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Leena Cooks: Dan Dan noodles

By on Mar 13, 2014 in Chinese food, Leena Cooks, Main, Meat, noodles, Pork, Spices | 0 comments

The first time I tried dan dan noodles was at a little Chinese dumpling and noodle shop in Australia. It had a very dry sauce, made only of meat and spices, and was probably one of the hottest dishes I’ve ever eaten. My husband loved them, but I found the heat to be so overwhelming, I couldn’t concentrate on the other flavors in the dish. Indeed, this dish hails on the Sichuan province of China, one of the spiciest regions in the world. I decide to research my own dan dan noodle recipe, one I could tailor to both my husband’s and my own heat preferences. According to Fuchsia Dunlop’s book, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, dan dan mian is a dish that is made differently by every street vendor. Her version includes no sesame paste, and focuses more on the clean flavors from the Sichuan peppers. While Food52’s recipe used douban chili paste, a spicy,...

Leena Cooks and Bakes: Ella’s 2nd Birthday Party!

By on May 28, 2013 in Cookies, Cupcakes, Desserts, Fruit, Leena Bakes, Leena Cooks, Meat, Pickles, Recipes | 0 comments

I can hardly believe that my baby, my first kid, my Ella has finally turned two. Except when she pitches the LOUDEST FIT EVER because I won’t let her do something obviously fun, like drive the car home from the grocery store or poke the cat with a stick like a pinata. Then I am pretty certain she is two. As much as I didn’t want Ella to become obsessed with licensed characters at an early age, somehow, probably during a road trip or a morning when I was sick on the couch, she discovered Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and of course, the infamous Minnie. The obsession came fast and fierce, and when I stumbled across a dress that looked exactly like a Minnie Mouse knock-off at Old Navy (aka–affordable!), I knew I had found her birthday party theme. In December. 5 months BEFORE her party. Some of my fellow mom friends thought I was being quite ambitious, starting party planning...

Leena Eats: Just kidding…NOW I’m back! And with dinner party photos!

By on Dec 12, 2012 in Appetizers, Leena Cooks, Leena Eats, Mains, Meat, Parties, Pork, Sorbet, Soup/Salad, The Gastronomical Leena, Vegetables | 4 comments

So. I said I was back, and clearly, I lied. What I actually meant is, hi, see you again in four months or so. 🙂 I spent from mid-June through early October studying my ass off for a little test called the GRE, because I decided hey, wouldn’t it be fun to get a doctorate and research food and culture for a living? It paid off, because I didn’t completely fail the math, and I did ok in the verbal and kick-ass in the essay section. BUT. It also meant no brain energy was left at the end of day to cook, let alone blog about food. Or exercise. Or eat well. But I did occasionally bust out some winners, the cake above included. That bad-ass monstrosity was a chocolate chip cake layered with passion fruit curd, chocolate crumbles, and coffee buttercream frosting from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. More after the jump! I feel like I could probably create a nice big-ass cake like...

Leena Cooks: Pot Roast for Baby!

By on Jan 11, 2012 in Baby food, Beef, Leena Cooks, Meat, Recipes | 2 comments

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve tasted the jarred meat baby food–even the gourmet organic brands, and they are all as flavorful as a dirty jockstrap (and that’s putting it lightly). So when it comes to making meat dishes for my baby, I can’t help but feel like I’m cooking for Roger Ebert–pureed foods that just so happened to satisfy an adult palate. The recipe and more after the jump. I’ve learned a lot over the past two months of making baby meat food. The first is that you will never, ever get your meat baby food as smooth as the food that comes from the jar. Ever. I can’t tell you how many pureed meat dishes I pushed through a fine mesh sieve, only to have all the good, tasty bits be left in the sieve, and just the juices left in the bowl below. The trick to getting your puree as smooth as possible is to use a higher ratio of vegetable...

Leena Cooks: Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy

By on Dec 14, 2011 in Gluten-free, gravy, Holidays, Leena Cooks, Main, Mains, Poultry, Recipes | 2 comments

A few years back, my sister in law started getting really sick. Everything she ate seemed to go right through her, and she lost a lot of weight for an already skinny person. After a lot of testing, they discovered she was a celiac who was allergic to gluten. Gluten is a protein that is commonly found in wheat and other cereals made into flour. It is what helps give bread it’s structure, and apparently, what makes celiacs sick. And after reading my food blog, she realized that a lot of foods she loves have gluten in them. Boo. So in honor of her, and the upcoming holiday dinner we are going to make together, I am on a mission to research and find delicious and uncomplicated gluten-free recipes. Today’s recipe: gluten-free turkey gravy made with pureed roasted vegetables.Recipe and photos after the jump. : Leena’s Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy : Inspired by my sister in law...

Leena Cooks: Three Meat Chipotle Chili

By on Dec 7, 2011 in Beef, chili, Leena Cooks, Main, Meat, Pork, Recipes | 0 comments

Man, I am so glad I had my latest chili cook-off. As a cook, it is easy to get stuck in your own ways and your regular recipes, so it is always a blessing to have as many cooking inspirations as I did from my cook-off. I mean, I actually WANT to make a vegetarian chili! Hell hath frozen over, folks. One of the cook-off prizes was a book written by Jane and Michael Stern called Chili Nation, featuring regional chili recipes from all 50 states. My friend Matt made a killer beef chili with chipotle and chunks of beef stew meat, and it inspired me to try something similar. I found the “Serious Capital Punishment Chili” from the District of Columbia (also the International Chili Society’s top winner in it’s 1980 cook off), which not only had cubes of beef round and chipotle in it, but also hints of dark chocolate and two kinds of ground meat in it. I made a few...