Let the fruit overdose begin

Let the fruit overdose begin
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If ever there was a weekend when we overdid the fruit buying bit, this would’ve been it. I guess seeing so many fruits in season and so inexpensive, we just kept hoarding mindlessly and no one even noticed. This is seriously a case of too many fruits, too little time… to eat in one week?

First into our grocery cart were the bananas. Six of them, thankfully all still very green so they can wait. Then came the black plums. Six of them. They ripened on our way home, no thanks to 98 degrees. Well, to me, plums are best when they’re overripe, soft and mushy, and these were insanely sweet with a fragrance too, so I guess I’m not gonna complain.

On our way home, we passed by the farm market where we get our supply of grapes every year. And I’m not kiddin’ when I say these are the best grapes in the whole wide world. Go California! Incredibly sweet with skin so crispy they pop when you bite into them.

Let the fruit overdose begin

At our regular grocery store, we saw those watermelons waving at us and we went craa-azy and picked out 2 big ones! Goodness knows we really need this many watermelons to cool ourselves down, right? Yeah, right!

Well, this morning, I cut one in half and here’s the other half sitting in the fridge, and the other whole one waiting in the wings. Omg lol! Apparently whole watermelons can last a week on the counter top and 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Let’s hope this works out for us.

Let the fruit overdose begin

Next came the blueberries. I swear I have no idea how we ended up with 2 whole boxes – one box Canadian grown, and another from Oregon which I thought it best to freeze while we work our way through the other fruits. Blueberries will stay fresh longer if you don’t wash them till you’re ready to eat them. Between the two, the Canadian blueberries (left) are small and sour while the Oregon ones are bigger and pretty sweet!

Let the fruit overdose begin

And with that, we’re set to OD on fruits this week. Breakfast. brunch, lunch and dinner. Let’s go!

First things first

First things first
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Just a hop, skip and jump, and we’re back in Hipville! The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane was how cool it was in LA. I think the temps must’ve been in the 70’s with a cool breeze blowing in from the Pacific. For a moment, it felt more like spring than smack in the middle of summer.

My first cup of coffee came out of desperation a Keurig coffee maker. Wide awake at 4 o’clock in the morning due to the 15-hour time difference, I could either try to go back to sleep except I’ve been lying there for an hour and clearly nothing’s happening. Or I could down a cup of freshly dripped coffee to shock the jetlag out of my system.

First things first

Along with lack of sleep always comes pangs of hunger. I swear a great deal of energy is expended by the body in trying to deal with the confusion of the internal clock. This, by the way, is a great time to catch up with all that food I’ve been missing.

First stop, Baja. I tell ya there’s much more to that grilled shrimp salad than meets the eye. Each mouthful is like music to my tastebuds. That’s how much I’ve missed Mexican food. Sorry about the glare in the photo. We were seated by the glass wall and the mid-morning sun was pouring in.

First things first

Next stop, Round Table. Notice how the toppings go all the way to the very edge of the pizza instead of stopping short, leaving a 1-inch outer ring of plain pizza dough with zero topping.

First things first

And it’s open season for fruits again. I really needed to take a break from Korean pears (inside joke lol) but ended up buying a 6-pack of apple pears (not in picture). Talk about old habits.

I also bought a huge watermelon which was so juicy and sweet we devoured half of it in just one day. Strawberries and blueberries are in season too, so plump, sweet and inexpensive. Happy days!

First things first

Dessert, to the uninitiated

Dessert, to the uninitiated
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We were in the middle of dinner at home on a Thursday night when Hip2bDad broached the idea of going out for dessert. It took a while for the idea to sink in.

Usually you’d hear me say we went out for dinner, the end. A few times a year, we might have a random cake or ice cream if we happen to be out, or if there’s something to celebrate. But getting dressed after dinner and heading out for dessert just for the dessert, now that’s a new concept to us!

By now, you’re thinking, what’s wrong with these people, you don’t eat dessert?! We do. But to us, dessert = fruits. I know, I’m a bad mom. Like me, my kids were raised with ‘dessert’ being a low frequency word. They’d get cake only on their birthdays and maybe a couple times a year when there’s something to celebrate bwahaha.

Anyhoo, we jumped into our shorts, then into the car and promptly arrived at one of those new-fangled green tea dessert places I didn’t even know existed. I sat back and left dad and daughters to figure out the orders. It doesn’t matter to me because I’ll just have one or two bites here and there, and that’s it.

Well, they came back with 2 kinds of green tea ice cream cones – matcha and hojicha.

Dessert, to the uninitiated

These two cones went round the table a couple of times and everyone made funny contorted faces after each slurp. There was a huge discussion on which one tasted better or none of the above, but we couldn’t quite reach a consensus. So Hip2bDad graciously ended up gobbling both. We can always count on him!

Then like a man on a mission, he led us down the street in search of another dessert joint. Here again, I sat back and waited to see what they’d ordered. First up, this honey toast. Tis a thicker-than-thou slice of white bread slathered with salted butter, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream (which was wasted on us).

Dessert, to the uninitiated

Hip2bDaughter1’s friends had ordered this on one of their outings and she wanted us to try it. At a glance, it didn’t strike me that this was nothing more than bread with ice cream. But once the price sank in, I was like, I could bake 25 loaves of this and then some. Price-worthiness is as big a consideration as taste, but that’s just me.

Here, the overwhelming saltiness of the butter and barely-there sweetness of the ice cream gave me the shivers. We thought adding honey would balance things up but it only pushed it to a hyper-sweet-and-salty level that sent my tastebuds into spasms.

On the other hand, this peach frozen yogurt shake topped with peaches, blueberries and yes, flowers was perhaps a little too pretty to eat? drink?

Dessert, to the uninitiated

Well, eat it, drink it, we did. The aftertaste, however, could’ve been less reminiscent of cough mixture. The general consensus is that frozen yogurt is thicker and closer to the consistency of sorbet. But I guess this being a shake means it’s meant to be drinkable with a straw – maybe?

And that’s all the dessert we ordered for the 4 of us. For me, the best part of our dessert escapade is their jasmine water. Anytime a restaurant Here offers water free of charge, I say 잘 했어 (thumbs up). Water is a basic human right and diners shouldn’t be made to pay for it.

By the way, this jasmine water is delicious… and refillable so it gets a standing ovation from me.

Dessert, to the uninitiated

So that was dessert night out for the uninitiated. In the end, it was the jasmine water that won the day. For me, at least. So while this has been a really fun random food adventure for us, I doubt we’d be doing this too often. Peace out!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles
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Happiness is finding a new place to add to the Pearl (Picky Eaters’ Approved Restaurant List). We stumbled on this great little Korean fast food place that passed our taste test with flying colors. Well, stumbled isn’t exactly the word. We’ve walked past it a million times and even scoffed at the menu a few times (that was before the Great K Revolution, of course).

The million dollar question is this: How could we have walked past so often and never thought to stop? Well, we couldn’t tell from the pictures on the menu if the food would be good. Thing is we’re not in the habit of staring openly at people’s food as we walk past their tables. It’s rude to stare especially when people are eating. My children were trained never to do that and if they did, they’d no doubt have heard from me!

I’m not sure what made us step in. As with all new places that we’re trying out, we didn’t order much. The Chicken BBQ came with rice in a K bowl (no less), seaweed soup and 3 side dishes  I wish it came with a Korean name as well, like maybe 치킨 바비쿄. But even without that, the grilled chicken is flavorful, mildly sweet and not too salty.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

The 닭 볶음 (dak bokeum), or stir-fried chicken in chilly sauce had a good mix of veggies in it. It’s reminiscent of 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae, or kimchi stew). The tangy, spicy sauce was lip-smackin’ good till the last drop. Even the Colonel would agree heh!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

As for the 3 반찬 (banchan, or side dishes), there’s 김치 (kimchi), 밀치금 (anchovies) and a random third dish. The kimchi isn’t as crunchy as I’d like it to be but I love the anchovies.

The 파전 (pajeon, or Korean pancake) may look unassuming but don’t be fooled, there’s hidden squid in the batter, and veggies you can actually see. Most restaurants would just serve this ‘blank’, and charge more for the loaded version. I like the light crunch in this pancake. The sauce is okay, a bit too salty so we dip it in the dak bokeum sauce.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

On another occasion, I surprised myself by ordering their 비빔 국수 (bibim guksu). Remember I swore off cold noodles the first time I ate them because to me, there’s only one way to eat noodles – piping hot.

Then one fine day, I found a stash of buckwheat noodles in my kitchen (I didn’t buy ’em), concocted a meal with them and fell in love, either with the noodles or my own cooking, I don’t know which 😝. Yeah, that was random even for me. But I ended up loving every mouthful of those buckwheat noodles eaten warm, of course, not cold.

Fast forward to when I saw bibim guksu on the menu and jumped at it without even thinking. Thankfully they weren’t served cold but were room temp instead. Awesome, I wouldn’t have had them any other way. Yums.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

So it’s happy days. We’ve been back many times, and now even the restaurant staff know our faces and orders and give us a special discount. Yes, they have a customer-friendly team unlike the usual ones with fake amnesia. “Why you not early today?” the cute waiter asked when we strolled in on a weekend lunch hour and couldn’t find a table. He found us one pretty quick. Now that’s service for ya!

All hail, the mighty kale!

All hail, the mighty kale!
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And so here’s my kale story. There was too much talk about kale to ignore. Heard all about it being top spot on the super food pedestal. That was long ago. Kale, avocado, and coconut have since made way for kefir, soylent, and burrito, I hear, hohoho.

Whatever it is, not being one to jump blindly onto any old bandwagon that passes by, I was unperturbed. That’s my general reaction to the iPad, organic food, big breakfasts, any kind of trend fad that has people climbing their fork tines and leaping off their bowls. Let the world go crazy. Leave me alone. I’m staying put.

Stay put, I did, for the longest time. My eyes would pan over everything else in the produce section seeking out my usual veggie choices but skipping over the kale altogether. I tend to get comfortable with the regular veggies that I know and love, and kinda like to stick with those.

If I bought kale, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. Where life is kinda laid back without any of that city madness, I feel like there’s no need to put my brain into high gear. So I thought, nyet, I won’t bother figuring out something new. Let me plog along with my spinach, broccoli and asparagus, thanks.

Until one fine day, I noticed kale going for only 99 cents a bundle. I had no idea super food was so inexpensive. Now that’s not bad at all. Even if I mess it up and it turns out funky, it wouldn’t be such a waste. So I started peeking left and right trying to spot the biggest bundle. Guess I lucked out. Look, a whole tree!

All hail, the mighty kale!

They’re usually tied together neatly in a bundle with no protruding stems but this one was different. Even the cashier laughed and went, “What’s this?” as she puzzled over the 2 plastic bags I used to tame this tree. (By the way, this picture was taken over the open door of Mrs Dolores, our beloved dish washer who fights crime grime with a rattle and a slosh!)

Okay, so now what do I do with my kale? I tried to imagine it juiced but my brain didn’t like how it tasted. So I figured I’d just, what, stir-fry it with, what else, garlic!?? I don’t know, I’ve never fried a tree before, have you?

All hail, the mighty kale!

Well, the tree was huge and filled a big bowl so we ate half and saved the rest. And the taste? Well, if our tongues could taste colors, kale would be dark green and bitter but a bitterness with depth, quite different from the shallow bitterness of bitter gourd. It’s not hard to swallow. We like it. Even my used-to-say-no-to-veggie kids.

Paired with this shrimp and tomato dish, it’s even better. The tangy brightness of the tomatoes takes the edge off the kale’s deep bitterness and they balance each other out perfectly. 먹을 만에요. It’s actually not bad.

So yeah, we worship kale now quite religiously. It’s a regular in our grocery cart. Not because it is or was a trend but because we really like it. You knew that 😉!

Dear gourd, I’m not bitter at you any more

Dear gourd, I'm not bitter at you any more
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Bitter gourd is something of a stranger to me. Sure I know, it’s a squash-like vegetable shaped like an eggplant but is green with a warty outside. Its flesh is really bitter and I’ve never liked it. As a child, I balked at it. As an adult, I wouldn’t go near it.

Dear gourd, I'm not bitter at you any moreImage credit

One day, Hip2bDad came home at lunch time with a packet of noodles for me. Surprise! Here’s your Bitter Gourd Noodle Soup, enjoy! I winced at those words. But I gotta say this, any time I don’t have to venture into a coffee shop myself, it’s a bonus. I’m not gonna complain.

I sat down to my bowl of Bitter Gourd Noodle Soup, eye-ing it suspiciously, certain that I would hate every bitter mouthful. But look at the abundance of good stuff swimming in it and hidden underneath –  tomatoes, fish cake slices, homemade fish balls, seaweed, goji berries underneath.

Dear gourd, I'm not bitter at you any more

Oh man! Wow!

With each spoonful of noodle, soup and my mamdatory fiery bird’s eye chilli, I was like “hey, this isn’t so bad”. The bitterness is there but it’s not overpowering. It’s a strange but flavorful combination just like dipping french fries into ice cream. When I got to the bottom of the bowl, I was wishing there was more. Seriously, that was the most delicious noodle soup ever – oink oink!

It seems bitter gourd is one of those super foods that can magically prevent or fix a host of health issues too. I think the general Asian belief is that if something’s bitter, it must be good for you 😓.

I’m not sure if bitter gourd is sold at grocery stores in the States but if it isn’t, I’m sure it’ll find its way there soon enough. Meantime, it might be worthwhile giving your tastebuds some practice with kale 😉 (that story coming up soon).

The sweet, the sour and the crispy

The sweet, the sour and the crispy
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We jumped for joy the day it rained movie tickets. I mean, what are the chances of scoring not one but two free movies? Hoobaheck, if it weren’t for free movies, we wouldn’t even be going to the movies.

Thrilled, we made our way early to Finding Dory. As in almost 3 hours early so that we could have dinner at 5pm. Ridiculous, I know, but it probably had to do with the sheer excitement of watching a movie with the brood again. Just like old times and definitely a far cry from that epic fail of a movie date.

Dinner was one of the best we’ve had in recent days, according to the picky eater opinion vote. While our last experience with this restaurant was bittersweet, it was quite the opposite this time.

Just when we’d lost hope of ever paying less for a bigger portion with no drop in food quality, surprise, surprise! for the first time in our history of eating out, this restaurant gets *drumrolls please* added back into PEARL (our Picky Eater’s Approved Restaurant List©).

The sweet, the sour and the crispy

Customer service aside, the fried chicken was everything we’d hoped for. Even I, notoriously known for refusing to eat with my hands, ended up licking my fingers unashamedly in public lol. That was how good this crispy double-fried chicken was (or should I say, is, since we can’t seem to stop going back for more?).

After dinner, we skipped off merrily to the cinema only to be greeted with more mouthwatering news. Free popcorn and soda each! Woah, as if Finding Dory wasn’t sweet enough on its own… with bite-sized lessons about friendships and family for savvy parents to initiate teaching points with their little kids 👍.

Now You See Me 2, on the other hand, left a bit of a sour aftertaste 😐. We’d planned to watch the 1pm but decided on the 10:15 instead even though we were a half hour late. Turned out we didn’t miss anything. I know everything else starts late in these here parts but movies too? C’mon!

As for the movie itself, we didn’t know what to expect. That’s what happens when you close your eyes and just pick one off the sad list. All it was, to me, was a bunch of magicians running around. And the dialog, well, it was kinda stilted, like they were reading off a script.

The redeeming factor was, of course, the air-conditioning inside the cinema. It was delicious given that the air-conditioning in the rest of the mall is non-existent these days. But yeah, all in all, it’s happy days!

Tale of two pizzas

Tale of two pizzas
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There’s pizza. And then, there’s pizza.

And each has a different tale to tell.

But first, just by looking at this picture, which pizza makes you want to sink your teeth into right now?

Tale of two pizzass

The frightfully pale and pasty one on the left that tastes bleh, or the one on the right that’s alive with toppings?

You choose.

To me, the one on the right is what a pizza should look like. Just looking at the symphony of colors and ingredients instantly transports me to our go-to pizza joint in California. One bite and I swear I can hear the pepperoni, olives, onions, mushrooms, peppers bursting unanimously into chorus. Now that, to me, is a real pizza!! ’nuff said!

Working weekend

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So there we are, wildly navigating the weekend mall crowd, trying to avoid body slamming any of the ten thousand people, faces buried in cellphones, walking straight into us, or trampling on random 2-year-olds toddling out of the woodwork. I honestly have a lot of trouble with this.

So when I hear someone mention the word lunch, I practically jump for joy. It’s only temporary relief, I know, but at least I can park myself somewhere…

… and put myself to good use! What, work on a weekend, you ask?! Let me explain.

At my girl friend’s suggestion, we wind up at a restaurant that I’ve passed by a million times without stopping. The place is always crowded but as you know, I’m not in the habit of assuming long lines mean good food. Umm, not necessarily.

We walk in. I’m not sure if we’re shown to our table or if we seated ourselves. Probably seated ourselves LOL. I’m not sure. I was distracted by the overpowering smell of pork in this place. We sit down and peruse the copies of menus strewn haphazardly across each table.

There’s the usual back and forth about what’s good here and my friend names a few things I should try, fried rice among them. Oh, and dumblings. Then she grabs pencil and order form, hands them to me and says, “Let’s fill this up”, and I’m like, “Oh, they make you work before they serve you, eh? Great concept!”

Okay so the customer has to fill out an order form, then wave like a marooned sailor to catch the attention of a willing passing server to pick up the form and send it along to the kitchen. Oh that’s right, I recall entering my order into a tablet at a couple of swankier places.

As we sit anticipating the arrival of lunch, I look around and imagine the food here must be pretty out of this world. I mean, if so many people are willing to line up and work for their lunch, there must be something special about this place. Here’s the spoiler: their food is meh! 맛덦어요 종말!

The server stops by with our bowls of noodles and dumplings just long enough to plonk everything at the edge of the table, then makes a quick getaway. Oh, more work, I see!?! Gotta give those biceps a workout before lunch, y’know! Like all good customers, we distribute the bowls between us, then help ourselves to the eating utensils sprouting from a stand nearby.

I look around the room and everyone is their weekend selves, including the wait staff. people are chatting happily away and having a good time. No one seems to be complaining. Well, I shouldn’t either. I should be lucky they aren’t hustling me off to the kitchen to cook my own noodles and steam my own dumplings!

Soon we’re done eating, chatting and fighting over who’s going to pay. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a giant question mark is popping up. Is there more work waiting for us? And bam, what do you know? My friend picks up the order form, physically transports it to the cashier’s desk and proceeds to hand over her hard-earned money, service charges and all.

You mean, all this time, I’ve been fooling myself into thinking that dining at a full service restaurant means I’m paying someone to cook and serve me without me having to lift a single finger? Haha, silly me!

Buck-what was that again?

Buck-what was that again?
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Buck-what was that again?

메밀 곡수!

Buckwheat noodle soup with chicken, carrots, cabbage and tomatoes.

My new lunch favorite. ’nuff said!

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