COVID 19 Cookbooks

Last two and half weeks have been life changing. I haven’t had to cook at home for more than 2 consecutive meals since I started working in the restaurant industry. I dug out some of my favorite cookbooks and adopted couple news ones. I look for cookbooks that could help me formulate simple meal plans, ranging from making a broth for noodles, to baking a cake for myself and friends. I rarely follow a recipe verbatim, except in baking, yet these cookbooks give me ideas for using simple and common ingredients. I only hope to create contents that could be just as resourceful and helpful as these cookbooks. Please enjoy my selections:

  • Ratio, by Michael Ruhlman
    This is not a traditional cookbook, but a great reference to basics in cooking and baking. The title of the book says it all…cooking and baking is all about combining the right ratios of ingredients in order to make a dish shine. Not only does the book teaches textbook ratios, but it also goes in depth about choosing the right technique for recipes. One of the most fascinating lessons I learned is by using different mixing methods, my baked goods could end up tasting very differently in texture when given the same ratio of ingredients.

  • River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
    River Cafe Cookbook is one of my favorite cookbooks because its recipes are so simple and easy to execute as a home cook. River Cafe is a well known English-Italian Restaurant in London. The River Cafe’s food is seasonal driven. The chefs cook with local farm produce, meat, and dairy while paying homage to rustic Italian dining. My favorite section in the book is on cooking poultry. While making a Sunday Roast (chicken) is a British tradition, some recipes use popular Italian ingredients such as sage, prosciutto, lemons, or parsley to elevate the simple dish.

  • Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang
    I love Momofuku’s cookbook because of its eccentric recipes of combining Asian flavors with American Ingredients and Western Cuisine. The book is divided into three sections based on the first three Momofuku restaurants in New York, Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, and Ko. I must have read David Chang’s ramen recipes a dozen times, and the recipe never fails to inspire me to add depth and flavors (not more ingredients…big difference). Also, though some ingredients are unobtainable in retail, such as foie gras, most of the recipes are simple and serve as guidelines to cook simple food.

  • A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield
    I have read this cookbook front and back few times. Chef April’s recipes are thorough, yet easy to execute. Although the title of the book might suggest a heavy collection of meat recipes, a good portion of the cookbook dedicates to making salads and roasted vegetables. My favorite recipe in the book is Caesar Salad. Her flavors are bold and portions are generous; a hearty bowl of Caesar Salad might just be the perfect dinner choice when I don’t have the patience to cook.

  • The Art of Simple Food by Alice Water
    This is one of the first cookbooks I own. I’d highly suggest this book to all levels of cooks. Most of the recipes have only 3 to 5 ingredients, excluding the seasonings. Alice Water is known as a pioneer in promoting Californian Cuisine, which focuses on sourcing and cooking local ingredients. Her cookbook covers a broad range of repertoire, which is helpful to anyone who is either looking to begin or advance his or her household culinary skillset.

  • The Whole Beast, Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson
    Another great cookbook written by a British chef. As the book title suggests, Chef Fergus Henderson is an advocate in using and eating every part of animals. Nose-to-tail eating is also a lesson on managing food waste. When our budgets are slim and costs are high, we could be creative in utilizing all part of ingredients in our meal. One of my favorite recipes in the book is “Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad”. I will not be able to get my hands on bone marrow in retail, but the essence of the dish is animal fats mixed in with herbs and pickles…kind of like eating a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickles.

  • All the Presidents’ Pastries, by Roland Mesnier
    Last but not least, this is a memoir written by Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier, who served under 5 U.S. Presidents, from Jimmy Cater to George W. Bush at the White House. At the end of the book, Roland gave out 12 recipes that were favored by the Presidents. During his time as the Pastry Chef of the White House, Chef Roland often made elegant desserts for banquets and receptions. Nonetheless, the recipes at the end of the book are for “home cooking”; these were desserts served to the First Families on daily basis. Did you know Bill Clinton is allergic to chocolate?

Enjoy my selections! Let me know if you have any great suggestions on cookbooks!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

(Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins w/ Lemon Glaze, by Reggie Soang)

Though I am a savory cook, baking is a simple pleasure that I truly enjoy. Now would be a good time to dust off the muffin tins and bake some goods!

For the latest COVID – 19 Home Cooking Series, I present you:

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Serves: 2 adults and 2 children

8 oz. AP Flour (Cake Flour works just well)
5 oz. Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoon Baking Powder
120g Greek Yogurt
60g Milk
2 Eggs
4 oz. (1 stick) Butter, softened
1 Lemon zest & juiced

For Glaze:
1 and 1/2 cup Confectioners Sugar
1 lemon zest
30g lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  1. Combine all dried ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder) and sift. Add poppy seeds and lemon zest to dry ingredients and mix to combine
  2. Use a stand mixer or an electric mixer to cream butter with sugar until pale and fluffy
  3. Add eggs one at a time to combine, and then add yogurt
  4. Add your dry ingredients to butter in 3 batches, mix on slow setting. Once the dry ingredients are mixed in, add milk and lemon juice
  5. Using a piping bag, if you have one, or a spoon, fill muffin tins to the lip and bake in 425F oven for 5 minutes, and then turn down to 350F to bake for 17 minutes
  6. Meanwhile, make your glaze by combining confectioners sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice with a whisk
  7. Check your muffins by inserting a skewer or small knife into middle. The skewer should come out nice and clean. Let the muffins cool down to room temp before glazing them.
  8. To glaze muffins, using a piping bag to drizzle the glaze criss cross the muffin tops. Alternatively, use a spoon and drizzle the glaze as you would with a salad dressing. Bon Appétit!

*This recipe is the updated version.

Ramen…NYC’s favorite

(Ramen, Broccoli Rabe, Chickpeas, Chicken, and Poached Egg, by Reggie Soang)

Ramen is one of the most popular dishes in NYC. I love ramen because it gives me the flexibility to cook and add anything I want. My recipe is only a guidance to a dish that bridges different cultures and heritage. You could use either fresh or instant ramen. I chose to use instant ramen because of its availability and the fond memories of my childhood when I first learned how to boil water.

For the latest COVID – 19 Home Cooking Series, I present you:

Ramen, Broccoli Rabe, Chickpeas, and Poached Egg
Serves: 2 adults & 2 children

For the Broth:
1 Onion, peeled and cut in half
2 heads Garlic, split in half horizontally
4 scallions, split into green and white parts
1 teaspoon White Peppercorn
1 teaspoon Szechuan Peppercorn
1 and 1/2 qt. water, plus 1 cup for later
3 cups of chicken stock

For Seasoning the Broth:
1 & half Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 & half teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoon White Wine
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon MSG

For Scallion Oil:
10 pieces Scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup Canola Oil
1 teaspoon MSG
2 Tablespoon White Soy Sauce (or regular soy sauce)

To Serve with:
Ramen, I use instant noodles
Cucumbers, thinly sliced
Marinated Chicken (optional)
Broccoli Rabe
Poached Egg
Chickpeas, drained
Habanero Chilies (optional)

  1. To make the broth, ingredients facing down, char onions, garlic, and white part of the scallions until blackened in a cast iron. You could also use a broiler if you don’t own a cast iron
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to a pot and add water. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes
  3. Strain the stock after 45 minutes and you’d end up with about 3 cups. Add the same amount of chicken stock and 1 cup of water. 
  4. To make aromatic scallion oil, thinly slice scallions and bring up the oil to 350F. If you don’t have a thermometer, put a piece of bread in the oil and wait until it turns golden brown. Pour hot oil over your scallions and cover for 3 minutes.
  5. Season you hot scallion oil with soy sauce and MSG right away.
  6. Season your stock according to the recipe, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  7. To blanch broccoli rabe, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook your broccoli rabe for 3 seconds. Dunk broccoli rabe into cold water immediately to stop cooking process
  8. To poach eggs in their shells, bring 1000 ml (1000g) of water to a boil, turn off the heat and add 200 ml (200g) of cold water. Add 4 eggs (it has to be 4 eggs to have the right temperature inside of the pot to cook your eggs…more ramen this week!)
  9. Put a lid on and set a timer for 17 minutes. After timer goes off, let eggs sit outside of the pot for 5 minutes before using
  10. To marinate chicken, I saved the chicken used for my stock and marinated it with scallion oil
  11. To serve: cook your ramen according to the package’s instructions. Ladle broth into your bowl and add your noodles. Start garnishing your ramen bowl with broccoli rabe, chickpeas, marinated chicken, and cucumbers. Finally, crack open a poached egg. Spoon scallion oil over the garnishes and sprinkle chilies around for added heat. Bon Appétit!

Bubble and Squeak

(Bubble and Squeak, with Fried Egg and Spicy Tomato Sauce, by Reggie Soang)

One of the best ways to use up your root vegetables and leftovers is to make Bubble and Squeak; mash everything together and fry it gently until nice and golden brown. What is a “Bubble and Squeak”?…you’ll have to try it, because it comes from the sound of bubbling, squeaking, and sizzling of your food! A wonderful way to fill up your apartment with the smell of love and joy!

For the latest COVID – 19 Home Cooking Series, I present you:

Bubble and Squeak, with Fried Egg and Spicy Tomato Sauce
Serves: 2 adults and 2 children

640g Potatoes, roughly mashed
2 cup Sautéed Onions
1 cup Kale, cooked and chopped
1 cup Broccoli Rabe, cooked and chopped
2 Tablespoon Grain Mustard
4 Tablespoon EVOO, plus more for frying egg
2 t Salt
1 Egg
Spicy Tomato Sauce, as much as you like

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F
  2. Mash up the potatoes roughly with a fork and mix with the rest of the ingredients
  3. Form patties with the potato mixture to about 1/2 inch thick
  4. Heat up oil in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat until shimmering. Place potato patties into skillet and fry them until golden brown. Flip the patties and put the skillet into the oven for 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Once the second side is golden brown, your patties should also be nice and warm on the inside. Take the patties out and drain them on paper towels. The patties will be fragile, so don’t worry if they fall apart.
  6. Wipe off the oil in skillet and put it back on medium high heat. Heat up 2 tablespoons of EVOO until it shimmers. Crack your egg and let it fry and sizzle, season with salt and pepper. Right before the egg is done, put in a little knob of butter and baste the egg white to finish. This is your sunny side up egg. If you want over-and-easy, base the surface of the yolk couple times with your hot butter, a nice trick to cook the egg without having to flip it.
  7. Serve your Bubble and Squeak with the fried egg on top, and place a dollop of spicy tomato sauce on the side. Bon Appétit!

Crispy Potato Pancake

(Crispy Potato Pancake, Poached Egg, Spicy Tomato Sauce, Arugula, by Reggie Soang)

Really wanted a crispy potato dish for my brunch…turning to one of my favorite potato recipes!

For the latest VOCID 19 Home Cooking Series, I present you: 

Crispy Potato Pancake with Poached Egg, and Spicy Tomato Sauce
Serves: 2 adult and 2 kids


For Potato Pancake:
1 & 1/2 pound Potatoes, cut into strips
150g (about 1 and 1/2 stick) Butter
6g Salt

For Lemon Vinaigrette:
2 lemons
Salt, to taste

To Serve with:
1 Poached Egg
Handful of Arugula, dressed in lemon vinaigrette
3 Spoonfuls of Spicy Tomato Sauce

  1. Peel potatoes and thinly slice them into coins, 1/16-inch thick, on a Japanese mandolin.
  2. Stack up the potato slices and cut them into thin strips
  3. Rinse potato strips under cold water for 5 seconds to get rid of excess starch and prevent from turning color. Dry potatoes with paper towel. At the meantime, melt butter.
  4. Put potatoes in a mixing bowl and add melted butter and salt. Mix to combine.
    Pre-heat your oven to 400F (375F if you have a convection setting). Heat up a non-stick skillet on high heat. When the skillet is hot, add your potatoes, and they should start to sizzle.
  5. Use a spatula to press potatoes down and flat. Once you see the potatoes are frying on the edge and getting a little crispy, you could put the skillet into the oven.
  6. After 25 minutes, the pancake should be golden brown underneath. Flip the pancake onto a lid and slide it back into the skillet with the other side facing down.
  7. Fry your pancake on the stove top for couple minutes on medium high heat. Put the skillet back in the oven for another 10 minutes to finish the second side.
  8. Flip the pancake onto a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing into wedges.
  9. To serve, place a wedge of potato pancake on one side of a plate. Place arugula, dressed in lemon vinaigrette, off to the side with a poached egg resting in between the salad and pancake. Add a dollop of spicy tomato sauce and serve. Bon Appétit!

Feeling Classy – Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Chocolate Chip Cookies, by Reggie Soang)

To set up for a productive weekend, I made cookies. And so should you!

For the latest COVID – 19 Home Cooking Series, I present you:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Serves: Quite a bit of people

300g ( 2 & 1/4 cup ) AP Flour
5g (1 teaspoon ) Baking Soda
2g ( 1/2 teaspoon ) Salt
175g ( 3/4 cup ) Sugar
160g ( 3/4 cup ) Brown Sugar
2 (1 cup) Sticks Butter
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
12 oz. ( 2 cup ) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

  1. Bring your butter out of the fridge for 1 hour to temper
  2. Combine dry goods and set aside
  3. Using a stand mixer or an electric mixer, cream butter with sugars
  4. Mix in egg and vanilla Extract
  5. Add your dry goods to butter mixture in 3 stages. Mix in dry goods on low speed
  6. Add in your chocolate chips and mix to combine
  7. To portion your cookie dough, cut out few pieces of parchment paper, roughly 12-in by 17-in each. For each piece of paper, put some cookie dough at the bottom half of the paper in length. Slowly roll up your cookie dough in parchment paper to make 1 and ½ -inch logs. Chill the cookie dough logs for at least 1 hour before baking
  8. Pre-heat your oven to 375F
  9. Take out your cookie dough and cut them into pucks (about ½ -inch thick), weighing about 1.2 to 1.3 oz. each.
  10. Lay your individual cookie dough 2 inches apart on a sheet tray lined with a piece of parchment paper, and bake for 13 minutes.
  11. Let cookies rest on a rack for 5 minutes. Bon Appétit!

White Bean Soup with Kale and Poached Egg

(White Bean Soup with Kale and Poached Egg, by Reggie Soang)

Whites beans and kale are great combo when you need to make something healthy, hearty, and easy. Do soak the beans overnight if you are using dried ones, or you’d be spending all day looking over your pot and waiting impatiently for them to get cooked. I love poached eggs over a stew or soup…velvety yolk comforts me, and it’s also very sexy to look at. Go on and try this recipe!

For the latest COVID – 19 Home Cooking Series, I present you:

White Bean Soup with Kale and Poached Egg
Serves: 2 adults and 2 kids

1 pound Dried White Beans
1 tsp Black Peppercorn, whole
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp EVOO
3 pieces Bay Leaves
1 piece Yellow Onion, medium dice
15 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoon Za’atar Spice
2 teaspoon Black Pepper, ground
1 Tablespoon Dried Chili Flakes
1/2 Cup Tomato Sauce
1/3 Cup Coconut Milk
Salt to Taste
1 Tablespoon fresh chili, sliced thin

  1. Soak beans overnight. Cover dried beans with four times amount of water to beans in ratio (eg. 4 cups of water to 1 cup of dried beans)
  2. Drain beans the next day, cover the beans with water to 2-inch above the surface, add bay leaves, whole black peppercorn, 2 tablespoon EVOO, and a pinch of salt.
  3. Bring water to a boil and turn down to simmer. The beans will take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Beans should be nice and soft. Reserve liquid
  4. In a separate pot, heat up the rest of the EVOO. Once oil shimmers, add onions, garlic, and kale to sauté, season with salt.
  5. Once the veggies are soft and fragrant, add your spices and dried chilies. Toast spices and chilies until fragrant, and then add tomato sauce to deglaze
  6. Add reserved bean cooking liquid and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and season to taste.
  7. Poach an egg, and toast 2 pieces of bread. Smear toasts with kale pesto. Place your poached egg in the middle and garnish with fresh chilies and drizzles of EVOO. Bon Appétit!

Cacio e Pepe with Gnocchi

(Caci e Pepi with Gnocchi, by Reggie Soang)

Potatoes and flour are probably the cheapest and best ingredients to buy and store (though don’t let your potatoes sprout!). Making gnocchi is one of the few ways to combine those two humble ingredients and make something delicious and crowd pleasing. I learned this recipe at my first job as a line cook in a wine bar. This recipe is a true grandma-recipe, which could change depending on the feel of the gnocchi dough. One could taste the love of this gnocchi dish when the cook pays attention to the details.

For the latest COVID 19 Home Cooking Series, I present you:

Cacio e Pepi a la Gnocchi
Serves: you,  your partner, and your children

300g Potatoes, cooked and passed through a food mill
70g AP Flour
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 teaspoon Black Pepper, ground
Kale Pesto…yes! the same one we made last weekend, still good!

  1. Roast you potatoes in 375F oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test out doneness by inserting a small knife, and it should go through the potatoes without any resistance
  2. Scoop out your potatoes and pass them through a ricer or food mill
  3. Spread out your mashed potatoes on the counter and chill them quickly by fanning and cutting the potatoes with a dough or bench scraper
  4. Sprinkle flour over potatoes. Use your bench scraper to cut the flour into potatoes. Trust me…it works! Do this in 3 stages.
  5. Once potatoes can form a dough without sticking to your fingers, then the dough is ready to be worked into a log and portioned into 3 pieces.
  6. Roll each dough to strips 1/2-in thick, and cut the strips to 1-inch pieces.
  7. Boil a pot of water, set up your butter sauce, and cook your gnocchi in boiling water until they float to the top.
  8. Add your gnocchi to butter sauce and toss. Add a big pinch of black pepper and toss. When gnocchi are coated with butter sauce, slide them into your bowl.
  9. Garnish with kale pesto and grated parm. Bon Appetit!

Tracking Personal Finance

Since pandemic COVID 19 has turned this world upside down, not only are we vulnerable to the virus, but we have also become vulnerable to our well being in the immediate future. People have lost jobs or have been reduced to lesser roles with lesser pay. With my future being uncertain, I immediately set up a system to track expenses and create a budget for the next 3 to 5 months.

*All numbers below are fictional

To track my daily expenses, I created these columns: Month, Date, Expense, Item, and Category. My spending is to be recorded everyday, and I could use this data to generate a summary on purchases, which is followed in the next step.

I record my daily spendings in this table. I could use this information to generate a summary.

Excel has a “Pivot Table Analysis” function that helps you summarize a large quantity of data. I found a very useful website to help me build a Pivot Table, which extracts my expenses from daily input and show me where I spend most of my money.

This is a game changer! Pivot Table Function gathers all my daily purchases and categorizes my spendings. In my fictional data, I’ve spent most of my money on Amazon, which is sort true.

Last, but not least, a Cash Budget spreadsheet allows me to see where I’d stand financially in the next few months. If you study my fictional cash budget closely, you’d see that I strive for consistent spending every month. At the end of every month, the “Excess Cash” will go to “Estimated Cash” at the beginning of every month, and be added with salary to help me budget for the month. With formulas built in, I could simply type in any number to predict my future in various scenarios. (And of course…I could quickly see the worst in matter of a second)

This is my Budget Sheet – with this, I could predict “okay”, “not bad”, “almost bad”, “ohhh shit” scenarios…kind of cool!

Creating a solid financial tracking system helps me stay calm. I have learned over the years that anxiety is built on my loss of control in any dire situation. I have also tried to only control what I can control, and adapt quickly to reality. My personal struggles have always been about managing expectations and being present. With COVID 19 lingering on my front lawn, I need to be present and focus on living purposefully.

Chicken ‘n Dumplings

(Chicken ‘n Dumplings, by Reggie Soang)

One of my go-to dishes to make for staff meal when I worked in WD~50 was Chicken ‘n Dumplings. It’s one of the best comfort foods to serve in fall and winter. The dumpling recipe was given to me by my Chef, Sam Henderson. I’d thought it’d be the perfect dish to make since my smart phone is telling me rainy days ahead. Soup it is!

For the latest COVID – 19 Home Cooking Series, I present you:

Chicken ‘n Dumplings
Serves: Multiple Meals or a Family with 5 Kids

For the soup:
1 & 1/2 Medium Size Yellow Onion, medium dice
2 Medium Size Carrots, sliced into moon shape
16 cloves Fresh Garlic, sliced
1/2 piece Cabbage, medium dice
3 pieces Habanero Pepper, (or any fresh chili) roughly chopped
1/2 Cup Oil
5 pieces Star Anise (optional)
6 pieces Bay Leaves
1 small bunch Fresh Oregano
1 Tablespoon Szechuan Peppercorn (optional)
1 Tablespoon White Peppercorn (optional)
1 Tablespoon Black Peppercorn (optional)
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder (optional)
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder (optional)
1 Tablespoon Madras Curry Powder (optional)
1 Tablespoon Turmeric Powder (optional)
5 pieces Dried Chili (optional)
2 Chicken Drumsticks
2 Chicken Thighs
Extra Chicken Bones if You Have Them Around
12 oz. Hominy, canned (optional), drained and rinsed
3 pieces secret chicken bouillon cubes, from Knorr (optional…but buy some!)*
Water…just to cover everything
1/4 Cup Parsley, chopped

For dumpling:
240g (just under 2 Cups) AP Flour
1/2 Tablespoon Black Pepper, ground
3 Tablespoon Shortening (butter or animal fats work just as well)
2.5g (pinch) Salt
3/4 Cup Water

  1. Cut your vegetables to bite size, and gently saute them on medium heat in a pot with oil
  2. Once your veggies are fragrant and soft, add the following spices: Star Anise, Szechuan peppercorn, White Peppercorn, Black Peppercorn, Curry Powder, Turmeric, and Dried Chili, Toast until fragrant
  3. Add onion powder, garlic powder, fresh oregano and. Further toasting the spices and herbs until bottom has a thin layer of brown bits. Now quickly add your chicken and water to deglaze.
  4. Add enough water just to cover the entire pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook the soup for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours.
  5. Add the secret bouillon cubes…taste for seasoning. (you will need to add salt if you don’t use bouillon cubes)
  6. To make Dumplings, rub fats into flour until it feels a little moist in a mixing bowl.
  7. Make a well in the mixing bowl and add water. Use two fingers to bring flour together to form a dough. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Cover, and let rest in the fridge until your chicken soup is ready.
  8. To cook the dumplings, bring a pot of water to boil. Rip off a piece of dough and stretch it thin before it breaks, and then drop it into boiling water. When the dough floats to the top, let it boil for another 2 minutes. Transfer dumpling to a cold water bath to stop cooking or you could add it right into the soup. Do the same procedure for the entire dough (You may also drop your dumplings right into the chicken soup to cook)
  9. Mix your dumplings and soup, bring them back to a boil, add chopped parsley. Serve hot.
  10. Bon Appetit

*I love Knorr Chicken Bouillon cubes. I don’t always have chicken in my fridge to make chicken soup or stock. I’d also bulk up the flavor of any soup that I make with Knorr’s bouillon cubes. In addition, not only do bouillon cubes take up a lot less space than chicken (bones), but they also cost a lot less. Knorr’s bouillon cubes are the perfect solution to bring flavors and satisfaction to your meal at this time! (and in the future).