Why I love paper bags

My regular grocery store makes us pack our own groceries and passes on those savings to us in the form of lower prices. What a wonderful thing, right? Oh wait, there’s more!

At the end of the checkout line, there’s also a choice of plastic or paper bags to use. No prizes for guessing which one is my number one choice. The paper bags, of course! It’s one of those times I get to feel good about doing my teeny tiny part for the environment.

Not to mention that carrying my groceries in a paper bag is pure nostalgia. In my college days, I’d be hugging two paper bags stuffed to the brim with the week’s groceries. I swear they were so heavy I almost felt I would lose my grip and drop everything.

I recycle all my paper bags and use them for trash. That makes me feel much better than tossing out plastic bags which I know are going to that landfill to choke up the environment for a million years. And that’s not funny! at all!! Go hug a paper bag instead!

Curry and flatbread

Curry and flatbread

Every so often, you meet someone and you get to talking and inadvertently the topic heads in the direction of food. Isn’t that what usually happens? So much revolves around food these days that it’s hard to avoid exchanging notes about what’s good where.

While I’m not one to jump at food recommendations, no matter how good they may sound, there are times when we’re at loose ends and feeling a little plucky. That was the weekend we found ourselves at an Indian restaurant recommended by said someone.

Chicken curry was an obvious choice for us. The portion was somewhat smaller than expected. Still this was a curry bursting with all the traditional herbs and spices that make Indian curry so special. And the long-grained rice with distinct grains was very good.

We loved it. Our only mistake was forgetting to tell them we wanted our curry to be killer spicy. To our seasoned palettes, this curry was heat level zero although we did spy another diner drowning himself in water from eating this same dish.


We ordered the highly recommended flatbread. It was crispy and tasted like flatbread but it didn’t jump out at us. The yogurt looked intimidating to me somehow, maybe because it’s second nature for me to dunk any sort of flatbread into curry. So dipping it in yogurt was a bit scary at first. It wasn’t bad but I still prefer the curry combination.


And that was it. We left the place still hungry, of course. This always happens when we’re trying out a new restaurant. We like to play it safe in case the food doesn’t measure up to our expectations. After this meal, we went grocery shopping where there was ample opportunity to fill our tummies with food samples (more about this coming to a post near you).


3-pasta week

3-pasta week

We didn’t plan this. It just happened. This 3-pasta week, I mean. No complaints though. Pasta is quick and easy. Not to mention, more hands make light work. In fact, we cooked 2 pastas at one go. How’s that?

Here’s the story. It was a Tuesday night, a school night. And we were rushing to get to a basketball game. We had to eat dinner before leaving plus I wanted to pack the girls a swankier lunch the next day instead of the same old boring sandwiches. So we ended up cooking 2 pastas – the pesto tilapia over linguine for dinner that night, and the tuna pasta to enjoy between classes at college the next day.

Let me just say, pesto tilapia over linguine is super yummy. Well, now that we’ve successfully recreated the pesto tilapia from scratch, we can pretty much scratch the boxed version we’ve bought once or twice.


The tuna pasta is a longtime favorite of ours. It’s a recipe I created and well, it’s been a while since we ate this. Don’t let its looks fool you. Such innocent-looking fusilli and yet it’s deadly spicy!


The following night, I cooked this mac and cheese while waiting for the girls to get home from class. Apparently they’ve loved the mac and cheese I used to cook for them when they were little. How could I not know this? They’ve been reminiscing about it so I promised to cook it for them, for old times’ sake? LOL


Yes, that’s one heckuva huge pan of mac and cheese, heavily loaded with hidden goodies too! (Sidenote: I wonder how much RO restaurants would charge for a serving of this.) I’m not necessarily a fan of mac and cheese. Yet I couldn’t stop eating this. That kick*ss crunch and the light saltiness coming only from the 2 grated cheeses. Yums.

Okay, so I’m planning next week’s meal menu in my head and making my grocery list. I wonder what I’ll come up with.


A new word, aproncation

A new word, aproncation

It’s snowing heavily in the mountains after years of drought so folks are rushing up there in droves. As for us, we planned to take a slow, leisurely road trip to the beach. But it’s been raining (on and off from that – brrr – Arctic blast back in December) and with more rain in the forecast, we figured we’re better off having a staycation instead.

Recent months have been hectic so it’s nice getting to linger in bed longer and taking my time over my coffee when the mornings are still cold and dark. Kinda like taking our polar bear challenge up one notch but without having to drag myself out of bed so early.

A staycation is great if you believe in staying home and doing nothing and hope you don’t bore yourself silly. In the city, if you’re feeling bored, you can always find entertainment at the mall by having someone ram their shopping cart into your butt, or stand over your shoulder as you desperately dig for that one last coin at the checkout line.

But in the absence of such entertainment, I started rummaging around the kitchen in search of something to do. As luck would have it, I found half a bag of cranberries left over from the cranberry sauce I made for Christmas. A light bulb comes up – wokay, let’s make another pie!

Fueled by my recent apple crumble pie success, I couldn’t wait to get started on a cranberry crumble pie this time. Since cranberries are tart and don’t have much of a texture, I decided to put a couple of Golden Delicious apples to work. And the result was this out-of-this-world Apple Cranberry Crumble Pie, the craggy cranberry filling punctuated by the crunch of diced apples.


Guess what else I found in the freezer? Yup, a bowl of leftover turkey stock and two bags of turkey bones from Thanksgiving and Christmas. I threw everything together and made a huge big pot of Turkey Noodle Soup – pure genius! It was so unbelievably good we’ll have to be content craning our necks out for a repeat performance next Christmas!


And while we’re at it, why not whip up one huge batch of pumpkin pancakes? Put me in the kitchen and I’m like a heron flying over a fish pond. The possibilities are endless. It makes me shake my head to think of my clueless college days, ‘stranded’ half a planet away from home scratching my head before every meal.

And that was our little aproncation, a new word I just invented, inspired by our bonding exercise over cooking and baking projects. Aproncation! Hmm, what a great word! I like it!



Mediterranean food adventure

Mediterranean food adventure

Looks like the food adventures of the new year have begun. This Mediterranean food adventure was totally unplanned. We were parked and walking towards Baja, our favorite Mexican food joint, for lunch when we noticed this newly-opened Mediterranean restaurant straight ahead.

Okay, so you wanna give this place a try? we were asking each other. I don’t think I’ve had Mediterranean food before. Well, okay, I may or may not have had a couple of bites off a shish kebab sandwich once, if that even counts.

We walked up to the restaurant to get a closer look at their posters. Frankly, some of these well-intentioned food posters tell me absolutely nothing about what I’m going to get if I were to order those items. I can venture a guess but I really can’t be sure.

Someone pops out from behind the glass door and cheerfully hands us each a small flyer with a bunch of unfamiliar food names, then promptly disappears (which is kinda nice). Goodness knows how annoying it is to have restaurant staff shouting out welcomes, shoving flyers in your face and chasing after you as you walk away. It just tells you how desperate they are to get you to eat their – bad food?

Anyhow, standing out in the cold trying to decipher the flyer on an empty stomach was the last thing we needed. No matter how many times we read the flyer, none of us got much further than the words shish and pilaf. The rest of the food items might as well have been names of asteroids in another universe light years away.

At some point, the wind started blowing and we decided, okay, that’s it, we’re going in. The big man behind the counter flashed a huge friendly smile and asked if we were new to Mediterranean food. I’m pretty sure he already knew the answer to that. He embarked on explaining everything. Finally it was all making three-dimensional sense.

We only ordered one plate to share, just in case. That’s us, picky eaters who don’t like to waste food. The man was very understanding and handed us a single plate piled high with 2 sticks of chicken shish, rice pilaf, white beans, pita bread, salad, jajik and baklava. It’s all good. Just keep that humus far, far away please LOL!


I know. That’s a lot of carbs. But don’t expect me to say, I’ll eat my carbs now and tomorrow I’ll swim the Pacific from end to end to make up for it. I feel no carb guilt. Seriously where would we be without carbs? How did we even get to adulthood if our parents never fed us carbs eh? Something to think about.

So you’re dying to know, did I like the food? Looking at the deep red tomato-based chicken, I was expecting the flavor to be intense. But it turned out to be pretty mild. We ordered the spicy version too but to a seasoned spicy eater like me, I barely sensed any heat. Maybe it’s been toned down for the American palette. If you know what this Mediterranean chicken is supposed to taste like, please let me know. But yeah, the chicken tasted okay.

As for the jajik, a creamy white dip made with Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic and olive oil, loved it! In fact, we couldn’t get enough of the two big bottles we bought at Costco last year. And of course, we loved the baklava, a Mediterranean dessert made with Phyllo pastry and honey. Absolutely delicious. So sad that we got such a small piece *sobs*.


Right after this meal, we marched straight across to Baja for “Lunch, Part Two, The Conclusion”! Tada, our Grilled Shrimp Salad aka yummiest thing ever, as always! No surprises! We gobbled up every last bean (pinto and black), every last tortilla chip, every last bit of diced tomato and avocado, every last shrimp… ’nuff said!


From the Mediterranean to Mexico, this was one fabulous food outing on a winter’s day. Guess we’re richer from having tried yet another cuisine we’ve never tried before.


How I like my apple pie

How I like my apple pie

Pie has been a topic of much debate since Thanksgiving when Costco was selling their scrumptious pumpkin pie like hot cakes. Everyone had at least one pumpkin pie in their shopping cart. Some folks had ten?!! Or more?!

We sampled the pie and it was delicious. One lady said it’s the best tasting pie next to homemade. But looking at the size of that pie, it would take us till next Thanksgiving (at least!) to finish eating.

We decided to bake our own pie instead. Pies are easy-peasy to make. Fine, homemade may not be as pretty as commercial. But looks aren’t everything. If an ugly pie is healthier and tastes just as good, I say – go for it!applecrumpie

Two Granny Smiths and 3 Golden Delicious later, we had an apple crumble pie coming out of the oven that we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into. This is my first time making a crumble pie and it turned out to be every bit as delicious as we had hoped.


The nice thing about homemade pie is that you can cram it to the max with filling and tailor it any way you like. Smooth and gooey with apple chunks that I can bite into, that’s how I like my apple filling and that’s exactly how I cooked mine.

The filling turned out at the perfect sweetness level too. Surprisingly the Granny Smiths weren’t as tart as I thought. I didn’t even add much sugar but instead got to enjoy the full-blown natural sweetness of 5 apples! Joy!


Reflecting on 2015

Here we are, on a freezing cold last day of the year. Yeah, it has been unseasonably cold this winter. Still that’s not going to dampen my mood. It’s bright and sunny out. I don’t see why this last post of the year can’t be exactly that! Let me see… so what piqued my interest in 2015.

Cooking firsts

This has been a year of cooking up a storm of new recipes and ending up loving all of them. Seriously I don’t think there’s anything we didn’t like and that includes my homemade cranberry sauce and vanilla cupcakes with strawberry icing. As for my Asian cooking, which isn’t my forte, I’m laughing that I managed to cook these.

  • out of this world radish soup
  • steamed egg with homemade salted egg – a little watery from the condensation but still good
  • glutinous black rice soup
  • gajinamul (eggplant Korean sidedish)
  • ginger and spring onion tilapia fillets (always loved this at Chinese restaurants but didn’t think I could wing it at home without a recipe)
  • charsiew (barbecue) pork steak – omg, totally awesome!

New loves

  • Beef stew noodles, where have you been all my life? Omg, I can’t even begin to describe the intensity of this rich beefy soup made with 9 herbs and spices that our favorite Chinese restaurant chef says he brings in from San Francisco. Confession, I’ve never eaten tripe and never thought I’d like it so much!
  • Shrimp tempura in a box? C’mon, no way!! But yes, finally we don’t have to look sadly at those one or two pitiful shrimp tempura peeking out of a sparsely populated bento box. Now we can eat plump crispy shrimp tempura till we bounce up and down like helium balloons.
  • Tin roof sundae, bartlett pears, apple pears, grapefruit – what’s not to love?
  • Sampling food at Costco where they give out portions you can actually taste instead of those measly microscopic bits that do nothing more than get stuck in your teeth.
  • Going to basketball games and cheering like a crazy LOL.

Learning experiences

  • People can promise you the world but it doesn’t mean they will deliver. Lots of those around.
  • Bring cupcakes to a potluck. Everyone loves ’em.
  • Don’t waste your time on b*tches, witches and ditchers.
  • Don’t settle for lukewarm Vietnamese noodle soup. It tastes better piping hot.
  • When in drought, go to a car wash. It’s fun watching the soap bubbles dribble down the windows and it’s even more fun vacuuming the car yourself.

Okay, and I’m off to bake an orange cake. Have a safe and amazing 2016. Happy New Year!

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