Breakfast Hash with Baked Eggs

I’d shamelessly fed Mark an omelette and rice for dinner on a weeknight this week. I don’t feel that bad about it though since we’ve both been pretty busy over the past couple of days and it’s gotten to the point where I’m just too tired to even think about pulling off an elaborate meal for two people.

I thought I did a pretty good job with the omelette or egg foo yong, as Americans know it. It was filled with healthy ground chicken, peppers and onions, browned on both sides until it was crisp but still fluffy and covered with a silky brown gravy. I was more than content by having that and a mandatory episode of House of Cards before succumbing to sleep.

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I anticipate the coming weeks to be busier since I’ve finally returned to the workforce. I’m excited because it’s so much better than just sitting at home aimlessly. I’m a little worried about how we’re going to make time for each other though since I’ve been so used to spending almost every night with Mark. But I think we’ll adapt and manage.

Weekends are inevitably our time. Mark cannot sleep in unless he really tried to so at about 7:30 or 8 I will feel him waking up and peering over to see if I’m on the same page. Usually I am and then he takes the chance to offer to make breakfast for the both of us.

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I suppose he had woken up with an appetite because he wanted a big breakfast. I suggested a breakfast hash, filled with all the vegetables, carbs and proteins that he liked. He did not hesitate on the idea because before I knew it, he was already dressed and halfway down the stairs while I lazily tried to mobilize my body on an early weekend morning.

I joined him in the kitchen where he already the carton of eggs in one hand and a skillet in another. I offered to do the prep work and brew the coffee while he sautés. We laugh, talk and poke fun at each other in the kitchen all morning while making breakfast and I find myself counting down the days of the week until I find myself in moments like that again.

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Breakfast Hash with Baked Eggs 

Ingredients:
3 medium Russet potatoes, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cups fresh kale or spinach
1/2 pound Italian sausage or ground beef (we used beef and seasoned it with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper)
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet, brown meat and drain grease. Transfer to bowl. Add 1 tbsp butter to pan and cook onions and pepper until soft. Add potatoes and cook until they are half done. Throw in kale and cook until they turn deep green and are fully wilted.

Add cooked meat and mix until well-combined. Transfer mixture to a baking dish. Form 4 wells or holes within the mixture and crack and egg into each hole. Sprinkle with more pepper on each egg and bake in oven for about 10 minutes until egg is cooked but yolk is still runny and potatoes are tender.

Serve with favorite choice of hot sauce and bread if desired.

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Hainanese Chicken Rice

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I’ve gotta admit, it’s been a rough week over here but I dread the upcoming weeks even more.

I’ve been waking up as early as 5 a.m. with Mark on weekdays even though I have no reason to be up that early at all. I can’t seem to shake away ominous thoughts and I carry on through the day feeling constantly anxious and worried.

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But the weekend is finally here and it’s warm and sunny and I plan to savor every bit of it. Mark and I ran errands today because we’re grown up and married now and that’s what grown up people do. We chose to take his car so we could put the top down and bask in some warmth.

I’m finally at the point of my life where I have to file my taxes like an adult and of course I was clue-less. I wonder why they don’t teach you stuff like that in school. Like what steps to take so you can earn tax credits, or who qualifies as a dependent, or how to read your W-2s. What even is a W-2? I just know I needed it for tax purposes.

Regardless, we sought out a tax professional to help us with all the mumbo jumbo and I think I understood about 50 percent of the things he said to me? Mark seemed to know a great deal more so I left the Q&A session to him and just signed when instructed.

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Oh I also decided to cut off about 12 inches of my hair today! It was semi-impulsive, meaning I had been going back and forth with the idea for the past week or so and finally decided to walk right in to Great Clips and snipped it all away. I miss it already but I figured it was time for a change. As with every other aspect of our lives right now.

I just need to try and find the good in all this change. Change is always good, right?

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It was also warm, sunny and basically beau-tih-ful today so we opened all our blinds and allowed for lots of sunshine to drench and cover every corner of our home. Mark made this taco/quesadilla hybrid thing for lunch, which was pretty delicious, I have to say. It had an interesting concoction of pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese, better known as leftovers from within the fridge. He’s a breakfast master that’s evidently on his way to mastering lunch too. Soon I won’t have a kitchen to call my own anymore…

But we cracked open a beer each and peered outside our kitchen window to the neighbors and people that walked by and ate our lunch over the sink. It was simple yet sweet. I live for the little things in life.

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I’ve been intensely craving Malaysian food for — oh I don’t know, the past six months probably but have not gotten it anywhere except for that one wintry night I was in D.C. and indulged in a huge bowl of noodles. The cravings subsided for a while but everyone knows a bowl of noodles is hardly enough to satiate my longing and fondness for food from home.

So while it is impossible to get a taste of home where I live, I decided to take it upon me to recreate tastes that I grew up with but have been so far away from for so long. This chicken rice is one of the most popular Malaysian food there is. You can find simple satisfying versions of it in hot and small coffee shops in corners of towns to fancier varieties in upscale-y restaurants in the city.

Regardless of where you find yours, if you’ve ever had it, it almost always promises the rich, unmistakable taste of chicken infused with great aromatics. And if you haven’t tried, don’t be intimidated by the seemingly long list of ingredients. It’s honestly, incredibly simple and I pulled it off perfectly.

And that’s saying something because I used to be a college kid.

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Hainanese Chicken Rice

Ingredients:

For chicken & soup
1 pound bone-in, skin on chicken thighs or breast
1 tbsp goji berries (optional)
1 stalk green onion
1 medium sized carrot, chopped
1 thumb sized ginger, peeled and bruised
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tbsp black peppercorn
3 tbsp salt

For rice 
1 cup Jasmine rice
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 thumb sized ginger, peeled and bruised
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
A small piece of chicken fat, trimmed from chicken

For sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp chicken stock
3 tbsp garlic and shallots in oil

For ginger sauce
2 inches ginger, peeled and sliced
1 green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 lime, juiced, or 2 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp chicken stock

Directions: 

To make the soup and chicken, bring chicken broth, water and carrots to a boil in a deep pot. Add green onion, goji berries and chicken to the pot and turn the heat down to let it simmer. Allow chicken to cook for about 30 to 45 minutes. Once it is cooked, take chicken out and submerge in a ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Set chicken aside.

For the rice, cook garlic and shallots in chicken fat and some oil l until golden brown. Reserve 3 tablespoons of oil and garlic mixture for sauce. Stir in rice and ginger and cook for 1 minute, until small white specks can be seen on the grains of rice. Add chicken stock from pot and cook on low heat until all the liquid is absorbed. Let stand for 10 minutes before fluffing with fork.

To make sauce, add all ingredients and stir until well combined. For ginger sauce, add all ingredients into a food processor or blender and grind until fine.

To serve, place chicken back into pot and bring to a boil. Let cool for a while before slicing. Place chicken slices on a bed of thinly sliced cucumber and dress with sauce. Garnish with green onions if preferred. Serve with rice, soup and ginger sauce.

Note: This recipe can be adjusted to feed a larger crowd by using a whole chicken. Follow the same steps to make the chicken and soup, but insert green onions, ginger and goji berries into the chicken’s cavity instead. Cooking time may have to be a little longer to ensure that the chicken is cooked all the way. 

Brown Sugar Oatmeal & Pecan Muffins

When you say you love me, know I love you more.

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Life can be such a challenge somedays. I barely remember the troubles I had as a teen, much less as a kid, and now problems seem to weigh down on me like the weight of the world.

It will be six months this month since I said I do and agreed to share my life with the most amazing man I know. I’ve always thought I was such a young bride, such a young wife. Even today, I caught myself sulking over something trivial like a spoiled child. In so many ways, I’m still a child at heart. If I had it my way, I never wanted to grow up.

But I’m so thankful and blessed to be married to the person I am with now. We stayed up this past weekend sharing a beer and a cigarette on the balcony of our townhouse. It was almost 3 in the morning and it was so cold but there was something calming about the still of the night.

When the cold was too much to bear, we stepped inside. I sat on the edge of the bed with him across from me. We were troubled and worried but most of all, scared. With no plans or ideas or means even, we stayed awake and stared at the ceiling like it was the sky, both lost in our thoughts. When I did decide to speak, I said it in whispers, afraid to break the quiet, as I laid next to him.

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I’ve had times when I was alone, afraid of the future because it was like treading into the unknown. This time, however, I knew I had someone else by my side. I knew those vows would manifest themselves someday and this was it. At least one of it. For better or for worse. I’ve promised this man my heart and my life and I have to honor that. 

I remember hearing his soft breaths as he succumbed to his tiredness. We have a future ahead of us but no idea where we’re headed and that’s ok. Instead of taking adventures on my own, I have Mark to share them with now. I feel like I’ve been beating myself up over the predicament we’re in these past couple of days but there’s always a silver lining to every situation.

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Today however, I was feeling blue and a little mopey, so I tried turning to the kitchen and oven for some warmth. Or maybe I was just looking for something to occupy my time with. Either way, these look absolutely comforting and I’m sure Mark wouldn’t have any complaints of how I utilized my time today.

Brown Sugar Oatmeal & Pecan Muffins
Yields 12

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup oatmeal, cooked and at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line muffin pan with 12 muffin or cupcake liners.

In a bowl, whisk eggs, oatmeal, canola oil and vanilla extract together until well-combined. In a large mixing bowl, measure flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder together. Mix well.

Fold in wet ingredients into mixing bowl and incorporate everything until evenly mixed. Using two spoons or an ice-cream scoop, scoop batter into each muffin cup, about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for about 20 minutes. You’ll know that muffins are done when you prick one with a toothpick and it comes out clean. Let cool and rest for 10 minutes before taking them out of the pan.

Beef Stew with Red Wine // Homemade Crusty Bread

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My house is so silent during the day. Sometimes, like today, it is comforting seeing as it is cold and dreary outside once again, but other times, it can get pretty lonely.

In the past couple of months of change and adaptation, I think I’ve learned how to live with the silence and find things that will complement it instead. Like getting lost in the pages of a book or writing a posts like this to share on the Internet. When I really can’t stand it anymore, I turn on the television for a little background noise or the music player when I am motivated enough to clean and potter around a part of the house.

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Right now, Mark and I are playing the very challenging game of waiting. Each day seems slower than the one before and I grow so impatient, so quickly. They say everything is slower by the water and the living is easy, and I can’t disagree. It is to many extents. But now, I crave the intensity that life can bring. Some aches, soreness and true tiredness that people complain about so often. I must sound ungrateful but I suppose I miss having a purpose.

Somehow, I’ve managed to channel most of my energy to spending more time in the kitchen. From starting out as a novice college cook to finally accomplishing to baking my own bread, I’m not hesitant to give myself a small pat on the back for this tiny yet significant achievement.

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For Sunday supper last weekend, I wanted to fix a dish that would compliment my Sunday baking project, which was a homemade crusty loaf of bread. So I thought what better way to eat it with a rich hearty stew. Mark and I were more than content with the result. I lit candles all around the living room while the stew gently simmered away in the kitchen like a pot of liquid gold and the bread rising wonderfully in the oven.

I was ecstatic when everything came together so perfectly. We poured ourselves a glass of Merlot each, cozied up on the couch and watched episodes of House of Cards on Netflix while dipping bits and pieces of the bread into our bowls and savoring it’s deep flavors.

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Beef Stew with Red Wine
Recipe adapted from Food Network

1 pound beef, cut into cubes (I used some cuts of steak and it worked fine)
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken or beef stock
1 cup red wine (I used Merlot, but recipe suggests dry red wine ie. Pinot Noir)
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian parsley for garnish (optional) 

Directions:

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in Dutch oven or deep pot. Brown cuts of beef until almost cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to bowl.

Add remaining butter to pot. Stir in onions and carrots and cook until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper and incorporate flour to the vegetables and mix well. Stir in beef and pour chicken stock, wine and rosemary to pot. Turn heat up until mixture comes to a boil and then lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about an hour partially covered. Stir occasionally.

Add potatoes to pot and cook covered for another 45 minutes until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

Homemade Crusty Bread

I followed instructions from Simply So Good for this recipe and it’s the best. She does an excellent job at explaining everything to a tee and even giving solutions or alternatives. My bread turned out great despite using active dry yeast instead of the instant kind. Mark loved it, and so did I.

Slow Cooker Meat Sauce

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Well the supposedly long weekend came and left in a blink of an eye.

Why does time have the pesky habit of doing that? Or maybe it’s an indication that we should slow down and catch up with its pace instead. Regardless, I can’t seem to have enough lazy Sundays on the couch with Mark while he watches action films or plays video games or his guitar. One of the above.

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I celebrated Valentines Day for the first time in 23 years this year. I had been jokingly pestering Mark about his plans for me since it would be the first I actually had somebody to celebrate it but I knew I would be happy just having quiet time with him at home. But about a week before the 14th, he came home to tell me that we wouldn’t be gone the entire weekend for Valentines but he wouldn’t tell me where.

So on the morning of Valentines, I crept out of bed before he woke up and plastered the bathroom mirror with love notes written on yellow Post-Its and left a bag of chocolates right beside his razor. He brushed his teeth, shaved and came back into the room with a thank you. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with chocolates.

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We jumped into my car and was on the road almost as soon as he got off that evening. He said we had a four hour drive ahead of us, so we loaded the iPod with an audio version of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and a satirical encyclopedia by The Onion. Before I knew it, our drive had come to an end and I was greeted with a beautiful view of a resort in the Outer Banks and the salty taste of ocean air.

The next two nights were spent comfortably in a spacious hotel room that featured a king-sized bed and patio. We laughed, sang, drank wine and slow danced in the middle of our room to cheesy love songs. We also shared a bonfire with other couples, went for a morning run, indulged in a full-body massage and ate at a quaint local restaurant downtown.

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I couldn’t help but feel immensely grateful and happy for this love. In so many ways, it’s been the one I’ve been waiting for all my life. I’ve never really known what it’s like to have a partner, somebody to share every single aspect of my life with. Some days it’s daunting but mostly, it’s comforting.

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It’s a little embarrassing to say, but this meal was inspired by our empty pantry upon coming home. All I had was some ground beef, lots of canned tomatoes and some spaghetti noodles, so I decided to throw everything into a crockpot and see what happened.

The result was a rich, extremely flavorful sauce that I would make over again. Plus, it’s freezer-friendly!

Slow Cooker Meat Sauce

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced, or petite diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
*4 ounces cream cheese

Directions:

Brown beef, onion and garlic in a pan. Drain grease and transfer into slow cooker. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and seasoning. Cook on high for 3 hours and turn heat down to low for 2 hours after that. Stir in cream cheese until it melts and is mixed evenly with sauce.

Serve over buttered noodles and garnish with fresh basil and parmesan reggiano if preferred.

*You can substitute cream cheese with 1 cup of whole milk if you like. I used cheese because that was all I had on hand! 

Classic Chili

I decided to make dinner in my pajamas today. Not because I was lazy and had been wearing them all day, but because I chose to slip into them right after my shower because they were so warm. And comfy. Primarily comfy.

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Winter is definitely upon us now, even here by the beach and today was another snowy day. Well more like a rain and snow mix kind of day, which is really gross and super dangerous to drive in. I chose to stay home all day with Mark and took the time to get out of bed (as usual). Eventually, I wandered downstairs to find him and we lazed on the couch before making lunch together.

Cold days often mean lazy days for me. I thought this was also true for Mark as I found him comfortably falling back asleep on the couch right after lunch. Honestly, I cannot wait for spring and the luscious vegetation it will bring, especially in our region. I’m anticipating a lot of colorful produce in my kitchen for the next couple of months and can’t wait to try recipes with it.

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I’ve been spending less time on the Internet now, which I think is a bit healthier and instead finding more time for myself. Currently, I’m reading a book by author Kazuo Ishiguro, titled Never Let Me Go, that is part of my reading list. The first couple of pages were a little difficult to get through, just because I hadn’t read a book in a while but now I can’t seem to put it down. I’m hoping it will be a good read.

Since it’s cold again today, we decided to turn to comfort food for dinner and nothing spells w-a-rmth like a good bowl of chili. I’ve alwaaays liked chili because it’s so hearty and you get all your necessary food groups in one bowl. Carb, protein, fiber, vitamins… Not to mention it’s absolutely delicious and just bursting with flavor.

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Chili’s also one of those dishes that you can make to suit your taste. I found this easy recipe while browsing one day and decided to make it again because it was so good. I think you could easily customize and add to or subtract from it as you please.

Classic Chili
Recipe adapted from The Turqoise Home

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef (or meat of choice)
1 can Pinto beans
1 can diced or petite diced tomatoes
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

In pot, saute garlic, onions and green pepper until onions turn translucent. Brown beef and drain grease. Stir mixture back to pot and add cumin, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. Cover with water and simmer on low heat for 1 hour.

Add can of tomatoes and salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans and heat to the pot.Serve with cheese, sour cream, corn chips and garnish with cilantro if you like.

Homemade Wonton Soup

Sometimes I find myself at a dead end with conversations.

As much as I love to find myself engaged in interesting dialogue with another person, to listen to perspective and learn about experiences, sometimes talking just leaves me…tired.

When that happens, I find myself shrinking like a turtle into its shell and being content with sorting my thoughts into words. Sometimes I feel like I run through over a million thoughts in a day and the process of sorting each one out with relevance becomes therapeutic and so personal.

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I started writing when I was 12. I kept a purple journal, the first one I ever purchased on my own. It was $1.50 from the bookstore by school and I carried it home like a trophy. I filled its pages with events from the day, lyrics from favorite songs and magazine cut outs of 90s boybands and heartthrobs.

When I first had a crush on a boy in middle school, I started to write about him like any other pre-adolescent girl would. I daydreamed in my journal and wrote about premature feelings of heartbreak in its thinly lined pages. Since I knew it held my vulnerability, I started hiding it– under the layers of my clothes, behind my dresses in my closet, under my bed– until I was ready to open and fill it with more parts of myself again. Suddenly this cheaply bound book became my biggest secret.

After that, I kept three more journals before moving my writing online onto blogs that I shared with friends. By that time and age, I’d learned to mask myself up a lot better by writing vaguely because I was sharing a part of myself, yet I still found the same comfort in turning my thoughts into words.

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I’ve been writing for over a decade now. Each year more different than the last but I still get the same feeling of familiarity when I’m able to turn an empty canvass into a space filled with thoughts and emotions that make sense– to me at least. But after all this time, I still don’t know how to explain to people exactly the purpose of why I write. I’ve came up with a bunch of reasons over time, most of which are reasonable but only half truthful. Maybe one day I’ll be able to work up the courage for an honest answer.

Last week, Mark and I got into a small kick of making wontons (see cream cheese wontons in previous post). This was the first batch we made that were classic meat-filled wontons, half baked and half cooked in broth, which we turned into a soup fit for dinner. It’s really easy and the process of making these could almost become a date night activity if you really wanted to turn it into one. Either way, they’re delicious and the possibilities for the wonton fillings are almost endless.

Homemade wonton soup 

Ingredients:
1 can chicken broth
3-5 slices ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tomato, quartered
3 cups water
3 cups Napa cabbage, chopped
1/2 packet rice vermicelli, or rice sticks
Salt and pepper to taste.
Wonton skins

Filling
1 lb ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-inch ginger, minced
2 stalks green onion, sliced thinly
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch

Directions: 

In a medium-sized pot, heat some oil. Brown garlic and ginger until aromatic. Pour chicken broth and water and bring to boil then turn the heat to low and let simmer. Bring some water to boil in another pot and cook rice sticks until al dente. Strain and let cool.

In a separate bowl, mix all the ingredients for filling until well combined. Spoon small spoonfuls of filling into center of wonton and seal edges by wetting the sides with a diluted corn starch mixture.

Bring pot of broth up to boil and add tomatoes. Gently ladle each wonton in, letting cook for about 4 minutes or until wontons float to the surface. Remove wontons and divide them into bowls. Add Napa cabbage to the broth and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, until cabbage is soft.

Divide rice sticks into bowls with wontons and ladle soup into each bowl. Garnish with more green onions if desired.

Cream Cheese Wontons // Kung Pao Chicken

Today I was feeling ambitious.

I’d spoken to my mom for 2 hours on the phone, patiently listened to her and my dad’s advice on life, marriage and money, and still had the motivation to carry on through the day. That’s kind of a personal win.

I stopped by a small Asian grocer that I happened to discover while driving home one day. I remember the friendly Filipino lady telling me that on Wednesdays they receive shipments of fresh vegetables not usually found in regular grocery stores. So I decided, why not?

True enough, there were an assortment of produce I thought I’d only see in markets back home. Bitter gourds, long beans, plump okras and even a type of leafy green known to Malaysians as kangkung (which happens to be one of my favorite vegetables, lucky me!) It took a lot in me not to splurge on produce. I walked away with a small Daikon radish, a fistful of kangkung and a loaf of pineapple cream bun, which I thought Mark would like.

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I’m so glad Mark’s not a picky eater in a way. I know there are things he likes, things he dislikes and then things he swears by, like pizza and an Italian BMT from Subway. But other than that, I think he’s been pretty adventurous so far. I, on the other hand, have a pretty adventurous palate. I think I would try just about anything once.

I’ve been getting tired of the daily fares here. Don’t misunderstand, I still love a guilty fettuccine alfredo or a juicy burger, even a large, fresh salad but I miss having at least three different dishes on the dinner table along with soup and rice. It’s weird how much variety there is, at least in homes in Malaysia, compared to everywhere else. And now that I actually cook every day, I’m amazed at how my mom was able to get dinner ready on time every night, sometimes even earlier.

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In an attempt to recreate dinner just as it was growing up, I took the time to make three different dishes and rice. I wish we had a dinner table so we could properly sit on something and not have to perch over the coffee table for a meal. But I guess the time will come. Our apartment is small and probably temporary, so I can’t complain. That’s one last piece of furniture we have to move out of here.

It was kind of Mark’s idea to make the cream cheese wontons. I’ve honestly never had them until I dined at a Chinese restaurant here but the ones we made were pretty delicious. They were baked, as opposed to the deep fried ones you find, which took some of the guilt off. We also substituted the crab meat for turkey bacon instead.

The Kung Pao chicken was something I had never tried making before. I looked up some recipes online and finally came up with one that would cater to our taste buds. It was actually pretty easy to make and I think a lot healthier than the ones you find in restaurants that are usually filled with MSG and sitting in a pool of questionable brown sauce.

Kung Pao Chicken 

Ingredients: 
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 yellow onion
Knob of ginger
1 clove garlic
3 green onions, chopped
Handful of peanuts
5-6 dried red chili
3 tbsp canola or peanut oil

Marinade
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce

Sauce 
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/3 cup water
1tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar

Directions: 

Mix chicken and marinade in a baggie or covered bowl for about 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, heat 2 tbsp of oil in large pan or wok. Fry chicken until almost done and remove from pan. Add remaining 1 tbsp of oil and fry garlic, ginger and dried chili until fragrant. Stir in onions and cook until translucent. Add chicken back to the pan and stir in sauce until evenly coated.

Let simmer for about 5 minutes or until sauce thickens up. Throw in green onions and peanuts. Serve with warm rice.

Cream cheese wontons 

Ingredients: 
4 oz. cream cheese
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 turkey bacon (or regular bacon), chopped and cooked
1 tsp honey
Wonton wrappers
1 tsp corn starch, diluted in water

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.

Combine cream cheese, jalapeno, bacon and honey in a bowl. Spoon small amounts of cream cheese mixture into the center of the wonton wrappers. Dip a finger into the corn starch solution and wet the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper envelope and press gently to seal the wonton.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until skin turns golden brown.

Makes about 12 wontons. 

Pan-Fried Salmon Fillet

Oh boy, I never thought I would see this much snow here in North Carolina but it came anyway.

The entire week saw temperatures in the 20s and natives here didn’t quite know how to deal with it. I’ve been following the news and a number of counties have declared it to be a state of emergency. Here, schools have remained shut since Wednesday and most, if not everyone, are being told to stay home and to avoid driving at all costs.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure if I’m still that used to this much ice everywhere. Because our region usually never gets this much precipitation or see temperatures this low, resources are obviously lacking. There were no snow plows, or people shoveling sidewalks or throwing salt on them. Getting from one place to another was a clumsy challenge, which could easily result in accidents.

I’d decided to make a trip to the gym today after spending the past two days indoors. We had a friend stay over so it wasn’t that quiet but I can’t stand the thought of being trapped inside a house for too long. Mark was quite content with staying warm and playing video games inside but I got antsy and restless really fast.

The roads were worse than I’d imagined. I think I had let my car slide along and around corners more than anything else. I wish somebody would just loan us a couple of snow plows and get all this ice out of the way. At one point, I had to have a kind gentleman help me walk along an icy path so I wouldn’t fall. Chivalry isn’t dead after all!

Despite its challenges, wintery days always feel so calming. There’s something so tranquil about falling snow, especially at night. I remember my first winter in Colorado when it snowed and all I could do was stare at each snowflake, mesmerized by each tiny one, before it gently reached the ground.

Mark had chosen to get two large pizzas for dinner last night because I didn’t feel like making a meal and then cleaning up again. So even if there are two large boxes of sinful doughy and cheesy goodness sitting in my refrigerator right now, I told myself I’d pick something better to eat today, just to keep from feeling sluggish again.

I had a little 4 oz. salmon fillet sitting in the freezer so I opted for a small protein-packed lunch. I didn’t get fancy with in but since it had its skin on, I seasoned it and pan-fried it until it was crispy on the outside and juicy and flaky on the inside.

Salmon could possibly be one of my favorite fishes. Even frozen ones taste so good! And they’re loaded with heart healthy fish oils plus are low in calories. I think mine was just about 100 calories per serving. So, not a bad option if you’re on a regimen or thinking of being more conscious of your diet.

Pan-fried Salmon Fillet 

Ingredients:
4 oz. salmon fillet, skin on
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. olive oil
Wedge of lemon for garnish

Directions: 

Sprinkle and rub spices all over the skin of the salmon. Heat oil in a small pan. Place salmon, skin side down, into pan and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip fish and cook on the other side. Flip again and cook on the side if you prefer it crispier and a little blackened, about 3 minutes.

Insert fork to check if fish is done. Remove from heat. Squeeze lemon juice and serve with brown rice, quinoa, salad or veggie of choice.

Udon Noodles with Meat Sauce and Green Onions

Sometimes the heart loves hating and sometimes the heart hates loving, but more than anything, the heart just wants to feel. 

The past couple of weeks have involved numerous road trips, which meant long hours in the car, on interstates that seem to go on forever and favorite songs on the car player that eventually became background noise.

Driving always makes me think. For some reason, I get lost in my own thoughts and they wander. My drive home after spending a couple of days in Washington D.C. was exhausting. The bitter cold didn’t help and the fact that I was missing home and Mark made it worse.

But there was always something so comforting about stepping through my front door and into his arms. It’s all I could think about as I drove across state lines and past every exit and some days I still wonder how we wound up here. I caught myself thinking about it out loud as we were waiting on a couple of friends to head out for dinner last night.

At one point, I glanced to look at Mark who was right beside me, took a deep breath and contently accepted that this was my life now.

Sometimes it is so easy for me to cower away and doubt all that we share. Sometimes I beg for honest conversations with him, wanting to hear him tell me me that love can be concrete and not flailing only because I’ve never had the privilege of experiencing something as beautiful as this.

I remember falling asleep on the couch that Friday night while he stayed up watching movies on Netflix. Every so often, I’d awake only to sleepily catch him watching me. It surprised me. I think it still scares me to the core to be in love and to love somebody like this.

Meeting my best friend from home who bravely battled the cold in the Northeast just to spend some time with me was exciting. One, we haven’t seen each other in nearly three years and if anybody knows anything living abroad, you’d agree that trying to keep in touch all the time is sometimes easier said than done.

But getting the chance to see her and catch up was nice. It felt as if no time has passed but we’ve both grown up a little bit more. She was thoughtful enough to bring me some snacks from home and I was elated. We drank wine, exchanged stories and gave each other advice.

Watching her cross the doors into the airport at the terminal made me wish I was the one going home for once. Just for a little while.

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So while I am still homesick, I naturally gravitate towards anything that would come close to remind me of home and one of my favorite things from home is the abundance and variety of noodles. Even if you didn’t like noodles, you would end up finding something you like.

I made this super easy meat sauce with green onions and udon noodles a couple of weeks ago. It’s so yummy, I think I could eat it every day. If you have vegetables like zucchini, cucumbers, carrots or anything at all lying around, feel free to add to it for texture and color.

I think I’m about to go make some right now!

Udon Noodles with Meat Sauce and Green Onions 

Ingredients:
Udon noodles
1/2 pound ground beef (any type of ground meat would be fine)
3 stalks green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (adjust to heat preference)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring water to boil and cook udon noodles

Brown meat in a pan and drain grease. Add sauces to pan and mix well. Add a little bit of water if you want a saucier consistency.

Pour sauce over cooked noodles and garnish with chopped green onions. Mix noodles with noodles until even coated.