

Taco/burrito meat filling is one of the first dishes I learned along with Filipino adobo, meatloaf, and beef liver with bacon and onions. There was no real recipe; I made this by eye and taste. It used to include Ortega canned salsa, but they do not make that any more. It was more of a cooking salsa than one using for dipping or as a condiment. The original version of this was ground beef, onions, celery, garlic, Ortega mild green chiles, cumin, chili powder, garlic, paprika, and the Ortega canned salsa. 

Back in 1984 when my Grandma Mac was helping out after my mother’s surgery, I was going to a church function. It was taco and movie night with the youth group. I agreed to make taco meat. A friend, who also went to the same church youth group, came over while I was cooking. He saw me put in celery and went, “Ewww celery,” in disgust. I put in onions and he said, “Ewww, onions.” Grandma Mac overheard this exchange. She asked him what his mom used to make taco meat. He said she used the pre-packaged seasoning packets. Grandma Mac chuckled; she informed him that every ingredient I used was in the packet but in powdered form.



In August 2015, I made them again with a twist. This time I made a vinegar based coleslaw with them. I found a great recipe online. The vinegar based coleslaw was inspired by Portland, Oregon’s Bigg-Ass Sandwiches. One of the first times I went there I had the Pork Hammer with a serrano chile coleslaw. When they opened their brick and mortar location in June of 2015, I discovered their coleslaw again. This time it did not have the chiles. I still liked this. The mayonnaise versions of coleslaw seem too heavy to me anymore. The vinegar based coleslaw is light, bright, and crisp. The vinegar based recipe has less calories of fat than a mayonnaise version which was good for me. In October 2015, I made the tacos again; both times I used ground turkey. I added one half a serrano to a batch. I ended up making two batches. It has some kick but not enough.

On February 9, 2016, I made the tacos with ground turkey and made beef and bean burritos on February 12, 2016. The burritos used ground beef. I forgot to drain the fat. When using beef, brown the meat first and drain the fat. I ended up sautéing the onions, garlic, and celery, then browning the meat. I then added the spices. That was a mistake. For the coleslaw with the tacos I used two serranos and seeded and veined only one. It had a wonderful heat and kick. This is an easy way to make taco/burrito meat.


Rick’s Taco/ Burrito Meat

2 lbs ground beef or turkey
4 cloves of garlic
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 table spoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ancho powder
½ teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
¼ teaspoon New Mexican hot chili powder
4 or 6 oz can tomato paste
14 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
4 oz can of diced mild green chiles


In a skillet, Dutch oven, or stock pot brown meat. Drain fat if using beef. Add garlic, onions and celery. Simmer till onions are clear. Add dry seasonings. Cook till spices  give off their oils (3-5 minutes). Add tomato paste, chiles and tomatoes. Simmer on low heat till all excess liquid evaporates (15-30 minutes). 


Monday, February 22, 2016

Enchiladas Suizas and Calabacitas Ralladas

This was the first dish I made from 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore. I had eaten this dish in a microwavable TV dinner format for years. I wanted to try a fresher version of the dish. Enchiladas Suizas is typically chicken enchiladas with cream and tomatillos. In some recipes the cream, either Mexican crema or sour cream, is added to the tomatillo salsa. In this recipe, they are separate. The salsa verde is added to the meat, then over the enchiladas, covered in cheese, and finally Mexican crema is drizzled on top. 
I was happy to find this recipe in my newly purchased Mexican cookbook. The ingredients for this dish are chicken, tomatillos, cilantro, onion, oregano, serrano chiles, jalapeño chiles, poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, chicken broth, honey, corn tortillas, scallions, cheese, and Mexican crema. On September 18, 2015, I made this dish. I had overdone it in physical work and strained my abdominal muscles. My Mom had to help me finish the dish. I did a few changes: I added Anaheim chiles; I replaced the serrano with jalapeños, and replaced Monterrey Jack with Mexican cheese blend. At the time I bought the Anaheims the store also had Hatch chiles. The two are related, Hatch chiles are higher on the Scoville scale. They also look identical. The spice on this made me believe I purchased Hatch not Anaheims. I loved the way it turned out.

                                                   Enchiladas Suizas

Due to the injury I did not take a picture of this dish. It was one of two dishes I lamented not getting a picture of. I wanted to make it again for two reasons: A) I liked it a good deal, and B) I wanted a picture. On February 5, 2016, I made enchiladas Suizas again. This time I kept the jalapeños and added one serrano (seeded and veined). The original recipe calls for two serranos. I added Anaheims again, but I was sure these were really Anaheims. Like the previous time I used the shredded spiced chicken recipe, which includes ancho powder and allspice. I was able to get my picture and these turned out amazing, but not a spicy as the previous batch.

                                                Calabacitas Ralladas

My dietitian had asked me to increase my intake of vegetables in January 2016. With the second batch of enchiladas Suizas, I served Calabacitas Ralladas, shredded Mexican zucchini. This is another recipe from 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore. The recipe called for standard zucchini, but me being me I decided to use the Mexican variety of zucchini. Mexican zucchini are called calabacitas in Spanish although that term is used for all zucchini. The calabacitas are shredded with skin on like hash browns. They are sautéed with onion and oregano in olive oil. They are then garnished with cotija cheese. This dish is definitely going to be a great side dish to any Mexican entrée.

These two dishes together created a perfect meal. It spurred me to look up other recipes with calabacitas and chayote, another squash used in Latin cuisines. I even thought about using the Calabacitas Ralladas as a taco or burrito filling. Expanding my scope of Mexican dishes is part off the reason I bought Mexican Cooking for Dummies and 1,000 Mexican Recipes.



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Indian Saag Paneer

Back in the 1990’s, Newberg, Oregon had an Indian restaurant. I forgot its name after all these years. It was only open for a handful of years. Newberg was not ready for Indian food. When I went there, I had Saag Gosht, a curried spinach and lamb dish. During that time a friend gifted me the cookbook Curries with No Worries. The cookbook had recipes for Saag Gosht and Saag Paneer, curried spinach with paneer cheese. I lost the cookbook in one of my moves. I enjoyed this dish. I have had the Saag Paneer in microwavable format, but it was not as good as the Saag Gosht was fresh.



I decided I could not afford the lamb, it is expensive and hard to find in the grocery stores I can afford to shop in. Plus choosing the paneer helped me decrease my meat intake. I went looking for the paneer version online. I found a recipe on Food Network’s website by Aarti Sequeira. Aarti Sequeira is a chef of Indian descent and winner of Food Network Star Season 6. I liked what I saw in the recipe. Some versions have coconut milk in them, this one did not. It also included a recipe for garam masala, a typical Indian spice mix, and a recipe for paneer cheese, an Indian cheese. Originally I had planned to make this in January of 2016. I was unable to afford it. I moved the dish to the February 2016 menu.

I was able to find garam masala and paneer at Fred Meyer in Newberg, Oregon. The ingredients were turmeric, cayenne, salt, olive oil, paneer cheese, spinach, onion, ginger, garlic, serrano chile, garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin, and yogurt. This recipe uses yogurt instead of coconut milk. It is usually serve with roti, an Indian flatbread, or basmati rice.

I made this on February 4, 2016. I served it over basmati rice. It was not as spicy as I wished. I will not seed or vein the serrano next time. I loved this dish. The paneer cheese has a crispness to them during the fresh serving. In reheating the dish the cheese loses that texture. More heat is something I wished for. Overall this was a tasty dish and positively worth making again.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Thai Chicken Massaman Curry

I had eaten Pad Thai, Noodles in Thai Peanut Sauce, and Satay. It was not until the early 2000’s that I started going to Thai restaurants. Part of the reason was there were two Thai restaurants nearby, one in Newberg, Oregon, the Golden Leaf, and one in McMinnville, Oregon, Thai Country. Before that most of the Thai places were 40 minutes away. I have frequented the Golden Leaf more often. Typically I have the fried squid and either a curry or a Thai fried rice dish. The two curries I typically buy are the yellow curry and the Massaman curry.  

Massaman curry is one of my favorites and I decided to make my own in January 2016. This has been a trend lately. I have preferred to make my own if I have eaten the dish before. Massaman is an antiquated term for Muslim in Thai. This dish is the Thai interpretation of either a Persian dish or this dish comes from southern Thailand where it was influenced by Indian and Malay cuisines. There are multiple theories as to the origin of this dish. It is typically made with chicken, but duck, beef, goat, and mutton are common. I have had this with shrimp, squid, and seafood. The pork version is the rarer, since pork in forbidden in Islamic dietary laws.



Typically, I have had this with a thin curry sauce with onions, potatoes, and carrots. I found a recipe online for this. I decided to go with a canned curry paste instead of making my own. The recipe did not include carrots but I wanted them in my dish.

On January 30, 2016, I made Thai Chicken Massaman Curry. The ingredients were olive oil, Massaman curry paste, ginger, chicken, honey, fish sauce, tamarind paste, peanut butter, potatoes, coconut milk, lime juice, and carrots. I replaced brown sugar with honey as I tend to do. The sauce was very thick, which was great by me. The sauce was a little on the sour side. The tamarind paste had seeds and other inedible plant material (parts of the pods, stems and so on). When I make it again I will cut the amount of tamarind paste and lime juice. It was not as spicy as I like so I may add more curry paste and possibly a Thai chile. I served it over jasmine rice. It was a very successful dish.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules

Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules is a traditional Puerto Rican dish of rice (arroz) and pigeon peas (gandules). I have a long and storied history with rice. On my first day at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, I discovered the cafeteria always had a rice cooker full of rice for lunch and dinner. Back then, I ate it with butter, or soy sauce, or both. When I did this, the Hawaiian and Islander kids laughed. They said I was like them. My Aunt Gloria taught my mom how to cook rice and how inexpensive it was. It became a regular staple in our diet. My mom would buy fifty pound bags of rice at least every six months. When we moved to Oregon full time, she would get looks every time she went to an Asian market. They had never seen a Caucasian lady buy so much rice. 
A friend of Puerto Rican descent gave me a Puerto Rican cookbook, A Taste of Puerto Rico by Yvonne Ortiz, for my birthday in 2015. They had given me suggestions on what to order when another friend and I went to a local Puerto Rican restaurant. This was at the top of the list. This is the friend who gifted me the cookbook’s favorite dish. This dish was an adventure. The recipe called for recaíto, it is a green base sauce for many Puerto Rican dishes. I found it pre-made in a jar by Goya. It had some preservatives I wanted to avoid and my cookbook included a recaíto recipe. The recaíto calls for cubanelle peppers (also called Italian frying peppers or aji cubanela) and a sweet peeper. I decided banana peppers would b my sweet pepper of choice.

                         
                                                   Second Attempt
Finding cubanelles and banana peppers in Oregon, specifically the Greater Portland metropolitan era, is difficult as can be. Finding Mexican chile or peppers is fairly easy. I did find online some substitution options, Anaheim chiles for cubanelles and pepperoncinis for banana peppers. Due to my mom’s issues with cilantro, I substituted that with parsley. I decided to buy the pre-made recaíto. The idea was to make the homemade recaíto with substitutions, then taste the pre-made and homemade to see which I liked better. The other unusual ingredients I found fairly easily. One of the local Asian supermarkets had the cultanro and the Mexican markets had the annatto (achiote in Mexican Spanish).

My mom preferred the fresh homemade and I preferred the pre-made recaíto. I figured I would use half of each. On January 13, 2016, I made my first batch. I burnt the bottom of the dish. I misinterpreted the directions. The flavor was good, but the burnt flavor over powered that. My friend, the one who gifted me the cookbook, asked how the pegao was. The pegao is the crunchy bottom layer of the dish. I told them it was black as night. They said, “It was Batman. You do not want your pegao to be Batman (Dark Knight).”

My second batch was made on January 18, 2016. Once again I misunderstood the directions and overcooked the rice to a porridge consistency. I now know what to do. After making this twice in the same month I needed a break. The pegao was perfect. My mom loved the pegao. The idea of the pegao comes from Spanish paella. Most Latino and Hispanic rice dishes come from paella. It is made in a huge pan and one of the goals is a crispy and crunchy bottom layer of rice.

I will make most assuredly this again. One idea is I may need to grow my own cubanelles and banana peppers. I used to help with my mom’s garden, but that was over three decades ago. I love my rice dishes and this is great. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Salumi Pizza

This was a comedy of errors dish, my salumi pizza. Salumi are Italian cured meats, salumi literally means salted meats. Specifically on this pizza were prosciutto, Genoa salami, capicolo, and pepperoni. I tried to make this on January 8, 2016. I also put on the pizza mozzarella, parmesan and homemade marinara sauce. I washed the surface I was using to put the pizza together and then placed the pizza shell on it while it was still wet. Due to that it stuck the oven rack. I got it loose and was transporting the pizza to my rooms, when I dropped it.

I still had one pizza shells left, but in removing the shells I tore one, the one I did not use at first. I decided to use a baking sheet. The pizza stuck to that. I then removed half and tried cooking the other a little longer. The half I cooked longer became too done. First, I have never used the whole grain thin crust shells before. Second maybe I need thicker shells for these wetter pizzas. I had issues with sogginess with the veggie pizza. Since this was the first time using whole grain shells, maybe I need to avoid those. It tasted good, what I ate of it. I was upset because this was a rare cheat dish. Some of the meats were not on the cheap side. I do one dish a month that could be considered a cheat.

                         

A few days later I tried to make it again. My mom saw how upset I was with the issues I had with this dish. She helped out with getting the ingredients for the third and fourth attempts. I used foil and olive oil Pam both of those times. The third attempt taught me I needed to lower the rack. The fourth attempt taught me that I went too low. I was trying to find the Goldilocks zone for this dish. I did not use the whole grain or whole wheat pizza shells on either of these attempts.

January 2016 was the fourth month in a row of pizza. I decided I needed a break from it. I also had finally used all of my homemade marinara sauce, and did not feel up to making a new batch at that time. When I get a place of my own, I will look to making my own dough again. I know how to properly toss pizza dough. I have also thought about the possibility of buying a pizza stone too. For now I will take a break from pizza. 


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

California Roll Nachos

 In December 2015, I was surfing the internet came upon a lift of recipes. It was the best cheese recipes from each of the fifty states in the U.S.A. I was really intrigued by the California entry, California Roll Nachos. A few years ago I appeared on the In One Day Radio Podcast. They asked me their 5 questions, one of those questions was did I prefer pizza or nachos. For me that is a no-brainer, nachos. California Roll Nachos consists of crab meat (fresh lump or imitation preferred), kewpie mayo, sliced green onions, salt, freshly ground pepper, tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, avocado, nori (seaweed) strips, and sriracha. 

I have eaten seafood nachos before. La Casuela is a defunct restaurant that existed in Newberg, Oregon. One of their signature dishes was Nachos Casuela, which was bay shrimp with Monterrey Jack cheese. California Roll Nachos hits my sweet spot of merging two of my favorite cuisines, Mexican and Japanese. I saw ways to make this more Mexican and more Japanese. More Japanese would be replacing tortilla chips with thin rice chips, no cheese, adding sesame seeds, adding some pickled cucumber, and on the side pickled ginger and wasabi. In order to be more Mexican replace the cheddar with Mexican blend, or Monterrey Jack, or with some Mexican cheeses, replace the mayo with Mexican crema (sour or regular), no nori, and replacing the sriracha with a Mexican style hot sauce.

                           

The California Roll is one of my favorite sushi dishes. I was first introduced to sushi at a Japanese all you can eat buffet in Oxnard, California on Channel Islands Boulevard. I do not believe it is there anymore. The last time I was there was 30 years ago. As a kid I never was afraid of trying anything new. I was told if I did not like it to not eat it again. However, I was also taught you had to finish what you ate, even if you did not like it. Since going to that buffet I have a love of Japanese food, there are holes in that knowledge. I have not had true ramen or udon. I have had ramen in the brick or cup of noodle formats, but to me that is not real ramen. Like a frozen convenience store burrito is not a true burrito. I by no means consider myself an authority of any of the cuisines I love. 

I made my first batch on January 7, 2016. I added sesame seeds and replaced cheddar with a Mexican cheese blend. I took the picture before remembering to add the sriracha. I forgot to put the half the green onions on top and forgot the avocados completely. I still loved the flavors. On January 8, 2016, I made my second batch. This time I did not miss anything. The flavors on this were perfect. Both times I used imitation crab. It was what I could afford at the time. The crab and it fishiness worked well with the brininess of the nori. The creaminess of the avocados offset the heat from the sriracha. I was pleased with this dish and will make it again.