Thanksgiving menu planning, check!

Thanksgiving menu planning, check!
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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*.

Between brunch and dinner

Between brunch and dinner
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It’s another slow laid-back Sunday with the kind of weather that makes me want to dive back into my heap of b-b-blankets. Which I almost did. But didn’t. Instead, I zombied my way to the kitchen to get my coffee going while crunching down my bowl of cereal.

If you ever wondered how much energy it takes to wash your hair, let me tell you the answer. It’s definitely more than one bowl of cereal. Because by the time I emerge from the bathroom, guess what, I’m crazy hungry again.

So I’m off to the kitchen once again at mid-morning to start making Big Breakfasts of spicy-mango-with-jalapeno smoked chicken sausage, egg, Portobello mushrooms, green bell peppers and tomatoes. All to be washed down with cups of piping hot Chinese tea. How random is that?!

Between brunch and dinner

Barely two hours later, I’m back in the kitchen – again!! – this time, to make us an apple-cranberry pie for tea. With weather like this, to go from brunch to dinner with nothing in between would really be stretching it. And why not bake a pie when I have all the ingredients for it, right? Fresh apples and cranberries, let’s go!

Between brunch and dinner

A laid-back weekend

A laid-back weekend
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So here we are, on a laid-back weekend. After a full 10 hours of beauty slumber, we were up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning which was technically 7:30. I can’t complain about gaining an extra hour. But I don’t know why they even still bother with daylight saving because quite honestly, all it does is throw everyone’s timing out of whack. For the first few days, at least.

Between the time we’ve been up, we’ve had cereal for breakfast and a banana cake snack. We baked a kick*ss banana cake yesterday afternoon and we’re now enjoying the fruit of our labor. Literally. After one night in the fridge, the cake tastes even better.

Another laid-back weekend

Grocery runs are starting to get more exciting. Now that Halloween is over and the holiday season has officially begun, the sampling kiosks are dishing out new varieties of food and snacks to kick off the holiday gluttony. We had a blast flitting from one kiosk to the next sampling everything – croissants with ham and cranberry sauce, chicken sandwich (center), and sausages. Oink!

Another laid-back weekend

Some genius made these flavored cheeses – bacon jalapeno and wasabi – so yummy.

Another laid-back weekend

Oh and I love, love, love these sugar snap pea chips. Totally addictive.

Another laid-back weekend

We took our time going out for lunch at a new (to us) Korean restaurant, had a most leisurely meal of jampong and pork bulgogi rice, and came home to bake chocolate chip cookies. I’m sitting here inhaling the heavenly aroma of our baking and it certainly is starting to feel like fall. I’ll be heading to the kitchen soon to start the prep for tonight’s dinner – yes, bibim naengmyeon (spicy buckwheat noodle) again.

Homemade Big Breakfast gets fancy-schmancy

Homemade Big Breakfast gets fancy-schmancy
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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

The end of living dangerously

The end of living dangerously
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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!

That fishcake kimbap

That fishcake kimbap
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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

Cold spicy buckwheat noodle bowl

Cold spicy buckwheat noodle bowl
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Our barbecue buffet lunch reminded me of how much I miss our almost weekly bibim-guksu which, by the way, isn’t guksu (noodle soup) but naengmyeon (cold spicy noodle). Anyhoo, I’ve been talking about it endlessly a-and well, it’s no use talking about it, let’s do it! *rolls up sleeves* (Oops, I’m wearing a tank top!)

Yup, I finally got down to cooking bibim-naengmyeon. This was after several blatant promotional campaigns to generate interest in this meal idea. You see, I was practically the only one who was crazy about that bibim-guksu while everyone else was just kinda meh. Yup, it took a while but I did eventually win them over.

I set to work creating my giant bowl of buckwheat noodles on a bed of white and purple cabbage piled high with cucumber and seaweed with the obligatory half-egg perched atop that fiery homemade sauce. I love how appetizing this looks.

Cold spicy buckwheat noodle bowl

Yeah, I know, you diehard Korean food fans are probably shaking your heads and going, “You know, she was doing so well up until the cabbage. So what’s with the cabbage? It has no business being there”. And you’re right, that cabbage has no business being there at all. I really do try but I’m just not very good at following recipes!

I wanted to have a bit of fun with my bibim-naengmyeon – add a bit of color here, a bit more bite there and a bit more veggie never hurt anyone. And you gotta trust me, the cabbage didn’t taste weird at all. In fact, all the flavors blended into one huge fiery mouthful, neutralized nicely by the sweetness of the cabbage. Downright delicious.

Cold spicy buckwheat noodle bowl

In the end, this brainchild of mine worked out really well. It not only looked tasty, it was totally tasty. The same people who needed convincing are the ones now calling for an encore. Now that must mean something, right? Muax! I love you, guys!

First days of fall and living dangerously

First days of fall and living dangerously
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Our grocery cart was pretty empty this weekend. We’ve decided to live dangerously for a change. So here’s our two loaves of multigrain bread, a tray of chicken tenderloins, a bag of those fat, juicy shrimps we used to cook that delicious shrimp scampi pasta, and a box of Bartlett pears.

First days of fall and living dangerously

Seems like the price of strawberries is holding steadier than the exchange rate. So I guess we’re moving from a week of intense watermelon juicing to a week of strawberry-ing and grape-ing. Our goal is to eat as much of these amazing grapes before the season ends and so far, we seem to be doing grape *hick*!

First days of fall and living dangerously

Remember I said we’d go back and have that Vermicelli Bowl which I enjoyed so much. Well, we did. This time, we ordered two Beansprout Vermicelli Bowls, one with the works and the other with only grilled pork. They were delicious but could use way less beansprouts and more noodles. We think we might’ve stuffed ourselves and still had leftovers to take home. Are we such small eaters and didn’t know it?

First days of fall and living dangerously

Fall is making its presence felt but we’re still clinging on to summer. The sun is still unrelenting but temps are down and the wind is picking up. Still I refuse to give up my summer uniform – just yet! On grocery morning, I went out in my cap sleeves and shorts and it was like stepping out into nature’s air-conditioning with the fan blowing. This morning, it was 45F (8C) outside when I threw the windows open. Whoosh, that cold refreshing air. How delicious is this kind of weather.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner
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I don’t know why we picked a sizzler of a day for a Korean barbecue buffet lunch. Probably not a great idea to pile heat on heat. But considering the watermelons we’ve been gobbling and the fact that our regular buffet restaurant has opened up at a new location with some swanky new features, we figured that was reason enough.

Trust the early birds to be there at opening time in anticipation of a big Sunday lunch crowd. We were among the first and practically had the whole place to ourselves. Which was nice, of course because we’ve been to busy, noisy buffet and steamboat places where we were choking on our food the whole time, and it was impossible to talk without shouting.

This place is very spacious and everything is shiny and clean (love it), and even boasts a long banchan bar packed with side dishes and fresh accompaniments like mushrooms and lettuce. At the old location, we had to flag down servers to top up our side dishes and lettuce to the point of embarrassment. So this is good.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

We started looking through the lunch menu for raw meat to order but our server pointed us to the dinner menu instead because hey, what d’ya know, it’s dinner all day Sundays. What?! *scowls* Something’s not right about paying dinner prices for lunch. That kinda dampened the mood for us – but only for a while because we were hungry and all set to dig in.

As usual, we ordered two pajeon (pancakes), and tofu soup which I love. It’s sourish, gingery and piping hot with lots of tofu and mushrooms.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

For the first round of meat, we had the spicy and non-spicy pork bulgogi, and pork belly. Omg!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

Then we noticed there was seafood on the dinner menu (which is new to us since we’ve only ever been there for lunch) and decided to try the squid, octopus and shrimps. They tasted okay, a bit like eating erasers and I’m not real crazy about peeling those shrimps.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

For the third round of meat, we went with an encore of the 3 porks we had earlier. Mmm! I was having a ball with the lettuce wraps which I love, love, love.

I still have no idea though how to stuff the entire lettuce leaf plus filling into my mouth all in one go, not that I’m even going to try. Apparently that’s the right way to eat it. But I mean, I’m all dressed and prettied up with lipstick and everything, and I’m gonna jam the whole wrap into my mouth?? Um, NO!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

As you can see, between the meat and the trips to the banchan bar, we really didn’t eat that much! and we didn’t waste any food either. Of course, I was thrilled at how many side dishes a dinner plate can hold which meant fewer trips to the banchan bar.

But I quickly realized that banchan somehow tastes better in little plates than in a big old dinner plate. So maybe that’s why they’re traditionally served in little plates but I’d sure hate to be the one doing the dishes later, haha!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

So that was one lunch that cost us the price of a dinner. Our wallet wasn’t too happy but our tummies certainly were.

Last days of summer and this week’s grocery cart

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart
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Here in Hipville, it’s the little things that are highly anticipated and become a big talking point. Like the season change, for instance. Last Thursday was the first day of fall and to make her point, Mother Nature dropped the temps to 75C from 99C the previous day. I guess she was just pranking us ‘cos the temps have since shot back up.

While I don’t like the blazing heat, I’m a little sad that the days are getting shorter. I feel like I can get so much more done when the days are longer. In summer, when I get up in the morning just before 6, the sun is already up and it’s bright outside. Somehow that makes me happy. And even after dinner, there’s still over an hour of sunlight left, and that too makes me feel like hey, I still have time to do the laundry or hang out at my computer. Anyhoo…

Foodwise, this week’s highlight was the big ol’ pot of seafood tomyam I cooked for dinner Friday night. Of late, our meals have been fairly lackluster. It’s basically too hot to cook or eat (although we did make a big batch of Korean roast chicken wings that lasted us 2 meals). I figured this appetizing one-pot meal would be perfect.

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

Admittedly, I cheated by using a tomyam mix, not that I’d be so inclined to concoct this from scratch, and frozen shrimp that came all cleaned and deveined. So basically all I did was cut up the carrots, red bell pepper, onion and eggplant, throw in the mix and finish off by adding 4 tilapia fillets and 12 shrimps. We ate half and froze the rest for next week.

Grocery day is a highly anticipated weekly event around here. To me, the best thing is not having to rush out of the house to beat the traffic and be at the mall promptly at 10:00 am to snag a parking spot.

This week, we didn’t buy much. Strawberries are still the same price as last week. Gotta grab a box.

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

We grabbed two bags of bagels, cinnamon and onion which we’ve never tried before but it’s really tasty. To add some music to our pasta, we got a bottle of sun-dried tomatoes. I hope they’ll make our pasta get up and dance. We also got some party wings, and omg, that pop-in-the-oven tempura that’s so crispy and delicious it beats even the eat-out version.

And yup, you see ’em, don’t you? Those two humongous bags of… junk food!! Ouch, you caught us red-handed!!! Imagine how many times we have to run around Planet Earth to rid ourselves of the guilt and calories yo!

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

Nah, don’t be silly, there’s no guilt in eating something you love once in a while. And that nonsense about exercising extra hard the next day to take off the guilt and calories you piled on today, surely you don’t believe that. We-ell, it’d be nice if we could put everything on our fat suit today, peel it off and be miraculously slim again tomorrow lol – but that’s not how it works. So stay calm while we eat ’em amazing potato chips!!!

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

We ate one whole bag of these chips last week and they were crazy tasty! We notice Costco sells these ‘limited edition goodies’ for a short while and then they’re gone. We would be sad, very sad if we never saw these again. So those two bags we just bought, we’ll be squirreling them away into deep winter storage and we won’t be touching them till we run out of almonds and walnuts. Promise! *chuckles*

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