Sunday, November 18, 2012

NOT CHAO MEIN [improved] Chao Mian

Hunger Games apt 309 update: groceries in fridge are sparse as ever. As in, nonexistent. It is now REALLY the hunger games, sans giant fireballs.
The thing is, with Thanksgiving break fast approaching, I have decided that I refuse to buy groceries until after I return from break. Which means I need to make do with whatever I have left. #jenniferlogic Survival of the fittest, amiright?

Luckily, the hodgepodge of foods that I DO have left, are sufficient enough to make Asian noodles! And they turned out surprisingly great. I think my best dishes come out of my most desperate moments. When resources are constrained and I am forced to think outside the box on how best to feed myself. Darwin knew what he was talking about. 

All I did was
1) steam/cook brocoli
2) fry with garlic + onions + pao dofu (I added the pao dofu really early on so that it would become super soft and absorb all the flavor. GOLD STAR!)
3) added cooked noodles
4) seasoned everything with salt + soy sauce + seasme oil
5) coated everything with egg at the end.

The most planning I had to do for this dish was figure out what the best order of adding ingredients was. It brought me dejavu to the time when I was still learning how to make fried rice, and the Moms was explaining ingredient-placing-logic to me. It made me see how far I've come since then, which is always a rewarding feeling. I understood that the onions and pao dofu should go first, because they take the longest. I took care to add the broccoli towards the mid-end since technically, they were already cooked. And I knew that eggs had to be added at the very last step because they cook the fastest.

Awesomely enough, the noodles also lasted me more than one meal. And they turned out sooooo delicious! And this time was better than the first time I made asian noodles with the mushroom, so I am just going to stick to this onion+brocoli combination from now on. I was able to feed some to Shampa later that night, and she also gave her thumbs up of approval. I hope this redeems me from that horrible brocoli-pasta I made her eat earlier this semester.. *cringe*  Maybe this is a sign that I should just stick with my own culture, AKA seasme oil+soy sauce. least hunger games-mode doesn't automatically mean eating ramen+frozen foods every night. I mean, if I were really in hunger games I have a feeling I could easily be killed off first, so at least I'd have the best last meal out of everyone else? priorities...

Difficulty: 4
Willingness to make again: 10!
Over-all: 9

Butternut Squash Noodles-A Mellow Yellow Dinner

I currently own a bright yellow backpack, yellow towel set, the yellow AA jacket, a yellow apron, yellow oven mitt, yellow rain boots, a yellow skirt, yellow scarves, a yellow mug, yellow bowls and a yellow wallet. 

So is it surprising that tonight I made myself a very yellow dinner? 

(let's not bring race into this, folks. HAHA jk, we're all PC here) 

I finally busted out the frozen butternut squash that I've had since the first day of school to make some noodles. Having a reserve of frozen vegetables really does pay off because I have had no time (READ: am super lazy) to grocery shop these past few days.



I'll be the first to admit that the butternut squash I made at home probably tasted better, and for a number reasons. 1) fresh butternut squash > frozen 2) real vegetable additions > basil spice

^yellow noodles + yellow bowl!

But in the college setting, I'll make do with what I can. I tried, alright!? At least I tried. And the noodles didn't turn out bad at all.

What I did:
1) Fried up some garlic
2)Added my butternut squash in the skillet+water until they got reeeaaally soft
3) Added cooked noodles into the skillet
4) Combined everything into the skillet and mixed together
5) Doused salt + basil seasoning
6) Ate. 

Result: Thick, mushy noodles that were very healthy and pretty good. I later tried sprinkling feta on it, but honestly I think it was fine without it. 

Difficulty: 4
Willingness to make again: 7
Over-all: 7
1) Don't add too much water right off the bat when roasting the vegetables (you'll drown them)! You can add more later on as you roast.
2) PARM is the best cheese w/ pastas. That and probably goat cheese? NOT feta. 
3) Next time: dad spinach or some actual green vegetable when you aren't being lazy. 
4) One box of noodles lasted me two days. 

Pre Art Murmur Potluck!

On the first Friday of every month, Oakland opens up its streets and transforms into Art Murmur. It is this crazy street art festival that is alive with music, food trucks, galleries and people. All the galleries stay open late and offer free admission, so you can peruse through all the different pieces. And on the streets there are different stages and live music bands on every block, food trucks of all kinds, multiple stalls selling everything from anarchist tshirts to "snoop dog cookies." It's all kinds of crazy-awesome, and I finally got to go with my group of friends!

What I love about it the most is the *energy* of the entire place. People from all over the community are at Art Murmur, and it is very clear that Art Murmur isn't just a "cool thing to do on a friday night," they totally take command of their space. Everywhere is filled with locals, not tourists. It's kind of grungy, kind of druggy, very eclectic and vibrant. It's all very Oakland.

 I also happen to really like looking at art. If not prodded along by somebody, I could end up staying at one particular art museum for over 40 minutes because I spend so much time absorbing one piece. It isn't because I have any artistic ability whatsoever, I just like having the art slowly wash over my senses. I take it in slowly and piece together all the qualities of the art, how it works together, and its holistic impressions. A first impression can barely catch a glimpse of what the art piece actually is, in my opinion. And I feel like a lot of art museums give off pretentious vibes. Like, look at my splotch of red on this ginormous canvas, it is worth 32328945893 dollars because it is so deep and profound! But Art Murmur is more about local talent and artisans, and while the prices are exorbitantly high anyways because all art is pricey, something about perusing local art museums is just more refreshing.

Anyway, before heading out to Art Murmur I proposed my friends and I all gather at my apartment for a potluck dinner as opposed to eating out. I figure all college kids want the same things: to spend time with friends and to save their bucks. We're just too lazy to coordinate it and that is how we all end up either sitting in our kitchens alone watching another episode of 30 Rock, or eating out every single night. Not that there is anything wrong with both of those dinner options!

Well, the potluck turned out fantastic. And it was pretty effortless to throw together, because my friends are phenomenal, that's why.

I made my lettuce wraps, because by this point its one of the dishes I have the most confidence in making. And they were a SLAM-DUNK. I think everyone really liked them, because their reactions closely resembled how I was when I first tried the dish over summer. It made me really happy that I was able to feed my good friends some good food. :)

Amy came and brought her butternut squash soup with her, and I pretty much died. Hot, thick creamy soup is heaven to me! I really, REALLY, really need to learn how to make the group from her now.

Rohit made indian spiced potatoes.

Siddharth didn't have time to cook so he helped me buy the heart of romaine lettuce, and brought wine and the Trader Joes flourless  chocolate cake ( <3 <3 <3 <3 <3)

Kevin didn't bring anything because I was supposed to teach him how to  cook but ended up just doing it myself. Oops!

Michelle brought more booze. Every shindig needs more booze. 

All-in-all, this was probably the most well fed any of us had been in a loooong time. Hey, don't give us that look, we're just a bunch of silly ragtag kids! But honestly, the meal left us feeling so happy, hearty, nourished and full. Our bellies were just the perfect amount of full before we tackled the cold and headed out to Art Murmur.

Happy friday indeed~ (:

Pumpkin Breakfasts

The season of Fall is undoubtably upon us. It is the time of scarves and boots, (some) changing leave colors and that crisp fall breeze. It's the time of Thanksgiving and family, of warm tea and snuggles in cafes, substituting iced for warm drinks and sunbathing for indoor reading.
And above all, it is the time of pumpkin. Pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin. Pumpkin everywhere, all day err'day.

You see it on all the Starbucks and Petes signs. In every aisle of Trader Joes. And the addition of pumpkin pie on every restaurant menu. It's so easy to see how consumerist our society is when Fall is primarily defined by the release of the Starbucks pumpkin latte...and apparently, we are consumers that all freaking love pumpkin.

It didn't take me *too* long to jump on this bandwagon. Especially when the cost of membership is a $1.99 can of pumpkin puree from Trader Joes.

But seriously, speaking of Trader Joes. If society is going through a pumpkin phase, then Trader Joes is the Istanbul of all things pumpkin. Every, single, thing in that store has a pumpkin twist. Pumpkin teas, pumpkin pancakes, I swear to god they have pumpkin flavored turkey too.

Not wanting to get TOO crazy, I just stuck with the puree. And it has gotten me very into the Fall spirit.

For now, I start my mornings with some greek yogurt + pumpkin + honey + cinnamon+ nutmeg. But there is so much more I want to do with my pumpkin! I am thinking...pumpkin+quinoa breakfasts...pumpkin on toast...the possibilities are endless. While I am always a summer spirit at heart, I'll admit that Fall has never tasted homier.

Overdosing Indian Food-Cauliflower

No, just no. No more indian food for me. 
And it is nobody's fault but my own.

There are so many old adages out there, that a little something can go a long way...that less is more...
So why on EARTH did I not listen to any of them and create this abomination of a dish that is sadly being disguised as "indian food" purely because I used curry powder and cumin? 

In a nutshell, this is me cooking indian food:

It started out well enough...I was inspired after eating Amy's awesome indian rendition, and decided that I could easily mimic the dish on my own with the rest of my cauliflower. I began "roasting" it in the skillet with extra water, and even added quinoa to it to give it an extra something. Turns out, quinoa is a great additive when creating makeshift indian dishes, because its soft mushy texture resembles curry. 


The seasoning is where everything went so, so wrong. Like in Gilmore Girls seasons all-of-them are-amazing before Lori becomes this weird, rebellious Yale-ee chick who dates a loser named Logan and steals a boat. God, those seasons were the worst. 


Well, I decide that it would be a smart idea to DOUSE curry powder and cumin into my food. Just, MAKE IT RAIN with the spices like im freakin, I don't know, Christopher Columbus spreading ALL the smallpox into every country he ever stepped foot in. I don't even know! 

In all seriousness, indian food is really tricky. Those spices...they are really, really strong. I think only a real Indian mama would know the intricate balances of spice-to-dish ratio. Not some silly chinese girl who has absolutely no idea what she is doing.  And from this experience, my taste buds have become traumatized from ever wanting cumin. So it isn't all indian food that I can no longer eat (I will eat good indian food any time, any day), I just don't think I am up for any makeshift indian cooking anytime soon. much cumin...*shudder* 

Difficulty: 4 
Willingness to make again: 2 / 7 (when my PTMIFT (post trying to make indian food trauma) subsides, I would like to try again) 
Over-all: 3 
1. Quinoa! : great substitute for curry 
2. LESS. IS. MORE. -easy on the spices
3. Potatoes would also be good in this dish 
4. Easy on the red pepper flakes too

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mason Jar Lunches

They say that you can't plan for creativity, it hits you unexpectedly. Or in my case, it hits you when you are mad booking it to your 9:30 AM class and need to pack a lunch because the giant hole in your wallet is only getting bigger by the minute.

In the mad college-scramble of trying to conjure something edible out of a barren wasteland of a refrigerator (Sadface. Why do grocery stores in Berkeley have to be so.god.damn.expensive?!), I discovered: a bag of frozen broccoli, a bag of frozen corn, and some sun flower seeds.

And behold: Steamed brocoli w/ corn and sunflower feeds: garnished with olive oil, salt and garlic powder.  

This is all very college student meets Michael Pollan, don'tcha think? 

It's quickly becoming one of my favorite lunches though. My room mate's awesome steamer makes cooking the veggies so easy. And the mason jar is more for utility than hipster points, believe me. 

Apparently, you aren't supposed to microwave tupperware...which I sadly discovered the hard way (what other way IS there for me to learn my lesson though, honestly? The pile of contorted tupperware in my cabinet is a depressing reminder of this fact). But you CAN microwave mason jars, because aside from being a pin/tumblr fad, they're muddafuqin badass jars of GLASS. So yeah, 
PROs: microwavable, environmentally friendly (reusing materials!), makes you look trendy 
CONs: makes your backpack heavy :( 


What if in the future I become some really cool, hip mom that packs her kids mason jar lunches instead of brown bag lunches? Would the other kids make fun of my child? Haha just random thoughts I am having and sharing for no reason. I bet by the time I have kids, mason jars  will be so "retro" that they will be thrown into the closet of unforgivable things, like permed hair and eighties music. More reason for me to enjoy them now then!

Difficulty: 0
Willingness to make again: every day 
Over-all: 8
1. Great variability! Can be mixed up with lots of different vegetables. 
2. Can also chop up veggie patties to add extra substance! (Next time!) 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

(Upgraded) Moar Salads for Moar Days

Lately, the only thing I've been eating more than salads are my own words. 
I knoooow, I said I was going to stop relying on the cheater's salad and actually make more "real" foods. And I knooow, technically since midterms are on hold I don't reeeally have that much of an excuse. And yeeees, I said I was never going to invest in buying the ingredients necessary to making more legit salads because I was content to buying them instead. 
I even said how I probably was going to backtrack on that very statement as I was saying it and here I am, doing just that. Do I know myself well or what? 

But look at that! Look at all that free lettuce I got from a club meeting! Indeed I did shamelessly carry that entire tray home. I couldn't help laughing when houseless people on the street immediately asked me to spare some of my free food. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want a tray full of rabbit food, let's be real. 
With this sudden flux of greens added to my fridge, I had no choice but to invest in some ingredients for salad. This is the calling of the college student that must always be answered. It is in my nature; natural selection practically dictates it to be so. Starving cheap college student + free student is a no-brainer equation.

So I bought some sunflower seeds. And shredded carrots. And a can of motherfuckinchickpeas!!!!! And started cubing/frying my baked tofu (which miraculously was also still good after being in my fridge for eons. #pleasedontjudge). The free greens also came with a box of blue cheese and dressing. 


And wala! All the sudden I'm packing these bomb-diggity salads for lunch every other day, and they are delicious!! 

Why did I ever bother to swear off homemade salads in the first place again???? Why Jennifer, why. 

Obviously, salads can be varied in a bajillion in a half different ways: olive oil, balsamic, red wine, raspberry vinegar, chickpeas, tofu, fetta or blue cheese, fruity or no fruit, corn or no corn...I will not bore myself/everyone with all the different combinations of salads that I come up with. That just sounds like a nightmare GRE problem that would make me cry on the spot. 


The POINT is, salads are a thing now. Homemade salads are a thing and they are a FANTASTIC thing, and it's just one of the trillion things that can once again be added to the never ending list of things Jennifer refused to partake in for no sensible reason but then changed her mind on.  Let me just say "things" one more time.I am SERIOUSLY a five year old. Except I'm a five year old who likes her cake, eats it too, AND THEN MAKES HERSELF A HOME MADE SALAD. Make sense? 

Salty Stir-Fry

Just a typical afternoon, spending the day with my friend B-lee. (: I invited him to stay over and share some dinner with me, which was simply going to be some stir fry with some vegetables that (miraculously!!) hadn't gone bad yet. My hopes were high; perhaps this was a sign that the food gods were watching over me.

Then I ruined everything by basically drowning my food in salt. MOOP. 

At least Brandon was a good sport about it. 

Difficulty: 4
Willingness to make again: 8
Over-all: 5
1. Good combination of veggies!
2. Celery lasts a loooOOOoooong time in the fridge and is very yummy. YAY! (Note to self: not an excuse for putting off cooking though!!!)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

[Guest Post] 1.5 Chinese Girls and Indian Food


For now.

Still, this post-apocalyptic week (look how undramatic I am) has been very relaxing and necessary. Things will be a lot calmer in these neck of the woods for several days at least. Hello cooking and SF excursions! Emphasis on the cooking; I need to stop ordering take out food.

^ check out Amy's super cool, colorful potatoes

The other day, my friend Amy announced that she has mastered the art of making Indian food. Which is a chorus of harmonizing angels to my ears, because that craving I've had for Indian food hasn't gone away since this summer. Considering all the Indian people I hang out with on a very constant basis (#SHENNIFER), I wonder if I can consider myself an honorary brown baby. I'll have to consult an actual Indian person on this. Also, since I don't go to Indian Flavors every week anymore, my body is undergoing serious withdrawal. Woes of a cheap college student.

^ check out this cute girl named Amy

^and some artsy chick named Maya

So on Wednesday night, I stuff a giant cauliflower into my backpack and make my way over to Amy's apartment for a very lovely dinner with two of my favorite people. I hope we do it more often, because it is a great way to unwind after a typical stressful weekday in Berks. And honestly, good food enjoyed with good people is one of the simplest joys in life (-said a hypothetical fortune cookie somewhere).

I didn't really help cook that much, I just washed and cut the cauliflower. All credits go to Amy on this one, which technically makes her my first ever official "guest" post! Exciting! Especially because she happens to be one of my foodie-inspirers and a great foodie buddy. (:

Our Indian food, while not entirely "authentic" was not only delicious but pretty easy to make! I am excited to take home my leftover cauliflower and try making it again for myself. It reminds me of my hodgepodge Indian tofu scramble, which is essentially mixed vegetables in the skillet doused in curry/cumin/garam masala. But hey, if CHOW MEIN and KUNG PAO CHICKEN gets to be a thing, then we can totally get away with this. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Salads for Days


With the stress of midterms, I did not have time to make anything else for myself besides salads.
But because I got a lovely free bottle of this yummy raspberry vinaigrette from Safeway, this made me feel not as bad about being so lazy and just making salad. Because this vinaigrette is going to have to be used up sometime, right? It was free for crying out loud! And wasting is wrong...that too. I just need to make sure this doesn't lead into me only making salads every day out of pure convenience and laziness. Which is already a tempting idea......bah! No! Must. Keep. Cooking. Real. Foods!

So I've been putting together spinach+carrots+grapes. Which really, (real talk) is just a lazy college kid's combination of random vegetables, covering it in vinaigrette, and calling it a day. But I ain't even sorry. And hey, it's really healthy at least! 

The grapes was my own creative spin, though. I figured that since my vinaigrette is fruit based anyway, that the grapes would be a nice touch to the salad. They basically substituted for crutons, since they're nice and crunchy as well. But they're so much healthier! So I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

I also made another version where I melted some frozen rasberries and added those into the salad. This is when I ran out of grapes. The only problem with this though is that rasberries get really mushy, especially when you are defrosting frozen ones. But the juice kind of added to the salad I guess. Mine just got overly juicy. While I prefer grapes to the rasberries, I do like their addition into the salad, just so my salad isn't literally only two ingredients.

Difficulty: 1
Willingness to make again: 10 (works really well when I am feeling the need to be super healthy, or I am just very time-crunched)
Over-all: 6
1. This is going to be my go-to detox food.
2. Maybe I will invest in buying some pumpkin seeds. Those are really good in salads!
3. And raisins...I miss raisins. I should buy raisins. RAISINS.

I know that I can definitely be more creative with salad. But my thing about making salads at home is that, while it is so easy and probably way cheaper than eating them at restaurants, I hate how many ingredients a TRULY AMAZING salad requires. I haven't invested into purchasing all those ingredients yet, even though I am sure it is more cost efficient than buying them at restaurants. It's another one of those "stubborn Jennifer things" that I will probably get over one of these days, and then shoot myself in the foot for not having done so sooner. Ah yes...but until then, I'll either be eating grossly simplified (but still edible and pretty good!) homemade salads or buying them.

 Salads are a lot messier to cook than you would think too (but I think this is just...a Jennifer problem). I HATE mixing salads. But I also HATE having under-mixed salads. Salad requires thorough mixing, but every time I try to do that I am spilling oils and ingredients all over the sides and it drives me NUTS. Blarg. I am kind of embarrassed to even be admitting that I have these problems because I have a feeling I am literally the only person in the universe who has this issue with making salads. Oops.

Breakfast Quinoa part 2: Avocados!

Decided to experiment with the breakfast quinoa idea.

The premise of this idea was based on my previous success with sweet avocado paste.

So I decided to mash up avocado, add it into quinoa, put in sugar/honey, and dice up some bananas.

In theory, the green and yellow would make this dish lovely to look at too. But this was clearly not the case. Nevertheless, when it boils down to it it's the taste that matters most, and this was pretty yummy.  (: Yay for creative cooking! 

Difficulty: 2
Willingness to make again: 10
Over-all: 8
1. It is harder to get the sweetness when you are mixing avocado with the quinoa. It turns out that in this case HONEY > sugar. So opt out of sugar entirely and just use honey as your main sweetner.