Homemade Big Breakfast gets fancy-schmancy

Homemade Big Breakfast gets fancy-schmancy

Surprise, we had Big Breakfast for lunch last Sunday. I like big breakfasts. Homemade, of course! If I didn’t know how to fry an egg, I might be tempted to order this outside. But putting together a breakfast in slow motion on a laid-back Sunday morning to the rustic smell of eggs and sausages sizzling away is, to me, an awesome way to start the laziest day of the week. So why wouldn’t anyone make this at home? *shrugs*

Well, big breakfasts are nice and all but I can’t help but feel they’re a little too heavy for breakfast. For lunch maybe. But that probably isn’t why restaurants serve them all day though. I’m guessing it’s for people who wake up at noon or after. I could be wrong but serving Big Breakfasts all day is probably to save these folks the embarrassment of stumbling in to find that breakfast is lo-o-oong over and they’d have to wait oh maybe another 17 hours or so before it’s available again.

Okay, back to our breakfast. We didn’t set out to buy tomatoes on vine but there they were, right out front at the grocery store, looking so plump and pretty. They’re more pricey than regular tomatoes probably because they’re ripened on the vine? But who cares, we bought them only for their looks!

Of course, if you’re cooking your own big breakfast, you can pretty much do what you darned well please. You’re free to make it even bigger and fancier than the restaurant’s. Ours featured spicy-mango-with-jalapeno smoked chicken sausage, egg, Portobello mushrooms, spinach and those good-looking tomatoes on vine. Bonus: 2 Californian grapes which you can’t get anywhere else lol!

Homemade Big Breakfast gets fancy-schmancy

The Portobello mushrooms were Hip2bDaughter1’s idea. I would’ve gone with the boring old white button mushrooms but she wanted to be fancy. And I’ll be honest, they were an excellent choice, not only because they tasted good but I mean, what’s a big breakfast with microscopic mushrooms? That ain’t right! The only mushroom befitting a big breakfast is an equally big Portobello.

The star of the show, however, was the spicy-mango-with-jalapeno smoked chicken sausage. Sausages are a rare treat for us, and another excellent choice by Hip2bDaughters. I was happily surprised by the taste of this sausage. It wasn’t salty like most. Instead it was sweet and juicy bursting with bits of mango and jalapeno. Devilicious!

Homemade Big Breakfast gets fancy-schmancy

Not an apple lover but

Not an apple lover but

Not an apple lover? That’s me. Not from lack of trying though. It’s not easy. Like many of you, I grew up being reminded often that apples are good for you. But as fruits go, I find apples to be incredibly boring, not just in looks but also in taste. Of the ones I’ve eaten, the tart outnumber the sweet by a wide margin and they make me cringe, especially the green ones.

Last week, to make up our weekly fruit quota, I bought some apples. I wouldn’t have otherwise but ya! 3 Fuji’s and 5 Red Delicious. The Fuji’s were okay but the Reds – big mistake! They were huge, shiny and deep red like the ones Snow White’s stepmother would be proud to fish out of her grubby old bag. I mean, stuff can look pretty on the outside but it’s not until you get under their skin that you find the poison, eh?

And so it was with the Red apple. They were positively the hardest apples to peel, and I mean that literally. If peeling them was hard, cutting them was even harder. Once I got my knife in there, pulling it out is like reenacting Excalibur, if you know what I mean. What kind of apples are these anyways?!! Steel??!!

After one Red, I was ready to give up my apple cutting career and move on to juicing. I did save a few slices though for a taste comparison against the Fuji. Verdict: The Fuji is easier to peel and cut, and is crunchy and mildly sweet 7/10. The Red tastes powdery and meh 3/10 but for some strange reason, its juice is surprisingly sweet and such a pretty shade of light greenish yellow.

Not an apple lover but

I wasn’t sure what to do with the remaining 4 Reds. I wasn’t even in the mood to think about them. After a few days, I mustered up enough energy to go into another round of apple hacking cutting and ended up dumping the whole lot into a pot to cook. Then I banished them to the freezer, not to be seen again till I could figure what do do. Two days later, lightning struck and this apple crumble pie was born.

Not an apple lover but

I like the idea of apple pies. It has such a wholesome ring to it. But I’m also very wary of the signature tartness of the final product. So while I’m okay with baking an apple pie, if it turns out tart, the people who say “but apple pies are supposed to be tart” better eat it all up.

While I was cooking the apples, I licked the wooden spoon and they were surprisingly sweet, just like the juice. Even without a single grain of added sugar, the filling was oozing with natural sweetness. That’s when I knew my apple crumble pie was going to be a winner. And it was! Bon appetit to me! I don’t like apples but I freakin’ love this pie!

Not an apple lover but

The outback on a slice of bread

The outback on a slice of bread

There are days when my weekday lunch could be as simple as buttering a slice of bread, not with your regular old butter, mind you, but with this nut butter, a gift from a friend. No one else in the Hip household cares for it. But I like it. Lucky me! This whole bottle is mine, all mine!

The outback on a slice of bread

This nut butter is kinda interesting. It reminds me of the barren Australian outback, all brown and peppered with bushes and boulders. I think that’s what it was but I slept through the entire 10-hour drive, so all I remember is a flash of brown.

So this nut butter, made with 7 nuts and seeds – cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds, is essentially the outback on a slice of multigrain bread. It’s creamy yet crunchy and peppered with coarsely chopped nuts. I mean, how else can I explain this without making it sound like ‘the bush’? I can’t. See? That’s what I mean.

The outback on a slice of bread

So there I was peeking into the bottle and thinking before I even tasted it, hey, maybe this could use a little regular butter on top of the nut butter. Huh?!! Seriously, what was I thinking? This ain’t jam, it’s butter with a ton of nuts in it, so why the heck does it need more butter? I have no idea.

All I know is that butter has this gravitational pull that I find impossible to resist. It makes these cute little blob-by faces at me and sucks me in till I go, okay, maybe just a little. Except just a little is never just a little. It usually ends up being one big blob and then, woah, the waistline is history!

So okay, forget the regular butter. I’ll just enjoy the scant sweetness and full-bodied nuttiness which is what makes this 7-nut butter so good. And that, for me, is a simple lunch with a cup of hot coffee to complement it, weather permitting.

(And for anyone who is wondering: No, I’m not getting paid to write this. Just to be clear, this bottle of nut butter is a gift from a friend.)

The end of living dangerously

The end of living dangerously

So okay, enough of living dangerously. Our reality-show-inspired skinny grocery carts of the past two weeks have been interesting but for someone who’s used to stocking up for the Apocalypse on a weekly basis, I’ve been struggling through the week with my finger over the panic button.

Will we have enough food to last the week? Are we going to run out of onions, milk and bread before the next grocery run?

Well, run out of almond milk we did. No milk for cereal? No problem, we can have bread and jam. Oh wait, we’re out of bread too!! And we can’t eat jam by itself. So we ate our cereal dry or, in my case, doused in my morning coffee. How weird is that! Even weirder is that as a mom, I’ve never left us stranded without meals before!

Neck stretched out like a crane’s, desperate for grocery day, couldn’t wait. Came the weekend, we rushed to the store and piled our carts up high. Okay, not that high but high enough that we won’t have to go into panic mode again this week.

Almond milk – double pack, pasta – 3 boxes, yogurt – a big tub. shredded Colby Jack cheese – a big bag and a slab of Parmesan, not shredded,not grated but the real deal (woohoo!). Mushrooms, bananas, pears, tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, chicken… now that’s more like it!

The end of living dangerously

And cereal, of course. Did I mention we’re down to our few measly spoonfuls and our oats won’t be arriving till next month? So hurry down the miles of cereal selections we did and I would’ve so picked this.

The end of living dangerously

Mini Wheats have long been my favorite! “Found it!!!” I declared victoriously. “Nope, you don’t want that, Mom. Look at the sugar!” Ooops, in my excitement, I’d only looked at the words, not the picture. Bah humbug! I eyed my Mini Wheats longingly but had to bid them a hasty goodbye.

Instead we picked out something new (to us though new and ever more exciting cereals are coming into the market every time we look) – the Cranberry Almond Crunch – and 2 bags of onion bagels (encore!), eggs, pears and garlic powder. And now we’re all set for the week!

The end of living dangerously

Lessons learned from living dangerously: If we’d been hoping to eat less by buying less, it doesn’t work because all that stress will fire up the appetite of a horse. Okay, fine, we could’ve eaten out but we didn’t want to, that’s all. If we’d been hoping to save money by buying less, it doesn’t work in terms of the time and gas money to run out mid-week for one or two items. So there!

Fantastic Four Fish Fillet

Fantastic Four Fish Fillet

So I get a text asking, What’s for dinner? and my answer was steamed fish fillet. In my head, there’s this pretty picture of my tilapia fillets steaming merrily away in a metal plate that’s sitting on a steamer rack that’s sitting in my big pot.

See, I don’t own a steamer. Not even one of those bamboo dinosaurs, and certainly not a 3-storey electric glass tower that one of my aunts proudly displays in her kitchen of appliances. Yeah, I can so see the poor fish taking the elevator to the top floor of her steamer? Hahaha!

Since I don’t have a steamer, steaming is a rare word in my kitchen vocab. I love steamed fish with all that colorful garnishing and tasty sauce. But the thought of doing those stunts with the metal plate and the steamer rack and that clunk of a pot puts me off.

The pretty picture in my head quickly dissipates and my enthusiasm falls to the floor. Surely there must be a better way to steam fish without actually steaming it. Lol, I’m full of fun ideas but not much of an Asian cook. Fun as in creative? crazy? weird? I think I’ll go with creative. A little boost in the old self-esteem department never hurt.

Cooking Asian food is something I’ve only started doing on and off in the last few years. Not sure if it’s cooking, more like creative fudging. On a good day, everyone will applaud and call for an encore. On a not-so-good day, I’ll be blaming my pots and pans.

Have I digressed? Yes, I have. Okay, back to the fish. Long story short, I told myself, forget the stunts and just poach the fish. Which was a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself. So the 4 fish fillets went into my pan and when it was done (or was it?), the poor fish had turned a pasty white. Which was quite off-putting!

So I put a drop of olive oil into the pan and fried them to give it some color? Haha, now there’s no question about the fish being fully cooked. Brilliant again! By the time, my fish fillets had been poached and fried and garnished, this is what we have.

Fantastic Four Fish Fillet

Now that looks much better and they smell heavenly too, like fish and chips. Not kiddin’! I made a light sauce and finished off with a ton of garnishing and ta-daa!

Fantastic Four Fish Fillet

I love how it looks. Almost professional, huh? Almost! Now for the million dollar question: How did it taste? Fantastic! Of course, and it sure beats dealing with those bothersome fish bones. We-eell, maybe it could use a little more sauce. Maybe. Definitely. Important thing is it passed the Picky Eater test and that usually means a repeat performance is next.

That fishcake kimbap

That fishcake kimbap

When I started dabbling in homemade bibim naengmyeon (cold spicy buckwheat noodles), I had no idea it would lead so quickly to kimchi pancakes. But here we are, going to the k-mart twice in a week to replenish our kimchi and noodles. Because we’re that into Korean food right now. Yup, we’re eating or cooking something Korean almost every week. And fishcake kimbap is the latest addition to our list of likes.

At the k-mart, there’s a homemade food section where they roll out fresh ready-to-eat food items like banchan (side dishes), noodle plates, etc. The food items change daily so you never know what you’re going to find when you walk in on any given day.

There’s a sign on the front door informing customers about special food items they’ll be making, or bringing in from Korea or other cities. So it’s always exciting to go there and see what kind of surprises they have in store.

On our way out of the store after getting our supplies, we stopped to watch an older Korean lady making seaweed rolls at the homemade food section. Hip2bDaughters were fascinated at her skill and asked her a couple of questions.

The lady spoke little English but she was really trying. Somewhere within their brief chicken-and-duck exchange, Hip2bDaughters learnt that it was fishcake kimbap she was making, and that instantly brought on the oohs and aahs.

The lady then picked up a piece of kimbap in each of her gloved hands and reached out to Hip2bDaughters who were somewhat taken aback. “For us?” they asked. She nodded and gestured them to take the kimbap.

Little ol’ me who had been lurking in the background distracted by some nearby pastries also got a piece to try. It was so pretty I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it before popping it into my mouth.

That fishcake kimbap

It’s got yellow preserved radish (dabomb!), carrots, tofu and fishcake, of course. I told her in Korean that it was very delicious. At first, she didn’t believe I’d spoken Korean. She looked like she was having that knee-jerk reaction like, am I hearing right? So I repeated myself and she was like oooh, I still can’t believe it. Lol, I’ve been learning Korean for quite a while now. So yeah.

All the way home, we were raving endlessly about our first taste of fishcake kimbap. No surprise that we went back the very next day and got ourselves a whole tray.

That fishcake kimbap

I love that there’s not much rice in it unlike some sushi’s and maki’s. So good but I feel it could definitely use a good slap of mandatory wasabi to give it the kick I love. Still for $5 a tray of such deliciousness, I can’t complain. We’ll be back! For more!

That fishcake kimbap

Birth of a kimchi pancake

Birth of a kimchi pancake

We were looking through old food photos and recounting the hot favorites at our weekly Korean restaurant. “Omg, that kimchi pancake looks so-oo yummy I wanna eat it right now,” Hip2bDaughter2 cries, threatening to print out the photo and eating it! No-oo-ooo!

Seems like we’ve all fallen in love with Korean pancakes at various points of our frequent Korean eat-outs. I mean, what’s not to love? They’re savory and crispy, very delicious, totally addictive. Problem is I have no freakin’ idea how to make a Korean pancake. I tried to once but that pancake fell apart on me and that was it, I said, no more homemade pancakes!

But here’s the thing, whenever my kids mention something they like to eat, I’d either take them out to eat it or I’ll cook it for them, even if it means having to learn how. That’s the kind of mom I am, and this is exactly what happened here.

Spurred on by those sad puppy eyes and the success of my homemade bibim-naengmyeon, I figured heck, I got this! Time to roll up those non-existent sleeves and dive straight into the batter. There’s no looking back now. And that’s how my first successful kimchi pancake came about.

Birth of a kimchi pancake

I wasn’t sure what to expect so I whispered to the pancake as it sizzled in the pan. “Don’t fall apart on me, don’t fall apart on me!” That apparently did the trick and my pancake turned out perfect and so delicious.

“Tastes just like the one we ate at …,” sings Hip2bDaughter2 happily. And that was the encore which got me making another kimchi pancake for dinner that night…

Birth of a kimchi pancake

… and another two more for lunch the next day which we gobbled up like savages while they were hot and crispy. Man, I gotta say this kimchi pancake was something else. It tasted authentic, is what I meant to say. It transported us right back to our weekly pa jeon sans the 700% markup. Score!

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