Sweet Potato Salad

It all started with some leftover boiled cubed sweet potatoes, a lack of other stuff to bring for a hike and a picnic, and morphed into a love of sweet potato salad.  The sweet density of sweet potatoes pairs very well with mayonnaise and the crunchy pungency of green onions.

My version is a cousin of classic American potato salad, but very simple.  It could be dressed up various ways.  It goes with almost anything and is even better the next day. This would actually be a great side dish at Thanksgiving and would go well with Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches.  The green onions make it a nice side for Japanese or Chinese inspired tofu/fish/chicken/etc.

Sweet Potato Salad


2 servings as a side

  • 1 large sweet potato or two small sweet potatoes (the more colors you use, the prettier…especially if you can find stokes purple sweet potatoes and mix them with orange sweet potatoes), peeled, cut into even cubes (about 1″) and boiled until soft
  • 1.5 tablespoons mayonnaise  (feel free to use vegan mayo!)
  • 2 green onions, chopped finely
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Drain sweet potatoes and let them dry.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit.  Add additional mayonnaise to your taste.  You could take this basic recipe in any direction.  Maybe try adding things like bacon bits or sesame seeds.  A few perfectly cooked green peas would make it even more colorful.  This recipe would easily scale up.

My Best Quick Homefries Yet

I am always working on figuring perfecting my recipe for homefries, because I love any potato breakfast item really.  On the weekends, I love cooking myself a nice hot breakfast since during the week I usually just eat yogurt or avocado toast.

Today I found one that is pretty quick and easy.  I like my homefries to have lots of seasoning, not just salt and pepper, so mine takes a semi-Mexican spin (though I’m not sure which country the adobo powder seasoning comes from).  (Sorry, no pictures today…I was too hungry.) Here’s a starting point recipe for for one for you (easy to scale up):


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup frozen roasted red potatoes (nice to have on hand for a variety of reasons)
  • 1/4 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons adobo seasoning (the powder type spice, like Goya brand or your local grocery store brand)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • pepper to taste

Defrost the potatoes in the microwave or as per your preferred method (you can slice the onions and peppers while they are defrosting).

Add plenty of oil to a non-stick or cast iron pan over medium high heat.  Add the onions and peppers and sautee until the onions begin to become translucent.

Add the potatoes and spices.  Add more spices if you feel you need– there should be a good colored coating of spicy oily goodness on the potatoes (but be careful with adobo seasoning, because it is salty).

Stir occasionally until there is at least a little bit of browning on the onions and/or potatoes. Serve warm.

Estimated time from start to finish: 7 minutes maximum using a microwave

A Day at 99 Ranch

99 Ranch is our local Asian mega grocery store.  It has food from all over Asia (though primarily China) and a bit from the rest of the world too.  My first experience with 99 Ranch was actually in San Diego with my friend Ava (also my first experience with sundubu as well), I believe.  I was hooked.

I grew up in rural California, which was not winning any records for cultural diversity.  My parents, however, did the best the could to expose me to the cuisines of the world in their limited capacity (considering neither of them had been out of the U.S. until a few years ago, to the best of my knowledge).  We had a few “oriental” markets owned by local Hmong families (so grateful for their businesses!), but what they carried was somewhat limited.  They were always so kind to my mom when she and I went in when I was young and she would buy a whole box of Mama Tom Yum Instant Ramen.  I remember, as a little kid, looking at things with awe and wondering what you did with them.  I guess my mom was lucky that I didn’t know as much as I do now, otherwise I might have done that annoying kid-demanding-parent-buy-desired-item thing!

For some perspective, one of the signature Humboldt places for a while was a lumberjack style eatery, The Samoa Cookhouse, where you could choose from various meats (some fried) with American sides.  We’re talking meat and potatoes, maybe some beans, maybe some coleslaw.  Exposure to authentic world cuisines was primarily limited to Mexican, Italian and some (largely Americanized) Japanese cuisine, though we did have one decent Thai place for a while.  We of course had access to plenty of Americanized Chinese cuisine (not terribly authentic), which lead to some shockers when I actually lived in China for two months. Things have a bit changed since then, as where I grew up now has Cambodian and Vietnamese establishments as well.  Restaurant diversity is still obviously well behind the Bay Area, especially with the economy being somewhat depressed up there due to what seems to be an exodus of jobs.  It is nice to see, however, that restaurants serving cuisines not previously seen there are actually succeeding, and in some cases, flourishing.

That gives you a bit of a picture, though, of where I was at mentally when I stepped into the San Diego 99 Ranch.  I was amazed.  The smell was off-putting.  Aisles and aisles of stuff I could never dream of having in rural California.  Whole new parts of my palette that I never knew existed.  99 Ranch was a gateway to a whole new world. To this day, though, I’m never sure if the correct way to refer to it is “99 Ranch” or “Ranch 99,” and I am not even sure where that somewhat bizarre name came from.

My relationship with 99 Ranch has changed a bit since I moved to the South Bay and my appreciation of various cuisines of the world has (hopefully) a bit more finesse.  However, it is definitely still a go-to, one-stop-shop to stock up on Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cooking stuff and to find some fun things to play with that I have never used before.  I don’t go there that often, because parking is usually a chore and it is often crowded, but I tend to make a big trip every 3 months or so for sauces and the like.  (I can get a lot of Chinese veggies at the farmer’s market for cheaper anyway.)

Today I went for a trip to pick up things for my mom.  Yes, my mom is hooked on 99 Ranch now too, so any time I go up to visit I call her up and ask her for her orders.  I feel like some sort of weird importer, because where I grew up still doesn’t have a lot of the things you can find at 99 Ranch. They have also moved to an even smaller town, so the local markets are not so easy to access, which is unfortunate. So ironically, I am importing to within California.

Now I am used to the smells (they smell homey), the crowdedness (just make your way through and try not to whack anyone), and the parking (go at an off hour if you can).  I happily snatched up a bag of mangosteens and some of that Mama Tom Yum Flavored Instant Ramen along with what my mom had requested (and some turnip cake for her too, even though she didn’t request it, because I know she likes it).

I still enjoy shopping at 99 Ranch or any Asian market (most in San Jose seem to cater to folks with a wide variety of backgrounds and culinary interests) and am always discovering new things.  I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like had I not been to 99 Ranch.  I wonder if I would be less culinarily adventurous…have less culinary perspective…have not gone to China?  Would I have been involved in a program focused on how to best serve children of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in speech therapy?  There is no way to know, obviously, but it is definitely funny to ponder how one grocery store could have had such a big impact on how I see the world.



Summer Sun Tea

It has been too hot to cook lately (300 square feet with no air conditioning is not terribly inspiring).  This means that although I was hoping to post more this summer, I haven’t had much to post lately.  I’ve been ill-advisedly eating out quite a bit (which I can’t really afford to do often on my teachers’ salary) as a result.  I also came down with a strange summer cold Monday which has been additionally dispiriting in terms of cooking.  Enough whining, though…I have to share a recipe with you that might sound strange but is actually delicious.


I got this nifty jar with chalkboard paint on it for my batches of sun tea.  I like to make sun tea in the summer because it is easy and refreshing.  We have a large (native? invasive?) fennel bush in our yard. I discovered that putting a few sprigs in my tea adds natural, no calorie (or minimal calorie) sweetness along with a slight anise/licorice flavor.

I’m usually fairly cautious when it comes to cooking and know sun tea has risks, but I still make it anyway.  The Snopes article linked offers some recommendations to reduce the risks.  You could probably just make this as regular tea with not-too-hot water and store that instead for a lower risk version.

Summer Sun Tea


  • 2 small lemons or limes, washed and cut in quarters
  • a few sprigs of fennel washed thoroughly
  • 3-4 tea bags of your choice (I used green here, but have done black and oolong would work nicely too)
  • 6 cups or so water

Add fennel & citrus to a large jar.  Place teabags in jar, draping the tags over the outside of the jar.  Fill with water.  For sun tea, allow to sit in the sun for a couple of hours and then refrigerate.  Drink within 2-4 days.

If you too have tons of fennel growing around where you live…try putting some in your tea!

Pasta and Radicchio with Citrus Pine Nut Sauce

This spring, I redid a portion of my garden to be more drought-tolerant with drought tolerant plants and veggies.  One thing I planted was an artichoke plant.  I harvested my first artichoke from the plant today. This one was cute and small. Darn aphids love artichokes, apparently, making them extra fun to clean too.

I was thinking about what to make to go with my teeny tiny artichoke, which I pan cooked with olive oil and smoked paprika.  I noticed I had a bag of pine nuts and figured I would run with it (perhaps inspired by my cousin, who apparently makes pesto that is primarily pine nuts).

I also had some key limes I picked down in Palm Springs and farmer’s market radicchio that I figured I should use up.  Usually, I am pretty good at imagining how things taste.  In this case, though, I couldn’t imagine how it would come out so I kind of winged it.  Surprisingly, it was actually tasty.  Quite the random meal.   The color of the radicchio with the creamy sauce was nice. I wouldn’t recommend this for people who can’t tolerate bitter flavors, though, because radicchio is by nature quite a bit bitter.


Pasta with Citrus Pine Nut Sauce and Radicchio 

Serves 1



  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/8 cup raw cashews
  • Juice of 5 key limes (or approximately one lemon or lime)
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Water as needed


  • 1 1/2 cups cooked orecchiette or other pasta (cooked just a bit firmer than al dente)
  • 6 leaves radicchio, chopped roughly
  • 1 tsp vegan butter (I use Earth Balance original)
  • Pepper to taste

Soak the pine nuts and cashews for about an hour in water.  Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, adding water as needed to make the sauce (not too much, though).

Sautee the roughly chopped radicchio in a pan with the vegan butter, adding more vegan butter if you need it.  Once it has wilted slightly, add the pasta and the sauce and stir, cooking on low for a minute or two.  Add pepper to taste.

Spicy Tuna Onigiri (and the easy way to form rice balls)

Today I had no idea what I wanted to eat for lunch.  Well, that’s a lie.  I knew exactly what I wanted (Japanese style Mapo Tofu made with the House brand mix), but I didn’t have the stuff for it.  I knew I had a lot of cans of tuna, too, but didn’t want tuna salad.  Solution?  Spicy Mayo Onigiri (rice balls).  Not the most authentic thing in the world, but tasty American-Japanese fusion.


I’m hooked on the onigiri you can get at Japanese grocery stores, but you can make decent ones at home too and fairly easily with a couple tricks and tips in the recipe below.   They are pretty cheap to make and are good for snacks, picnics, or lunches too.

The easy trick to making onigiri at home so you don’t curse loudly while having rice stuck all over your hands is to use saran or cling wrap.  I am fortunate to have been taught this trick by someone I once knew.  Don’t get disheartened if your first couple come out ugly.  You can eat those guys first.  You will get the hang of it!  Ganbatte!

You can fill them with anything you want, really, as long as it isn’t too liquid-y.  I also wouldn’t recommend too dry of filling either, otherwise you will be doing that thing dogs do when they eat peanut butter.  Other fillings I have made: ume plum, garlic/ginger/mashed Japanese pumpkin (kabocha), avocado, dashi/soy/mirin simmered shiitake mushrooms, you name it…  Other possibilities: California roll filling, fukujinzuke, kampyo, veggies/meat stewed in Japanese curry (without too much of the sauce), chicken salad, mapo tofu …who knows!

Spicy Tuna Onigiri

Makes 5 rice balls, approximately 220 calories per rice ball


  • 1/2 can tuna in water (I used Kirkland Albacore), liquid drained and tuna broken up into much smaller pieces
  • 3 cups plain cooked white rice (preferably short grain, maybe medium grain), cooled
  • 1 small green onion, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (or more or less, depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 5 pieces nori for onigiri (like pictured), or 2 pieces sushi nori cut into 3 long strips
  • Saran or other cling wrap (don’t worry, you’re not going to eat this…but I just don’t want you to forget, because you’ll definitely need it to make the rice balls.)


Make sure you have the rice cooked and cooled!  You don’t want to scald your hands.  I’m impatient, so sometimes after it finishes cooking, I spread it on a plate and put it in the freezer to cool. >_> (…but don’t forget about it!)

01-IMG_1781Mix tuna, green onion, mayo, sriracha, and sesame seeds in a bowl.  You don’t want any big chunks of tuna.


Lay out a square of saran wrap about the size of a piece of paper (at least 10″x10″) on your cutting board, plop a little less than 1/5th of the rice on it.

03-IMG_1785Smoosh the rice down until it comes pretty compact.  You don’t have to obliterate it, but there shouldn’t be any big air holes. You basically are making a rice patty that is flat, round and a bit bigger than the palm of your hand (or maybe the same size for you, I have tiny, chubby hands).

04-IMG_1786Unfold the saran wrap from the top of the patty.  Make an indentation in the middle of the rice patty (you can use the saran wrap that is hanging off the side) and kind of form it up with the curve of your hand so it becomes like…hm, I guess kind of like a contact lens? A well for mashed potatoes?  Use whichever analogy makes your rice look like the picture.

05-IMG_1787Plop a blob of the tuna mixture in the middle. You don’t want too much, otherwise your rice ball will get really messy and not hold together.  A heaping teaspoon or a level tablespoon max, probably.

06-IMG_1788Put a little more rice on top of the tuna mixture (this trick helps me get more filling into my rice balls :D ).

07-IMG_1789Fold the saran wrap up around the top, forming the rice into a ball shape and covering the tuna mixture in the middle.  You want to make it into a ball first, and you should hopefully not be able to see any of the tuna.

08-IMG_1790Now you can form it into whatever shape you want.  Do so carefully, though, because you don’t want to smoosh out the tuna!  Don’t let it escape!  I  went for triangles today.

09-IMG_1791Wrap the nori around the bottom of your rice ball, kind of like a taco shell.

10-IMG_1792If you end up with a rice ball with a hole or crack like this, pre-nori-ing stage, you have two options: A) either try to patch up the hole, or B) just put that side down and hide it with the nori.  :)

Repeat until you have 5 rice balls:

1-IMG_1795You can eat the ugly ones first.  If you want to store them, I’d actually recommend storing them without the nori  (wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat).  You can then add the nori on right before you eat it, so you get the best crispy crunch of nori with your rice ball.  Two of them makes a good lunch for me.


Just threw a quite nice 4th of July potluck yesterday.  My friends bring such wonderful things, including patriotic fruit, vegan pavlovas, homemade pies and salads, rice balls….yum! Thank you, friends!  I’m very lucky with where I live for fourth of July, because just down the street is a great view of the professional fireworks.  We also get the neighborhood show (which also has professional grade explosives) which goes on until about midnight.


For my drink offering, I decided watermelon was the way to go.  I wanted to experiment with using the watermelon shell itself as a punch bowl.  It was a tiny bit challenging but not too bad.  My friends dubbed it the “Wineymelon.”  The recipe is below in case you want to try making it.  It is quite a refreshing summer drink.



1 large seedless watermelon

2 bags frozen strawberries

2 bottles white or rose wine (or equivalent magnum if you want)

Juice of 6 limes

Find which way the watermelon naturally rests on its side (the long way, as in the picture).  Cut off the top and scoop all the insides out.  Scoop the insides off the top too, because you can use this as a lid to keep fruit flies out of the drink later.

Freeze the melon guts that you scooped out in ziplocs or tupperware.  This will take at least 4 hours.

Refrigerate or keep the melon shell in a cooler while the melon freezes.

Once the melon has frozen, combine the melon, strawberries, lime juice, and wine in the blender.  Blend until smooth.  Fill the melon shell with the blended liquid.  My melon fit two blender pitchers full, so I filled it up and then was able to make more to refill it later in the party.  My melon produced about four blender pitchers worth (two fillings of the melon).

Theoretically, you could increase or decrease the alcohol content as you see fit.  For a non-alcoholic version, just use water instead of wine.

Fancy Saturday Night Dinner Tradition

I have a semi-tradition nowadays that many of my friends know about: fancy Saturday night dinners.  I know in old-school traditions, Sunday used to be the fancy dinner.  In my life, however, I tend to be most rested on Saturday and have the time to cook something fancy.  Usually when I cook something during the school year, I cook a big batch on Sunday and portion it out into containers to freeze for meals during the week.  Saturday affords me the opportunity to cook something completely fresh that is not just an entree, but also sides!  Just for myself!  So fancy!



Tonight’s fancy Saturday night dinner (vegan edition) includes rainbow salad with vegan caesar dressing (excellent dressing from Oh She Glows), Jamaican Jerk Tofu (from Delicious Jamaica!, but substituted brown sugar for honey and added some lime juice to the marinade), and orange and purple sweet potatoes.

If you haven’t tried the Stokes purple sweet potatoes before, they are pretty fun.  When you cook them, they retain their brilliant purple color…especially if mashed.  They have a limited season it seems, so they are not always in the grocery stores.  If you see them, nab them!  They’re a little drier than the orange sweet potatoes, but otherwise the flavor is similar to the white fleshed Japanese-type sweet potato.

In terms of other ingredients, I really like the “Baby Kale” mix from Fresh Express.  It doesn’t have as intense of a favor as kale normally does and actually lasts longer than lettuce salad mix.  It also is good both raw and cooked.   If you see it, I recommend giving it a shot.  Our local Safeway carries it.

So far my vegan cooking adventures have lasted longer than expected.  Two weeks with only 3 meal transgressions. :)  Ironically, the day after I ate something not vegan, my face broke out…oof. It certainly made me eat a lot more vegetables today!

A Fresh, Crunchy Start

I’ve neglected this blog for a while, eh?  Well, turns out being a speech language pathologist in the public school system who cares a lot about their students means working 9-11 hour days with what is maybe barely a middle class salary for the area I live in (at least in the first year).

I love my job, but I do come home exhausted (most of the time feeling like I was productive and proud of my students for making progress, sometimes in a very stressed way).  I haven’t had the time, energy, or mental capacity to do much and admittedly have not been doing the best job of self-care.  Lucky you all, this will probably be a Speech Teach Eats blog now.  Maybe you’ll get a few new recipes out of it, too.

Anyway, news flash: Holy guacamole, it’s summer now!  Aww yeah!  The season of veggies, stone fruits, no work, and outdoor activities.  Also, lots of cooking and frequent exercising are in order.  And heck…maybe even updating this blog that I pay to keep?


As part of the summertime, learning how to take better care of myself thing, I’m doing a diet challenge of seeing how long I can eat (mostly) vegan.  I know some people are very hardcore about veganism or vegetarianism, but I personally have always just felt that trying to do something is better than nothing.  I also love a good cooking challenge!  I cant promise anyone that I will stay vegan, and nor should I have to.  It’s my life.  If folks have the emotional capacity to judge me, I’m glad they have the space in their life to do so.  I will, however, continue living my life making the choices I make with my own head that sits mostly-squarely atop my shoulders.

Here are some of the things I have cooked recently:


From top left, clockwise: vegan sushi, blueberries with cashew cream, orecchiette with mushrooms and seared asparagus, vegan swedish meatballs, and channa masala with vegan raita.

I have also been able to play around with plating and table setting because I managed somehow, through apartment-tetris-magic to fit a table in my 300 square foot studio.

Please root for me to hope that I can continue changing my lifestyle habits.  I’m hoping when it comes time to go back to work in August, I will be in better shape with more energy so it’ll be easier to get to the gym after work.  I am also hoping I can magically have something click in my head about how this is a healthy way to relieve stress at some point.  We’ll see.

Recipe Review: Hearts of Palm “Crab” Cakes

I got some hearts of palm on sale in the clearance section at the local grocery store a couple of weeks ago. I was excited because I like hearts of palm quite a bit. However, my usual method of enjoying them (extremely unhealthy: dipping them in melted butter with salt and pepper…) was not going to cut it. So I searched the internets and came across some recipes for vegetarian crab cakes made with hearts of palm. Ultimately I went with this Youtube recipe by “Nutrition Nick” because I liked his no-nonsense style and he made it look easy.

This recipe is pretty simple. My version was not vegan (I used butter and regular mayo) and I added a bit of crushed nori seaweed to give it more of a seafood taste. Overall, it was pretty easy. The main problem was that one of them kind of fell apart in the pan. I think you just have to pack the patties tighter than I did for that one.


Tonight I served it with zucchini noodles (made using my new julienne vegetable peeler, which is pretty fabulous) and arugula with Larrupin dill sauce. Now I have leftovers so I might make some crab cake sandwiches or salads this week.

Verdict: tasty use of hearts of palm.  These would be a great brunch recipe.  May hold together better if you add a little egg and I might try adding some shallots next time for more flavor.