3 minimalist kitchen tools that I can’t live without.


A good friend of mine moved into a new studio apartment and was in need of basic kitchen supplies.  This was the perfect time to declutter my kitchen.  Always look out for opportunities in your life to unload stuff onto other people who are in need.  It’s a win-win.

In the process, I thought about which kitchen tools added the most value to my life and picked these 3 finalists.  They were chosen for their simplicity, effectiveness, and durability.  It just so happens that all these tools originated in Asia ages ago and can be found at your local chinatown or online for only a few bucks. Continue reading →

I found the most unfussy coffee maker that makes a decent cup


I was recently asked if I use my wardrobe philosophy in other areas of my life.  I do!  One example, is how I  make  my coffee with a Vietnamese coffee maker, aka phin.  I can’t live without coffee and decided to make it at home to save time and money.  In my search for the best coffee maker, I was so close to buying this fancy highly rated coffee maker with all the bells and whistles after reading every coffee snob review out there.  Then I slapped myself, listened to my gut and said, no this is crazy.  Why do I need something so complicated? People have been making great coffee for decades with much less.  There had to be a better solution, it was the phin!  Now my favorite kitchen tool. Continue reading →

recipe: holy grail simple smoothie

blueberry banana smoothie

Sometimes the best things are the simplest.

I’ve tried so many fruit-veggie combos in smoothies for over a decade now.  It all started with my college campus jamba juice, then I graduated to making my own at-home concoctions, and now regularly mooch off the free make-your-own-smoothie bar at work. I’ve never been big on fruit, so smoothies are literally the only way I’ll consume this essential food group.  I like experimenting with recipes, but still always return to my never fail, go-to, very most favorite smoothie recipe of them all, and it has only 3 simple ingredients:

1 cup of non-fat Fage yogurt
1 cup of frozen blueberries
1 very ripe banana

Blend together with 1/2 cup of ice + a few tablespoons of water.

The antioxidants in this baby will make you feel younger with each sip. It’s so sweet and yummy, you’ll forget it’s actually really really good for you!

[image credit:  Richard Jung at wholeliving.com]

considered living: 5 best foods to cook minimally

cauliflour florets

Between all the seamless orders, cafeteria food at work, and eating out, it’s refreshing to get regular doses of good ol’ wholesome food that is barely transformed by the cooking process.  I’m talking about simply roasting fresh produce or meat with evoo, sea salt and freshly ground pepper in a high temperature oven to get tasty charred edges while preserving the food’s structural integrity and nutritional value.  My 5 favorite things to cook this way are:

  1. whole fresh okra
  2. cauliflower florets
  3. broccoli florets
  4. portobello mushrooms
  5. high quality fresh salmon steaks

Continue reading →

Recipe: Holy Grail Chicken Soup

“Holy Grail” should be an extremely rare title to give something, but this chicken soup recipe really deserves it.  I’ve made chicken soup numerous times before but have never tasted one quite so rich and full bodied as this one.  I took Bobby Flay’s recipe for making chicken stock from scratch by first roasting the chicken bones and used it for the base of my chicken noodle soup recipe that has been improved over the years by trial and error.  In this recipe I used mirin, a japanese white wine that is similar to sake.  It adds a subtle complexity to the dish that makes such a difference!  Using whole grain pasta instead of your traditional egg noodles is a super important modification too because the pasta continues to absorb the liquid once it’s finished cooking and I find that egg noodle get soggy and gummy while whole grain pastas tend to hold up a firmer consistency over time. Continue reading →

Recipe: Agedashi Tofu

Agedashi tofu really hit the spot during this freezing cold winter.  It is a delicate comfort food, with deep fried tofu in a dashi-mirin-soy broth.  I love the various textures in this recipe, it’s crunchy surface breaks way to silken tofu which absorbs the dashi sauce beautifully. It’s a pretty simple recipe, but a typical American kitchen might not have the dashi broth ingredients.  But it is well worth putting in the effort to buy these basic ingredients, as it will allow you to make many more Japanese recipes with ease. Continue reading →

Recipe: A Mini(malist) -Thanksgiving

This year, while having little time and being far from family, we decided to have an impromptu mini(malist)-Thanksgiving feast.  Our menu included an 8-lb roasted capon, filled with an almond-bacon stuffing, gravy and garlic mash potatoes, rice pilaf, roasted asparagus with a balsamic soy dressing, and pumpkin pie.

What is a capon you might ask?  Well, a capon is a neutered rooster, which we accidentally picked up after it got mixed in to the turkey pile.  Yeah bummer at first, but it turns out that capons are rarely available, prized poultry meat! The neutering process renders the meat more tender and less gamey than chicken and turkey.  It can be roasted just like a turkey but with less time. Continue reading →

Recipe: Shrimp, Collard Greens, Whole Grain Pasta, in Anchovy Sauce

This recipe is packed with flavor and  was pretty easy to make.

You’ll need: small tin of anchovies in olive oil, 6 cloves garlic chopped, bunch collard greens stems removed and sliced, whole grain thin spaghetti 3/4 of a box, 10 large fresh shrimp, 1/4 cup dry white cooking wine, 1/2 a lemon, 4-5T of EVOO, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, red chili flakes

First sear shrimp in 2T EVOO in a hot pan, leaving it undisturbed for 2 mins on one side then cooking for 60 seconds on the other side. Set aside the shrimp. Now in same pan add anchovies, stirring until they disintegrate in the oil. Add garlic and red chili flakes and cook til garlic is browned. Then deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup dry white cooking wine and lemon juice. Then add the collard greens and mix, cooking until the collard greens are really wilted, like 5 minutes. Then add cooked pasta, toss around and add more EVOO so that the pasta is just glistening. Generously season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 more minutes.  I like to let the pasta sit undisturbed for a few minutes towards the end so that some pieces get crispy. Before serving toss in the shrimp.

Recipe: Quick Pan-Seared Ravioli

Since I don’t really have the time to be making ravioli from scratch, I was trying to think of ways to cheer up pre-made ravioli.  I drew inspiration from east asian methods of pan frying dumplings, and voila! was able to whip up this tasty dinner in just 15 minutes that you wouldn’t guess was from the freezer aisle.

You’ll need:  pre-made ravioli (I used Buitoni’s shrimp scampi ravioli since it was on sale for $2.50), 4 cloves garlic, 1/2 red onion chopped roughly, 1 riped on the vine tomato roughly chopped, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons EVOO, roughly chopped basil (or other herb), salt and freshly ground pepper, and grated cheese (optional).

Gently boil the ravioli for 6 minutes with a splash of EVOO in the water to prevent sticking.  Then combine butter and EVOO in large non stick pan.  When hot, add onions, garlic, and cooked ravioli (pat dry with paper towel first).  Make sure the ravioli is in a single layer so that it can sear evenly.  In about 1 minute, turn each ravioli over.  It should be slightly browned and crispy.  Add lemon juice, tomatoes, and chopped basil over top.  Generously season with salt and pepper.  After another minute, remove only the ravioli with tongs to plate.  Now toss around the remaining veggies with a flick of the wrist to integrate all the flavors for 30 seconds more, so that the onions and garlic are slightly charred.  Pour the veggies over the ravioli and sprinkle with grated cheese (parmesan ideally, but I used cojita since I had some on hand).

Recipe: Pan Seared Scallops with Basil Garlic Whole Wheat Pasta

Pan seared scallops basil pasta
This made for a quick summer lunch that felt light, healthy but still very filling.  It’s probably essential to watch the Alton Brown video on how to properly sear scallops which entails careful attention to timing. The pasta was surprisingly good too, which I kinda just winged with some leftover basil leaves.  The bay scallops were just $6 dollars at my local market.

You’ll need:  About 8 medium to large fresh bay scallops, big handful of basil leaves, 5 garlic cloves, 4 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil, a tablespoon of butter, 1/4 of a box of whole wheat thin spaghetti, sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Start cooking your spaghetti in salt water with care not to overcook; probably better to undercook because it will continue to cook when you saute it later.  Meanwhile, combine the basil, garlic, 2 tablespoons of EVOO in a food processor til chopped finely (but not pureed).  With a large frying pan, sear your scallops a la Alton Brown, when done, set aside on a plate.  Now wipe down the pan and on medium-high heat, add about two tablespoons of the basil sauce to the pan and let sizzle for about 45 seconds.  Then add the pasta, toss around for 3 minutes, season generously with salt and pepper.  Turn off heat and let the pasta sit in the pan undisturbed for 2 more minutes to get a nice crispy texture on some of the pasta.  And finally, plate it all with the scallops.

Recipe: Filipino Adobo Chicken

When I heard that this recipe was considered by many to be the best chicken recipe in the world, I had to try it.  Plus I wanted a good excuse to try out my new ceramic cast iron skillet.

adobo chicken

You’ll need:  3 lb organic chicken cut into 8 pieces, 8 cloves garlic, 1.5 cups coconut milk, 1 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, 4 bay leaves, scallions.  Served with cooked white rice.

photo (6)

Combine soy sauce, water, vinegar, bay leaves, chopped garlic, and 3/4 cup of the coconut milk into the skillet.  Bring to boil.  Then add chicken and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes cover.  Flip the chicken over a couple times during this process.  You can either let the chicken marinade in this sauce over night, or like I did, roast just the chicken on very high heat 450 degrees in the oven for 15 minutes or so on a baking sheet.  Meanwhile, add the rest of the coconut milk to the sauce, and reduce the sauce until you have about 1 cup of liquid.  Serve with rice.  Drizzle sauce over the chicken and sprinkle a bunch of sliced scallions over top.  I still think Jamie Oliver’s milk chicken is a little better, but this is a close second.

Recipe: Fusilli & Veggies

ImageThis simple vegetarian pasta recipe by Mark Bittman was surprisingly delicious.  I’ll definitely be making this one again and again.

You’ll need:  4-5 cups cooked whole wheat fusilli pasta, corn kernels from 3 ears of corn, 2 cups of diced zucchini, 1 medium onion chopped, 4 cloves of garlic minced, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon leaves, one handful of cherry tomatoes halved, 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, generous pinches of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, a really large frying pan or large dutch oven, and 30 minutes.

Cook the whole wheat pasta in really salty water, reserving some of the pasta water for the end.  Heat your pan, add 2 T of EVOO and cook the corn for 5 minutes til slightly brown.  Add the diced zucchini and push it down so it touches the bottom of the pan, cook for another 5 minutes.  Add 2-3 pinches of salt and pepper, onions and garlic.  Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the tarragon leaves and tomatoes, stir and cook for 5 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Add the pasta along with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, stir well.  The pasta should be glistening with olive oil, season again generously, each fusilli should be speckled with freshly ground pepper.  You can add a spoonful of pasta water if it all looks too dry at the end.  This is supremely yummy and healthy too. Enjoy!

Recipe: Shrimp Jook / Congee


This dish is the Southeast asian version of mom’s chicken soup.  It’s simple savory comfort food that is especially good for you after a bout of indigestion or the stomach flu.

You’ll need:  2 handfuls or 0.8 pounds of fresh large shrimp deveined and butterflied, 1 cup jasmine (short grain) rice, 8 cups organic chicken broth (store bought is fine), 2 inch piece of fresh ginger (half of it sliced into very thin match sticks, the rest left peeled and whole), finely sliced green onions, roughly chopped cilantro, white pepper, 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce, and 5 drops of sesame oil.

Rinse the rice with cold water a few times, add to large pot or dutch oven with lid, then cover with chicken broth and bring to boil.  Add a thick chunk of ginger (about the size of your pinky finger).  Let simmer for 1 1/2 hours covered, occasionally stirring so the rice doesn’t stick to bottom.  Now add the shrimp and let simmer for another 5-10 minutes (careful not to overcook the shrimp or it will be tough, err on the side of less cooking time), remove from heat.  Add 5 drops sesame oil and 2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce to taste (it should be somewhat salty but not overpowering).  The consistency should be somewhat creamy but not a puree.  Serve in medium bowls, sprinkle some white pepper over top, add pinch of ginger sticks, and top with green onions and cilantro.  Mix and eat while still hot.  Stores well in the fridge for couple days.  Typically eaten for breakfast or rainy days.

If your stomach is upset, you might want to omit the shrimp (less digesting your stomach will have to do).

Recipe: Creamy White Beans and Leeks

white bean and leeks

This recipe is my go to side dish for plain steaks or baked chicken. It has loads of protein, fiber, and almost zero fat except for the good kind in extra virgin olive oil.  I’ve made this about 5 times now and here is my final edit:

What you’ll need:  1 can butter beans or white kidney beans washed and drained, 2 leeks chopped roughly (dark green parts removed), 4-5 garlic cloves roughly minced, 1/2 cup or so white cooking wine, few splashes of water (or chicken broth), fresh thyme leaves (about 4-5 sprigs), 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, splash of half and half.

white beans and leeks

I like to use a dutch oven, but you can use a deep frying pan.  Saute the leeks, garlic, and thyme leaves in EVOO for about 10 minutes until they become soft. Then add the white wine, beans, and a couple splashes of water (or chicken broth if you have some on hand, or just mix in a couple pinches bouillon with the water).  Turn the heat to low and allow the beans to simmer and white wine evaporate off.


You want the end result to be semi fluid with a creamy consistency.  About 10 more minutes.  Then turn off heat and pour in a splash of half and half (preferred).  You could use a spoon of non fat yogurt instead but do it after it has cooled to prevent curdling.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.


Serve on a plate and top with the meat of your choice.  Would also go great topped with roasted broccolli and cauliflower.

Recipe: Dr. It Girl’s Holy Grail Homemade Spaghetti Sauce.

Here is my never fail to please homemade spaghetti sauce recipe.  I’ve made this recipe over 20 times now.  Originally, I based it off of an allrecipes.com recipe and over time made some changes learned from trial and error.   This recipe requires very few ingredients, most of which can be found around the kitchen already.  It does require a lot of cooking time though, which I think is essential to allow enough time for the tomatoes to disintegrate into fine pieces, sweeten up, and infuse into the pasta.  I’ve learned that there’s a substantial difference with using organic tomatoes over regular too (something to do with how most commercially grown tomatoes are bred to be big in size at the expense of taste).  Try it, you won’t be disappointed!

dr it girl homemade spaghetti sauce recipe