Thanksgiving menu planning, check!

Thanksgiving menu planning, check!

Hey, Thanksgiving week is here and I’m happy to report I’m ahead of schedule with my menu planning! How did that happen? Well, I got off my butt and went shopping earlier than usual. Simple as that!!

Aa-and I have a turkey in my shopping cart to show for it, yay! Most years, my turkey has been much bigger and frankly, quite a weight-lifting challenge after it’s stuffed. This year, I have a modest 11-pounder.

Thanksgiving menu planning, check!

And speaking of stuffing, last year, I said I’d make my own stuffing this year since it’s pretty easy and I’ve done it before. But as I was making my rounds at the sampling booths, I tasted the stuffing they were giving out (same one I bought last year) and I was instantly reminded of how much I like the taste. So forget about making my own, let me just grab a box!

The cranberry sauce I sampled also turned out to be the same one I bought two years ago. Last year though, I found cranberries in the frozen section at $1.99 for like a 2-pound bag which I grabbed without so much as batting an eyelid to concoct my own sauce. This year, I’m going to continue the tradition of making my own cranberry sauce which tastes really good and will have more natural goodness if I cook it myself.

To complete the meal, I made mashed potatoes last year and a romaine salad which proved to be too much for one sitting. I mean, Thanksgiving is a huge, huge meal that’s eaten over several meals. So I’m trying to scale it down this year. The mashed potatoes will stay but I’m changing up the salad for homemade coleslaw instead. So that’s going to be interesting.

So are you ready for Turkey Day? *winks*.

Pasta night with grilled salmon fettuccine

Pasta night with grilled salmon fettuccine

So we had another of those highly anticipated pasta nights. This time, it was pasta night with grilled salmon fettuccine and whoever created this amazing pasta (was it me?), thank you, you’re a genius! Because if shrimp scampi pasta is the new love in town, salmon fettuccine is definitely an unforgettable old flame.

We’ve been eating a lot of salmon lately. We buy a huge salmon fillet and technically it’s big enough for 3 or 4 meals. So it’s like we always have salmon sitting around and it’s really convenient for lazy nights and most importantly, there are no bones to contend with.

We heart salmon so much that it doesn’t even make sense any more to go outside for a couple of mouthfuls of salmon (?) which might or might not keep a cat full for, oh, about 10 minutes tops. C’mon!

At any rate, here comes our big ol’ dinner portion grilled to perfection with the moistness still intact. Oooh man, I wanna eat up this photo like right now! *droolzzz*

Pasta night with grilled salmon fettuccine

Sometimes it’s nice to pretend we’re at a fancy restaurant. “I’d like to have the grilled salmon with fettuccine please!” and have it served with my signature fettuccine in a red wine-red sauce with mushrooms and tomatoes. That red wine definitely ups the ante on flavor, I tell ya.

Pasta night with grilled salmon fettuccine

Yup, I could literally eat this every day. Not even kiddin’! Confession: sometimes we do this twice a week *breaks out into evil laugh*! After all, pasta is supposed to be good for you, maybe even better than your regular noodles but don’t look at me, I’m a die-hard carb freak either way. I just can’t help myself!

Pasta night with grilled salmon fettuccine

Tomato soup, clear and simple

Tomato soup, clear and simple

We have a soup on our family menu that’s called, very simply, ‘tomato soup’ . But this isn’t a soup made with tomatoes, tomatoes and tomatoes. That would be boring. It’s, in fact, a hearty combination of some fairly run-of-the-mill ingredients like carrots, onions, celery, chicken, sometimes pork and potatoes too.

So I’m not sure why it’s called ‘tomato soup’. It could be that the taste of the tomato is the most distinct. The soup itself is sweet from all the vegetables in it. But the tomato lifts it to a new level with its unmistakable tang which I find so comforting. So the star of the show here is really the tomato. The rest of you can sit down and be quiet!

Now I love cooking. Everyone knows that. But much as I enjoy dishing up tasty dinners like my poached/fried fish fillet and spicy buckwheat noodles that everyone spends all day looking forward to, I have my lazy days when, um, peeling my behind off this chair isn’t quite so easy. And here is where tomato soup saves the day, or the night as the case may be.

Historically, our tomato soup is served along with other dishes. But the way I see it, this soup is robust enough to stand on its own as a one-pot meal. It has no need to share the limelight with anything else. Yes, my humble tomato soup takes center stage.

Because this was to be a one-pot meal, I made a large pot with said veggies, country-style pork ribs and the one remaining pack of chicken wings in the freezer.

Tomato soup, clear and simple

When it’s getting cooler like it is now, a bowl of hot soup over rice is such a comfort. All it needs is my mandatory freshly-cut jalapeno to kick things up a notch. Everything else is in there – meat, veggies and a whole lot of warmth!

Tomato soup, clear and simple

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.)

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.

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