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. 

Asianly Charmed Mexican Eggs

Did you know there is such a thing as Christmas in October? It is when you have tons of Asian Charm :3

So there was this one time where I went to Safeway after spending 8.5 hours studying at Philz nonstop, so my mind was clearly very cracked out, and then as I was checking out at Safeway I won a free bag of groceries.

Isn't that just the greatest story ever told? Do you want to hear it again?

But seriously guys, FREE GROCERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me! Apparently, because this Safeway reopened and is all shiny and renovated, they are doing this promotion where every hour or so they randomly pick an aisle, and whoever is checking out at that aisle gets a free bag of food! And guess which tired little asian girl just happened to be at the right aisle at the right time?

College student + free + food? Santa must REALLY have a thing for Asians this year. I somehow find myself not creeped out by that at all, because check out all these goodies I got!

-big bag of jalaepno chips
-big bag of dorito type chips
-bottle of raspberry vinegerette
-big jar of salsa
-fresh baked sour dough bread
-box of pretzel chocolate bars
-bottle of water
-bottle of italian soda
-yummy seed crackers
-reusable bag!

Say what say what, amiright?! But honestly, not trying to sound overly obnoxious (errr, more so than usual that is), but I do find myself getting free food pretty often. My current theory is that I look underfed and that is why people feel prompted to give me free food. That combined with looking like a 12 year old. But even for me, this was just too awesome.

One of the things I was worried most about though was the salsa. Because I don't have any tortilla chips and wasn't sure how else you could eat salsa. But this salsa looked so good! It is not the cheap gross kind that is basically tomato paste and water. This salsa is really fancy salsa with corn and beans added in it. I am not generally a stingy girl (I gave most of my free snacks to my friends, actually), but I REALLY wanted to find a way to use this salsa.

Then a friend suggested salsa with eggs.


SUCH a great idea.

Eggs with salsa is TOTALLY a thing, right? And I even had avocados at home too. Dice that up and mix it all together with scrambled eggs, and you have one helluva delicious breakfast/lunch/dinner. YUM!
^also added some microwaved corn of my own into this mixture

This could not have had better timing either, because this was all happening during my crazy midterm hell week. Which means no time to cook anything elaborate, but at the same time not wanting to spend ALL my money eating out on campus.

In the end, this turned out to be a very fast, easy and delicious meal that I will be eating for awhile now that I have this beautiful, big jar of salsa to use up. If only I could get a midterm grade for ability to score free food...automatic 4.0????? (wait, that totally went against the whole me trying not to be obnoxious thing. Oops, maybe we should lower that 4.0 to like, a 3.5).

Difficulty: 3
Willingness to make again: 10
Over-all: 9
1. If I want spiciness, I am going to add red pepper flakes next time. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Red Bell Pepper Pasta

Sorry this post is very number intensive, and less intensive on the typical JenCray-ness...I too, most definitely prefer the latter. It is serious midterm time over in these parts, and I have been chugging along practically nonstop. I am still not sure how much I plan on cooking this coming week, because I am torn between wanting to save time and save money. So even if I do come home for a quick meal, it will be really simple and not worth writing about. Oi.

Okay fine, a cute cat picture to alleviate the mood. #instantstressreliever :3 mreow

But back to my red bell pepper pasta. I figured I could recreate my butternut squash pasta, and simply sub red bell pepper for the squash and use basil seasoning instead of sage. Well...

^see how I just added my diced onion and garlic into this soupy mess?

1. Recipe would be fast and easy. Simultaneously cook pasta, roast the bell pepper, then combine and fry.
2. Red bell pepper would become soft and mushy until it turned into a pasty sauce and coat the pasta
3. Would include caramelized onions and garlic for added flavor
4. Yummy pasta
1. Recipe took a lot longer to make than planned. Turned out one of my stove tops is broken, so the entire time I thought my pasta was simultaneously wasn't.
2. Peppers DID become really nice and soft, but don't posess the same mushy qualities of squash, and therefore did not coat my pasta. I doubt any length of time roasting would have let them get to that point, and I roasted them for a long time.
3. Should have fried up the garlic+onion first/simultaneously in another pan, instead of adding it to my roasted bell pepper. Hard to do since I only have one skillet...maybe I could...get another skillet?
4. *GOOD* added a cup of the pasta-cooked water into my roasting skillet, giving my pasta more flavor I think (read it in a lot of pasta recipes). Maybe if I cook my pasta first, I can use only pasta-cooked water to roast my peppers from the get-go.
5. Yummy pasta-but it actually tasted better COLD later on. Maybe this pasta needs to sit first to let more flavors soak in.

I wouldn't say this recipe was disappointing, per say. And I'm pretty invested in trying it again since I have more peppers on hand, and I think I can make it pretty good.

Difficulty: 6
Willingness to make again: 10
Over-all: 7.5
1. I seasoned this pasta with salt and basil. Maybe look up complementary spices and add that as well (rosemary?) Flavoring is esp important because I am not eating cheese for awhile and have none in my fridge.
2. Again, either eat it cold or let it sit for a bit before eating.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Breakfast Champion: Quinoa Oatmeal Mush

A double-wammy win for Pinterest this week, folks! We are on a golden streak, and I could not be happier. This breakfast creation was inspired by a number of recipes I've been seeing on Pinterest involving baked oatmeal, oatmeal smoothies, and other yummy breakfast items.

Recently, something in my brain just *clicked.* I realize now how great breakfast is. Really now, Jennifer? Really?  I know, I know. And yes, I am really just that stubborn and resistant to arbitrary things that my mind deems "irrelevant," for whatever pointless reason. It used to be coffee (L-O-L I literally will pee in my pants crying at the thought of how anti-coffee I used to be. Who was smuggling cocaine into my water and did you run out of money to do this, or what? Why the sudden stop?), alcohol, cooking... does this mean I'll be seeing a tattoo in my near future? Nahhh...I'm not that cray (???)
^pre heated

Well, we can now add *breakfast* to the list-of-things Jennifer has converted to in her quest to become that much more of a normal human being. Granted, I have a long ways to go. But step by step, I will slowly get there. And I'll be better fueled now too, now that I actually invest in breakfast! See what I did there?

Starting my day with breakfast is awesome. It gives me energy and puts me in the right mindset to start off my day. And being a Berkeley student, and being me, I need all the energy I can get. It also forces me to wake up earlier and have a nice, chill morning with plenty of time for  cooking breakfast/lunch, as opposed to having to run out of the door in a flurry. Drawn out mornings are the best. 

i iz ready to do anything!

After classes/meetings/studying in the library: 


My breakfast is a creation I put together myself, substituting quinoa for oatmeal. This substitution turned out to be awesome, because quinoa has a grainy texture and is also very very filling. So my stomach doesn't growl at a ridiculously embarrassing volume during my classes (seriously though...story of my LYFE). 

^w/ a dash of chocolate powder

I then added: 1) honey 2) cinnamon 3) peanut butter (ANOTHER USE for the gross natural peanut butter! YES). 4) Frozen berries 5) A teenyweeny bit of milk 6) Dash of ghiradelli chocolate powder, for when I want a sweeter kick 

I stir everything together and microwave it in intervals of 35 seconds, until I deem it ready to eat.

This recipe is a great base that can be altered in so many ways. It can do with or without the chocolate powder. You can add nuts to it if you have any on hand. Maybe try adding greek yogurt to it, although I don't know how well that will microwave. And it helps me use up this ginormous bag of frozen berries I bought the first week of school and have barely used since.

Willingness to make again: Every. Damn. Morning for the rest of my life.  
Over-all: 9
1) Need to be careful how many berries I put into it, because it adds to the mushiness when you microwave it
2) Balance your ingredients/quinoa amounts so you don't have a weird mush-to-quinoa ratio. Taking into account microwave action. 
3) Haven't tried this cold, but I feel like it is best warm/hot 
4) Greek yogurt, maybe???? 
5) If I ever buy bananas, they would taste great sliced up and added after everything is heated up. OR mushed into the quinoa and heated to add a banana flavor to everything. 

Old School Asian Mushroom Noodles

Was smart and made a ginormous bowl of noodles that lasted me for THREE meals. Talk about good bargain?!

There isn't anything too fancy going on with these noodles, but they remind me of my childhood a little, because I was the worlds brattiest eater. (MY LIFE, IT IS A BIG BUNDLE OF IRONY. But really, anyone else noticing this trend?). I'm pretty sure if I put together a list of things I would eat back then, there wouldn't be more than...10 things. And 5 of them would be off a Mcdonalds menu.


But one thing I really liked to eat was noodles with sesame oil and soy sauce. So simple. So basic. Yet quite satisfying for 5 year old Jennifer.

Which is why 20 year old Jennifer decided to revisit this childhood classic, adding in asian mushrooms, garlic, cong, red pepper flakes, and some tofu pao.

Now I can see why the Mom didn't object to making this for me so often. For one thing, it definitely beats Mcdonalds. But it also is SO easy to make. This will be a go-to recipe for whenever I crave some Asian flavors but am simultaneously being extra lazy.


Difficulty: 3
Willingness to make again: 7
Over-all: 8
1. Add some salt: didn't this time because I knew soy sauce would be salty. But a little wouldn't hurt.
2. Add in the tofu pao earlier so it soaks up more flavor. Still liked it this time because it added a different texture though.
3. This recipe can be adapted in many ways, and can be made with any vegetables.
4. Try with some rice vinegar.

^dinner 3: added an egg on top and let the liquid yoke run into my noodles. yuuuuums!

The Gift that Keeps Giving-Peanut Butter Greek Yogurt Dip

These recipes remind me of why I got a Pinterest, or occasionally skim through new food blog entries on my feed. It isn't too dissimilar to gold mining, which I don't have prior experience in, (unless you include Gold Rush week in elementary school...but those were rocks with gold paint...) but a lot of the time I would assume you end up with worthless minerals. In my case, it's unusable recipes that require too many ingredients you don't have, or have time-intensive procedures. And recently, I've hit an especially bad recipe slump; I haven't really found anything that sparked my inner Julia Child, although this is partially just because I'm in school now and not in the creative-inducing comforts of my home (or boring office). So I've been resorting to remaking the collection of easy/reliable recipes I've accumulated from summer, which is by no means a bad thing. That's what this summer project was for to begin with.
Still though, every engine needs an extra pump of fuel. And my passion for cooking requires a few sparks at least once in awhile. It's all about balancing convenience and time efficiency with retaining the creativity and fun of cooking.

Which is why I am especially excited by this new find. Because I finally struck gold. In a very unexpected way, too.

Greek Yogurt Peanut Butter.

What? Did you not hear me?



Peanut Butter. 

It combines two things that I really really really really really really like. Supplemented with dashes of honey and cinnamon. All blended to taste.

To make gold.

If I were to try and write out everything that is amazing about this recipe, it comes out into this word vomit of gibberish, so I am going to have to take a few very deep breaths and write it out in a list:

1. Such a healthy alternative to straight up peanut butter for snacking / dipping fruits in
2. A great way to use up that disgusting, "Sam's All Natural, Organic, Shitty Tasting Peanut Butter" that I got from Berkeley Bowl.
3. Gives the Greek Yogurt this really great, fluffy, and thick texture that I love.
4. Takes 5 miliseconds to make.
5. Can be consumed by the spoonful without the waves of shame/guilt/public eyeing that may come from eating peanut butter straight from the jar (not that that has ever stopped me before...but still)

Difficulty: -1
Willingness to make again: 2348789234
Over-all: 9.9!!!
-Going to experiment by adding vanilla and a dash of nutmeg to it. Why not?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Eggs in Holes

It is no secret that me and breakfast aren't BFFs. We're more like frenemies...I can deal with it when I randomly feel like it, but in general I always x-nay breakfast, go straight to a handful of my daily dosage of gummy bear vitamins, and book it out the door to whatever commitment I am running late for this time.
Except I've become better at trying to eat breakfast sometimes, because I think it's supposed to be good for like, your health, or I've heard...

So I finally decided this whole egg-in-hole thing. And then proceeded to hit myself in the head repeatedly for not having already done this my entire life.

It is exactly like the egg+toast combo I know and love, streamlined into one, effortless process.

This is as good as the day I discovered brushing my teeth in the shower. DON'T JUDGE, I know for a fact that Nathan Adrian does it too.

Flipping and preserving the yoke inside becomes a smidge trickier here, but I have already gotten better with practice. And this is such a quick and easy breakfast that helps me start out my day very nicely. 

Consider this me tipping my metaphorical hat (because seriously, I look horrible in all hats. It's a struggle I learn to live with every day) off to breakfast. You did good on this one, frenemy. I can respect that. 

Anti-Seabooger Indian Tofu Scramble

Sooooo...I've been in a really weird funk these past few days.
What is a funk, exactly? I don't think there is a dictionary definition of it. But I am pretty sure falling asleep at 9:00 PM falls into the category of funk....yeah, it has been weird.

And then the weather has been sunny, super hot, takemetothebeachhot, cloudy, freezing my ass off, then weird cloudy but kind of warm hot-all in this same week. Whaaaaa-?

But back to today. I woke up at 7:30 AM, after 12 hours of very weird sleep, interrupted once at 4 am to turn off my light when I realized I left it on all night.And I woke up with this acute awareness that my life these past few days has been in this weird funk infested with seaboogers makes sense, I swear.

Being in a seabooger funk, in Jennifer-verse, means being sleepy for no reason, having zero productivity but being apathetic about it, not exercising (blaming the sudden malfunctioning of my Macbook. Thank god I am getting it back today so I can get my life back on track. FIRSTWORLDPROBLEMS; sorry I am not sorry), and trying to do homework but realizing you brought everything you would need EXCEPT the one workbook you really need to do your assignment. MEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRR-seabooger language for FML.

^this is a sea booger

 At least I am not in denial. I am trying to climb myself out of this funk and get my life back on track. The first step to doing this was to make myself some food. Which is where this new tofu scramble came from!

^this is a lobster; the opposite of a sea booger and what we must all strive to be

I wanted to be productive this morning and make myself some new food before I went to my first day of internship. This tofu scramble is inspired by this recipe and a spontaneous longing for Indian food.

As you can see though, it is a very loose adaptation. My scramble is kind of the Goblet of Fire movie to the actual Harry Potter book; still turned out good though and made me cry at the end. JK about crying at the end...of eating this scramble. I really do cry every time I watch HP4. RIP DIGGORY.

I am glad I got to use some spices that have been lingering in my pantry. I also have just been craving something new to cook rather than the same few dishes I always make. Experimenting with new dishes is always exciting (when it isn't disastrous).

My Indian tofu scramble original consisted of:
-mushed up tofu
-white onions
-carrot shreds
-green onion
-curry powder
-cumin powder
-garlic powder
-lemon pepper
-red wine vinegar
-soy sauce

I basically just put pinches and dashes of everything to taste until I was satisfied. Not everything has to be complicated to be good!

Difficulty: 2
Willingness to make again: 7
Over-all: 7.6