An occasional vegetarian’s dilemma

An occasional vegetarian's dilemma
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So another vegetarian day rolls around and this time, it falls smack on a weekend. And weekends are when I do my grocery runs. Simply because I so enjoy mingling with the rest of humanity. If you want the skin of your ankles scraped off by stroller wheels or your bum pancaked against your grocery cart, this is the day and the way to do it!!!

Okay, so now I’m at the mall and I’m walking aimlessly trying to think where I can find a decent vegetarian lunch. Nothing comes to mind. This is when it hits me. Sure, going vegetarian every fortnight is a good thing (both from a religious and health perspective) but vegetarian food is notoriously hard to find when you’re out. Probably not to some but to me, it is! ’nuff said!

Wait, I do know one place – a newly-stumbled vegetarian restaurant. So we head on over, only to find a parade of smiling staff leaning against empty tables and chairs, arms folded, turning people away. Wh-whot?!!? What’s goin’ on?!!! Well, here’s the story one-liner – there’s a “problem with the gas”. Darn, what could be wrong with “the gas” on a day we’ve got nowhere else to go??!

Well, I wasn’t sticking around to find out. I took it to mean, better get out of here quick before the fireworks begin!!! Okay, so maybe I overreacted. Still, better safe than sorry. I herded my group to higher ground. We wandered around wondering what we could eat but almost everything I could think of had some element of either meat or eggs in them. Think, come on, think harder! Well, good luck with that. When your tummy’s growling like a bear, you can’t even hear yourself think!

So we bummed around and eventually wound up with a miscellany of this and that and called it lunch. Okay, let’s see what we had. Lonely french fries, without the chicken.

An occasional vegetarian's dilemma

A reluctant salad for sharing. Trust me, this wasn’t love at first sight. Unwrapped self-service food in open glass coolers are a huge red flag for me and I stay clear of them for obvious reasons (golly help us if someone were to sneeze over them!! and believe me, I’ve heard a big old sneeze in a bakery but was too afraid to look back, so yes!). But desperate times call for desperate measures so I crossed my fingers and dug in.

An occasional vegetarian's dilemma

Not that the salad tasted half bad but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with room temperature salads. I’m not. Clearly that cooler belongs in the junkyard. That said, there’s nothing that a good old cup of cold bubble tea can’t fix, right?

An occasional vegetarian's dilemma

Do you have an interesting vegetarian story to share? Either leave me a comment, or post it on your own blog and leave the link below.

What’s in that rickety tin bowl?

What's in that rickety tin bowl?
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Just when I thought it was going to be an ordinary dinner at one of the most highly-anticipated restaurants on our p.e.a.r.l (our picky eater restaurant list is still very much alive despite having gone through many iterations since the last mention), this Saturday night Korean barbecue came with a question, what’s in that rickety tin bowl?.

We walked in and all the tables inside the restaurant were occupied so we had to grudgingly say okay when the server pointed us to a table outside. Outside, as in on the kerb along the road where cars are double parked.

After the initial clinkety-clang of distributing plates and cutlery (which is apparently the customers’ job now), we eventually settled down to enjoy an ambiance of blue evening skies, natural lighting and lungfuls of a barbecue smoke and carbon monoxide fume cocktail that, we were delighted to note, comes free with the meal! Aah, the joys of kerbside dining!

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

So there we were, alternating between flipping various kinds of meat on the grill and constructing meat morsels and 반찬 (banchan or side dishes) into lettuce wraps. I have to admit that when it comes to cramming fistfuls of lettuce wraps into my mouth like they do in Korean dramas, I’m an epic fail. I bite my lettuce wraps in half and sometimes chomp on just the leaf alone. Duh!

Diners were filling up the tables fast and pretty soon, we were surrounded. Too busy playing musical chairs with cutlery and utensils on a table that’s way too small for everything to fit, I paid little attention to the 40-ish couple at the next table. From out of the blue, Mr Smiley (seems he had this perpetual smile pasted on his face) reached across and asked if we’d like to have the excess rice balls his wife was rolling in her gloved hands.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

I was like, what? say that again, read: eyeing him in disbelief. Now how often does a random stranger offer to share their food? That’s right, almost never, right?! although I’m guilty of having done it myself. One time, we had a bowl of untouched salad that was too much for us to finish and so as not to let it go to waste, I handed it over to the young couple at the next table. And they too had been just as wide-eyed and hesitant to accept my offering then.

Now here was a stranger holding out a rickety tin bowl with 9 rice balls inside and I’m like umm. I could’ve been gracious and snatched the bowl from his hand but my first instinct was to say no. It would’ve been out of character for me to accept. People including acquaintances have been offended. Not that I mean to offend. Truth is although I love to cook and I blog endlessly about food, food is not really a big thing for me.

So then Mr Smiley started explaining that one order of rice balls was too much for him and his wife as they had other dishes as well. Then, he said the magic phrase – they don’t like wasting food, he said and I was impressed and instantly sold. We collectively chimed in and thanked him profusely. Since you put it that way, sure, we’ll help you with that, thanks lol.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

So that was how a rickety tin bowl and 9 rice balls changed hands. We’d never had rice balls before but Mr Smiley assured us they’re delicious and that we won’t regret it. And he was right. Those rice balls were freakin’ tasty (we order them quite often now) and meeting these like-minded folks is always nice.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

That not so obligatory end of year post 2017

That not so obligatory end of year post 2017
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As usual, at around this time of year, I’ll be agonizing over whether to write that obligatory end of year post. Which really isn’t that big of a deal, if you think about it. Because, you know what, no one really cares what kind of year you had. They’re all out taking one last swing at the holidays before going back to the exciting world of work and real life in the new year. Bah humbug!!

Oops, was I being negative? Because it’s something of an online crime these days to be sayin’ negative stuff. Now I’ve done it. Now no one’s going to be reading this post for sure. So scratch that and let me bring on the positive vibes. In the spirit of positivity, let me start with what we had for dinner on that oh-sooo-long-ago Christmas Day. Yup, you guessed it, Korean fried turkey. The real deal – teeny tiny little turkey chunks – crunchy, meaty, sweet and spicy! So good, I tell ya!

That obligatory end of year post 2017

My all-time favorite Korean fried “turkey”!

Okay so I did a lot of traveling this year, zipped across the planet a few times. I’ve stopped looking aghast when people gasp at how I do those 20-hour flights so often. No matter what my answer or expression may be, the unspoken answer in my head is always the same – when you love where you’re going, you’ll do it over and over again and never consider it a chore. Simple, eh?

With all that traveling back and forth, it’s also been the Year of Road Trips for me. I’m now officially wearing my Road Trip Warrior badge. Those were some amazing road trips. I enjoyed each and every one of them and would gladly do them all over again, especially the Grand Canyon, in spite of having done some of them a few times before.

Wait, what else did I do this year? Lots, that’s for sure but it’s hard enough remembering what I had for lunch 3 days ago so try recalling an entire year’s worth of events without looking through a folder of 10,000 photos. Forget it.

All I want to say is: Be attentive to the people you love and who love you most. Before dismissing anyone or their problems, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes (this point inspired by 2 people who would still be alive today if someone close to them had taken their depression seriously).

Spare a thought, some loose change or whatever you can (no good deed is ever too small) for those less fortunate. Make some time every day to pray for lunatics to somehow find sanity, for Mother Nature to figure a way to heal the planet and most importantly, for world peace.

And of course, thank you for reading my humble blog. Have a safe and wonderful New Year! Here’s to good food, good friends (whoever you may be lol), good conversations and a fantastic year ahead!

Happy Thanksgiving from my head to yours

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Once upon a Thanksgiving Day, I was clucking around in the kitchen like a crazy chicken prepping the turkey for roasting, setting a pot of water for making the best-darned mashed potatoes, putting my kungfu knife skills to the cabbage for my killer coleslaw…

Somehow it feels strange to be sitting here doing all of this clucking inside my head instead of in the kitchen. Thanksgiving has always meant a lot to me. Doesn’t matter if I don’t celebrate Chinese New Year (which I’ve missed for 3 years straight several times in my lifetime) but Thanksgiving, I’ve made it a tradition and never missed a beat.

This year, I’m in the desert and there’s no turkey in sight for miles so I decided to do the next best thing – pardon the turkey. Sure, I miss my home-roasted turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes, and even more so, since I started making even my own cranberry sauce and coleslaw from scratch in recent years.

What keeps me celebrating Thanksgiving is that it’s so much more meaningful than many other events I can think of. I don’t make it a habit to shout out the things I’m grateful for but rest assured, I do have a mental list swirling around in the cosmic universe inside my head.

Do I wish that more people were grateful for the things they have and for the people in their lives? Sure I do but hey! I’ve just had the most awesome homemade roast turkey feast – inside my head – to think of anything else! Hope you did too. Happy Thanksgiving from my head to yours!

Only words

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First there were the Wordless Wednesdays and I think many of us had fun with it. I have to admit it’s an ingenious way to ‘write’ a blog post without actually writing it! But now I’ve decided on going in the opposite direction – pictureless posts, something that few may embrace though it sounds like fun to me.

For too long, we’ve given in to our photo-snapping obsession and allowed our pictures to tell our stories for us. Some folks have even gone so far as to trade in their blogs for insta’s. Nothing wrong with that but there’s a reason why I never bothered setting up an account!

Personally, I’m not a fan of using my photos to do the talking, or blogging, for me. I’m someone who rarely pulls out my cellphone to show people my pictures or plaster them all over the internet. I actually prefer to describe stuff to folks whether they like it or not.

We-ell, it could be because in real life, I’m a nerd lol. So yeah, it’s all very well that technology has made it so much easier for our pictures to paint a thousand words but for me, I still prefer to write a thousand words.

I think half the fun of blogging is the writing itself. To some, a post without pictures is like driving without a steering wheel. I get that! But somehow, that’s not me! Sure, photos add a nice backdrop but ultimately, I think it’s the words themselves that speak the loudest.

More power to the written word! Hear, hear!

Days like this

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Okay, so it’s a sizzlin’ 106 degrees outside. It’s been hovering steady at these temps all week. That’s the heatwave for ya, all up and down the west coast of California and the southwest in general. Good thing we’re back from our road trip to Arizona (it’s even hotter there, ouch!) or you’d hear me swearing from way out there (not that I swear. that much!)

Inside the house, however, it’s a different story. We haven’t set foot outside today. Not one step. Yup, best to stay cool even if it may be a little stuffy at times with the windows shut tight to keep out the hot air. Thankfully the air-conditioning is behaving.

So here we are, on this sizzler of a day. The first phone alarm goes off at 5:30 this morning. I stumble across the room in true zombie fashion to swipe the freakin’ thing off and jump back into bed. Mid-dream, someone else’s phone alarm goes off. Who the heck sets the alarm to 6:02 anyways? Okay, okay, it was ME!

I transport said phone to my bedside table knowing it’ll ring again soon and I’m certainly not going to go tripping across the room for the third time. The next time it rings, my arm swings out and I blindly and furiously tap my screen till the music stops. Note to self: I really shouldn’t use a song I like as an alarm. Now I kinda hate that song.

Okay, okay, I’m up, I’m up! If I sound like I really don’t want to get up, I’m lying! Thoughts of that delicious cup of morning coffee sends me off like an arrow, headed straight to ye ol’ electric kettle to turn it on. And that jingle is playing in my head, the same one I learned from the TV commercial during my college days – the best part of waking up is Folgers in my cup!

I take, oh maybe, a half hour over my bowl of oats and coffee, savoring the still and quiet of the morning as I potter around the house and the internet before anyone else is awake. That, for me, is the best part of waking up with the sun.

Soon the house is awake with sounds of Hip2bDaughter2 concocting her potato soup from scratch in the kitchen. By this time, I’m hungry. Again. I need to eat. But with lunch time technically 3 hours away, what am I supposed to do to assuage a growling tummy?

Thank goodness for leftovers. But is the single serving of rice and braised pork ribs from last night enough for us? Clearly not! So should we have the potato soup now? The answer is, why not?! Potato soup and crackers it is! That’s how we end up finishing lunch at 9:30am.

And needless to say, by the time the real lunch time rolls around, we’re famished. Poking my head into the refrigerator, I find the last bit of banana cake we baked last week for our Arizona road trip. Whew! I’m glad someone thought to defrost it.

By mid-afternoon, the naughty knotty tummies are a-calling yet again and this time, it’s some sun chips, dates and a half grapefruit each. By dinner time, it’s really beginning to feel like we haven’t stopped eating since breakfast, which is technically true.

Still, dinner is certainly not to be missed. Soon ’em chicken wings be in the oven (on such a hot day?! you better believe it!) and a whole pound of ’em asparagus (which is in season at $1.99 per lb so it’s been asparagus 3 nights in a row!) be saute-in’ in the skillet.

Man, I love me days like this, just hanging out at home chillin’ and drinkin’ (lots of water!), with no place to go and nothing much to do and piles of unwashed dishes in the sink, that make life in the hometown so cool. Did I just say cool?!

 

Spicing up the kitchen

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I ran out of cayenne pepper about a month ago. Yes, you read that right. I was cayenne-less for a month and that’s the longest our kitchen has gone without one of our favorite spices. Ever since I discovered the wonders of cayenne and the subtle kick it adds to every dish, I have kept the kitchen stocked with it. But I forgot to check my pantry and found myself shaking an empty bottle one day.

No problem, I thought. I would go to the store and get more.

But when I got to the store, guess what? They were out of cayenne! The little row labeled ‘cayenne pepper’ was empty. I figured that the store ran out of stock since it’s a pretty common and popular spice so I decided to check back the next week. Again, the row was empty so I waited patiently for the next week. By the third week, I asked the store clerk if they were going to restock it. She said she didn’t know.

Finally, after a whole month of waiting and realizing that it might not get restocked for whatever strange reason, I decided to go for cayenne’s neighbor, California chili pepper instead. So far, it has been a good substitute but you can bet I’ll be snagging as many bottles of cayenne pepper as I can when they get restocked!

Yes, you can have your cake, and eat it too

Yes, you can have your cake, and eat it too
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And so there was the afternoon when we actually made a trip to the bakery for some pastries and a slice of cake. Not on purpose, of course. We were on our way back from lunch and the bakery was just one tiny fattening U-turn away. Convenient, ain’t it?

And of course, this smallish bakery is just about the most happening place for people eager to have a finger in every pie, so to speak. There’s such a big selection of desserts they’d be crazy not to. Want to have a finger in every pie, that is. So we got our fingers ready too. To point at what we wanted.

Because the desserts aren’t displayed with those little name cards we’re so used to seeing. These pastries and cakes have no names because well, the regulars who frequent the place already know the names like the backs of their hands. Not us though. Frankly desserts aren’t that high up on our to-do list.

So let’s see. We had the Blueberry Danish, Cinnamon Roll, Bear Claw and Nicoise Cake. And the verdict: They were all really delicious.

Yes, you can have your cake, and eat it too

The cake was creamy, way too creamy. But hey, what’s a little cream? Because you can always count on your New Year’s resolution to get you back into shape, right?

Reflecting on 2016

Reflecting on 2016
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Okay, so I started writing that obligatory end of year post that tries to capture, in a single post, everything that’s gone on in an entire year, but I didn’t finish it. Frankly, it’s harder to write than most years. 2016 was meh, at least that’s how I feel right now.

I’ll say though that yesterday was a beautiful winter’s day outside, the kind of scene you read about in novels – gray, foggy, rainy and trees now devoid of leaves – and so cold I had to keep my hands wrapped around the electric kettle. Gorgeous weather…

… and enjoying baguette slices gently toasted with homemade garlic butter and a bowl of piping hot homemade tomato soup. Aaah!

But the show post must go on. In keeping with the tradition of past reflection posts, I’m going to throw a bunch of completely random recap of our food adventures out there.

Cooking firsts

It’s again been a year of kitchen explorations with lots of cooking, lots of baking, lots of eating. What’s exciting is the bevy of budding chefs working alongside me in the kitchen churning out lots of creative ideas and new favorites. Our joint successes this year include:

New food loves

2016 was, in many ways – grilled, braised, pre-seasoned – the Year of the Pork Rib for us. It’s also been the year we ate a lot of fish #happy and too many desserts and snacks #notproud. Happy New Year!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!
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So okay, we attended a Christmas breakfast. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Is she going to serve oats? cereal? fruits?  Hmm, now I know. Christmas breakfast is another way of saying Christmas lunch because by the time her entire family arrived, it was lunch time! Understandable, of course, given that her children and grandchildren were driving into town from all over the state.

Meanwhile, she’d been up since the crack of dawn to start making – breakfast? – for 15 people. She was thrilled when the elves showed up bright and early – 9:30 on the dot! We immediately got to work – washing and arranging strawberries, raspberries and grapes, cutting pineapples, slicing bananas to place on the jello. Yup, I was right about the fruits *winks*.

Them there were the leek and feta cheese phyllo pastries to arrange on the baking sheet to go into the oven. She has 2 full-sized ovens, by the way, and was lamenting that she needs 3! Between whipping the cream, arranging the crackers and wheat thins, laying out the jams, sauces and salsas and the doorbell ringing every 10 minutes, time flew by rather slowly!

By noon, we were running really low on fuel. At this point, we were willing to do just about anything to help her speed things up so we could sit down and EAT already! Good thing we always eat before attending invited events. In fact, we’d had 2 breakfasts at home that morning before heading out. Winter does weird things to your digestion.

Finally after 3 whole hours, my plate was filled with turkey, ham, sausage, bacon, corn salad, biscuit, crackers and fruits – hohoho! – followed by an afternoon of games, gift exchanges and some photos before dessert. There was so much food I ended up having only a slice of pumpkin pie. Good times, good food and lots of laughs.

We got home in the evening to pop those ready-to-cook ribs into the oven.

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Thank goodness everything else was pretty much ready to eat – my homemade cranberry sauce, coleslaw and mashed potatoes. Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

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