Texas Primary Runoff Election 2020 (Part I)

Introduction

Hello! My name is Donna. I’m just your regular, 28-year-old gal who believes that as U.S. citizens, we should exercise our right to vote for our local, state, and national government officials and judicial system! I know this is my food/recipe blog and has nothing to do with politics, but hey, this is my blog after all and I will be posting whatever I want!

As an immigrant who became a permanent resident and eventually a U.S. citizen in 2014, I am empowered knowing that I can bring positive changes to my community by exercising my voting rights – I want you to experience that feeling too!

As a voter, you have the power to decide on the quality of life that you want for yourself and future generations. Your voice matters. Voting is a chance to stand up for the issues you care about! Voting gives us the chance to support candidates and propositions that can help our community, state, and even the entire country. I am hoping that you will want to make your voice heard in these elections and make the decision to vote for yourself and those around you.

You may be wondering why I’ve decided to put this information together – I have an answer for you! When I became a U.S. citizen and a major election day came (Texas Senator), I was genuinely confused about the process – from the logistics of registering to actually voting. I recall standing  in front of the electronic kiosk getting ready to make a selection – I thought I was only voting for 1 person and was surprised to find a long list of candidates spanning multiple pages  running for City Council, Judges, as well as propositions for future funding, etc. I ended up skipping those and missed an opportunity to vote for someone other than a Senator.

Yes, you can just Google everything or go to vote.org to find information. However, I find that doing so will give you either TOO much information or they use such formal language that may be difficult to understand exactly  how to vote, what & who you are voting for, why you are voting, and when to vote. In short, it is hard to decipher the relevant information and at the end of it all, you may be too overwhelmed to vote.

So I’m putting this information together for new voters or if you’ve voted before, and have found yourself in a similar predicament where you are unsure of who you’re voting for in the Texas Primary Runoff Election. My goal is to simplify the process so that hopefully you are better equipped during this upcoming election cycle and future elections!

A few disclaimers before you start diving in:

  • For each topic below, I sourced information/answers from official state websites such as vote.org, vote411.org, votetexas.gov, sos.texas.gov/elections, etc.
  • Since I live in Houston, TX, the majority of the information below is specific to Houston/Harris County or the State of Texas. I include links on how to find information about other states’ election where I can.
  • If I list out a how-to method for the topics below (e.g. how to register), it does not mean it’s the ONLY way – I’ve listed out what I believe would be the easiest way to accomplish those tasks.
  • I do not work for the government and I do not know everything about politics/elections, but I’ve done countless of hours of research and made sure, to the best of my ability, that the information I’ve provided below is as accurate as possible. If I misspoke, please let me know and I’ll make sure to fix the error.
  • With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, dates and methods of voting may change. I will make sure to update this document as often as I can with the most up-to-date information (LAST UPDATED JUNE 4, 2020).  

General Information // Q&A

There are countless of questions when it comes to voting. Below are the handpicked questions that I hear of the most often from friends & family, or the question that I find myself asking almost every election I’ve participated in.

Q: Why are we having a Texas Primary Runoff election on July 14th?
A: On March 3rd, Texas had its regular Primary Election, however, no candidate received more than 50% of our votes. The run-off election candidates are the ones who came in first and second. The purpose of the primary [runoff] election is to finalize which candidates will be on the ballot for the general election in November.

did you know: If you voted in the March 3, 2020 Primary, you can only vote in the runoff election of the same party (Democrat or Republican).

Q: When is Texas Primary Runoff election?
A: Early Voting is between June 29th – July 10th, 2020 | Main election day for Texas Primary Runoff is on July 14th, 2020

Q: How can I vote?
A: In-person via Early Voting:

  • June 29th – July 2nd @ 7am – 7pm
  • July 5th @ 10am – 7pm
  • July 6th – July 10th @ 7am – 7pm.

– In-person via Election Day: Tuesday, July 14, 2020
– Ballot by mail: details at the end of this document*

Q: Can I do Early Voting?
A: Yes, you may! Any registered voter may vote early in person. But of course, you must vote in your county of registration.

Q: I’m not sure if I’m registered to vote. How do I check?
A: Go to this website! It takes 30 seconds!

  • For Texas: If you don’t remember if you’re registered, you most likely don’t remember your voter ID. You can use your TDL # (Texas Drivers License) & Date of Birth to “login”. If you’re registered, this will lead you to a page where you can see your Voter Information – your voter status (active, etc.), county (Harris, Fort Bend, etc.), and your VUID #, and much more!  https://teamrv-mvp.sos.texas.gov/MVP/mvp.do
  • For Other States: https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/

Q; It turns out I’m not registered to vote. Is it too late to register?
A: For Primary runoff election, your deadline to register is June 15th! Deadlines for November General Election differs per state… so hurry up and click here to register – it takes two seconds! For Texas, our deadline is October 5, 2020. You can also register by mail. You will have to request a postage-paid application by filling out this form and it will be mailed to you.

(There are Vietnamese & Chinese voter registration applications available for Harris County Residents only. These must be mailed in a stamped envelope).

For the rest of USA, find out how to register in your county/state by clicking here.

Q: Alright, I’m registered and ready to vote! Where do I go to vote?
A: If you live in Harris County (where I’m assuming most the people who follow me do), you can find polling locations using this website (this may not be ‘live’ yet until closer to Early Voting date). I am not sure about other counties in Houston, but please note that in Harris County there are different locations for Early Voting vs. Election Day. Please pay attention when you make this selection on the website.

If you live in Texas, you can use the same link where you checked your registration to find polling locations. After logging in, you will see a box that will be populated with links such as voting sites, a few days before early voting begins.

Q: I’m registered to vote, but I recently moved within the past year. What do I do?
A: If you moved within the same county, you may submit the “in county” change online by clicking here. The last day to make a change of address for the July 14th Primary Runoff Election is June 15, 2020. If you moved to a new county, you must re-register in your new county of residence by June 15th, to be eligible to vote in the July 14th Primary Runoff Election.

Q: Do I need to bring my voter certificate card/ID? Will I be able to vote without it?
A: No, you do not need it to vote. However, if you do not have a valid form of photo ID, your voter registration form can work as an ID!

Q: Oops, my acceptable form of photo ID is expired… can I still vote?
A: If you are between the age 18-69, your photo ID cannot be expired for more than 4 years when you’re at the polling place. For ages 70+, it can be expired for any length of time.

Q: Does the address on my acceptable form of photo ID have to match the address on my registration?
A: Nope! There is no address matching requirement!

Other Very Important Facts That You May Not Know

  • If you voted Democrat/Republican in the Primary or Runoff, you are not obligated to vote for that party’s candidates in the November General Election! You can vote for any candidate in the ballot!
  • We are lucky in Texas because most Judges are elected by its residents! The fact that we get to participate in judicial races means that this is one of the most important things we can do as a Texas voter! Judges make decisions about fundamental issues that affect all of us – family life, education, healthcare, housing, employment, finances, DISCRIMINATION, CIVIL RIGHTS, public safety, and government actions. These decisions can have long-lasting impact on individuals, groups, and the public. It is critical that we vote for judges who can make fair decisions based upon open-minded and unbiased consideration of the facts and the law in each case.
  • You are required to show an approved form of photo ID. However, if you do not have and cannot reasonably obtain one of these IDs, you can bring one of the supporting documents to the polling place. The officials should help you complete a form and you’ll be able to vote:
    • Valid Voter Registration Certificate
    • Certified Birth Certificate (must be original)
    • Copy of original Bank Statement
    • Copy of or original Government check or paycheck
    • Copy of or original current Utility Bill
    • Copy of or original government document with your name and an address (original required if it contains a photograph)

Coming Next

For the next update, I’ll be tackling the most exciting part of voting – the Primary Runoff Election candidates! I know this is a lot of information so far, so hang with me! I will be going over all the positions we are voting for and the runoff candidates for each position, Democrat & Republican. Since most of my friends who will be reading are most likely in Harris County, I will be going over positions and candidates who are part of the Harris County election.

Ballot by Mail*

Voters may cast mail ballots if they are at least 65 years old, if they will be out of Harris County during the Early Voting period and on Election Day, if they are sick or disabled or if they are incarcerated but eligible to vote. Mail ballots may be requested by visiting harrisvotes.com or by phoning 713-755-6965. You can also download the mail ballot application here. A signed paper copy of your ballot by mail request must be received no later than Thursday, July 2, 2020. Requests received by fax or email will not be honored. The last day to receive ballot by mail is—

  • Tuesday, July 14, 2020 (Election Day) at 7:00 p.m. if carrier envelope is not postmarked OR
  • Wednesday, July 15, 2020 (next business day after Election Day) at 5:00 p.m. if carrier envelope is postmarked by 7:00 p.m. at the location of the election on Election Day (unless overseas or military voter deadlines apply)*

Tarte Flambée

Tarte Flambée is a specialty of the Alsace/Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz regions on the German-French border. It’s made from bread dough rolled out very thinly, then covered with fromage blanc, crème fraîche, thin-sliced onions and bacon. In short, it’s a fancy thin-crust pizza… even though I’ll probably get crucified by some people by calling it that.

I first fell in love with Tarte Flambée in New York at this restaurant called La Tarte Flambee. I made a point to eat there every time I visited NYC until I found out that they permanently closed all their locations (it was a sad day for me). Although there’s a million different kinds of delicious food in Houston, this is one of the few things we lack.

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Earlier in January, I went to a cooking class with my friends at Central Market and the theme was “French Bistro”. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw “Tarte Flambée” on the menu! I was even more excited when I found out how easy it is to make. However, I’m not sure how accurate this is to traditional Tarte Flambée. I looked up some recipes and the toppings seem accurate, but I think I’m taking a shortcut by using pre-made dough.

After that class, I’ve made it several times at home, mostly adjusting the recipe & cooking times here and there. I would say that the hardest part for me is rolling out the dough super thin, but it’s nothing to stress out about… I personally prefer thin crusted pizza any day. At the end of the day, it’s your preference on how thin you want the dough to be.

If you try this simple recipe, I hope you like it as much as I do!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bread dough, about 9 ounces (ready to bake – I get mine from Whole Foods)*
  • 7-8 pieces of thick cut bacon, cut into cubes
  • 1 yellow onion, julienned (thinly sliced)
  • 3-4 oz fromage blanc or ricotta cheese
  • 3-4 oz crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 475 F.
  • Roll out the bread dough as thinly as possible. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the dough on top of it (you can also roll out the dough on top of parchment paper so you can just transfer the parchment paper easily on top of the baking sheet). Use flour if you’re having a hard time rolling out your dough.
  • Prick the dough with a fork and par bake for about 10-11 minutes and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  • Brown the cubed bacon in a skillet (no additional oil is needed since bacon produces a lot of oil anyway). Once the bacon is browned (fat has been rendered but not crisp, transfer to a paper towel-lined dish. Don’t toss out the bacon fat!
  • Still on medium/medium lowish heat, cook the onions in the bacon fat until soft and slightly browned – about 7-8 minutes. Tip: if your onions start to brown super quickly, add a splash of water to the pan!
  • While bacon/onions are cooking, make the cheese topping. Combine fromage blanc/ricotta, crème fraiche, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and oil in a bowl. Taste it to make sure you like the balance between the cheeses/salt/pepper. Spread the cheese mixture over the par baked dough evenly.
  • Scatter the onions, then bacon over the cheese mixture.
  • Return to the oven for about 5 minutes – you’ll see that the toppings start to all melt together and the dough turns slightly light golden brown. If you want it crispier, you can leave it on there longer!
  • Let it cool for about 3 minutes before slicing and eating.

*Obviously, you can make your own dough, but the ready-to-go pizza/bread dough from Whole Foods is awesome! They usually have it on display, but if you don’t see it, you can go to the fresh pizza section and they can package it up for you. Keep it in the fridge if you’re making the same day. If not, you can stick it in the freezer and defrost when ready to make! The dough is easy to roll out, but make sure you use flour because it can get sticky.

Lasagna with Béchamel Sauce [Kinda Classic, Kinda Not]

It’s 2020.

2020 is full of big things:
– Kaykay & I travel to Nigeria (my first time going)
– Kaykay starts residency
– My brother is getting married
– My sister & her husband move back to Houston from New Jersey

I’m so excited for all the big things happening, and of course, everything else in between!!

I’m also excited because Kaykay got me a new laptop [Surface 3 Laptop] for my birthday & Christmas. It’s beautiful & I love it! I was mostly blogging from my iPad pro, but the attachment keyboard stopped working, so it was almost painful to blog. I love my iPhone, but after owning an iPad for 3+ years, I think they are completely unnecessary and would not recommend anyone to get one (just get a Macbook Air or Surface tablet). Now that I have an actual computer, I feel more inspired to write & post. I even scheduled and planned out the next 3 posts I want to share.

Today’s recipe is the last dish I cooked in 2019 – Lasagna with Béchamel Sauce. I wanted to share this recipe when I made it on New Year’s Eve but I kept debating whether or not people will actually want this recipe since the sauce is homemade and lasagna (in general) requires SO. MANY. STEPS. to make. Lo & behold, my wonderful best friend told me to share it because she wants to make it, so here it is. If just ONE person will make it, then it’s worth typing out.

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This lasagna recipe is a mix of classic Italian recipe with a HINT of a Filipino twist. Let me explain.

I’ve always known lasagna in the Philippines to be a great balance between meat, tomato, creaminess, and cheese. When I moved to America, I hated lasagna because it was always so…. tomato-y? sour? acidic? Are those the right words? I mean, even to this day, I don’t prefer marinara sauce. But when I tried a classic Filipino lasagna as an adult, I didn’t like it – it was TOO meaty and sweet (it’s typical for Filipinos to use banana ketchup as an ingredient in cooking).

When I was first looking up recipes for a classic lasagna, there was a million different recipes. Ones with mushrooms, ricotta cheese, some with béchamel sauce, some without, some with eggs, mozzarella, some with meat, etc. Most of them sounded great, but I wanted to come up with something that combined the best of both worlds.

The puréed spinach/onion/bell pepper mixture make it more classic, but the addition of Nathan’s hot dogs, brown sugar, and béchamel sauce adds that Filipino flair, and in my opinion, perfect.

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When you are reading the instructions, I hope you don’t get overwhelmed. It does take a couple hours to tackle, but it’s worth it. It helps when someone is helping you wash dishes as you’re cooking so that you don’t end up with a big pile in the end. Also, I recommend (unless you are a pro cook), to cook one thing at a time e.g. make the meat sauce, then boil the noodles, then make the béchamel sauce to make sure that you don’t burn anything. The meat sauce can also be made the day before to lessen the load on a single day.

Lastly, I have a bunch of important notes at the very bottom of the recipe that may help you along the way!

Bon Appetite!

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INGREDIENTS:

Lasagna:

  • 9 regular lasagna noodles (or no-boil noodles)*
  • 8 ounces shredded Cheddar/Monterrey Jack Cheese mix

Red Sauce:

  • 1/2 pound grass-fed or grass-finished ground beef
  • 1/2 pound Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs, about 4 hot dogs*
  • 1 tablespoon oil (vegetable, olive, or sunflower seed)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small bell pepper (red or green), seeded & cored, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 can (~15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (~6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 can (~15 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning*
  • 2 teaspoons (heaping) brown sugar, light or dark
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Make the Red Sauce: (Can be made in advance).

  1. Heat oil in a large pot with a lid. Brown the ground beef over medium heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces. When most of it starts to brown, add the hotdogs. Cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  2. Transfer meat to a food processor (leave the grease & juices in the pot) and pulse just 3-4 times until it’s broken up into very small pieces. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Don’t clean your food processor yet.
  3. In the same pot over medium-high heat, add more oil if necessary. Add the garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the onion, spinach and bell pepper. Continue cooking on medium heat until the vegetables are softened –about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and transfer them to the same food processor. Pulse several times until they’re nearly pureed. Return mixture to the pot.
  6. Add diced tomatoes to food processor and add to the pot.
  7. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. I like to stir all this up with a large whisk (make sure it’s a heat proof whisk!).
  8. Cover and allow the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.
  9. Still on low heat, stir in the cooked ground beef & hot dog mixture and let it all marinate together for 10 more minutes.
  10. While the red sauce simmers boil the lasagna noodles in SALTED WATER for about 3 minutes LESS the time suggested on the box. Drain the water and sprinkle them with a tiny bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. (You can skip this step if you are using no-boil noodles).

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  1. Add the butter to a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour, whisking constantly to combine 2 minutes.
  2. Gradually (very slowly) add in the milk, whisking until smooth*. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Make sure you are whisking often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Cook for about 6-7 minutes until it thickens. It should be able to slightly coat the back of a spoon*.

Assembling the Lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray (the deeper the pan, the better)
  2. Keep in mind that there will be 3 layers of lasagna, so mentally split the sauces into thirds as you layer them to make sure you have enough at the end).
  3. Add a little bit of red sauce at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Start by layering the bottom of your greased pan with 3 lasagna noodles.
  5. Spread the red sauce over the noodles, followed by the white sauce, and a little bit of the shredded cheese mixture.
  6. Top with another layer of noodles, then red sauce, white sauce, cheeses.
  7. Add the final layer of noodles, then red sauce, white sauce and cheeses.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the lasagna to sit for 15-20 minutes before serving (DON’T SKIP THIS STEP).

*IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • I like to cook 2-3 more pieces of lasagna noodles than necessary because some noodles can break when boiling – I like to play it safe.
  • If Nathan’s Hotdogs seems too weird for you to add to a recipe – 1) wow, your world is small and 2) you can substitute Italian sausage.
  • Italian seasoning can mean different things – sometimes it’s just an herb mix, but sometimes it’s a mix of herbs and spices. I use a mix of both totaling 2 teaspoons but use whatever you have in the kitchen.
  • If you add in the milk very fast to the butter/flour mixture, you will end up with a clumpy mess. I like to add in about 2-3 ounces at a time, whisk until smooth, add more milk, and whisk again until smooth.
  • Try not to over-thicken (is that a word?) the béchamel sauce – it won’t taste bad, but it’s a little harder to spread over the lasagna when building. Note that the sauce will continue to thicken even when removed from the heat. If you over-thicken the sauce, just add more milk and whisk it good.
  • If your baking pan is on the shallow side and you find that it’s overflowing after assembling the lasagna, add a cookie/baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven below the lasagna pan to catch any spill overs when your sauce/cheese is bubbling.
  • If you happen to have leftover meat sauce, save it and turn it into regular spaghetti sauce!

Jambalaya for the Soul

One of my favorite dishes in the world is Spanish Paella. Sadly, I have not found a good Paella dish in Houston. It’s not that they taste horrible, it’s just not made the traditional way in a wide flat pan over fire, so that the edges get crispy and a little burnt. Also, I can’t justify the high price tag for the low quality.

Normally, this would prompt me to learn how to make Paella at home, but after reading several recipes (even the easy versions), I’ve decided that it’s not worth the effort to buy all the expensive ingredients and follow a million steps to get there. Thankfully, Jambalaya exists to cure my cravings.

I know Jambalaya & Paella are complete different recipes. Paella is seasoned with saffron and Jambalaya is seasoned with Cajun/Creole. Paella uses short grain Spanish rice while Jambalaya uses long grain rice. Paella is also cooked over fire and Jambalaya is cooked over the stove. Somehow, however, the final product ends up tasting very similar to each other!

Below is a recipe that I’ve taken bits and pieces from several recipes to make the ultimate, perfect balance of ingredients and seasoning – well at least to my preference.

The number of ingredients may seem a lot at first, but most of these you should already have in your pantry. If not, they are easy to find in your local grocery store and/or they’re inexpensive.

Happy Cooking!

JAMBALAYA

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil, divided (1 tablespoon to cook sausage, 2 tablespoons to cook chicken breast)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Cajun (Slap Ya Mama) or Creole seasoning (Tony’s) or a mix of both, divided (half to season meats, half to stir in the pot)
  • 10 ounces Cajun andouille sausage, sliced into rounds (if you cannot find this, you can use Mexican chorizo sausage)
  • 1 pound chicken breast, diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 15 oz (1 can) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Herb Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne powder (omit or lessen if you’re sensitive to spice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot sauce (or any hot sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup thinly sliced okra
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain white rice (I use Jasmine)
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, tail on, peel & deveined, thawed
  • Sliced green onions and finely chopped parsley, to garnish

STEPS:

  1. Before you start cooking anything, it helps to chop/dice/mince/portion most of the ingredients because you’re going to need to quickly add ingredients while cooking.
  2. First, dice your “holy trinity” – the onion, red pepper, green pepper, and celery. Put them all together in a medium sized bowl. Then, mince your garlic cloves and put in a separate, small bowl. Slice the okra and put in another separate bowl (sometimes I use measuring cups as bowls). Slicing your veggies first helps prevent cross contamination (although it may not matter at this point since everything is going to cook together).
  3. In another small bowl, mix together the Italian seasoning, salt, ground black pepper, Cayenne pepper, and half (3/4 tablespoon) of Cajun/Creole seasoning. At this point, you can open the can of crushed tomatoes too.
  4. Slice your sausages into rounds. Then dice the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Don’t mix the meats together since we’re going to cook them separately, but you can put them on the same plate/bowl. Season sausage and chicken with the other half (3/4 tablespoon) with Cajun/Creole seasoning.
  5. Finally, you can begin cooking.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot (Dutch oven works too) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, brown the sausage, about 5 minutes. Remove sausages with a slotted spoon, set aside.
  7. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the same pot and cook the chicken until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon, set aside along with the sausages.
  8. Sauté the holy trinity (onion, bell peppers, celery) until the onion is soft and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about 30-45 seconds until you want to dip your face in the pot because it smells so good.
  9. Stir in crushed tomatoes, the salt/pepper/Italian herbs/cayenne pepper/Cajun seasoning mix, Frank’s Red Hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Then, stir in the sausage, chicken, and sliced okra. Cook for 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
  10. Add in the rice and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low-medium. Cover and let it simmer for 20-24 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked. Make sure you stir occasionally to avoid rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  11. Place the shrimp in the Jambalaya mixture and stir carefully, and cover with a lid. Cook for another 6-7 minutes until shrimp is cooked through (should be pink). I use a normal-sized shrimp, but if you are using smaller/bigger ones, cook less/more.
  12. Taste your Jambalaya and adjust seasoning if needed – if you don’t think it’s spicy enough, add more Cajun/Creole or Cayenne pepper.
  13. Garnish with sliced green onions and finely chopped parsley.

Enjoy!

“Rotisserie” Chicken Thighs

I blinked in May. When I opened my eyes, it was August.

I remember being a kid and complaining about how slow time passes. Now, I cannot stop complaining how time goes by too fast and how I never seem to have enough time to do everything I need/want to do.

My husband and I are celebrating our 8th year anniversary (not wedding) on September 1st. I will usually have something planned out or I would’ve thought of a really nice gift, but I have nothing. I’m getting nervous (his “love language” is “gifts”). I really hope he’s not reading my blog.

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When life is very hectic, my favorite recipes are those that require very little prep and attention when it’s cooking. This “Rotisserie” Chicken Thigh recipe is one of those.

I’m air-quoting “rotisserie” here because this recipe is not actually cooked in the traditional rotisserie way, but it tastes like it. All you literally have to do is rub the chicken with some olive oil, spices, and stick it in the oven, set your timer for 40 minutes or so, take a shower, watch an episode of The Office, and when your timer goes off, it’s time to take out these babies out the oven. No flipping in between. The best part is that there’s hardly anything to clean up afterwards!

Recipe below.

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“Rotisserie” Chicken Thighs

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 pounds chicken thighs (or legs – I just prefer thighs, about 4-6 pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning (if you don’t have this, use a mix of dried oregano, thyme, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian herb seasoning, and paprika. Set aside.
  3. Take out your chicken thighs and place them on the baking sheet to avoid dirtying a new plate – pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels.
  4. Drizzle chicken thighs with olive oil, rubbing the oil into the chicken to coat. Then, sprinkle the mixed spices over the chicken evenly on BOTH sides, rubbing the spices into the chicken as well.
  5. Arrange the chicken thighs with skin-side up. Bake chicken in preheated oven for 40 – 45 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  6. Serve immediately.

NOTES

  • When I’m in a rush, I’ll serve the chicken with steamed rice. When I have a little bit more time, I’ll roast some vegetables on the bottom rack of the oven, same time as when the chicken is baking.
  • Around the 35-minute mark, I like to check the tops of the chicken – sometimes they can go from looking golden brown & crispy to burnt really quickly. If they’re looking a little too brown but you still have about 5+ minutes of cooking to go, take a sheet of foil and place it over the chicken to prevent burning the chicken skin.

Lemony Garlicky Buttery Atlantic Cod

My blog is officially one year old!

I was going to say, “I can’t believe time has gone by so fast!” but it’s the only thing believable nowadays. This past year, I’ve gotten to travel all over America (mix of business and pleasure), meet all kinds of people, and do all kinds of great things – it’s been surreal. It’s a reminder just how time flies, especially when you’re having fun. It also doesn’t help that time seems to keep going by faster as I get older.

Here are some of my goals for the blog in Year Two:

  • Categorize my posts for easier navigation
  • Post at least once a month
  • Actually advertise my blog more

At this point, I’m not really sure how many people actually read my blog, but I know at least my siblings ask me for recipes and that’s good enough for me to keep going.

Today’s recipe is a perfect recipe for when you are super busy like me and don’t have a lot of time (my suitcase hasn’t been unpacked from my last trip and I don’t remember the last time I washed my hair). You only need 30 minutes for prep and cook time. This is also one of my go-to meals because it has my three favorite ingredients: lemon, garlic, and butter. I mean, how can you go wrong with that?

I serve this two ways depending on my mood: over a bed of rice (white or brown) when I’m feeling like I need a carb overload or with roasted carrots and broccoli when I’m feel I’ve had TOO much carbs.

I hope you enjoy this simple recipe as much as I do!

LEMONY GARLICKY BUTTERY ATLANTIC COD FILLETS 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4-6 wild-caught Atlantic Cod fillets
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, optional for garnish

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray or butter.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together butter, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest; set aside.

3. Rub the fish fillets with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, salt & pepper and place onto the prepared baking dish. Pour the butter mixture over the fish.

4. Place into oven and bake for about 10 minutes. It may seem a little undone, but fish will continue to cook for a minute or two off the heat. Be sure to stop cooking when the fish is just shy of done, otherwise, it will be overcooked by the time you eat it. Contrary to popular belief,  once the fish flakes, it has lost too much moisture and will be dry and bland. As you check for doneness, see how easily the fish “gives way”. It should gently resist flaking but show signs of firming.

5. Once fish is cooked, garnish with parsley if you want and serve immediately.

Korean Beef Quesadillas/Tacos

I have no idea how Korean this recipe is. Maybe 8%. All I know is that this is a really delicious & simple recipe. If you’re Houstonian, this recipe is a copycat of the beloved & famous Oh My Gogi’s quesadillas & tacos.

I was inspired to make this because Kaykay banned me from going to their food truck at 9pm (their opening time) because he says they are too “unhealthy” for a late-night meal. He really knows how to suck the fun out of life. Fortunately, a simple Google search led me to several recipes so I can make it at home (before 9pm, of course).

This has quickly become one of my go-to meals when I know I’m going to have a busy week because you can cook the beef and eat it throughout the week in taco or quesadilla form. It’s easy prep and most ingredients are something you’d already have in your pantry. And oh how the tables have turned – this is also now Kaykay’s favorite meal too. Apparently because it’s homemade, it’s not unhealthy anymore.

The choice between making quesadillas or tacos out of the Korean beef is entirely up to you. I prefer tacos and Kaykay prefers quesadillas so I make both each time since the recipe for the beef is the same. The tacos feel a little lighter because it uses corn tortillas and less cheese and the quesadillas are heartier and heavier because of flour tortilla & more cheese. In the end, you can really customize this however you want!

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Recipe adapted from Damn Delicious.

KOREAN BEEF QUESADILLAS/TACOS

INGREDIENTS:

For the Beef:

  • 4 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 3.5 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound grass-fed/grass-finished ground beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds

For the Sriracha Mayo:

  • 1/4 cup Mayo
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha, or more to taste
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • Pinch of salt

For Tacos or Quesadillas:

  • Corn and/or Flour tortillas
  • Non-stick cooking spray, canola or olive oil
  • Shredded Monterey Jack & Cheddar cheese, mixed
  • Yellow onions, diced
  • Cilantro, optional
  • Red cabbage chopped, optional for tacos
  • Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), optional but highly recommended

INSTRUCTIONS:

For the Beef: Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook until browned, about 4-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks. Drain excess fat*. While the beef is cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and ground ginger. Once the beef is cooked and the fat is drained, stir in the soy sauce mixture until well combined, allowing to simmer until heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in sesame seeds. Set aside.

For the Sriracha Mayo: Whisk together mayo, sriracha, lime juice, and salt. Set aside for now.

If making Tacos: Heat up two corn tortillas in a pan with a little bit of cooking oil spray for each taco (yes, double up the tortillas for each taco) over medium-low heat. Remove tortillas from heat and build as you wish. I like to add about 1-2 spoonful of Korean beef, a drizzle of Sriracha mayo, diced yellow onions, shredded red cabbage, cilantro, shredded cheese and a sprinkle of the Gochugaru Korean pepper flakes.

If making Quesadillas: Heat up both sides of a flour tortilla in a pan with a little bit of cooking oil spray over medium-low heat. Add a layer of shredded cheese all over the tortilla. Then on one half of the tortilla, add ground beef and diced onions. Fold the tortilla in half and continue to heat up for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted and tortilla is slightly crispy. Cut the quesadilla in half and drizzle with Sriracha mayo and garnish with cilantro and Gochugaru Korean pepper flakes.

If you have leftover cooked beef and want to save it for the next several days, store in an airtight container in the fridge. From my experience, this stays good for about 5 days if stored properly.

*When draining excess fat out of meat, I like to pour the fat into a heat-proof glass container and store it until it cools down then dump it in the trash. Do not drain excess fat down your sink!

Crab Fried Rice

This is so good.

This is so easy to make.

This is also smelly.

I do not mind.

I like this recipe because you will make a big batch and there’s enough leftovers for the next day. You can take it to work for lunch, like I do, and sit back and watch your coworkers pass by the microwave (after heating it up) to hear them say, “Ewwww what’s that smell?!” It’s seafood, Karen.

Or if you want to be more considerate than I am, I guess you can eat it for dinner the next day.

This recipe is adapted from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings: Hungry for More cookbook. By adapted, I mean that I tweaked the recipe a LITTLE a bit because I found it was a little bland (surprisingly unlike her other recipes). However, I did like her instructions – she made the process very easy to follow. The key is to measure out all the ingredients before you begin cooking.

Let’s begin.

CRAB FRIED RICE

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 cups cooked jasmine rice, preferably cooled or 1-day old
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 3-4 scallion, cut into 1-inch lengths, plus thinly sliced scallions for garnish
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and cut into wedges
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • Chili oil, optional

Important Note: Make the rice ahead of time. Everyone has different methods to cook rice, but I use a rice cooker. If I don’t make rice a day ahead, it’s fine, but you’ll still have to cool it a bit. To cool rice faster, line a baking sheet with foil and grease it with vegetable oil. Pour your freshly cooked rice into the baking sheet and spread it out. Let it cool for 20-25 minutes. If you cook with sticky, warm, freshly cooked rice, your fried rice will turn out soggy. 

INSTRUCTIONS

Measure out all the ingredients before cooking and have them at arms reach around your stove.

In a large wok or saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add onions until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the scallions and garlic and stir for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the eggs, letting them sit and cook for 20 seconds until partially set, and then add the rice. Immediately add the soy sauce and fish sauce. When mixing everything together, make sure you break up the eggs. Cook, stirring, until the rice is hot.

Add tomato wedges and lump crab and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with ground white paper and salt (be careful when adding the sauce because you already added soy sauce and fish sauce). Take off the heat and stir in chopped cilantro.

Garnish with thinly sliced scallions and drizzle with chili oil if you want.

Really Good Dry Rub Wings

Flats or drums?

I’ve thought a lot about this (can you tell?) because every time someone asks me that question, I answer, “flats.” And they always clap back with, “but it has less meat!” And somehow they think they’ve won an argument. Then I get annoyed because it isn’t an argument to begin with. It’s personal preference.

Then one day, it hit me. I prefer the flat pieces because it doesn’t have a lot of meat. Isn’t that the whole point of a chicken wing? If I wanted to eat more meat, I would then opt for a full piece of chicken leg or thigh rather than the wing. With the flat wings, the taste & texture of the chicken skin is what I crave more than the meat.

At the end of the day, I’m glad we each have our own preferences – people who are pro-drums and people who are pro-flats. Can you imagine serving wings at a party? It would not be fun if everyone was fighting to get the same piece.

(…just don’t ever ask me if boneless wings are better than bone-in wings. I won’t answer your question.)

Today, I’m going to share my ultimate favorite wing recipe… EVER. This is waaaay easier and require less thinking than the Honey Sriracha Wings, which is already a simple recipe. All you have to do is toss the wings with a homemade dry rub and throw it in the oven for 45-50 minutes and you’ll have some crispy wings.

As far as dipping sauces, that is entirely up to you. I personally dip mine in ranch (secret: I go to Wingstop just to buy their ranch and take it home to dip my wings into), but I know people like blue cheese or Gorgonzola cheese dips as well. I also eat these with celery to make myself feel a little better.

Alright, enough ranting. Here’s the recipe.

Dry Rub Wings

DRY RUB INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 tablespoon kosher salt (if you’re using regular salt, reduce this amount to 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile pepper powder (this is not spicy, it gives more of a sweet/smokey flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon paprika
  • 1.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more to make it spicer, but it isn’t spicy as is)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

(You won’t use all of this, and that’s fine. Save the rest in an airtight food container. This makes it easy for you because you don’t have to cut the recipe in half if you only want to make 2 pounds of wings since the dry-rub won’t expire until after a while)

WING INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lbs chicken wings (thaw completely if frozen)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

  • Oven-safe wire rack, optional (I like using this because the oil drips down rather than the wings sitting on it after you pull it out of the oven. Regardless, you’ll have crispy wings whether or not you use this).

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.
  • Line a large baking sheet with 2 sheets of aluminum foil (I usually
    • If you’re using a wire rack, spray the wire rack with non-stick cooking spray.
    • If you’re NOT using a wire rack, you still have to spray the foil generously with non-stick cooking spray or oil or else the chicken skin will stick to the foil.
  • Combine all dry rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl, set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add chicken wings. Add the vegetable oil. Use your hands to rub it!
  • Sprinkle in about half of the dry rub mixture and use your hands to massage it into all of the chicken wings, coating evenly. If you don’t want to use your hands, use a rubber spatula or put on some food prep gloves.
  • Add chicken wings to prepared baking sheet (skin side up for the flats!). Sprinkle the top of the wings with a little bit more of the dry rub.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes. Let it cool for maybe 5-10 minutes before eating.

Soft Amaretti Cookies with Pistachio

Once upon a time, my best friend and I were driving around Houston trying to figure out a new place to grab coffee. We are creatures of habit and normally gravitate to one place – Blacksmith. I’m so glad that for once that we ventured out [a mile away from our usual spot] into this little spot called La Sicilia Italian Bakery & Cafe.

They had all kinds of gourmet pastries on display – crostatas, cannolis, donuts, croissants – but what caught our eyes were these fluffy, white little cookies shoved in the corner of the display. We didn’t care that we didn’t know what they were called, we just knew we had to devour them. The nice employee saw us ogling at them and told us they were called soft amaretti cookies (not like the regular crunchy amaretti) and made small talk while she weighed a pound of it that we ordered. We were kidding ourselves when we said we’d only eat one cookie each because we were still full from our previous meal. We ended up eating all the cookies in one sitting. These are almond cookies with a hint of lemon – crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and they went perfectly with an afternoon cup of coffee.

I’m pretty sure we dreamt about those cookies for weeks to come.

However, it wasn’t easy coming back to keep ordering them because 1) that amazing little bakery is off the busiest, skinniest, most annoying road in Houston (Westheimer) and 2) they close early, as most bakeries do.

As usual, when I’m craving something, I have to have it at that exact moment or else I’ll go crazy. That’s when I googled a bunch of amaretti cookie recipes trying to find one that looks the easiest to follow since I’m challenged when it comes to baking. After going through a million recipes, I combined elements from here and there that sounded good to me, so instead of just making regular soft amaretti cookies, I went with a version of the recipe with pistachios mixed in… and they turned out pretty good. I’m excited to share this recipe because it is so simple. It was also my first time making meringue and I didn’t screw it up. If I can do it, you can do it better.

These are very simple to make, but they do require a couple of specific ingredients that a regular grocery store may not have (thank God that Amazon sells everything). I also believe that this is a recipe best measured by weight (grams), rather than by cups. It also requires a food processor, but a blender should work too.

SOFT AMARETTI COOKIES WITH PISTACHIOS

INGREDIENTS

  • 275g almond flour (recommended Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 250g caster sugar*, plus more for coating
  • 100g unsalted, unroasted pistachios, shelled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar, for coating

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

  • Food processor or blender, to ground pistachios
  • Hand mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 355 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silipat mat.
  2. Add all the pistachios, salt, and only half the almond four (doesn’t have to be exactly half) to the food processor or blender, and pulse until the pistachios are finely ground. Add the remaining almond flour and blend to combine. Pour the almond-pistachio mixture into a large bowl, add about half of the caster sugar and mix to combine.
  3. Now it’s time to make the meringue! In a large bowl using an electric mixer or stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until it’s foamy (it will literally look like fine soap suds). Slowly add the remaining caster sugar into the egg whites and keep whisking until the meringue forms stiff peaks (haha).
  4. Add about 1/3 of the meringue to the almond-pistachio mixture, along with the vanilla extract and lemon extract and mix until well combined. Repeat this process in thirds until all the meringue is evenly combined with the almond-pistachio mixture. This process is not very fun since it doesn’t mix easily like regular batter, but the goal is just to make sure that there’s no clumps of meringue in the middle of the mixture.
  5. Once combined, take about 1.5 – 2 tablespoon scoop of the mixture and drop it into the extra caster sugar to coat, form into balls, then roll them into the powdered sugar to coat fully. Place the cookie balls onto the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2 inch away from each other. They don’t expand much so you can fit quite a bit of cookies in 1 sheet.
  6. Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes. At the 12 minute mark, check the top of the cookies. If the tops of the cookies are SLIGHTLY browning, go ahead and take them out. If not, bake longer in 1-minute increments until you see a bit of browning.
  7. Remove from the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes before eating.

Buon Appetito!

*Note: Caster sugar is something in between granulated sugar and powdered sugar. It’s something that’s widely used in the UK, but may be a bit harder to find in the US. If you live in Houston, Central Market will have caster sugar. You can also purchase it through Amazon. If you want to make your own, take granulated sugar and run it through your food processor for about 3-4 minutes. Make sure to check it it because if you process it too long, it will turn into powdered sugar (which is what you don’t want).