Donna Cooks

What To Do With Leftover Rice? (Fried Rice)
February 27, 2007, 8:37 am
Filed under: Recipes

After spending almost two hours preparing dinner Saturday night, Sunday lunch was going to be super simple.  I had some leftover cooked white rice in the fridge, so the natural choice was to do a quick fried rice.  Actually, sometimes I make extra steamed white rice when cooking just so I’ll have an excuse to make fried rice later in the week 🙂


Fried Rice

1 cup cooked, diced ham (you can use the salad topper ham that’s already diced, or if you prefer something more unique, ask your deli counter to slice up one or two super thick slices of your deli favorite and dice it up yourself, you can also use cooked shrimp, or diced cubed chicken, or small cubes of hard tofu…)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed and patted dry
2 eggs
1 spring onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine or dry sherry (or chicken or beef broth)
4 cups cooked white rice

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and a few pieces of spring onions.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a wok over medium high heat.  Stir-fry the peas and ham for about 2 minutes, the add 1 tbsp of soy sauce and the rice wine or sherry.  Remove and keep warm in a foil-tented plate.

Heat another 1 tbsp of oil in the wok and lightly scramble the eggs.  Add in rice, making sure that there are no large clumps and that the grains are separated, then the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and stir fry 2 more minutes.  Add in remaining 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce, spring onions, and the ham and peas mixture and mix well for another 2 minutes or so, seasoning with additional salt to taste.  And voila, lunch!

Serves 2-3


Mmm… Tastes Like Bacon (Artichoke Manicotti)
February 26, 2007, 8:32 am
Filed under: Recipes

Feeling creative and patient (patience doesn’t come to me easily) Saturday night, I decided to tackle one of the more complicated recipes I’ve ever prepared.  I was going to do Italian, without shortcuts, without cheating.  And even though this manicotti is completely vegetarian, I was informed by others who tried the dish that it tastes like bacon.  If you don’t believe me, try out the recipe for yourself.  But I have to warn you, it’s definitely not a 30 minute meal.

Artichoke Manicotti
Served with a simple side salad (spinach, basil, carrots, grated herbed feta, pine nuts, and Balsamic vinaigrette) and a glass of Sangiovese from Bluff Dale Vineyards.  Recipe based on menu item from Eastside Cafe in Austin, Texas.


For the Filling:
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
12 sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil (packed), minced (I actually put the sun-dried tomatoes and the basil together in the food processor to make it somewhat quicker)
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 cups grated mozzarrella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup skim ricotta cheese
1 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Process pistachios in a food processor until coarsely chopped.  Place pistachios on a baking sheet and roast in oven for 10 minutes.  Set aside.

In the mean time, heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat.  Saute onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in mushrooms and saute another 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and onions are soft and translucent.  Add sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and garlic.  Saute for another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine mozzarrella, Parmesan, and ricotta.  Add in mushroom-onion mixture, roasted pistachios, salt and a pinch of black pepper, and combine well.  Add in drained and coarsely chopped artichoke hearts and incorporate into other ingredients.

For the Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
2 cups heavy whipping cream
8 sun-dried tomatoes, minced
6 oz can tomato sauce (ok this is a little bit of a shortcut)
1 cup fat free sour cream
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper

Simmer whipping cream, sun-dried tomatoes, and tomato sauce in a medium saucepan for 15 minutes over low heat.  Remove from heat and add in sour cream, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Whisk together until smooth.

3/4 lb cooked to al dente manicotti shells
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.  Stuff manicotti shells/tubes with the artichoke mushroom cheese filling.  Place manicotti in a 11″ x 17″ baking dish.  Completely cover manicotti with sun-dried tomato cream sauce.  Top with grated Parmesan.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Serves 6

Seven Courses of Beef at Huong Ly
February 23, 2007, 1:35 am
Filed under: DFW Restaurant Reviews

What’s better than beef for dinner?  Seven courses of beef, of course!  I’ve always seen the seven courses of beef advertised on banners outside of Vietnamese restaurants, and this past Wednesday, a group of five of us went to Huong Ly in the Richardson Chinatown to find out what it’s all about.

According to Wikipedia, Bo 7 Mon (or “Beef 7 Ways”) is traditional wedding fare in Vietnamese cuisine.  The idea is to create spring rolls with the various cooked beef items.  From some light web reading, it appears that Huong Ly’s version of the seven courses of beef falls right in line with the standard fare.

The first course of beef was actually a salad.  Thin strips of red onion, carrots, cabbage, mint, beef slices, and pickled tripe topped with ground peanut. Yep, I said tripe.  I’m not personally a big fan of tripe, so I ate around it but still got to sample the crunchy salad with the fish saucy, vinegary dressing.  An interesting way to whet your appetite.


Course number two started the spring roll making madness.  The table soon filled up with a hot pot of boiling broth with slices of red onion, clear spring roll wrappers and bowls of hot water for softening the wrappers, a giant plate of veggies for your spring roll (mint, basil, sprouts, carrot strips, cucumber strips, and something that looked like banana but was starchy and hard), vermicelli noodles, two dipping sauces (regular fish sauce and Mam Nem, a fermented fish sauce which originated from Thailand), and the thin slices of beef to be boiled.


Drop the beef slices in the boiling broth, soften your spring roll wrapper, fill wrapper with noodles and veggies of choice, add in cooked beef slices (should be done by the time you’re done softening the wrapper and piling on the veggies), roll up into a spring roll, and dip in your choice of either regular fish sauce or the more pungent fermented fish sauce.  It’s definitely a fun, hands-on experience. 

The next plate included the third, fourth, and fifth course. 


So this is where “beef 7 ways” makes more sense than “7 courses of beef.”  These three different “sausages” are eaten the same way as the boiled beef in the first course, roll them up in the spring roll wrappers with veggies and dip in the fish sauce(s).  There was the plain “sausage,” chargrilled beef slices wrapped around ground beef, the fatty “sausage,” ground beef rolled in caul fat which gives it the shiny exterior, and ground beef wrapped in la lot leaves.  My favorite of the three were the ground beef in la lot leaves, the leaves gave them a distinctly herbal flavor.  I have always been a fan of things wrapped in leaves/husks, tamales, zhong zi, etc.  The fatty beef was a bit more juicy than the regular beef, but otherwise had similar flavors.

Two more courses to go and we were already stuffed!  The next course consisted of a crunchy sesame cracker with a beef “dip.”  You spoon the mixture of ground beef and clear cellophane noodles topped with mushy peas.


Out of all the courses, this was my least favorite due to personal preference.  I’m just not a big fan of the texture of steamed ground meat.  And I thought the sesame cracker tasted stale.  But still an interesting dish, nonetheless.  The last course was ground beef congee (porridge) topped with lots of green onion, a soothing way to end our massive feast of beef.


The Seven Courses of Beef is $11.95 per person at Huong Ly.  We actually ordered 4 portions for our party of 5 (3 boys in their mid-20’s with voracious appetites and 2 girls that can hold their own when it comes to eating) and all left so very full.  You do the math, it’s quite the deal.  The atmosphere at Huong Ly is like you would expect at a Chinatown restaurant, people definitely come for the food and not the decor.  Service was a bit slow.  They were probably a little busier than expected on a Wednesday night. 

I got this email the next day at work:

“Beef, it’s not what’s for dinner.  At least for tonight, because I feel like I have a beef hangover.”

It’s like the State Fair but with beef instead of deep fried goodies.  And just like the State Fair, Beef 7 Ways is something you just have to try at least once.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Huong Ly
400 N. Greenville Ave #20
Richardson, TX 75081

Sushi and Sake at Sushi Sake
February 20, 2007, 2:11 pm
Filed under: DFW Restaurant Reviews

I was not raised to be a raw food person. Every part of my childhood upbringing was very much assimilated to western culture except for this one little area. Like most Chinese parents, my parents did not eat raw meat (heck, most Chinese people don’t even like salad because the veggies are uncooked). I say “did” because I think my mom has finally learned to like sushi after a two-month stay in Hawaii. My dad’s another story.

I never even had a steak any less cooked than “well done” until high school. Even now I never order steak any less cooked than medium. Naturally, the idea of sushi didn’t appeal to me. When I had a long layover in the Tokyo airport, I opted for the cooked udon noodles over the sushi bar (not that airport sushi would be spectacular, but I was in Japan!) Before moving to Dallas after graduating college, my only experience with sushi was limited to the California roll.

On the surface, it doesn’t make sense that I would start experimenting with sushi in a non-coastal city like Dallas. But the town likes to be trendy and people are becoming more health-conscious, so sushi restaurants are everywhere (there are 16 within a 5-mile radius of my semi-suburban apartment). I started eating sushi. First, it was all the cooked stuff, shrimp tempura, eel, soft shelled crab. Then I ventured into a couple of “raw” items that sounded familiar, tuna and salmon, starting with rolls, then slowly venturing into nigiri sushi, then sashimi (only for smoked salmon). I stayed in my comfort zone of those two “raw” items and cooked items for a long time, reasoning that Dallas is a landlocked city and I didn’t want to have to call in work the next day with a case of “I had some bad sushi last night.”

Then I was offered a belated Valentine’s dinner at Sushi Sake, the best and freshest sushi restaurant in Dallas by popular voteof Dallas chowhounds. Now I had no excuses. Unless I was planning on traveling to Japan soon (which sadly my budget can’t handle right now), now was the time to venture out of the comfort zone.


Sushi Sake is a beautifully modern restaurant in an unexpectedly location in Richardson (between large office buildings in an area that has mostly chains unless you venture out to Chinatown or the Indian markets a couple of miles away). The small place was packed at 8:00pm on a Saturday night. We wanted sushi bar seating, but opted for first available when we saw the wait (ended up being only 20 minutes but the hostess had quoted longer). We sat at a community table, adjacent to a party of three. At first I was taken aback by the seating arrangement, but I soon adjusted and started enjoying the intimate environment.

We opted for one of the cheaper sakes on the sake list (not being familiar with sake at all) and ordered the smoked squid with vegetables as an appetizer.



Smoked Squid Appetizer:


The smoked squid was tossed with a ginger vinaigrette and small chunks of seaweed. The chewy texture of the squid was not rubbery, but rather like an al dente pasta. The dressing gave it a semi-sweet flavor that I really enjoyed.

Then came our a la carte sushi order. Gizzard shad (one of the specials of the night, I was fearing the worst when my companion ordered this without any idea to what it is), smoked salmon, yellowtail, flying fish roe, eel roll, and spider roll.


It was a combination of old favorites and new adventures, but I loved all of it. The gizzard shad (I actually had horrendous images of turkey gizzard when I saw this on the menu) was very fresh and had an interesting but not too fishy flavor. It was my first time to try yellowtail, I have to say the flavor wasn’t anything exciting for my palate. But that’s just personal taste. The flying fish roe was fun and delicious, salty little crunchy bubbles that burst when you bit into it, very fitting for people like me who love to pop the bubbles on bubble wrap. The eel roll and spider roll were both excellent, fresh ingredients, didn’t fall apart easily, and the eel and crab were seasoned just right (the batter on the soft shell crab was some of the lightest but crunchiest I’ve ever had). The highlight of the night was an old favorite, smoked salmon, so fresh that it practically melted in your mouth. When I go back (and I definitely will be), I’ll be ordering the smoked salmon sashimi and fighting my companion for every bite.

Our waitress was a bit terse with us but I think partly because it was a very busy night. I would love to return to Sushi Sake with a seat at the sushi bar. But it’s not a trip I’ll be making too often because it isn’t exactly cheap. The total for sake, appetizer, and the few a la carte orders was $55 including tax and tip. From my limited experience with sushi in Dallas so far, Sushi Sake is definitely there at the top for quality and freshness.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Sushi Sake
2150 N. Collins Blvd
Richardson, TX 75082

Lorina Lemonade, My Latest Beverage Obsession
February 20, 2007, 12:48 am
Filed under: 15-Second Rave


I tried Lorina Lemonade (the French Berry flavor) for the first time as a result of an impulse purchase at Central Market.  This stuff is awesome.  It’s not overly tart or sugary like most lemonades, and doesn’t have that almost bitter artificial lemon taste (a la Minute Maid).  It’s lightly flavored, fizzy, and really refreshing.  Plus I love the look of the 11.5 oz glass bottle, makes for a great single bud vase.  I can’t wait to serve these at a summertime cookout/pool party.

Bakery/Deli Lunch at Home (Fancy Tuna Melt and Carrot Chickpea Barley Soup)
February 18, 2007, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Whenever I go to a bakery/deli style restaurant, I’m almost guaranteed to order the half sandwich and a cup of soup combo.  Trying to recreate this experience at home with some items that are not so standard (you can only have so many club sandwiches with a cup of broccoli cheddar), I made a fancy tuna melt and a pot of carrot chickpea barley soup for lunch.

Fancy Tuna Melt


1 tbsp olive oil (once around the pan)
¼ onion, chopped
4 fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 can (6 oz) tuna, well drained
¼ cup cream or half and half
2-3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 large bread slices (I used a sun-dried tomato bun)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat broiler in toaster oven or regular oven

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, onions, and mushrooms; cook to soften, 3 minutes. Add tuna, cook 3 minutes more. Season with pepper, add cream, and simmer to reduce and thicken, 2 to 3 minutes. Add grated Parmesan cheese and salt. Add peas and stir to combine, remove from heat.

Toast bread 1 minute on each side and place on a baking sheet. Spoon tuna casserole onto bread, mounding it all the way to the edges. Top tuna with shredded Swiss cheese and return the bread to the oven. Cook until cheese has melted and browned at edges, 1 to 3 minutes.

Serves 2

Carrot Chickpea Barley Soup
an easy variation of the recipe from the March 2007 issue of Shape magazine


3 cups chicken broth
1 cup V-8
1/4 cup barley, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
2 cups matchstick carrots
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp choped parsley
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper

In medium saucepan, combine broth, V-8, barley, and chickpeas.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

Add carrots and return to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in vinegar, some freshly ground black pepper, and parsley.  Divide soup among bowls and top with Parmesan cheese (optional, I didn’t do the Parmesan this time).

Serves 4

A Belated Valentine’s Surprise (Thai Basil Beef and Chocolate Cup Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing)
February 17, 2007, 12:34 pm
Filed under: Recipes

I spend my Monday and Wednesday evenings in class so cooking a Valentine’s dinner on the actual holiday was out of the question.  So I tried to add little romantic touches on dinner last night.  But dinner still needed to be quick, as I’m swamped at work and getting off early on Friday was out of the question.

Thai basil beef atop steamed jasmine rice with an egg roll (frozen aisle type, because I was lazy) and a glass of 2003 Michele Chiarlo Barbera D’Asti, a medium-bodied Italian red.


Thai Basil Beef 
variation of original recipe from Linda Doeser

6 tbsp cooking oil (vegetable, canola, peanut)
about 10 large fresh basil leaves, de-stemmed
10 oz rump steak, tenderized with mallot and sliced against the grain into bite sized pieces (some grocers actually carry pre-tenderized meat, often labeled as “stir-fry” beef, one of my trusty time-saving strategies)
2 tbsp fish sauce (found in the international foods aisle)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
2 dried red chiles, crushed (or you can use 2 fresh serrano chiles, sliced into small rings)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ginger powder
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped for garnish
1 tsp corn starch (optional)
squeeze of lemon juice

Mix together fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar in small bowl.  Place marinade in ziplock bag with sliced steak pieces and refrigerate/marinate for about 30 minutes.

While beef is marinating, heat oil in wok over high heat.  When oil is hot, add in fresh whole basil leaves and deep fry about 1 minute until crisp and golden.  Drain grease from basil leaves on paper towels, lightly crush (should be easy since leaves will be crispy).  Do this in several batches as needed depending on the size of your wok.  Remove wok from heat and pour off all but 2 tbsp of the oil.

Reheat wok with the 2 tbsp of oil over medium high heat.  Add in chiles, garlic, ginger, and sliced shallot and stir-fry for about a minute or until garlic is golden brown.  Add in marinated beef and stir-fry 4 to 5 minutes or until beef is done throughout.  Add in corn starch to thicken the sauce (optional, purely preference).  Add in crushed deep fried basil leaves.  Add in a squeeze of lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve thai basil beef on top of steamed jasmine rice and top with a few pieces of chopped fresh basil.

Serves 2

My belated Valentine’s surprise, chocolate cup cakes with cream cheese icing:


Cream Cheese Icing
The white icing.  The pink stuff is just gel icing from the grocery store.

1/2 brick (4 oz) reduced fat cream cheese
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s (powedered) sugar

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Easy, huh?  It’s creamier and less sugary than store-bought icing, but you will need to refrigerate the cake/cupcakes until you’re ready to serve.