All posts by courtneyokeke

So Cal Cooking: Mushroom Pancit

I’ve actually only eaten pancit in my friends’ homes, usually cooked by their mothers or fathers. The recipe itself is relatively easy, since the staple ingredients of thin rice noodles, soy sauce, and citrus are the only things one really needs. Everything else is subject up change: you can add shrimp, vegetables, or beef. It’s super easy, and a perfect dish to make a huge batch of and then reheat leftovers. It can be a main dish or a side dish, and you can jazz it up by serving it with lumpia!



1 15oz pack of chinese noodles

1 head of green cabbage

1 onion, sliced

3 green onions

1 large carrot

3 tablespoons of soy sauce

2 tablespoons of oyster sauce

4 cups of sliced mushrooms

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cans of vegetable broth

3 teaspoons cumin

A dash of curry

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Mushroom Pancit


1. Chop the garlic and the onions.

2. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a medium sized skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms and cumin.

3. Cook the onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent

4. Add the chopped carrots and cabbage, and continue to cook on high heat. Reduce the heat once the cabbage and carrots have softened.

5. In a separate medium sized pot, add the vegetable broth, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Heat on medium.

6. Once the sauce mixture is boiling, add the noodles. Cook the noodles for 5-8 minutes, or until they are soft.

7. Add the noodles to the vegetable mixture. Turn up the heat to high, and fry for about 8-10 minutes, frequently stirring the noodles.

8. Remove heat, and let the pancit sit for a few minutes. Serve when ready!




SoCal Cooking: Mexican Rice

        This dish is by far the most versatile of Mexican cuisine. It makes sense, as rice is the main staple food for nearly all mexican dishes.  This recipe stays true to the original. Consisting of only the essential ingredients, this recipe does not need a lot to offer so much. It is very easy to make in large amounts, and very hard to screw up!  

Mexican Rice
The color alone should make you hungry!

You may be thinking, aren’t Mexican rice and Spanish rice the same? They are not– in fact, the crucial difference lies in the seasoning. Spanish rice tends to use saffron instead of cumin, and green herbs like oregano instead of cilantro, which is commonly found in mexican rice. The differences are small, but noticeable. If you like a smoky, spicy after taste, this is the dish for you. While it can work as a main course, this rice is usually served as a side dish. Whether the main dish is enchiladas or empanadas, the combination of garlic, cumin, and onions provides the perfect company to any other dish. Experimentation is also key in this recipe- you can add more vegetables like peas, corn, or carrots without changing the overall taste. Since this is a vegetarian post, I refrained form adding any meat, but beef is also a good addition to this dish. 


2 cups rice, cooked

2 serrano peppers, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup of tomato sauce

3 tablespoons Cumin



1. Add oil to the pan and cook the rice and garlic. Mix the rice with the oil, cook on medium-high heat.  

2. Add onions, continue cooking for 5-6 minutes. 

3. Add peppers and cumin, mix well. 

4. Add tomato sauce.

5. Let the rice cook for 15 minutes.

6. Let cool uncovered for 6-7 minutes, and serve!

SoCal Cooking: Chickpea Picadillo

In the middle of a semester, these things called midterms that screw up students’ sleep cycles, challenge the efficiency of their work habits, and worst of all, distort their eating habits. I believe the best way to combat this stress-induced state of malnourishment (or sometimes gluttony) is to make a lot of really good food, and I mean a lot. And yes, this recipe is just that. 

Picadillo itself is a Latin American and Filipino dish, usually composed of potatoes and beef with tomato sauce as the base. Picadillo is served atop something like rice or plantains. It is essentially a spicy stew with diced vegetables. The Filipino variation, the one I made, is not as thick as a stew, but a bit more soup-like, and usually eaten atop rice. The best thing about this dish is that it serves up to  6-8 people just from 40 minutes of cooking, and, most importantly, it’s versatile! Especially during the weeks of midterms, versatility and brevity are the foundations of every college student’s meal. If the midterm stress is making you feel like you can’t accomplish as much as you want or that you’re not doing as great as you want, cook this dish. You’ll get it done, do it right, and feel good.  

Chickpea Picadillo


  1. 1 large white onion, diced
  2. 2 Green chili peppers, diced
  3. 4 large potatoes, cut into cubes
  4. 1 1/2 cup of corn
  5. 1 14oz can of chickpeas 
  6. 5 large carrots, chopped
  7. 3 green onions, chopped
  8. 1 clove of garlic
  9. 2 cups white rice
  10. 1 can tomato sauce
  11. 2 cups water
  12. 2 tablespoons of  black pepper
  13. 1 tablespoon of cumin 
  14. 2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes

1. Oil the pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
2. Add the garlic, cook for just a minute on medium heat.
3. Add onions, cook for 3-5 minutes.
4. Add the spices, stir well, continue cooking on medium high heat. 
6. Add the corn, carrots, chickpeas, green onions, and green chiles. Cook for 6-10 minutes.
7. Add potatoes, tomato sauce, and water
8. Cook, uncovered for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

9. Spread over rice and serve!

Vegetarian Enchiladas

One of my favorite Mexican dishes is Enchiladas. They are perfect for feeding large groups and are pretty simple to make. In this installment of Mexicali cooking, I make vegetarian enchiladas, and do so in less than an hour! I know that time is a precious commodity on college campuses. Since us college students don’t have much time to put into cooking (or sleeping),  we rely on buying pre-made food or walking to Chipotle. However, if there is a Westside, there is a way! Making these enchiladas is very simple, and should take only 10 minutes to prep, and 50 minutes to actually cook and bake. While some days, our schedules necessitates packaged pre-made food, I entreat you all to try this recipe on a Sunday afternoon, because Chipotle really isn’t  Mexican food.

Vegetarian Enchiladas
They are really, really good.



5 flour tortillas (use corn if you can!)

2 cups of Sliced mushrooms

1 can of Black beans (14 oz)

1 1/2 cup of frozen corn

1 large onion, diced

3 green onions (dice both the bulb and green stalks)

6 mini bell peppers

1/2 cup of Cilantro

1 bag of Sargento’s Mexican cheese

3 cloves of garlic, diced


Enchilada sauce:

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

1 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can vegetable broth (12 oz)

6 oz of tomato paste

1/4 cup chili powder

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup of water

1 tomato, diced 



To make the Enchilada sauce:

1. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil, then add the flour, stirring for about 35 seconds.

2. Add chili powder, continue to stir for a minute to two minutes.

3. Add vegetable broth, tomato paste, tomato, cumin, oregano, stir very well, and reduce the temperature to low heat.

4. Cook for 10-15 minutes, the sauce will thicken itself. If you want it to be less thick, just add up to 3/4 cup of water and stir well.


To make the Enchilada mix

1. In a large skillets, grill the mushrooms for about 4-6 minutes, or until they are soft and have browned.

2. Add garlic and continue to cook for 3 minutes.

3. Add onions, cook them until they are soft, not translucent.

4. Add the corn, beans, green onion bulbs, mini bell peppers, and spices.

5. Add the cilantro and cook on low heat, mixing well.

6. Grease the baking dishes with a little bit of oil.

7. Warm up each tortilla on the stove top, then place about 1/2 cup of bean mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Wrap the tortilla, and place it so that the seam side is not facing you, but on the baking dish.

8. Once you fill the baking dish, with about 5 wraps or so, spread the enchiliada sauce over them.

9. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups of cheese over the wraps.

10. Place the baking dish in the oven, bake for 25-35 minutes.

11. Top with the green onion stalks, and serve!




Black Bean Burrito with Mozzarella Cheese

In this installment of Mexicali cuisine, I offer you a version of a classic; the burrito. There are so many variations in making a burrito, from breakfast (i.e. huevos rancheros style), to a lunch, snack, or a full meal accompanied with rice, and potatoes. This Black bean burrito features the classic Mexican vegetables: red bell peppers, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, beans, jicama, and of course, spices to add flavor. While the variations of the burrito can fill cook books upon cook books, the way to make them is quite simple. Whether you’re grilling the vegetables, using boiled or refried beans,  adding salsa layering or going sans salsa, the instructions are clear and simple. 1. Cook the vegetables (always, always garlic first, then onions!) 2. Season them while cooking 3. Add remaining vegetables/spices/cheese topping and mix, mix, mix.

For the fulfillment they provide, burritos are a valuable dish to master. One burrito can take a mere 15 minutes to make if you’re in a hurry, and if you’ve got time, a large mixture can last days without losing flavor. Because of their special ability to deliver a full meal-sized punch with little effort and money, they make a convenient dish. Versatility, like with nearly all Mexican and Mexicali cuisine is essential, so nearly all the ingredients listed below can be swapped out for convenience, experimentation, or taste. So while you can go the Mexicali route and stuff your burrito with peppers, jicama, corn etc, you can always go the traditional Mexican way and simply use two ingredients: beans and rice or potatoes or fish, etc. Whatever makes you and your stomach happy.




  • ½ chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 small ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Serrano chile pepper, or any other hot chile, chopped
  • 3 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • sprinkle of salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp oregano


  1. Dice up the vegetables
  2. Mix together in a small bowl
  3. sprinkle pepper, salt, and vinegar in another small bowl
  4. Blend the vegetable and the vinegar mixture together and set aside to cool


Black Bean Burrito with Mozzarella cheese
Jump in with your hands, or with a fork and knife!

Black Bean Burrito

  1. ½  white onion, diced
  2. 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  3. 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  4. 1/2  (8oz of a 15oz can) can of black beans, or 1 ½ cup of boiled black beans
  5. 1 tsp black pepper
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 2 tsp paprika 
  8. 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes pepper
  9. ½  Serrano chili  pepper
  10. 1 can diced tomatoes
  11. ⅓ cup of diced jicama
  12. 1 tortilla
  13. ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Dice the vegetables.
  2. Fry garlic for 30 seconds on medium high heat.
  3. Add onions and spices, cook for 3 minutes, or until the onion begins to become translucent.
  4. Add red bell peppers, jicama, and Serrano pepper, mix well and cook for 3-5 more minutes. Stir frequently to reduce burning. 
  5. Add beans, tomatoes and cook on low heat for 5 minutes, let is stand, do not mix often. 
  6. Add cheese, and cook for 1 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. 
  7. Turn off heat, let the beans mixture sit for a 5-7 minutes.  Then, add about 1/3 cup of it on a heated tortilla, wrap it up, and layer 1/4 cup of salsa on the burrito.
  8. Done and Done! Enjoy the meal!

Roasted Stuffed Bell Peppers

So far this summer, I’ve realized that I love grilling! I enjoy the fast cooking and the satisfaction of watching the vegetables brown within seconds. Creating homemade marinades is especially gratifying. However, southern California is still in the midst of a sweltering July heat, so grilled vegetable skewers with homemade marinade can wait. For now, the oven will have to do, and it is doing quite well with roasting stuffed peppers.

For this installment of Mexicali cooking, the spotlight is on roasted stuffed peppers with caramelized onions. I roast and stuff peppers, seasoning them to achieve that barbecue-esque flavor. You can still achieve that grilled crispy taste with an oven, albeit the cook time is longer, but the taste it just as savory.


2 green bell peppers

1 small chili pepper

¾ cup of frozen corn (defrost)

1 tomato

2 cups of rice

1 white onion

½ cup of diced green onions

¼ cup olive oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½ tsp sugar

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce



  1. Preheat the oven at 450 degrees.
  2. Cut the stems off the green bell peppers, and remove the seeds. This will yield one eligible roasted pepper. Alternatively, cutting the pepper in the half, and carefully cutting of the stem from one half, will yield two pepper halves eligible to be stuffed.
  3. Bring to boil about 4 cups of water. Add the green peppers, and let them boil for about 4-5 minutes. Once done, take them out, and set aside.
  4. Add olive oil to the frying pan.
  5. Add the onions; make sure all the onions are coated in the oil.
  6. To caramelize the onions: let them fry, stirring every few minutes to make sure they do not burn. Within the first 5-7 minutes of frying, add the sugar and mix the onions well. Continue to fry them for about 10 more minutes, stirring them to make sure they do not stick the pan, nor burn.
  7. When most of the onions are about golden brown, take them out and set aside.
  8. Add the defrosted corn.
  9. Season the corn with black pepper and salt, cooking it on medium high heat for 5 minutes. 
  10. Once the corn begins to brown or blacken, add the chili pepper and tomato
  11. Reduce the heat to low, then add the rice, caramelized onions, and green onions.
  12. Mix the rice and onions well into the vegetables, leaving the heat on low.
  13. Turn off the heat. On a cooking sheet, lay some foil on the it, slightly coat it with olive oil.
  14. Lightly coat the outside and inside of the bell peppers with oil.
  15. Add the rice mixture to the green peppers, stuffing them to the top.
  16. Put the peppers on the foil. Roast them in the oven for 35 minutes.
  17. Once done, remove them and let them cool for 5 minutes, as they may be sizzling for a bit.
  18. Drizzle the worcestershire sauce on the peppers, and and enjoy!


Summertime Pineapple-Mango Salsa

Lately, it has been too hot to use the oven. My small southern Californian town has been averaging a stinging 90 degrees for the past few weeks, and in response I’ve been looking for ways not to create more heat by frying veggies, or baking pastries. This installation of Mexicali vegetarian cooking focuses on a no-cook, non-bake recipe that will satisfy your starving, sun-baked mouth. Salsa is usually built on the base ingredient of tomatoes with supplementary chilies to add spice. Served at room-temperature or chilled, this staple of Mexican  cuisine remains to be quite versatile as it can be revitalized with replacements or additions of fish, beans, or fruits. 

This Pineapple-Mango salsa recipe gives that essential refreshing bite of chilled fruit during a humid 3pm, while still maintaing a natural spicy perkiness. There is no need to boil, fry, or bake with this recipe, as all that is needed are some of fruits, vegetables, and a refrigerator. 

*While preparing this recipe, also know that other fruits would work as well, like watermelon to replace the mangoes, or lime juice to add more of a bite. When making quick salsa like this one, it is fun and easy to experiment with other fruits and juices. 


Pineapple-Mango Salsa Ingredients
The taste of Summer in one dish!

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time : 10 minutes




1 ripe pineapple

2 ripe mangoes

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper

1 large white onion

¼ cup of onion stalks

1 lemon

¼ cup of cilantro leaves

Pineapple-Mango Salsa
A refreshingly easy and flavorful dish



  1. Peel and dice all the fruit and vegetables, save for the lemon, into tiny pieces. Add each ingredient into a bowl, mixing each new addition well. 
  2. Cut the lemon, and squeeze about ⅓ cup of juice into the salsa mix. Or, dice the lemon into small cubes, and it add to the salsa mix.
  3. Mix well, and add salt to taste.
  4. Chill the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  5. Enjoy with chips!




Cheesy Vegetarian Empanadas

True story: you should be able to find empanadas at any mexican restaurant in Southern California. They are staples dishes, stuffed breaded pastries that are sometimes spicy, sometimes sweet, and taste as good as cute as they look. While there are many  variations of empanadas in various cuisines (Indian, Afghan, Nigerian, and many more! google it)  within Mexican cuisine empanadas serve as somewhat of a pastry eaten after dinner or even for breakfast (kind of like pie)!  Even within Mexican cuisine there are many variants as well, and in this installment of Mexicali Cooking, I will guide you through a cheesy vegetarian recipes for empanadas. 

A crowd of empanadas for the one in your home

In an odd sense, empanadas are likes sugar cookies- you can literally make 100 in a night. It’s not particularly easy, but it is worth it. So, since it’s officially summer, and I am assuming that we all have a little more time to spend doing hobbies, why not make a lot of empanadas? Maybe not 100, but 20 is a good amount. They are pretty easy to make, VERY delicious, and perfect for saving for the next day or the day after that. Although, I will confess, since it is a dough-based recipe it does require some time, but hey, if your friends are coming over in packs of four why not make 20? If you want an afternoon snack, they also serve as the perfect finger-food. Like sugar cookies, they are eaten in 3 bites or less but leave a savory taste on the tongue.

The trick here is making them more spicy and savory than sweet. Empanadas usually have pumpkin, sweet potatoes, or cream filling, gearing them toward after-dinner snack. Here, I made an “it’s 3pm, and I want a snack that I can just warm up in the microwave, but remains tasty” type of empanada. So, to go for the afternoon spice instead of the after dinner sweet taste, you can substitute more sugary fillings with potatoes or a chopped array of bell peppers and cheese. The potatoes have a meaty consistency without all the dense calories, while the cheese adds the melt-in-your-mouth sensation that makes you grab yet another one!

The recipe below can be altered in several ways- all to your liking. The joy of making a staple Mexican dish like empanadas is that you can add your own chef ‘signature’ to them. For me, the cilantro in the dough and addition of curry is what makes them zesty and new. I suggest making alterations of your own as you make this recipe and you cultivate your own signature. 

These stuffed empanadas will make you smile
Onions + Peppers + Potatoes + CHEESE = heavenly



5 1/2 cups instant corn Masa mix

2 cup warm water

1 1/2 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoon salt

1/4 tsp of chopped cilantro 

6 tablespoons melted butter



6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed or 12 small potatoes 

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 green peppers, finely chopped

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon curry

1 cup corn

1 cup cream cheese, softened

1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated

oil for frying

Makes about 20;  Serves 10-12



I like to make the filling first, than the dough. 

For The Filling

  1. Cook potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft. Drain.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté onions and green peppers in oil.
  3. Season vegetables with curry, black peppers, red pepper flakes, and salt. 
  4. Add potatoes. 
  5. Add cream cheese, and mix well.
  6. Add Cheddar cheese. 
  7. Add corn, combine well, and add more curry if you want it a bit more “zesty”
  8. Combine the filing into a paste.


For the dough

  1. Combine Masa, water, melted butter and vinegar  in a large mixing bowl. .
  2. Season with salt. 
  3. Add cilantro. 
  4. Mix and work dough with hands until well combined. 
  5. Form half of the dough into a long roll and cut roughly equal 10 pieces. 
  6. With each pieces, spin the dough between your palms so it forms into a ball.
  7. Slowly apply pressure to the ball making it more and more flat, but still having thickness
  8. With your index finger and your thumb, press the thick edges of the coin shaped dough, spinning the circle as you do it, and slowly moving toward the center so the dough is equally thick.  
  9. Slap the now disk shaped dough on the cutting board to flatten it, and repeat for the other side. 
  10. Place between 1 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons  of filling in the center of the disk
  11. Pick up the disk in the palm, as you wet the edge with water for sealing
  12. gently fold over one side of the disk, in a half moon shape, add water to places where cracks may appear
  13. Seal the empanada with you finger, lightly pressing on the junction 
  14. Using a fork, gently press on the edges of the empanadas to seal it further, and to achieve that classic Mexican look. 
  15. Fry the empanadas in oil for about 35 seconds on each side, or until they golden brown.

Minty Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Hello Everyone! 

I know it is cold outside, and every day is another day of the fear of slipping on pavement, but do not fret! Even though this type of weather can onset frozen hands and a sluggish attitude, there is still an upside: the advent of easy-to-bake pies! Pies can range from being  a meticulous inception (try making a good blueberry pie, its odd and harder than you think), to an easy concoction (once you bake a few pies, you’ll be thinking of crazy things to put on it, but go for it anyways!). However, in this post I aim for a simply refreshing pie that we all can make with basic ingredients that aren’t asking for a 1 hour game of “find the ingredient!” at Westside. So, for all those who played in the snow the first day, slipped on it the second day, and froze your toes on the third day, here is my gift to you: Minty Fresh Pumpkin Pie!

Can you say "Ahhh!"?
Can you smell the mint?

Pumpkin pie is a classic fall/winter pie, albeit because it is quite versatile, you can experiment with it and still be certain it will taste good.With this classic, imagine the whipped cream topping as the fluffy snow, and the mint as the green landscape of Columbia’s courtyard being overtaken by this powdery wonderfulness. If we think of it as that, then the fear of slipping and falling while walking to IAB or Pupin won’t be as embarrassing now will it?


1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 can of Pumpkin puree (@Met foods less than 3$)

1 can of evaporated milk (sweetened)

1 pre-baked pie shell

Whipped Cream – (Prefer the aerosol for better ability to design)

Crushed mint – (@ Metfoods for 1.50, enough to last you another 4 years)



1. Pre-heat the pie crust for about 8 minutes @ 375 degrees fahrenheit.

2. Beat the eggs in a bowl.

3. Add sugars, salt, and milk, then mix.

4. Add pumpkin puree and mix very well.

5. Pour the pie filling into the pie crust, and then bake for about 40-45 minutes @ 375 degrees fahrenheit. 

6. Once you remove the pie, let it cool on another surface for about 12 minutes.

7. Lightly sprinkle two – three pinches of mint all over the pie, and then apply the whipped cream topping by doing a spiral motion starting from the center of the pie. Sprinkle some more mint on the whipped cream. 

8. Cut a slice and enjoy!

Coming Back Home

Courtney’s winter break post introduces us to her family’s winter food tradition: Nigerian Jollof Rice.  

Like everyone else, winter break is long-awaited. We all cannot wait  to celebrate the holidays, reunite with family, close friends, and if you’re thinking like I am, cook in a fully equipped kitchen. When I came home, the first thing I did was munch, gobble, and munch some more on the food that my grandma and father cooked, and then I proceeded to cook some more food myself. One thing that makes winter break and the holiday season especially heart warming is the feeling of family and familiarity. I expected to eat some traditional eastern Nigerian Jollof rice when I returned home, and of course, my expectations were met wonderfully. While I could have cooked some Jollof rice during the school year, it wouldn’t have been the same as when my grandma or my dad cooks it mainly because they have cooked the recipe every year, for every holiday; they always include a bit of Nigeria with everything that we celebrate.

The Spicy Taste of Home
The Nigerian Staple: Jollof Rice

And that narrates pretty much my whole life, as a piece of Nigeria is in every dish I make. My uncles, aunts, grandparents, and parents have taught me to familiarize with the spices that they once grew up on in Eastern Nigeria, and to cook with my nose. Cooking with your nose is saying that your nose, along with your eyes and mouth is the best and only recipe book required. It is a confident statement about your abilities as a chef, but it also acts to emphasize that cooking is more than needing or wanting to eat, it becomes an adventure, a divergence from daily errands and mishaps to a place of savoring scents where your mind is at peace.
Continue reading Coming Back Home