Turkey Meatballs, Veggie Penne and a Side of NY Resolutions

Wow, apparently, I took a two year hiatus from writing on my food blog! But I’ve got a good excuse – I’ve been too busy being a mom to two children under 3. For you moms, you know what that entails and how little time you get to yourself to even do things like shower, muchless put together a coherent thought or write. But this year, I’m trying to reclaim a little of my life that I loved and missed before, (re)learning how to be healthy and happy in ways that also can benefit my spiritual, emotional, mental and physical self. I was raised by an amazing mom who gave her all to everyone around her. That’s what I saw. That’s what I know. However, as women, we so often forget the importance of taking care of ourselves so that we can be better to those around us.

This year, I will attempt something that I’ve always found excuses to put off but know is important.  I will improve my physical health and train to do my first 5k. With the support of my family and friends, I’ll possibly even do two.  This year, I will write — to communicate, to share, to include, to inspire, to entertain.   Those are my goals for 2014.  And as always, I will cook, but that’s no goal…that’s a necessity. So, let’s at least make it good! On to the food…

I made this for my family last night – it was simple, pretty healthy, not expensive to make and yummy (that’s a great recipe already). I have a 40+ husband, a 3 year-old and an 18 month-old who all have different tastes.  They ate it all! The turkey meatballs provide lean protein, while still coming out nice and tender. The pasta already has veggies in it, so your kid will eat it, and you’ll feel good about it! Nguyen-Win Situation!

Ingredients (as always, try to get the highest quality that you can, fresh over frozen or dry):

  • 2 lb of lean ground turkey meat
  • 1 cup of spinach & parmesan dip (from Costco, great for appetizer, but really adds wonderful flavor)
  • lots of fresh ground paper
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (I use Progresso Italian Style Bread Crumbs for the extra flavor/seasoning)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 – 12 oz box of veggie penne (I prefer Barilla Veggie Penne, which is made from pureed tomatoes and carrots. My kids love this stuff, and each 3.5 oz portion provides 20% of the daily recommended veggies – awesome!)

For the sauce:

  • 1 jar Vodka sauce (I use Bertolli Italian Vodka Sauce, but you can substitute for plain tomato sauce if you want to cut calories)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tsp sugar (or sugar substitute like Splenda to counter the saltiness of the wine)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees on Bake.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the turkey, spinach dip, fresh ground pepper, garlic, basil and Italian bread crumbs
  3. Using a teaspoon, roll the mixture into small meatballs and put aside. You can probably make 30-32 or so from this amount.
  4. Add the olive oil to a pan set to medium high, add meatballs and brown on each side for about 5-6 minutes.  (I use a Le Creuset that can go from stove to oven).
  5. Drain out the excess oil, leaving only about 1-2 tbs in the pan.
  6. If you do not have a stove to oven pan, then transfer meatballs to an oven-safe tray.
  7. Add in the vodka sauce, red wine and sugar, stirring until everything is mixed and covering the meatballs.
  8. Cook in oven for 40-45 minutes. (I did uncovered for 20 minutes, then reduced heat to 375 and covered it once the sauce bubbled so the meatballs didn’t overly brown)
  9. Boil a pot of water and cook the penne for 7-8 minutes (al dente) or 10 minutes (softer pasta, which my kids prefer). Drain and portion into bowls/plates.
  10. Once the meatballs/sauce are done (and the alcohol cooks through, so don’t freak out!), remove from oven and ladle over pasta. Top with parmesan cheese (my kids love to help with this part and “sprin-kle!”). And if you’re like me, serve yourself a hefty helping of a glass of wine to get you through the next 30 minutes of trying to get your kids fed. Voila!

Prep time: < 5 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Serves: 4-6 (depending on how much your littles eat)

Browning the meatballs

Browning the meatballs

Meatballs drowning in vodka sauce

Meatballs drowning in vodka sauce


The finished product


B-b-b-bisque…Lobster, that is

I have tried this recipe twice and fed it to both my family (easy crowd), my husband (medium easy) and my in-laws (connoisseurs). Each time, this dish has garnered some of the best reactions I’ve ever gotten and always requests for more.   There is NEVER any left over!

Note, this is not necessarily a healthy dish, nor is it easy. It is a little time and labor intensive…but dayamm, it’s worth it! The following is my simplified and adapted version of Tyler Florence’s more complicated recipe found on FoodNetwork.com, which if  you compare ours side by side, mine is heartier in lobster, slightly lighter on fat and does not include any alcohol (if you want to feed this to kiddos).

The making of a masterpiece


  • 3 lobsters
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 leek diced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 stalks celery hearts diced
  • 2 large carrots chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • Finely chopped green onions, for garnish
How to make the stock:
  1. Clean lobsters thoroughly, rinsing well with water. Be careful of their pincers!
  2. Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. There should be enough water to cover the lobsters when submerged.
  3. Place live lobsters in boiling water head first to minimize splashing. Turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes and lobsters turn deep red/orange.
  4. Use tongs and remove lobsters from the pot. Reserve the water in pot to create the flavorful lobster stock.
  5. Place 10 cups of stock in a clean stockpot and put on low heat.
  6. In a metal tray, remove claws and tails of lobsters from shells, making sure to also pick through meat in the lobster head and retaining all the lobster juices. Do a rough chop of the lobster meat and put to one side.
  7. Place leftover shells and lobster juices from tray into the stockpot, making sure to include all roe and tomalley in pot. Simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  8. Pour entire contents of pot through a sieve into clean stockpot; this should now be 8 cups of flavorful stock.

Now, let’s get cooking:

  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the leeks, onion, celery, carrots, thyme and tomato paste. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped lobster meat, then sprinkle in the flour. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Slowly add all 8 cups of the lobster stock and stir up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Immediately decrease the heat and gently simmer until the soup is reduced and thickened, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Ideally, let cool, then refrigerate for half day or overnight to let flavors sit. Bisque will reduce and become a beautiful, buttery stew.
  6. When you’re ready to serve, re-heat soup on medium until it’s hot, making sure to stir occasionally and not burn the bottom of the pot.  The stew is now quite thick and robust. Garnish with green onion and serve with a side of fresh baked bread. This is Heaven in your mouth!
Prep time: 2 1/2 hours
Cook time: 1 hour
Serves: 8

Ready to devour!


All MINE-strone

So, you’ve probably figured out by now how much I love a good pot of soup. Whether it’s the clear, steaming fragrant broth of pho or a thick bowl of chili, I love it all.  Today, I’ll show you a quick and, of course, simple recipe for Minestrone soup — so good, you’ll say “It’s all MINE!” 🙂 If possible, prepare soup the morning or day ahead. The flavors really come out over time.  You’ll thank me!

What’s wonderful about this soup is that it’s a super easy way to get all your healthy vegetables and antioxidants in one tasty meal, and the addition of the sausage/turkey/chorizo gives the dish a boost of protein and robust flavor for all those meat lovers.  I’ll ladle a small amount into a blender and do a slight puree to feed to my  1 year-old daughter, and she loves the stuff! Good for the whole family!

Minestrone - sauteeing the veggies


  • 1/2 lb reduced fat sage sausage, ground turkey or chorizo
  • 1 yellow onion (chopped)
  • 4 zucchini (chopped)
  • 3 squash (chopped)
  • 1/2 lb baby carrots (chopped)
  • 4 celery hearts (chopped)
  • 2 tomatoes (diced)
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 24 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 cups of water or vegetable stock
  • crushed red pepper (optional)
  • bread to serve on the side
  • * Whenever possible, use organic products.
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium high. Add the chopped onions and meat and sautee until cooked.
  2. Add all the vegetables with the tomato paste, herbs, kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, sugar and crushed red pepper for heat (optional and def no if you’re serving this to kiddos)  and sautee until slightly soft (about 10-15 minutes).
  3. Add canned tomatoes & 3 cups of water or vegetable stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Stir, making sure to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pot, then simmer for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to soak in.
  4. Season to taste with additional kosher salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle hot soup into bowls & garnish with rosemary.  Serve with a side of fresh baked bread (French baguette is always preferred) and enjoy!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves: 8

The finished product! Happy, healthy meal for your family!


Paris, je taime!

My mother-in-law’s life long dream was to go to Paris with her husband, and what better place to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary than in the most romantic city in the world. For a foodie like me, this was a great opportunity! I volunteered my French skills (having minored in it and studied abroad there for a semester) to become their tour guide.  For one week, we enjoyed afternoons and evenings filled with long, lingering meals (which can be a bit of a challenge with a 9 month-old), partook of wonderful French wine, cheese and bread, butter & chocolate. Some of our stops included Creperie de Cluny, Contre Allee, Le Petit Bordelais, La Billebaude, Fouquet’s, Angelina’s & La Duree. On our last day, we had lunch on the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower at the Jules Verne Restaurant. It was a culinary treat, with exquisite food and views to match. Gabby slept on the banquette pretty much the entire time, allowing us to truly savor the dishes thoughtfully created by masterchef Alain Ducasse. The French truly know how to make food into art!

Of course...a Champagne Toast to start!

The Lee Family at The Jules Verne Restaurant

The amazing view from the restaurant

Cucumber gelee w/salmon & creme fraiche & croutons

Half smoked salmon and warm tiny potatoes, gold caviar

Delicate cream of peas, crab meat & crunchy vegetables

Chicken stuffed with preserved duck foie gras, wild purslane & delicate vinaigrette

Roasted John Dory, summer vegetables & condiment

Bresse chicken fricassée, lightly creamy cooking jus

Fig tart

Savarin with armagnac

Chocolate/raspberry delight



Not to make you think of that other awful word, but whatever, I did.

Salmon, it’s what’s for dinner.  Some people can get really turned off my by the distinct fishy flavor and smell of salmon. But there’s no denying the health benefits of all those omega 3s and fish oil for your heart. Plus, it’s one of the few fish that aren’t overloaded in mercury (which is known to destroy your neurons!).  After having watched the incredible Oscar award-winning documentary The Cove, our family is particularly sensitive about what kinds of fish we eat (not eating those that are endangered or give us mercury poisoning).  Buh-bye sushi bar!

So, the fam loves this particular recipe of grilled salmon I make. It’s easy and not at all time consuming. Serve it with a side of steamed vegetables and brown rice, and you’re set with a lovely, healthy meal that won’t make you feel guilty or overstuffed!

Grilled Teriyaki Salmon


  • 4 – 6 oz center-cut salmon filets
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4- 6 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • garlic powder
  • gumbo file powder
  • sprigs of rosemary (for garnish)


  1. Clean and pat dry the fish. Remember to scale it, as most butchers skip this step. If you can handle keeping the skin on, that’s always the best way to eat salmon! Place side by side in in a small, foil-lined tray or non-reactive container.
  2. Lightly sprinkle the kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder and gumbo file powder on both sides of the filets.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the teriyaki sauce, lemon juice & honey. Pour over the salmon and flip twice, using tongs to make sure both sides are coated in the marinade.
  4. Lightly sprinkle the olive oil over the tops of the salmon to keep it moist, then cover with foil and refrigerate for an hour.
  5. Heat a skillet (I love my Le Creuset for just this very thing) to medium high using the grapeseed oil (which is a little more expensive than normal cooking oil, but really great for cooking fish because it gets super hot to crisp your meat without burning it). If you don’t have grapeseed oil, olive oil will also work and is a healthier option than vegetable oil.
  6. Place your filets skin-side down in the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, then check that skin is slightly crisped medium brown on the outside, then turn over using a wide/flat spatula. Be gentle so that the filets don’t flake off as you flip.  Cook for another 5 minutes and check if inside is pink or cooked through. If slightly pink, turn off the heat and let sit for another minute.
  7. Remove filets onto a plate and garnish with rosemary for color.

Prep time: 10 minutes (plus one hour to marinade)

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4


The “Simple” Asian, right?

Wow, I cannot believe it’s been over a year since I posted anything…but then again, I spent more time in the last year baking something in the proverbial oven than the one located in my actual kitchen.  For over 9 months and then some, my pregnancy overshadowed my passion for cooking. Affected by hormonally charged tastebuds and a heightened sense of smell (especially to those offensive things by the name of chicken), many a meal was eaten out rather than in. And on occasion (okay, several) I had my share of meals from from McDonald’s (cheeseburgers) or from a box (Easy Mac) or out of a plastic container (organic apple juice) rather than from scratch.  I became my culinary opposite! After my darling daughter was born, I was blessed with the presence of my gifted Korean mother-in-law and my Vietnamese mommy, who filled my tummy with lots of their own homemade concoctions. I was stuffed so much so that I hardly ever felt the need (or had the time or energy) to cook!  But there were consequences to all that yumminess, too (says my scale and tummy that has yet to shrink back to my pre-prego size). And just a lot has changed. I went from being a overworked/overachieving/over-everything on the go producer who never ate breakfast, ate lunch at her desk and cooked lavish late dinners to now a work-from-home mom who now eats breakfast, lunch and dinner on a militaristic schedule (usually early and on time) to cater to the health needs of her  live-in in-laws and growing baby and is trying oh so hard to achieve work-life balance. It is only irony upon ironies that I recently started cooking again (to gain control of my weight) and to please the palette of none other than…my baby! So, The Simple Asian evolves from the sexy, gourmet epicurian to the devoted mommy chef who’s searching to serve her family with meals that are healthy, tasty, time friendly and won’t break the bank. So now, I’m really The “Simple” Asian – keep it simple, as simple as possible, please! Read on…

And baby makes three.


Such a tease – Family Secret Recipe Chinese BBQ Ribs

Just wanted to share the amazing ribs that hubby made. (Wish someone would invent smell/taste-o-vision!) These are Chinese-style BBQ ribs that are marinated, then slow cooked on the grill for 3 hours until the meat is slightly crispy on the outside but falls off the bone. Perfect for summer parties, birthday parties, boys nights, football watching parties, pool parties or grill outs…they are just TO DIE FOR and finger lickin’ good!

Grillmaster George prepares the marinade.

The finished product - finger lickin' good and such a crowd pleaser!

The secret recipe was passed down from George’s amazing home cook brother-in-law, Robert, and we are both now sworn to a vow of silence. Just hope that you get to taste this at one of our parties one day!

November 2019
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