Sesame Basil Noodles and Mondays

Cooking, Thoughts
Coming together now

Coming together now

Mondays, Mondays, Mondays – whether you like it or not, they’re a bit of a work-fail even if you’ve got that to do list in front of you.

It’s difficult to light your ass on fire when all you want to do with said ass is crawl back into bed.

And apart from being generally demotivated, I feel like I’m moving through Jello. Tasks that take me 5 minutes on a Tuesday are taking me 10, today.

Like, for example, it’s just REALLY hard to write an email sometimes, ok?

But what can you do? Mondays are slow starters and we have the rest of the week to kick-ass, including our own.

So when you get home today, instead of crapping out why don’t you make these super tasty pasta noodles masquerading as some quasi-Thai dish?

Individual component

Individual components

I know, nothing can beat real Thai food.

But real Thai food involves skill and more oil than I’m willing to ingest.

SO. This is why, I recommend making healthy western food with an Asian inspired dressing. It keeps the Asian in you happy AND it keeps your body happy.

Like look at this baby – it’s fettuccine, sauteed bean sprouts + carrots + mushrooms, grilled chicken, basil + spring onions tossed with a tahini-ginger dressing that was crazy good. Oh – and topped with peanuts and sesame seeds.

At the end of the eating it, I felt light and energized and satiated.

I think when your body feels good, even directly after a meal, that’s a pretty good sign.

*Recipe from Half Baked Harvest.

Weekend Meal Prep YOUCANDO

Baking, Cooking, Thoughts, Wisdom
Prepping for prep

Prepping for prep

Every weekend I set aside about two to three hours, to plan how I’m going to take over the world.

No seriously, because the only way that I can take over the world is if I eat well-balanced, nutritious food that will then give me enough energy to take over the world. Right?

But more seriously this is my post about meal prepping on weekends. I got into meal prepping for two simple reasons 1) Shutterbean and 2) IHAVENOTIME.

Let me explain.

1) Shutterbean is this fantastic blog written by Tracy who cooks these wonderfully healthy and varied meals not just for her blog, but also for her family (her husband and son). And she achieves this by being organized and prepping the ingredients and pre-cooking certain items on the weekend. Check out her awe/jealousy-inspiring meal prep grams here, here and here.

2) IHAVENOTIME. I know, I have a choice in life, I can stop saying I’m so busy and sit down and smell the roses… but guess what? I don’t want to do that. I want to run and go to yoga and hang out with my friends and go to work and read and do my laundry and read a book and get 8 hours of sleep AND eat somewhat healthily. SO. That means being a little organized and getting some stuff prepped over the weekend.

I don’t prep like Tracy, since I don’t have a family, but what I do is that I have a simple rule. I try not to eat more than one meal out a day, so if I’m eating dinner out I’ll pack a lunch for work, if not I’ll eat the dinner for the week.

I hard-boil 5 eggs for breakfast and make either a muesli or granola every two weeks which I enjoy with greek yogurt. That is my breakfast all week – minus the one day I get my chocolate almond croissant from Tiong Bahru Bakery.

I prep a salad for the week by buying spinach leaves or romaine (they keep fresh for about three days), grill vegetables (usually a combo of carrots, beets, peppers, etc), grill chicken, make a salad dressing (loving this one right now) and cook 1/2 cup of dried quinoa (about 5 meals worth for me). That lasts me for about five meals and mid-week I usually re-do the whole process.

This takes me about 2 to 3 hours, with plenty of time in between to dance around my apartment or do more laundry.

Totally doable right? And I’m not advocating an oat and salad filled existence.

Make whatever the hell you want.

Mel, my apartment mate, preps awesome tofu-veggie pasta salads every weekend.

Another good friend puts together protein and fish and fruit every night for her BYOL.

Just think about eating and living intentionally. Because – it’s kind of awesome.

The TASTIEST Granola Bars

Baking

Starting out

Starting out

I really like fake healthy food. Like oatmeal cookies. Granola. Granola in the bar form. Oat bars. Fully loaded oatmeal. I think I’m seeing a trend.

I think I like these treats because they have nuts and oats and dried fruit and all these nutrients but really they’re just full of sugar – and taste like it.

So, when I was scheduled to go on a nature walk to see otters (I didn’t see them) at 7:00am in the morning, I knew one thing would make this exercise infinitely more tolerable.

Crazy tasty and filling granola bars that I could whip out of my tote bag (because I’m eco-friendly like that!) and munch as I surveyed nature. And stuff.

All packed in

All packed in

Browned to perfection

Browned to perfection

When it came time to cut these – they didn’t stick together. They just failed and crumbled.

I had to shove it into foil and mold it into a square shape for my nature walk.

I have to admit, I was skeptical about these babies but one bite and I was swooning. They’re just crazy delicious and the right amount of sweet and chewy. I’m salivating as I write this.

When I got home I found that everyone in my house was also totally into them. And the fact that they were basically only possible to eat with a spoon? Did not phase us one bit.

I urge you to make these, eat them with friends, eat them alone, eat them for tea, eat them for breakfast, eat them with greek yogurt… Just make them. And eat them. What else are you doing this weekend?

A crumbly situation...

A crumbly situation…

Deb’s recipe is very adaptable but this is my ingredient list – be sure to follow her instructions at the link below:

1 2/3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsps melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water

*Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

I make ugly food & it TASTES SO GOOD: Vol II

Baking, Cooking, Recipes, Thoughts

My first ugly food post is actually the most popular post on my blog EVER. It got 105 views which let’s face it is, pretty paltry and in all honesty it only got there because Shutterbean linked to me. THANK GOD FOR HER.

In a bid to replicate my early success in a time of complete creative drought (I find that I’m mostly really concerned about what lipstick color I should buy) that I thought I would copy an old post.

Like always, I’ve been cooking up a storm and it’s been good, but it really hasn’t looked good. AKA I haven’t bothered styling it.

Here’s what I’ve been cooking and enjoying these past two weeks! Bon Appétit!

Bonkers Awesome Mushroom and Onion Shells and Cheese Joy The Baker

The minute I saw this recipe on Joy’s blog I had to make it. However the amount of cheese and butter held me back knowing that really eating this could in no way be classified as healthy or good for you. Still I made it (Sans Gruyere – which I will use next time) and not only was it an awesome dinner, it was an awesome lunch to take into work. Too bad it really looks nothing like the original.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Quinoa and Goat CheeseCookie and Kate

I don’t really impulse food shop because I have a set amount of things I eat in a day and at certain times (5 o’clock apple – everyday!).* So when I do buy something out of the ordinary it generally causes a lot of panic and my mind immediately tries to slot it into my routine. This is what happened when I recently bought some cheap strawberries. I don’t have the calorie bandwith or time to eat strawberries but I had to eat dinner, so I made this salad and added some grilled chicken and was good to go! Was it good? Ish.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup – All Recipes

Honestly, All Recipes? I know, how very 2000 of me. But seriously this recipe, which I stumbled across after typing in “sweet potato” and “coconut milk” into Google, was actually AMAZING. Make it and dunk in some udon, veggies and some silken tofu and you’ve got A MEAL my friends.

Big Clusters Maple Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Granola – Averie Cooks

I make granola from time and time and it’s always vaguely healthy. This time I didn’t want to do healthy – I wanted to do chock full, can’t even pretend this is good for you granola. Because sometimes you want to. Sometimes you want to be bad – and then feel good – and then feel obese. Because really this is what happened when I made this granola. And honestly – check out the photography in the original post and drool because it is oh-so-good.

*If you think this is strange and weird and you are still my friend then you obviously think this is a charming quirk of mine and we need not discuss this further.

Chicken, Bacon, Avocado and Pan-Fried Asparagus Salad

Recipes
You can't even tell this was taken 3 days after I first made it and was bordering on not tasty.

You can’t even tell this was taken 3 days after I first made it and was bordering on not tasty.

It’s the weekend people and I know what that means for most of you. Heavy ass food, hitting the alcohol a little too hard and staying up wayyy too late to watch all them World Cup matches.

Do yourself a favor and get in a nice healthy salad in there to keep you going.

I promise this one is almost brunch worthy. It’s got bacon in there and avocado. YUM.

Now this salad is good – the bacon and the avocado weigh down the otherwise unremarkable spinach. The dressing is tangy and makes your lips curl.

Make it and trick yourself into feeling virtuous. 😛

Vinaigrette (From Bon Appetit)
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad
bacon, as much as you like
1 Tbsp butter
asparagus, chopped, as much as you like
1/2 lemon, squeezed
spinach, cut, as much as you like
boneless chicken breast/thighs, as much as you like
avocado, cubed, as much as you would like

Vinaigrette
Put all ingredients into a glass bottle with a cover. Shake vigorously.

Salad
Either pan fry or grill or bake your chicken till done. If you can’t do this without a recipe. I can’t help you. Or email me and I will.

Once cool, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Fry the bacon until crispy and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Wait till cool and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium high heat. Add the asparagus saute until golden brown and a little burnt looking. Right before taking it out toss with the lemon juice.

Put together a bowl of salad with the spinach, chicken, bacon, asparagus and avocado.

Drizzle or toss with the vinaigrette.

*Adapted from Pinch of Yum.

Taco Salad

Recipes

Taco Salad

This past two weeks I felt like I was being stalked by Cinco de Mayo.

Every single Instagram account and food blog/website was all – MARGARITAS! You should make this awesome GUACAMOLE! Why don’t you eat TACOS!

Ohhh the Tacos.

Steak TACOS. Fish TACOS. Deconstructed TACOS.

But I knew I shouldn’t do it, you know? Tacos are so carb heavy with corn tortillas and fatty with dripping meat – IWANTITIWANTITNOW.

Sigh.

Yeah I couldn’t hold out. But I figured I would compromise. TACO salad? Yeah sure of course – this is totally healthy.

Taco Salad

Honestly, I’m sorry about the quality of these pictures but believe you me – if you had this in front of you, you wouldn’t be too concerned about trying to make it look pretty. You would be concerned about exactly what amount of each ingredient would render the perfect bite. And it’s alllll up to you because the beauty of salads is the customization baby. And the dressing pulls it alllll together. And in this salad there are two dressing: spicy cumin and rich sour cream. Mmmm.

It’s Friday y’all – just go with it.

Cumin dressing
3 Tbsps apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsps ketchup
6-10 dashes Tabasco
2 tsps ground cumin
2 tsps freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsps granulated sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Sour cream dressing
1 cup sour cream
1 big green chili, seeded and minced
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice

Salad
Romaine salad leaves, as much as you want
Black Beans, canned, as much as you want
Corn kernels, as much as you want
Avocado, diced, as much as you want
Tomatoes, diced, as much as you want
Red/yellow pepper, diced, as much as you want
Red onion, sliced and pre-soaked in lime juice (to make less pungent)
Tortilla chips, as much as you want
Protein accompaniment*
Cheddar cheese, grated, as much as you want (for topping)

Cumin dressing
Put all the ingredients in a glass bottle except the oil. Top with tight lid. Shake vigorously.

Open cover and add oil. Top with tight lid. Shake vigorously again.

Refrigerate until needed.

Sour cream dressing
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until combined.

Refrigerate until needed.

Salad
Fix yourself a bowl of salad with a selection or all of the ingredients listed above in whatever quantity you want.

Drizzle with the cumin dressing and sour cream dressing and toss!

Crack extra black pepper over for added zing.

Try not to eat too fast.

*The protein accompaniment you choose is all up to you. You can stir-fry shrimp, grill chicken or pan-fry steak. I had all three options over this past week and they were amazing. Click on the links if you need recipes.
**Adapted from Chow.

Braised Chicken with Olives and Red Wine

Cooking

2014-05-01 19.59.08

So, this recipe is for anyone who is A) lazy/aka smart and B) makes their wine choices based on what’s on sale at Cold Storage.

A) Lazy/aka smart because it’s minimal effort for a rich and fancy(ish) meal.

B) Well this takes more time to explain. You know who you are, you’re that person every Friday who hits up the wine section at the grocery store and you’re all “Oh yes, I’m going to get a nice bottle of vino for the night.”

Please imagine this voice with a conspicuous British accent. (Optional: Hint of original Asian accent from wherever you’re REALLY from)

“Oh look the cheapest merlot here is 13.90 – well that can’t be good! It’s just so CHEAP. Oh wait here’s englishsoundingname estate wine discounted from 21.45 to 15.90. Well that’s an AMAZING value. I must buy it and drink it and laugh at my ingenuity at making prudent life choices.”

Then you get home and open the wine bottle. You smell that intense wine-y smell and you try and lie to yourself that it’s not that bad. Then it hits your tongue and you know you can’t have more. Because you’re just not drunk enough. You will never be drunk enough.

But then there’s this: You’re just too cheap to throw it away.

This is when this recipe comes in. Use up that crappy crappy wine you cheap-o. And it might almost make your bad decision seem like a good one.

2 Tbsps olive oil
2 boneless chicken thighs
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp Herbs de Provence dried herbs mix (rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc, etc)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup red wine (preferably shiraz but really anything should do)
4 sundried tomatoes in oil
1 can (160 gm) of tomato puree
1/4 cup sliced black olives

In non-stick pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame.

Place the chicken into the pan, browning them for about 4 minutes on one side.

Turn the chicken over, and move the pieces to one side of the skillet. On the other side of the skillet, sautee the onion and Herbs de Provence for about five minutes, until the onions are softened and a little bit browned. Add the garlic and sautee for 1 minute.

Add the wine, tomato puree, olives and sun-dried tomatoes to the pan.

Stir everything around, increase heat until it boils/simmers.

Turn the heat down to low and cover. Let simmer for an hour. It’s really that easy.

Serve over rice/pasta/some form of carb.

*Adapted from Opera Girl Cooks.
**Photography by Hoi Yee (paper_shins).

Caesar Salad

Baking, Cooking

Caesar Salad

Most of my food making is borne out of  – “What do I do with these leftover mashed potatoes? Oh Google says make shepherd’s pie. Ok, I can do that. Wait. I need cream but only half a cup. Hmm I guess I could make cupcakes or something with that. Oh damn. I have like waaay too much butter. Brownies?”

And the cycle keeps going. AND GOING.

This used to stress me out when I first started cooking different things that weren’t the staple, chicken curry, channa masala, Indian based dishes my Mom taught me to survive my undergrad in Canada. But now each week is an adventure because I’m improvising from what I cooked the week before and I’m not going to lie – even for a type-A, control-a-holic like me – it’s kind of exciting.

A couple of weeks ago I made lasagna, which was ok-ok (hence me not-posting it), and was left with half a hunk of Parmesan cheese. I don’t really eat that much cheese because I believe it makes me retain water and makes me breakout. But it’s expensive man. So I couldn’t throw it away.

This time Google didn’t help, instead it was a fresh caesar salad at the bistro/bar Overeasy that left me wanting more.

What makes this salad awesome is clearly the dressing and this particular rendition doesn’t have eggs or mayo. Yaay!

I also made the croutons from scratch and cooked up some shrimp. Because I’m fancy like that. If you want chicken instead – go ahead you pleb.

Caesar Salad

Dressing
4 whole anchovy fillets (If you want it more pungent, add more anchovies)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1/2 whole lemon, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 dash salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Croutons
Half a loaf of sourdough bread, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
few twists of pepper
pinch of garlic salt (optional)

Protein Accompaniment
Precooked shrimp, as much as you want
2 Tbsps oil
Minced garlic, 2-4 cloves, depending on amount of shrimp
Lemon juice, depending on amount of shrimp
Pinch of salt

Salad
Romaine salad leaves, as much as you want
Parmesan, shaved/grated, as much as you want

Dressing
Using a small food processor blender, blend together the anchovies, Dijon mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic and lemon juice.

Add olive oil to the mixture and blend. Add the Parmesan, salt and black pepper. Blend until thoroughly combined.

Refrigerate the dressing for a few hours before using it on the salad.

Croutons
Preheat the oven to 175C/350C.

Throw the cubed bread on a baking sheet.

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan for 3 minutes or so. Add the salt, pepper and garlic salt.

Drizzle oil over the bread and mix with your hands so that the bread is evenly coated with the oil mixture.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes till golden brown.

Protein Accompaniment
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

Add the minced garlic and shrimp – at the same time. (It will be fine I promise)

Cook till shrimp is done, it should be opaque and bit brown.

Add lemon juice at the last minute and a pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Salad
Chop, wash and dry the romaine salad leaves.

Drizzle some dressing on the salad leaves. I can’t tell you how much because I don’t know how much salad you’re eating.

Throw in a good handful of the Parmesan cheese that you’ve shaved/grated.

Toss! See if you need more dressing, toss again.

Add the croutons and protein accompaniment.

EAT.

*Recipe adapted from Ree Drummond.

Raspberry Crumb Bars

Baking

2014-04-20 20.53.18

Guys it is time that I got serious about this blogging bizness. I like bought this domain for $18 a year. I don’t know about you but to me, that’s an investment. I mean instead of having my very own .com I could have bought 4 normal/ 2 over-priced sandwiches. Or half a dress!

But instead I’m choosing to fill a creative void in my life by maintaining this blog and entertaining people.

But am I really entertaining people? While I think I’m brilliant, my follower numbers and page views don’t seem to support that. My theory is my pictures suck. Wait no, they REALLY suck.

So this time I actually took these bars and cut of the edges and photographed them properly.

Side shot of the precariously balanced bars. I took me three tries to stack these so they didn't fall down.

Side shot of the precariously balanced bars. I took me three tries to stack these so they didn’t fall down.

These bars are dessert and breakfast worthy. Thankfully they also fall somewhere in the middle of healthy (oats) and unhealthy (butter).

The crumble mixture is nice and rich thanks to the butter and the sweet and tart raspberry jam balances it out nicely. Use decent quality jam. It’s really the key ingredient here.

This is what I call the sexy close up. Note the oozing jam and artful crumble. You almost can't see the side bits where the foil is stuck to the bar.

This is what I call the sexy close up. Note the oozing jam and artful crumble. You almost can’t see the side bits where the foil is stuck to the bar.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 175C/350F.

Line an 8 by 8 inch baking dish with aluminum foil. Grease foil.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

Stir in oats and brown sugar. Add butter, and using fingertips, work butter into mixture until evenly distributed.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the oat mixture to the prepared baking dish and press into an even layer.

Spread raspberry jam into an even layer over oat layer. If you spread it to the edge, like I did, it will stick to the foil. If you don’t want that to happen, please follow the original recipe which advises you to keep the edge jam free for 1/4 inch.

Sprinkle top evenly with remaining oat mixture, then slightly press into jam layer.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Man I need to wash my dishtowels more often.

Man I need to wash my dishtowels more often.

*Recipe from Cooking Classy.

Spicy and Sweet Soba Noodles & Sushi Salad

Cooking

2014-02-07 11.25.28

This is so much tastier than it looks. I promise.

This week’s Recipe Challenge was making two Japanese inspired recipes that fit nicely into my protein/carb/salad dinners. I found both recipes from A Beautiful Mess – a blog which is ANYTHING but – but somehow manages to be even more charming because of its name.

So here we go!

Sweet and Spicy Soba Noodles (Surprisingly complex)
serves 4

1 pkt soba noodles
1 pkt cooked shrimp
1 red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger (1 knob of ginger bashed)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Cook soba noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Slice up the red pepper. Cook with a tablespoon of olive oil just until the peppers start to soften. Then, add the cooked shrimp and noodles to the pan and turn the heat down to low.

In a bowl mix the honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, red pepper flakes and minced garlic.

Pour over the noodles, shrimp, and peppers. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the liquid has reduced some. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions.

Sushi Salad (Has a real kick to it)
Serves you

Salad
Lettuce (any kind)
1/2 an avocado,
sesame seeds
seaweed sheets (tear with your hands)

Dressing
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 Tbsp chili sauce
Squirt wasabi sauce (can get tubes of it in Fairprice Finest/Cold Storage)
1 Tbsp mayo

In the bottom of the bowl you plan to eat your salad in mix the lemon juice, mayo, chili sauce and wasabi sauce.

Chop and wash the lettuce and put it into the original bowl along with 1 or 2 seaweed sheets.

Top with sesame seeds.

MIX!

Eat.