Spam Musubi… the ultimate comfort food.

Spam is such an underrated meat.  It really deserves more attention than how much credit it’s given.  It’s such a versatile meat, just like it’s salty counterpart, bacon.  If I could, I would eat it all day long.  I love Spam.  And I’m not afraid to admit it either.  I love the combination of white rice and Spam.  Yum.  But my most favorite way to consume Spam is when it’s pan-fried in a teriyaki glaze, pressed against white rice, and wrapped tightly with nori.  Double yum.

When we were in Hawaii, we spent an entire day driving and exploring the Big Island.  And by exploring, I mean eating our way through the Big Island.  Forget the beaches, give me the food!  I was determined to find the best Spam Musubi on the drive.  After a few disappointments, we stumbled across a little store that had the BEST fruit smoothies and Spam Musubi.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you where it was because I didn’t even think to write down the name.  I was too busy gorging myself on the Spam Musubi and chasing it down with a fruit smoothie.

Spam Musubi

1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons mirin
1 can lite Spam, sliced into 8 equal pieces
2 cups white rice, cooked
3 sheets of nori, cut into thirds lengthwise
Furikake
Spam musubi mold

In a small glass bowl, combine the sugar, mirin, and soy sauce. Microwave the marinade for about 45 seconds. Whisk to dissolve sugar completely.

In a shallow square baking dish, lay the slices of the Spam at the bottom and cover completely with the marinade. Set aside to marinate for about 1 hour.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, and lay the slices of Spam to pan fry. After about two to three minutes or until the bottom has caramelized, flip onto the other side to finish cooking. Repeat until all slices of Spam have been cooked. Transfer cooked Spam onto a plate.

While you are cooking the Spam, in a small saucepan, cook to thicken the marinade as a dipping sauce. Once it has thickened, pour into a small bowl. Set aside until ready to serve.

On a clean cutting board, lay down one strip of the nori sheet. Lay the musubi mold on the middle of the nori sheet. Scoop a generous amount of the white rice into the mold. Press down hard on the rice with the handle of the mold. Remove the handle carefully, and gently lift the mold from the rice. Sprinkle with furikake, and lay a slice of the Spam on top. Wrap the nori tightly around the rice, and seal the edge with a little water.

Serve with dipping sauce and devour immediately.

Makes 8 Spam musubis.

Ecstasy Bars (aka, magic bars on crack or salted caramel magic bars)

It’s 3:00 a.m. and I’m exhausted.  The caffeine is starting to wear off.  Do you ever feel nauseous when you are lacking in the sleep department?  Well, I just reached that point.  One more hour and I will have been awake for 24 hours.  I worked 13 hours today.  Thirteen!  It wasn’t really by choice either.  It was mandatory over time.  You may (or may) not be wondering why I am still up at this ridiculous hour of the morning.

I’m still up because I’m forcing myself to stay awake so that I can sleep soon.  I am working the graveyard shift the next two nights.  And guess what?  I have NEVER worked a graveyard shift before.  So my brilliant plan is to stay up as late as I can so that I can sleep until about 4:00 p.m., have dinner, and head off to work for my 12 hour shift that starts at 7:00 p.m.  I have another brilliant plan to take pseudoephedrine (i.e., the derivative to methamphetamine) and coffee to keep me awake through the wee hours of the night while I work tomorrow and the day after.  In fact, that used to be a favorite cocktail combination of mine while I was in pharmacy school trying to stay up for midterms and finals.  However, do as I say and not as I do, in that I do not advise anyone to take this drug combination.  It can really get your heart racing and blood pressure rising, which can be a no-no especially for those with a pre-existing (or even unknown) heart condition.  Therefore, avoid this.   Actually, just pretend you didn’t even read the last half of this paragraph.  Anyhow, I digress, as usual.

I was so anxious about not being able to stay up tonight that I bought a new movie and a new Nintendo Wii game to keep myself entertained/awake until I can go to sleep.  Well, instead of watching TV or playing video games (which I had every intention of doing), I entertained myself by concocting yummy things in the kitchen.  I’m making my version of magic bars (aka, seven layer bars), except that my magic bars are on crack.  They have been finished with a generous drizzle of my salted caramel sauce.  So they’re not just any magic bars… they’re magic bars on crack.  Actually, they’re even better than that.  They are ecstasy bars.

And as I sit here while blogging this post and listening to the snores of my sleeping dog, my brain is slowly shutting down and my eyes barely open.  I think it may be bedtime soon…

Ecstasy Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup dark chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup salted caramel sauce

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into bottoms of muffin tin.  Layer evenly with sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips, followed by the shredded coconut.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from muffin tin.  Drizzle with salted caramel sauce.  Store covered at room temperature.

[If you don't want to go through the hassle of using a mini muffin pan, use a 13x9 inch baking pan.  Line the pan with foil, coat with nonstick spray, and layer as directed above.  Allow to cool, and then simply lift up the foil up and out to remove from baking pan.  You're left with perfect magic bars.  Cut into squares and devour.]

Makes 36 servings (small, as these are very rich)

Oven-Fried Truffle and Parmesan Potato Chips

Alright, so I have another new favorite obsession.  What’s new, right?  My obsessions don’t seem to last very long.  Out with the old, in with the new!  These truffle and parmesan potato chips are incredibly addicting.  And the smell of the truffle oil!  OMG, it’s intoxicating!  Our house was filled with the fragrant aroma of truffles!  These potato chips are hard to resist, so make a large batch!  Nosh on these bad boys by themselves, with a beer, alongside a sandwich or burger, or whatever you fancy.  Me?  Well, I like mine with a cold bottle of beer, but will eat them all sorts of ways.  I’m not picky :)

What’s your favorite way of devouring potato chips?

Oven-Fried Truffle and Parmesan Potato Chips (adapted slightly from The Family Kitchen)

3 medium to large baking potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
3-4 pinches of sea salt
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an 18×13 jelly roll pan, brush on two tablespoons of olive oil until fully coated. Place pan in the oven and heat for 10 minutes.

While the pan is heating in the oven, place the potato slices into a large mixing bowl, and toss with truffle oil and salt. Set aside.

Carefully line the potato slices on the hot baking sheet. Place pan into the hot oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes. Flip the potato chips with a pair of tongs and bake them for another 5 minutes. The chips will darken a little as they bake, but just don’t let them burn. If the potato chips still aren’t crispy, flip those potato chips over and bake for another few minutes. [Do not walk away from these chips, as they can easily go from almost crispy, to burnt.]

Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the chips to a payer of paper towels. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, and allow them to cool. The excess oil will be absorbed by the towels. The potato chips will also crisp up slightly as they cool.  Once cooled, store in an air tight container for a few days.

Are you sitting down for this??… Grilled barbecue potato “chips” with creamy chive dip!

Remember when I said my new favorite guilty pleasure was the grilled salt and vinegar potato chips?  Well, those were so last week.  Outta style, outta mind.  My newest favorite guilty pleasure is the grilled barbecue potato “chips” that I made tonight.  After we consumed a large bowl of the grilled salt and vinegar potato “chips” last week, my partner suggested doing a barbecue-flavored one.  It was a brilliant idea.  So here is my latest and greatest creation…

Warning: these are highly addictive!

Grilled barbecue potato “chips” with creamy chive dip

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 cups water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon bacon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring potatoes to a boil in a medium saucepan (water should cover potatoes; add more water if necessary). Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, and gently toss with oil.

Combine the greek yogurt, chives, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Dust with barbecue-flavored seasoning before serving, and toss to coat.

Serve grilled barbecue potato “chips” with the prepared creamy chive dip, or on its own.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potato “Chips”

This has to be my new guilty pleasure!  OMG, it’s such a burst of salt and vinegar flavor in my mouth.  I’ve always LOVED salt and vinegar potato chips, but I haven’t had a bag of chips in so long.  So when I came across this recipe, I just knew I had to make them soon.  Well, I’ve made these twice and with every bite I take, I mouth out how “these are the best things ever!”  Martha Stewart is a genius.

Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potato “Chips” (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bring potatoes and vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan (vinegar should cover potatoes; add more vinegar if necessary).  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes. Let potatoes cool in vinegar for 15 minutes (original recipe calls for 30 minutes, but we found it to be way too vinegary).  Drain well, and gently toss with oil, salt, and pepper.

Preheat grill to medium-high.  Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.  Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Baked Chicken Taquitos

My brother and I grew up in the back of the kitchen of our family restaurant.  No joke.  We had our own little study/play area.  It was pretty sweet, as I look back in retrospect.  [The play area, that is.  Not growing up in the back of the kitchen.] We had our own 13 inch TV with our old-school Nintendo unit hooked up to keep us entertained, out of trouble, and out of any danger from the kitchen chaos itself.  My parents had very little time to spend with us because they worked all day long.  Well, except for the fact that they still found ways to breathe down our necks to finish our daily homework assignments.  Ahh, Asian parenting.  So quality time was limited in our family.  As I was growing up, I longed for the “normal” family units that my friends had.  But my parents did their best to spend time with us.  My parents would take us to [insert fast food chain] after they closed up the restaurant for the night, order food, and we’d eat in front of the TV.  This was our way of spending quality family time.   So food, albeit it wasn’t always the healthiest, was our way to spend time together.

One fast food chain we used to frequent as a family was Jack In The Box.  Do you remember when Jack In The Box used to serve beef taquitos (and tacos)?  It was probably during the early 1990s when they rolled out with this menu item.  I can’t believe I’m going to say this, and am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I thought they were really, really tasty.  They were the perfect snacky, greasy, finger foods.  I’d ask for an order of taquitos (I think it was five taquitos to a box), and beg my parents to buy the guacamole and sour cream on the side for an additional charge.  I think Jack In The Box was my first introduction to guacamole and sour cream, and possibly even “Mexican” food.  Hysterical, yet pathetic, right?

I don’t know if they still sell them or not, but I do crave them from time-to-time, like I crave french fries from McDonald’s.  Mmmmmmm.  But I haven’t had fast food since 2006, and won’t start now.     So I’m always on the hunt for healthier alternatives…

Baked Chicken Taquitos (adapted from Our Best Bites)

1/3 cup Toffuti cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup salsa verde
1/2 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons green onion, chopped
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
10-12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Salt, to sprinkle
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, salsa verde, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, minced garlic, cilantro, green onion.  Stir to combine.  Add chicken and shredded cheese, and combine thoroughly.  Season with salt, if necessary.

Heat corn tortillas until soft and pliable, about 30 seconds, on a plate with damp paper towels inbetween and on top of the tortillas to “steam.”   Spoon about 3 to 3 tablespoons of the filling onto the lower third of each tortilla, and roll tightly.  Place taquitos, seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

Lightly spray the top of the taquitos with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden.  Serve with your favorite salsa, guacamole, and greek yogurt.  Yum!

Makes 10 to 12 taquitos.

There’s No High Fructose Corn Syrup Here!… Apricot-Mango-Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups.

I just watched Food, Inc. yesterday, and it’s making me look at food in a whole different way.  I think my jaw was on the ground from start to end of the documentary.  I was shocked and disgusted.  I’ve never really given much thought about how food is grown, how it’s processed, and where it comes from.  I just went to the grocery store and bought what I needed with my savings card to get the best bang for my buck.  Now I’m not feeling so guilty about the $100 I spent for some groceries the other day at one of the more eco-friendly, green markets.  The movie just reinforced the need to buy from local farmers, organic products, and from eco-friendly markets.  It’s also left me feeling the need to eat more veggies, and less meat.  Ugh.

Have you seen Food, Inc. yet?  If you have, did it change the way you buy food?

Apricot-Mango-Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups

4 apricots, diced
1 1/2 cups strawberries, diced
1 large mango, diced
2 tablespoons water
Agave Nectar

Preheat oven to 150 degrees F one hour before dehydrating the fruit roll-ups.

[Just as a side note, my oven did not have a setting for 150 degrees F. Instead, it has a "warm" setting, which I used, and worked out great. Also, as an FYI, you will be using this "dehydrating" setting for about 6 to 8 hours. It may be tempting to use a higher temperature to quicken the process, but you'll just bake the fruit roll-ups rather than dehydrate them. So patience is key with this recipe.]

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add water and diced fruit. Cook until the fruit breaks down so that it is soft and mushy. Allow the fruit mixture to thicken (the syrup should coat the back of the spoon and shouldn’t be runny or thin), almost like the consistency of a chunky applesauce. Adjust sweetness with agave nectar to your liking… I used about 1.5 tablespoons of agave nectar because the fruit was already really sweet.

Carefully pour the fruit “compote” into a food processor or blender, and puree the liquid until it is smooth in consistency.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease with non-flavored oil, such as corn or vegetable oil. Pour fruit mixture onto baking sheet and spread evenly across the baking sheet, about 1/4-inch thick.

Place baking sheet into oven and dehydrate for about 6 to 8 hours. The amount of dehydrating time varies depending on the thickness and the amount of sugar in the fruit mixture, so check every two hours until done. You don’t want crispy fruit roll-ups. When the fruit is dry and no longer sticky to touch, remove baking sheet from oven, and allow to cool at room temperature. If you find that the edges are a little crispy, just rehydrate by dabbing the edges with a wet paper towel.

When cool to handle, carefully peel the sheet of dehydrated fruit and lay it on a cutting board, and cut with a knife or pizza slicer into 2″ by 6″ strips, or whatever size you want. Cut wax paper or parchment paper just a little larger than the strips, and roll the strips of fruit into fruit roll-ups. Store in the pantry in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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