Hello friends. I'm still here. Still cooking. My sabbatical ended about a week ago, and I've been trying to get used to working again and figuring out what work life balance means.
I was pretty exhausted from my sabbatical. Even though I wasn't working, I had so many things that I wanted to do, and I didn't even have time for my food blog! And now that I'm working again, well, that would seem to mean even less time for the food blog. But like I said, I'm figuring it out, and I'm taking it easy right now.
One thing that I am really trying to do now is save money and not eat out. I don't really need to save money, but I kind of find it a little exciting and fun to see myself spend way less on food. I know I've done "$30 a week" challenges in the past, and I'm not going to do that now, but I'm going to keep track of my spending and see how it turns out without eating out.
So, today I made burgers.
Why burgers? Well, my sister was here last week and she made me some pretzels with cheese sauce, and we ate all the pretzels, but we still have some cheese sauce remaining, and I thought "maybe I can dip some fries in this", and then "burgers go well with fries".
I know, my thought process is weird.
I did bookmark a cheeseburger recipe a few weeks months ago, and this seemed like a good time to try it. Except it really isn't much of a recipe. The burger patty is literally just ground beef, salt, and pepper. The recipe also includes a burger sauce, but I didn't even bother making that.
The burger tasted good though! I mean homemade burgers always taste good. I cooked the patties in a cast iron skillet that I haven't touched in many months. The process was pretty simple, but my whole kitchen got super smoky, which meant my living room got super smoky and I had to turn on the vent and open the windows for a while. It was also kind of a pain to clean and re-season.
I also bought some frozen fries and made a salad to use up some leftover carrot ginger salad dressing I made a couple of weeks ago. Honestly it's not that great with green leaf lettuce. Iceberg would have been better.
While I was eating, I read a little bit of James and the Giant Peach. It was a very filling meal, so filling that I couldn't even finish it all.
Will I be able to stick with only having homemade meals? Will I make another post soon? Will I have any time to write about the endless amounts of food thoughts in my head? I don't know. We'll see how I'm feeling in a week.
I'm going to take a brief pause from my Teochew work to show you these tacos that I made last night.
They were so good. Also so much work. So so much work. I used this crispy braised chipotle beef taco recipe that I found on Half Baked Harvest (my co-workers rave about this site). I opted for the slow cooker version of this, which I think is less work than using the stove and oven, but it was still a lot.
I had planned to go play DDR that morning, but I wanted to get the beef cooking first, so I got up early and bought ingredients, prepped the sauce, and cut up the meat. The recipe says to use a blender to blend up the ingredients, but my only blender is a single serving size Nutribullet, which definitely was not big enough for this. I used my food processor instead, and it made me wonder why this recipe specifically called for using a blender.
Well, I hit the "LOW" button and suddenly a bunch of sauce spilled out of the container and went flying everywhere! 😱 And then when I went to pour the sauce into the slow cooker, it was splashing all over the place!
Okay, I guess that's why they say to blend liquids in a blender.
It all turned out well though. If I ever make this again, I'll want to use a fattier cut of meat, and I would probably forgo the blending altogether. Just dump everything in the slow cooker, and I'm sure it would taste just as good.
Yup, my brain is super focused on the Teochew site, and even though I'm not working, I still don't have enough time to do everything that I want to do! But, I've got time for some easy meals. I made Tomato Basil Pasta because I wanted to use up the rest of my ricotta.
So I buy some pasta, two pints of tomatoes, and some incredibly overpriced basil. My boyfriend noticed that there were 3(!!) boxes of pasta in my "pantry" (it's a container that sits on my counter) and he wondered why I needed so much pasta.
Well, we were very low on rotini, and we had a full box of ditalini, but ditalini is so tiny! I wanted bigger pasta pieces! So I bought a box of penne.
Cooking this was pretty easy. Just cut up the tomatoes, basil, and garlic and throw it all in the pan. But as I was boiling the pasta, I noticed that it was...weird looking. Kind of grainy. The rotini was fine, but the penne was not looking good. It was completely falling apart. I didn't even cook it for that long! It was probably around 8 minutes total, and the box says to cook it for 11-13 minutes. If I did that, it would be mush!
I must have gotten a really bad batch of pasta. It was from Aldi, so it's not the highest quality stuff, but I've bought penne from Aldi plenty of times in the past and I've never had pasta fall apart like that.
But, I guess it tasted good enough. I also still had half a box of it leftover, and I barely made a dent in my container of ricotta so I made the dish again. This time I decided to grocery shop at Trader Joe's, which was a good idea in theory, but it was a Sunday afternoon and it was packed, and as I stood in the store I wondered why I had done this because this is exactly what I've been trying to avoid during my sabbatical.
Never, never, NEVER, go to Trader Joe's on a Sunday. Same goes for Whole Foods.
On the bright side, basil from Trader Joe's was both a larger amount AND cheaper! So I should absolutely go to Trader Joe's for Italian basil in the future. (in the middle of the workday)
Aaaand, they had pumpkin mini cones! I had been so excited to try these last fall, and I never saw them, so this was a pleasant surprise.
Yeah, my pasta fell apart again. That's okay. I expected it. I'll still give Aldi penne another chance.
It's hard for me to have two active projects at once. I started my Teochew site in 2018, then took a break from it and started my food blog in 2019. Now that I'm working on the Teochew site again, it's hard for me to find the energy to devote to the food blog. But I did take a few pictures, so I wanted to share some of the things I cooked (or helped cook) over the past couple of weeks.
Bao wasn't the only exciting food I helped make while I visited my grandma's. We made fresh spring rolls every day for "pre-dinner snack". It seemed a little excessive, but it was delicious.
I need to figure out how my aunt prepared that pork. It was SO GOOD. On the first day, I just ate three spring rolls, but by the last day, I was eating five, which is more than I what I eat for a meal sometimes. It's okay. It's healthy.
When I got back, I made some strawberry pizza. (I actually made it twice!) My sister and I made this pizza way back when I first started the food blog, and it was one of my favorite recipes that we tried. I think it tasted good, but not as amazing as when I had it with my sister. On my second attempt, I added goat cheese, and I think that was a good addition.
Every other week, I have a "co-working day" with my friend, and after work we pick a dish to cook together. This week we made chicken tikka masala and a roasted eggplant salad. It was all very good, but my friend ended up replacing 1.5 teaspoons of chili powder with 2 teaspoons of ground red pepper in the tikka masala, and it was way too much heat for me. I usually only stick to 1/4 teaspoon if I add any hot pepper 🥵
Finally, my boyfriend requested some poke, and while I didn't have any sashimi grade fish on me, I did have half a pound of frozen shrimp. I cooked that and grabbed whatever poke appropriate ingredients I had for toppings. Poke is great because apart from the fish, I really don't have to plan for it at all. I always have poke ingredients in my kitchen.
On Friday night, my aunt excitedly told me "I'm going to make bao tomorrow for breakfast!" Bao? For breakfast? That seemed like a lot of work. And it was. She made the dough from scratch and the filling from scratch. She did a bunch of prep work the night before, and then woke up super early the next morning to do even more prep work. And by the time I woke up, she was busy wrapping the bao.
I wanted to help too! I watched my aunt quickly, but precisely pinch the dough to make lots of pleats in it, resulting in a nice folded swirl. I tried doing the same, but for some reason the folds just disappeared once I closed up the bao.
My aunt kept saying "You need to use your thumb! Keep it in the same place, and use your other thumb to push the meat in!" I think that I eventually sorta kinda got the hang of it.
My other aunt steamed the buns, and then we finished them off by putting a red dot on each one, which the internet tells me signifies good luck.
We made another batch later in the day, and I must have forgotten everything because my aunt said "Child, you got worse again!" But she laughed and said that it doesn't matter how it looks, as long as it tastes good.
And it was delicious.