home cookin’ challenge of 2020 | recipe 2

This recipe is called the Skillet Orange Chicken from the WordPress blog Joann’s Food For Thought

Skillet Orange Chicken
my version of the orange chicken with rice

This was my first time making orange chicken ever, so I was super excited to try it out. And, I’ve never eaten or cooked with orange marmalade before. What I love about trying out these new recipes is that I always learn something new.

In the post, Joann mentioned how she doesn’t quite like frying foods as it meant the hassle of cleaning and oil splattering, which I can totally relate (I recently made Korean fried chicken for the first time)! However, I think I’d still try this recipe with breaded chicken (or fried chicken) just to see how it differed in texture and taste.

Skillet Orange Chicken 2
my version of the skillet orange chicken

Modifications:

  • I used regular orange juice I had on hand and I don’t think it was unsweetened.
  • For vinegar, I used seasoned rice vinegar, which I think makes it taste different from Joann’s version, but I can’t be sure until I try this recipe again.
  • Did not have any green onions, so had to leave that ingredient out.

Overall, this is a recipe I’d love to use again. As I said earlier, I’d like to test out a different texture for the chicken, but also stick with regular vinegar as I think the seasoned rice vinegar made it sweeter than intended. This dish paired well with rice and the family liked the sauce!

This recipe is 2 out of 12 new recipes I’ll be trying this year.

To learn more about the home cookin’ challenge of 2020, check out my post about it here.

sick today

My throat feels a little sore. My chest feels heavy. And I’m taking a sick day. There have been so many days in my life in which I’ve been sick. We all have. It’s sneaky, this cold is. It slips into the night, within my dreams and then I wake with my entire body slumping.

Down.

Heavy.

Even though this isn’t fun, it is still a necessary part of living. We break down to build ourselves up. We get stronger, healthier, wiser and older. Today, I feel horrible. Worse than I have in the past year, but you know, it’s okay.

I am reminded to take better care of me. That I matter, too. That I’m not a superhero despite my decisions to sleep less deeply, drink less water, eat less fruits and take on more than I ever understand or can handle.

And it’s time to rest. Time to drink up nature’s delicious orange juice, absorb every ounce of peace and calm in the patience of the day and let go of worries that can wait. Warm tasty soup is on the menu today.

Ba Bar Congee
Pork Belly Congee at Ba Bar

Wishing I was eating this congee from Ba Bar right now.

sweet love

sweet love

I made this from the Paint program. Used the watercolor and marker brush option. I don’t like bubble gum flavor, but I’m assuming this ice-cream would taste like. Maybe cotton candy.

I grew up never having a real sweet tooth. My dentist at the time would wonder why I never had cavities. Then I got to college and I had one vanilla ice-cream cone and then I wanted one the next day. I still don’t consider myself a huge sweets lover, but it’s way cuter drawing an ice-cream cone than a potato chip.

home cookin’ challenge of 2020 | recipe 1

This recipe is called the Small Batch Chicken Macaroni Soup from the WordPress blog SweetNSpicyLiving

Soup’s on the menu! This is the first recipe for the home cookin’ challenge of 2020. This was super fun to make. It was simple, convenient (since I had all the ingredients except the chicken soup powder) and flavorful. It was also very fast to make! This was the first soup I ever made with milk. And I hope to make a few more in the future. According to Marilou’s post, this kind of soup is known as sopas in the Philippines.

I recently came upon this recipe and thought it worked perfectly since I had macaroni pasta, rotisserie chicken leftovers and carrots to use up.

small batch chicken soup home cookin challenge 1
This is how the soup came out after some modifications from the original recipe.

Modifications:

  • I used leftover cooked rotisserie chicken rather than raw chicken.
  • As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have any chicken soup powder, so I compensated it by adding in some salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. I think adding the leftover rotisserie chicken pieces might have added some flavor, as well.
  • I have a ton of potatoes to use, so I decided to add in two small ones to this.
  • I also added in more macaroni pasta than it called for. My family prefers a more hearty soup, so this recipe worked well to our preference.

Overall, I’m glad I tried this! The family loved the soup broth. Soup is not something I usually think to make, but this helped me diversify at the dinner table and create something new with ingredients I already had at home.

This recipe is 1 out of 12 new recipes I’ll be trying this year.

To learn more about the home cookin’ challenge of 2020, check out my post about it here.

my first time making chili

Recently, I wrote down that chili was a food goal of mine. Even though I’m not in a rush to go through them all, I had most of the ingredients on hand to make this, so I decided, “why not?”

I ended up using the recipe from the American Heart Association’s YouTube video:

And it turned out really good. I followed their seasoning measurements more or less. I switched out canned corn with frozen veggies since I have to use that up. (May I add a tip: even though it may be cost effective, never buy those huge family size bags unless you expect to actually use them consistently). I also did not use diced tomatoes. I used a can of tomato sauce instead since it would have expired in two weeks. Since my batch was more liquidy than I preferred, I added in about a cup and a half of leftover white rice I had in the fridge from a couple of days ago. That absorbed a lot of the liquid and gave it a thicker consistency.

Did I end up creating something other than chili? I don’t know, but I still like it. It was super tasty. I didn’t add any additional salt, which is also a plus.

A few notes & observations: 

  • It’s very similar to making goulash, which is super delicious.
  • It hits the spot on a cold night like this one and it’s hearty, so no hungry stomachs here!
  • I think it could be a great dish to use up leftovers since it seems to be a very versatile dish. I subbed in and out a few ingredients without much trouble. I could see myself use zucchini next time or add in different meat.
  • I would rate this as fairly easy. It only required one pot and although you had to chop up an onion, you can easily use frozen ones, so the utensils and tools used were quite minimal (which is SUPER great when it comes to dishwashing duties).
  • This also made a huge batch, so it’s definitely good for the next few meals for the family.
  • This recipe also uses staple ingredients since a lot of them could be frozen or canned, so if you’re in a bind for dinner some night, this could be a good option.

home cookin’ challenge of 2020

Given my current trajectory, I’m anticipating I’ll be home cookin’ all throughout 2020, so I thought of an interesting challenge for myself. Each month, I’m going to specifically try one recipe I find on WordPress, so I’ll have cooked up a total of 12 different recipes by the end of December 2020. I’m super excited!

Stir fried udon noodles
Broccoli, fried tofu, shrimp fish balls, udon noodles and bok choy

For any food bloggers (or food enthusiasts like me) who are reading, feel free to post a recipe you think I should try and leave a link down below. I’ll definitely check out some of the food bloggers I’m currently following to see if I get inspired.

The recipes I’m specifically looking for are going to be ones I haven’t necessarily tried before, the ingredients aren’t too expensive and aren’t too complicated to make. I’ll post up photographs of my finished creation. I’m excited to bake some desserts, try some new appetizers and discover some great wholesome dinner recipes.

img_6613
lemon and orange bars

Reasons for doing this:

  • It’s a challenge, so it’ll be interesting to see if I actually complete this!
  • I’m always up for learning new things, so I’m sure there are so many recipes out there that I’ll love and would want to use over and over again.
  • This will keep me motivated to do more home cookin’ in case I lose steam next year and get me to document more like I used to.
  • I want to also showcase some cool WordPress food blogs out here and give them some love!

Feel free to join the home cookin’ challenge of 2020 if you think this is something you’d like to do, too. I’d LOVE to follow and see which recipes you end up choosing each month, as well. I guess I’ll stick this on my homepage, so I don’t forget!

no takeout for 30 days – notes & tips

My family and I have not eaten takeout for about a month now for any meals. It was purely by accident. This realization came about when I was out grocery shopping for turkey burger ingredients that I’m going to make today (ahhh, so excited to figure out the seasonings and assembling the final product with melted American cheese, a slice of tomato, lettuce and a homemade sauce). In the past, takeout would be more frequent within the month. I’d just drive over to the nearest fast food place, place an order and pay. Wait. Drive home. Avoid crazy drivers (can you hear the annoyance in my voice haha) Eat it–knowing I’m poorer for it and not knowing how the burger was made. If I felt motivated, I’d make my own, but it wasn’t, sadly, my first instinct to do so. It just felt too much of a hassle. And weirdly, now it feels the opposite: it’s a hassle to get takeout.

Cooking has become a bit therapeutic for me. I really enjoy it. My favorite is cutting the veggies and sauteing them in the pan. In the past, I’ve posted a lot of my home cookin’ here. This renewed love for it has overflowed into my daily life and now my family and I can enjoy the delicious creations.

Here are some of my favorites from past posts:

After coming to this realization, I wanted to share a few notes and tips I had in case it’s something you want to try out, too.

The Benefits

  • I feel like my diet is more in my control. I’m not on a specific diet per se, but more in that I am aware of the amount of veggies I’m eating and my serving size. It’s not decided for me as it would be if I were to order out. Was anyone else shocked when you learned how many more calories were in a fast food salad as opposed to french fries? What?!?
  • I’m saving loads of money. Well, not loads, but a lot based on calculating the amount of what it would cost for each meal. I never eat out for each meal, but you know what I mean. For example, if I were to make mac & cheese, the cost of the ingredients alone would be a fraction of a price of a bowl of it at a restaurant. And homemade would be for a family size, not just a cup.
  • The act of making something for myself and others and having it be enjoyed is so gratifying. It’s instant, too. Now I understand my mom’s love for cooking more. She’d always want me to get seconds or to bring some leftovers with me when I left. It’s a form of creation and love.
  • Cooking at home is another way for me to exercise my creativity. I love finding recipe gems I’ve used over and over, but also modify each time. Maybe this needed more onion powder or less soy sauce next time. Maybe next time I’ll use shrimp instead of beef.
  • It seems to put everyone in a good mood. Good food is important for our health in all aspects of our lives, including emotional and mental. And homemade just always tastes better to me. It’s nourishing.

Tips

  • Start with super easy recipes and start small. The first step is to develop confidence in the cooking process itself and feel comfortable with what you have.
  • And you don’t need to be fancy for every meal. You have a loaf of bread, eggs and cheese? That’s a breakfast or lunch. So is just plain cereal. You have some frozen spinach, onions and rice. That could be a meal, too.
  • Frozen food is a good one, too. We’re currently working on eating up frozen pizzas we bought, which we will unlikely buy again since it just doesn’t taste good.
  • I’m not sure if this is true for everyone else, but the more food I made, the more I was inclined to continue. I went from basic easy recipes to more elaborate and time-consuming. A genuine passion develops and the food starts to taste a lot better with all the practice. And my motivation to seek out new recipes.
  • Plan a few days in advance about which dishes you want to make and then go to the grocery store. The more supplies you have ready at home, the likelihood you’ll want to use it (at least this is the case for me and needing to be budget conscious). The more you do this, the more you realize which food items are your staples and which are just special once in a while items.
  • Always have the right basic tools ready. It’s annoying to be in the middle of cooking only to find out you are missing that 1/3 measuring cup or a mixing bowl big enough for the mixture.
  • Experiment with the different spices and seasonings that are available. There are so many amazing flavorings out there that are available to us. I’m still learning this myself. Spices are expensive, so I want to make sure I actually use them. Some basics I always have on hand and replenish are: onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, vanilla, cinnamon, sesame oil, and soy sauce. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but this is the gist.

I hope this was helpful. I hope I continue on this streak. It makes me genuinely proud and happy. And I am so grateful to find peace and joy in cooking.

My cooking/baking goals at the moment (but I’m in no rush):

  • Bread loaf
  • Ice-cream
  • Thai yellow curry from scratch
  • Chili
  • A delicious pie

connect through food

We drove a while until we saw on the GPS that our destination was around the corner. I was hungry. It was his idea to go further by the coast and climb mountains to get a better view before though. Loved the time with nature, but was also starved and depleted. Decorated like a home, this restaurant had succulents along the path of the entrance. You can tell it was a family restaurant, with the father who led us to a table. I could see the window and walls carrying little pieces of their history, aged by the frequent sunlight that shined through. A man sitting at the table diagonal from us had ordered something I’m unfamiliar with. He silently ate bit by bit as he looked up every so often. He seemed to quite liked it as his plate was completely clean before he left. I searched through the menu; sticky on some pages. And then I knew what I wanted. The son took our order. Moments after the food arrived, my stomach was full and my heart was happy. There’s something undeniably beautiful about the human connection that needs no introduction. Just a passionate cook, a hungry patron and a dish holding years of family tradition, a touch of love and plate full of deliciousness.

hungry

Stir fried udon noodles
Broccoli, fried tofu, shrimp fish balls, udon noodles and bok choy

I made this when I craved udon noodles, but wasn’t feeling the soup broth kind. I figured, how much more work is it to stir fry? It wasn’t really at all. It was one of the tastiest things I made. I am sometimes taken aback how much effort a dish takes and the return is not even close satiating my taste buds. This, however, was certainly worth the effort.

burger heaven

Just before heading back into the kitchen, I smelled the delectable scent of the sesame seed, soy sauce, garlic, green onion turkey burgers just about ready on the stove. Popped some sesame hamburger buns in the oven for a quick warm up. I like bread when it’s a little crispy on the edges and soft in the center. After a few minutes, the warm bread aroma took center stage. Lovely.

He asked if I wanted mayonnaise, I said no. Ketchup? Nope. The lettuce and tomato suggestions were a negative as well. Without anything added at all, it was amazingly delicious. Like, really good. I had a moment after eating if I should take a photograph, but decided not to. It doesn’t look any different than any other burger really and it seemed better to describe it anyway. This is a moment when a photograph doesn’t say a thousand words. But my taste buds do.

donut reflections

donut reflections

I was making some art on MS Paint and realized, hey, I had a few thoughts. It’s written in the image above, but in case you can’t read it, here’s what I wrote:

everything has become a performance. things aren’t legitimate until there’s a brand name or a label or a degree. it feels staged. like i’m afraid to start anything because of the fear of not knowing what is validated or not. but why even care? i want to write. i want to create things. i want to bake cookies and i want to change the world for the better. i can do those things. you can do those things. we don’t need to be held back by some kind of standard we are trying to uphold or a title we need to define. i am human. you are human. can we just be humans again?

Food product review: Mong Lee Shang Coconut Milk Drink

This post is not sponsored in any way.

Mong Lee Shang coconut milk1

For dietary reasons, my mom wanted to drink more coconut milk for her health. She came upon this at an Asian grocery store we often go to. I hadn’t tried it until earlier this year and now I wonder why I waited so long.

It’s delicious! It’s sweet and obviously coconut-y, but not overbearingly so with either taste. It is wonderful chilled and shaken. For me, it’s like a dessert in itself. The can has two sides and I happen to have taken this photograph of the side with the Chinese characters for the brand name. I just double-checked and it is in fact Mong Lee Shang. I’m not too familiar with the brand (or that I’m aware of), but I would recommend this for sure.

some home cookin’ X

Ah! It’s crazy I haven’t posted a home cookin’ post since December 2017. I’m super behind and haven’t been taking as many photographs. I’ve recently gotten back into the game though, so hopefully you can see the new dishes I’ve cooked by 2021…haha. There have been so many times in my life in which I’ve turned to cooking and baking as a way to get creative, but also to relax. I have some new dishes I tried this year, so I’m excited to show you all. Hope you enjoy!

This Vietnamese pancake is called bánh xèo. My version was pretty simple. Perhaps I’ll try this one again, but with more filling. I used shrimp, red peppers and green onions this time. I actually have enough photographs to make a DIY on this, so that may be a future post!

banh xeo

banh xeo 1

This is just a simple BLT–bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. I think the bread slices are from a larger Italian loaf and the cheese is Colby.

BLT

This was a dish of leftovers of sorts. On the plate: roasted chicken, sauteed bok choy and skillet potatoes. I love potatoes so much!

bok choy potatoes roasted chicken

Just a simple spaghetti with meat sauce. This spaghetti is whole grain and the meat is ground beef. It was super easy and delicious. I was too lazy to make meatballs from scratch, so this was an easy alternative.

spaghetti and meat sauce

This is fried rice. I make this often, so I’m not sure if this is with kimchi, but looking at the color, I think it is. I had mixed in whatever I had in the fridge which were eggs, corn, pees, carrots and kimchi. The spicy kimchi definitely adds a kick!

fried rice