Roasted Tomato Soup

 
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Dear friends, 

It's been so long since I've posted on The White Wong. I'm sorry for the absence, not sorry 'bout that rhyme.

We are officially in our house and unpacked! I've been very much enjoying our new kitchen and am working on some recipes for end of summer/fall. However, I have not been working on getting our house clean and organized enough to take photos and post them here. Cuz, ya know, making food and taking photos of it (and video - coming soon!) takes care of hungry husband and recipes for blog all at once. Having a clean and organized house? Nobody wants that. Anyhoo, all that to say, check back soon for house pics!

For now, enjoy this tasty recipe. It's the last one that I took photos for in our apartment, so it feels a little reminiscent to me (so, any countertops/floors in the pictures are old). This recipe is one of my favorites to make during busy times because it's healthy, delicious, and easy to make! It is a tad fall-ish, which I apologize for since we all love summer (except us Phoenicians), but I figured this would be a good way to use up one's tomato harvest.

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Roasted Tomato Soup

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

2 lbs. tomatoes (I use vine ripened tomatoes, but is delicious with a variety of other tomatoes like Campari, Roma, Heirloom, etc.)

1 chopped onion (see my guide on How to Chop an Onion)

1½ tsp minced garlic

Drizzle of olive oil

16 oz. vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

½ tsp dried or fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

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Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or liner.

Wash and quarter the tomatoes. Peel the onion and chop.

Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic onto the lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and add the salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the veggies start to char a tad.

Remove veggies from oven and carefully scoop the roasted goodness into a large pot. Add in the 16 oz. of broth or stock, ½ tsp thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and either puree the soup mixture with an immersion blender, or carefully scoop into a large blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Serve warm and enjoy plain or fancy. Sometimes when I need an extra oomph of flavor, I add a little feta just before devouring. This soup is also perfect with a grilled cheese, garlic toast, or crackers.

 

Two Blueberry Smoothie Recipes

 

Kelvin and I are coming up on one year as Arizona residents, which also comes with an insane amount of heat hitting or close to 120°F, and yes, it’s a dry heat, but it’s like walking around an oven. Even if you stay inside, the dryness can take a toll on your hydration.

This blog isn’t necessarily a health food blog, though we do our best to eat a mostly plant-based diet. I’ve come up with these two simple smoothie recipes to cool you down (cuz you’re already too cool😉), boost hydration, and incorporate some yummy ingredients that you may already have on hand, and if not, are easy to get.

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Pineapple Mint Blueberry Smoothie

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

1 cup water

1 cup frozen blueberries

½ cup frozen pineapple

2-3 medium or large sized mint leaves

A few ice cubes

Banana Blueberry Smoothie

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)

1 cup spinach, kale, or other green

1 banana

1 cup frozen blueberries

A few ice cubes

Directions for Both Smoothies

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Enjoy!

The White Wong Guacamole

 

Guacamole is one of those recipes that, to some North Americans, may be seen as an expensive burrito add-in at Chipotle or a staple for Super Bowl and cinco de mayo parties. (Please don’t get me started on cinco de mayo parties.)

I majored in Spanish in college and was involved in a student organization for Spanish speakers, native and non, with most members hailing from Latin America. I also spent a couple summers in Ecuador in college, so any excuse during the school year to hang out with Spanish speakers in North Dakota of all places was a big deal for me. This organization did so much together – marched through the homecoming parade, free salsa dancing lessons for students and faculty, cookouts, movies, and more.

My favorite events with friends from this group involved dancing and food, but especially making guacamole. My friends always put so much love and thought behind it, from picking out the best produce to chopping the ingredients and talking about how their moms prepared it. I did my best to internalize the way my friends’ made it, and this recipe is pretty close.

There are trillions of guacamole recipes out there, but in my opinion (and Kelvin’s), this recipe stands out!

By the way, everyone has their own way of chopping stuff, but if you want to get technical, check out my post on how to chop some of the ingredients!

The White Wong Guacamole

Ingredients

3-4 ripe Hass avocados*

1 tsp lime zest plus juice of one lime (use one lime for both zest and juice)

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp red cayenne pepper (or less if you don’t want so much heat)

½ tsp or 1 clove minced garlic

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

½ chopped onion

½ seeded jalapeño or serrano pepper (optional)

1 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

Directions

Prepare the ingredients by peeling, chopping, and/or seeding the garlic, tomatoes, onion, pepper, and cilantro. I recommend not cutting open the avocados until after you complete the next step to maintain freshness.

Zest before you juice! Zest about half of the lime into a medium bowl. Juice the whole lime into the same bowl.

Cut open, de-pit, and roughly chop the avocados and put them into the bowl of lime zest and juice. Mix them around until all avocado pieces are coated with the juice and zest. This will help them stay green. I prefer a chunkier textured guacamole, but if you like a creamier texture, use a potato masher or molcajete (mortar and pestle) and mash until the avocados are your desired texture. The avocados will break down a bit as you mix in the rest of the ingredients, too.

Add in the sea salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, and garlic. Mix until evenly distributed.

Throw in the tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño or serrano if using and mix all ingredients until evenly distributed.

Enjoy with tortilla chips (like us!), on toast, tacos, in a salad, or whatever may tickle your fancy.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

*There are a few ways to check the ripeness of avocados. Many sources say it’s best to remove the little stem on top and check the color underneath. Per my friends’ advice, I go by firmness. If it has a little give to it all the way around the avocado, then it should be ready. If it’s really soft, it’s likely overripe and nasty inside. If the avocado is hard with a smooth exterior, you could buy it and keep it until the exterior has a little give to it. You can also speed up the ripening process by putting the avocado(s) in a paper bag and sealing it at the top. I don’t know how or why this works; it might be a superstition or old wives’ tale, but somehow it just works!

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Do you like guacamole? Do you have any recipes that go beyond just making food? Please do share!

How to Chop Stuff: Onions, Tomatoes, Avocados, and Leafy Herbs

I don’t mean to go all infomercial on you, but have you ever struggled to chop up an ingredient, only to find you’ve partially cut off the tip of your finger and/or mutilated a vegetable?

Everyone has their way of chopping vegetables and other ingredients, but chopping in a way that produces evenly sized shapes makes your food prep more efficient.

Before you start chopping, of course, you need to make sure that you have the right tools.

Investing in a good knife can save you from the frustration of sawing and sawing through an ingredient. It also helps you get a same size and shape all throughout the ingredient. Here are some knives that I use:

Of course, if you have an old standby knife at home that you like that you’re able to sharpen when needed, keep using it! Just keep in mind that cutting or chopping with a dull knife or the wrong type of knife can cause the blade to slip and can also cause your chopped pieces to be uneven.

Last thing before you start: make sure your ingredients, hands, and tools are clean!

Oh, and sorry about my gross cutting board. But ya know, real life. Okay now, chop away!

How to Chop an Onion

Before you start: remove the onion’s top layers by cutting off the stem (not the brownish hairy roots) and peeling until you come to a thick, white, red, or yellow layer, depending on the type of onion you’re using.

How to Deseed and Chop Tomatoes

Some people suggest squeezing the tomato halves to deseed them. That compromises the quality of the tomato by crushing the flesh, so I prefer to cut out the fleshy center containing the seeds.

How to Chop Avocados

For step 2, carefully remove the pit of the avocado using the spoon to scoop it out, or stick it with a knife, then slowly and carefully wiggle it back and forth until the pit slides out. You can remove the pit from the knife by pushing it off one side with a towel or smack the knife handle against a hard edge like your countertop or the edge of a bowl. Just be really careful when using the knife to do this!

How to Chop Leafy Herbs

Chopping leafy herbs was the bain of my cooking life until I figured out a way that worked for me. I first tried chopping them super fast like the chefs on cooking shows. That was useless. Then I tried just tearing them by hand. Blah. And then I saw a pair of herb scissors on Amazon. This kind of worked but I would end up with a bunch of tiny herb pieces, some long pieces, and some that refused to remove themselves from the scissor blades.

So here is how I chop cilantro, but I use this method to also chop other leafy guys like basil and mint.

Do you have a different way of chopping that you prefer? If you tried any of these methods, how did it go? I'd love to know!

Ina's Panko Crusted Salmon

 
 
 

Did anyone else watch Barefoot Contessa in high school? I was really into cooking shows (and Laguna Beach) back then. Honestly, I rolled my eyes at a lot of cooking shows, mostly because I felt that the people were trying too hard to make their show more entertaining, turning it into a disingenuous smorgasbord of bad jokes and fried food. On the other hand, Ina Garten's show, Barefoot Contessa, somehow seems more genuine (maybe because of all the natural light in her kitchen?) But really, Ina just makes the entire process of cooking and baking seem clean, simple, and stress-free. And please, Ina’s cute banter about Jeffrey and how much he’s going to enjoy the garlic chicken and fancy brownies? That stuff made me gag back then, but now that I'm married I think it's pretty cute. I mean, just look at them!

Okay, enough Ina talk. I'm not a huge fish eater, but I think this recipe is undeniably delicious and is one of Kelvin’s favorites (see that Jeffrey-parallel there? I just can't stop.) And heck – this recipe has panko!!! Panko bread crumbs are high up on an unending list of Japan’s culinary gifts to the world. Here’s the brand I use. They’re not super fancy, but they’re yummy, affordable, and available at many Asian and grocery stores.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe. I’ve set the recipe to be for two people – you and your “Jeffrey.” 😉 If you’re making it for 4 or more, just double or triple the recipe to fit your needs.

Note: I took these photos during a really crazy week with bad lighting and just my iPhone 6, which is basically the equivalent of a flip phone now, so please forgive some the blurriness. 

Ina Garten's Panko Crusted Salmon
Makes 2 servings
One little warning: in addition to the ingredients below, you’ll need an ovenproof skillet.

Ingredients
Two fresh 6-oz. salmon fillets with skin on
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
1 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp sea salt (more or less, to taste)
½ tsp black pepper (more or less, to taste)
1 Tbsp mustard, divided (this amount is recommended for a mustard with a thinner consistency. The thicker the mustard, the more you’ll need.)
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil, divided (or other oil with a high smoke point, like avocado oil)
Lemon wedges for squirting later

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix the panko ingredients together in a small bowl: panko, cilantro, lemon zest, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon of oil. Gently mix until all ingredients are incorporated, and set aside.

Place the salmon fillets skin side down on a clean surface. Evenly coat the salmon with mustard with a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. The mustard will help the panko mix stick to the salmon.

Scoop the panko mixture evenly on top of the mustard-brushed salmon. It’ll be messy, but don’t be shy! Load the goodies on. I like to press the crumb mixture down with my hands a bit.

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Heat up the other tablespoon of oil on medium-high in a pan that can go from the stovetop into the oven, like a cast iron skillet or some other ovenproof skillet. Set the salmon skin side down into the pan. Once the fish is down, don't move it – let the heat and oil make the salmon skin crisp. Cook the salmon for about 2-3 minutes until the skin browns a bit. Mine looked like this:

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Transfer the pan into the oven (don’t forget your oven mitt!) Roast the salmon for about 4-5 minutes, until the salmon is cooked through and the panko is browned a bit.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil for 5-10 minutes. I’m not sure why this step is so crucial, but Ina says to do it, so we do it.

Serve the salmon soon after that. Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice if you’d like. We enjoy this dish with some starch like rice or roasted sweet potatoes and stir fry veggies. Yum!

 
 

Saturday Morning Acai Bowls

 
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Remember Saturday Morning cartoons and sugary cereal and milk? For me, that meant Doug and a bowl or five of Cocoa Puffs. Unfortunately, Cocoa Puffs isn't as filling nor delicious as my 8 year old self recalls and, to my knowledge, Doug is no longer airing, and oh yeah, I'm almost 30, so I've had to modernize and mature-ize my Saturday morning ritual. This ritual has transformed into episodes of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan (while fantasizing about what a great dog owner I'll be someday) and nutritious acai bowls. Yay, adult life!

Husband Kelvin and I have lived out this Saturday morning ritual for a couple of years now. My first encounter with acai bowls was digital, so I probably drooled on my laptop the first time I saw them. We were living in Minneapolis at the time, and I couldn't possibly imagine finding such exotic delights there (wrong), so when we planned a trip to Kelvin's home state of Hawaii, I saw it as my one chance to snag a bowl. Kelvin habitually stays inside while visiting Hawaii; that is, until he married someone who starts to panic when we spend more than 5 minutes inside a building in Hawaii, so he lovingly agreed to set aside his research for his dissertation to drive down to a nearby coffee shop, Island Vintage. We were both hooked at the first spoonful, even though we had to go outside to get them.

Since then, we've experimented with different acai bowl recipes, some turning out soupy and some being so thick that it made our blender smoke - please don't do that. Acai bowls are very versatile with endless options of ingredients for the acai base and toppings. This is my basic recipe with a balanced texture that's easy to blend but is still frozen enough that your toppings don't sink to the bottom of the bowl. This recipe has been adapted from Earthy Andy's.

p.s. I'd love to hear any variations you use or dream of using with your acai bowl!


Saturday Morning Acai Bowls

Makes 2 big bowls or 4 small bowls 

DIRECTIONS

Prepare your toppings
Wash the berries and lemon. Lightly toast the coconut and keep an eye on those suckers - they go from tan to burnt in seconds! Set the coconut aside once it's golden in color.

Blend
Add the acai base ingredients to your blender* in the order listed. I like to wait about about 3 minutes before blending to let the ingredients thaw. If your blender has a jabbing stick thingy, have that handy in case the ingredients get stuck. Begin blending on low, stopping as needed to stir or shake out any air bubbles. Keep blending on low to medium low until you have a smooth, creamy base.

Scoop
Using a spoon, scoop out the acai base into 2 bowls or 4, depending on how many you are serving (use bowls that will have enough space for your toppings). Smooth out the tops of the acai base with the back of a spoon.

Assemble
Arrange your toppings as fancy or messy as you'd like. I like to lay out the berries in rows and add the toasted coconut in the space that's left. Zest the lemon on top of the fruit. (In the photo, I'm foolishly zesting half a lemon 'cuz that's what we had at the time, but I definitely recommend zesting one half of a whole lemon.) Throw in your granola and drizzle honey on top.

Watch and Eat
Turn on TV if you wish, find Cesar Milan (or whatever Saturday morning show fits your jam), and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

Acai Base

1/4 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk or coconut water

1 banana

1 heaping cup or 155 grams frozen mango

4 acai packets - run under warm water and break them into 2-3 pieces before cutting them open

Toppings

2 handfuls blueberries

2 handfuls strawberries, sliced or chopped

2-3 Tbsp shredded coconut

1/2 cup granola - I generally opt for a more neutral flavor, or a berry or coconut flavored one

Half lemon for zesting

1 Tbsp honey for drizzling

*For the acai base, I highly recommend using a powerful blender, such as a Vitamix or Blendtec. If you have a smaller blender that can handle lots of frozen product with a little liquid, just blend in batches. If you're blender-less or don't have confidence in your blender, you could make it in a food processor, though it will probably turn out a little chunky.