Man I have been so busy with work and various trips that I have not been doing much cooking. And I can feel it. So much eating out and eating junk food. But it is now February 2023 and I am finally feeling a little less busy.
I don't have a nice theme to tie these all together, but here are a few meals that I cooked this past week:
I had four pieces of rice paper left in my cabinet, and while I don't have a picture of the spring rolls I made, I do have a picture of the salad I made with all of the same ingredients. I cooked some pork butt, and tossed it in toasted rice, which is something that my aunt taught me how to do. One day I'll post a recipe for that pork.
One of my friends has really been in the mood for "savory bread" lately, but I was definitely not prepared to make bread. She looked up a recipe to see if she could find something easy, and we decided to make this savory quick bread with cheese and olives, which is bread in the same sense that banana bread or zucchini bread is bread. Basically, it's cake in the shape of a bread loaf.
We added a bunch of extra things that the recipe didn't even call for, like green onion and sun dried tomatoes. I think we went a little overboard. This recipe also called for four eggs, which is way too many eggs, especially considering how expensive eggs are nowadays. But what we didn't add was salt. Bad decision. You always need salt. The recipe simply said to "salt to taste", but how am I supposed to salt to taste when there's raw flour and eggs?! I can't taste that!
I was a little worried I was going to hate this because I don't like egg-y things, but it turned out to be...okay. Not great. Would not make this recipe again. I'd probably try a different bread recipe though.
And finally, here's my breakfast from this morning that I spent way too much effort on. It was worth it though. My family gave me some beef jerky, and I just love the combination of beef jerky and white rice. I also added a marinated soft boiled egg and some cucumber slices to trick myself into thinking this is a well balanced meal.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my aunt and she recalled a time (well before I knew how to cook) where I made home fries for my little cousins to eat. And she kept saying how all I did was cook a single potato and it took me forever to cut and cook it, but my little cousin ended up loving it. And something about the way she described this story just cracked. me. up.
I was also inspired. I needed to make these home fries again. (Which is why I bought that 5 lb bag of potatoes) I had two sad looking potatoes left, so I figured, it's now or never.
I see why this took me forever. Cutting up potatoes is a lot of work. But I'm on PTO today, so it's chill and I can take my time to make myself a proper breakfast, and a proper breakfast means I need to also cook eggs.
Fried eggs are probably my favorite breakfast item. Turn up the heat to HIGH, throw in some veggie oil, crack a couple of eggs in the pan and watch it sizzle. It needs to sizzle and bubble up. If it doesn't sizzle it's not hot enough. This is exactly the type of thing that caused me to burn my leg in high school, but don't worry! I wore long pants. I was prepared this time.
I did, however, accidentally break the yolk as I was scooping the eggs out of the pan, causing me to let out some profanities. But that's okay. That happens. This is me flailing in my kitchen after all.
I even threw cilantro on top of my food because I was being
fancy weird and wanted to give myself the illusion of a well-balanced meal. But also because I like to throw cilantro on anything and everything savory.
Home fries. Eggs. A piece of beef jerky. That's what I call a Breakfast of Champions.
I don't have anything exciting to say in my opening sentence of this post, but hey, look at my fancy breakfast I made last Sunday! My arugula salad was really good.
I went to a diner for lunch that day, and I ate pancakes, so I really had breakfast twice in one day, which is way too much breakfast for one day.
So I had some cream cheese that was sitting in the fridge for who knows how long, and when I went to use it, I saw a piece of mold! But there was still a lot of cream cheese in that block, and I really didn't want to throw it all away (plus I was going to eat a bagel), so I did some googling to see if I could salvage the cream cheese, and I got...mostly bad news. But this one random person said it would be fine if I just cut off the chunk around the mold, so that's what I did! And that was two weeks ago, so I think it was fine.
Anyway, I bring that up because I felt like I really needed to use up all my cream cheese quickly after that. And this pasta optionally takes cream cheese. Turns out I used almost all the cream cheese on my bagels, so I barely had any left for this pasta. But that's okay, it still turned out really well. I cut the recipe in half (except for the diced tomatoes, because half a can of diced tomatoes is kind of useless), and it made enough for five meals. I usually hate leftover pasta, but this time the leftovers actually tasted decent.
I had the most random things in my fridge: canned pineapple, bacon, arugula, jarred red peppers, shredded cheese, green onions. After thinking about what else I can do with my much too large supply of arugula, I figured pizza would be good. All I needed to buy was pizza dough!
But wait, that pizza doesn't have arugula. Yeah, so I was looking up pizza recipes mostly because I wanted some inspiration, and I saw this recipe for bacon and pineapple pizza. And I had bacon and pineapple, so I thought this was perfect. It tasted really good, but I need to get better at dealing with pizza dough. I don't think I quite understand how to form it in that nice circle shape.
Oh, don't worry, I used the arugula in my own Tomato, Red Pepper, and Arugula White Pizza.
I don't have a link to this recipe since I got it from a cookbook. The recipe was actually for broccolini, but brussels sprouts were on sale at Aldi. I really like the taste of the sauce that was used, which consisted of some tamari, rice vinegar, srirachi, garlic, and sugar. I accidentally overcooked it a bit though, by leaving it in the oven for 20 minutes. I might use the sauce in a stir-fry later.
I was down to my last two bags of emergency dumplings, so I wanted to make some more. I normally just throw whatever I feel like in my dumplings, but I figured I'd try a recipe this time. This was a pretty typical dumpling recipe, but I really didn't want to buy zucchini or carrot, so I only used cabbage and green onion. Tasted decent enough, but I don't think I'll use it again. I thought the texture was a little weird.
But hey, I have ten freezer dumpling meals now!
This week I spent $17.12 on groceries, which was pretty amazing. I also spent $15 on a meal out, which brings my total to above $30, but if this were an allowance that could roll over week to week, then I'm totally still within my budget!
I often will plan for making slightly more food than I need each week (better to have too much food than not enough), so I still had some stuff left over to make one more shrimp burrito bowl. I don't actually think I like lettuce in my burrito bowls, but it makes me think I'm eating healthier when I add it.
A few weeks ago I visited my family, and my dad gave a whole box of Champagne mangoes. Mangoes are my favorite fruit, but I still had way too many mangoes to eat in one week. I had save this Cashew Shrimp and Mango Stir Fry recipe from How Sweet Eats a while ago, and I figured this was the perfect opportunity to make it, especially because I also had a bag of cashews that I didn't know what to do with.
I'll admit that this dish seemed a bit strange while I was making it, but it turned out to be delicious. I'm not a huge fan of nuts in my stir fry, but the cashews really worked. (It also helps that I really like cashews) The recipe only called for one mango, but I used two since Champagne mangoes are a bit small.
The other main dish I had for this week was Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta from Budget Bytes. This is my #1 go-to recipe for something quick to make when I'm completely unprepared to make anything. I had leftover cream cheese, since I bought it to eat with bagels a few weeks ago, and the only thing I know to use cream cheese in are bagels and this pasta.
And finally, I really wanted to have some dumplings on hand, so I made a batch of those. I love chives, and I've been wanting to make pork and chive dumplings for a while. But less pork and more chive. I went to two different Asian grocery stores and waited in line at the meat place forever just so I could get the best prices on these ingredients.
I like having dumplings in my freezer because I think they make a really good breakfast. You know what else is a great breakfast? Eggs.
Spoiler alert for next week, but I've already gone over budget. I don't actually need to buy too many things for my meals, but seafood is on sale, and you know how I am about seafood...
When my sister was living with me, I was cooking almost every day. We kept cooking and cooking, and it seemed like we had so much food, but whenever I took a break from cooking for one day, it's like all the food disappeared. Well, I had this crazy realization this week that when I'm by myself I could cook three dishes during the weekend and then not have to cook at all during the week.
I know, that's what meal prepping is. But when people say they meal prep, I always envision them cooking two dishes on Sunday and then dividing everything up into individual portions in tupperware containers. Which sounds boring. I like to make every meal feel like a special accomplishment.
And you know what I accomplished this week? I only spent $16 on groceries! On the flip side, I also ate out four times, but one of those meals was on my company's dime.
I'm trying to make sure I include some low effort meals that will last me a while. This chicken rice dish requires very little chopping, and I can make it last six meals. With pasta, I try to not make it last so many meals because I get sick of it easily, but this rice dish still tastes great on the sixth day in a row.
What's nice about this dish is that I can split up the rice and chicken, and then use those individual parts for other meals. I saw asparagus on sale at Aldi for $1.49/lb, which usually isn't that great because Aldi tends to stock suuuper skinny asparagus sticks, and who wants that? But this time the asparagus actually looked decently sized!
I actually made this same asparagus recipe about a month ago when my mom visited, but it didn't quite turn out so well since I was flailing in my kitchen trying to cook three things at once. This time I could just focus on asparagus. The recipe calls for shallots, which I replaced with onions because no one on a budget should ever buy shallots. The recipe also said to cook these for 20-25 minutes. That is way way way too long. I had these in the oven for about 12 minutes and I still think they were in there for a tad too long.
I was very satisfied with the way the asparagus turned out though. The combination of bacon, onion, and parmesan made it very flavorful.
My final dish of the week is Huevos Rancheros, which I was happy to stumble upon a recipe for it since it's probably my favorite brunch dish. Now I personally hate the idea of brunch. You take two perfectly good meals and squash them into one meal, and then get charged way more than you should be charged for either meal. Why would I ever choose to eat one meal over two meals? I've been to a lot of hipster brunch places, and they all feel exactly the same. They serve pancakes, chicken and waffles, and a bunch of random things with an egg on top. And then they try to get you to buy alcohol to make the meal even more extravagant.
But having brunch at home? That's a much better idea. Of course, I didn't make these for brunch. I ate these for breakfast and still had lunch later.
These Huevos Rancheros were okay, but I think the recipe could use a lot of tweaks. The salsa has way too much water, so I would cut that in half. It could also use some more salt and maybe some other spices. I just found it lacking. I also think two eggs is too much. There are plenty of days where I only eat two eggs for breakfast, so having that plus a bunch of other stuff is overkill. The recipe just says to arrange two tortillas on a plate, but I think it's better to first make sure the tortilla is toasted and crispy, and then break it up into nacho sized pieces.
I also substituted the refried beans for some pulled pork that had been sitting in my freezer for a while. Having to use three pans to cook breakfast is a bit much so I wanted to take whatever shortcuts I could. But...I guess this is supposed to be a brunch recipe. And brunch is fancy.
Oh, also I just really wanted to post a picture of more fajitas since I had this two more times this past week. This time I toasted the tortillas on the pan and threw some cheese on top which made them even better.