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.

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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.

Lemon & Orange Chicken Skewers

The clock reads close to 8 p.m. and I am ready for bed.

Today was an early day for me. Things have been slow since the holidays but now that we’re about halfway through January, I think it has been picking up steadily.

Mark has been busy at work and with school. As I write this, he’s directly across from me, with the computer propped on his lap, pen laced between his thumb and index finger, brows furrowed and intently reading what I presume is chapters of his history textbook. With two swift snaps, he cracks his neck and is back to full concentration.

He can look so serious sometimes.

 I didn’t sleep much last night. Partly because I had chosen to sleep in until noon (yes, noon) with Mark after he got back but also because of the little excitement I knew I was going to have today while I drop my resume of at a couple of places in the area. Hopefully I will find something to do in the next couple of months.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten up early to do my hair and make up. I used to dread the early morning ritual of slapping on foundation and coats of mascara just to head into the office but now, I miss it. I’d give anything to trade in my sweatpants for a pair of slacks.

 The rain poured and soaked the entire region for a good part of the day. My backyard now holds what looks like a mini swamp, just enough for birds to bathe in, frogs to leap in and possibly even for us to have a little bit of fun with. Puddle wrestling would be my best guess.

I can’t believe I will be turning 24 this year. I am extremely nervous about everything. Being married, trying to still have a career (whatever that might mean now), starting a family… Gone are the days where the most planning I’d have to do is if I should schedule all my classes in the mornings or afternoons. Now I stress over the next five years and what will I be doing with my life. Where will we live? What would I do for work? Where will my career, if I even have one, be? This is my almost quarter-life crisis everybody.

In between missing home and seriously craving (akin to what a pregnancy craving might feel like I think) every and all Malaysian delicacies, I have spent a majority of my days surfing the web and coming across a plethora of amazing food blogs from wonderful people all over the country! Needless to say, I am amazed at some of the recipes and cannot wait to try them.

Oh if only I had access to a huge supermarket that held within its walls everything from Spaghetti O’s to giant octopuses, I would be so happy! It’d be having the best of both worlds. A combination of everything I love, which ultimately I think, kind of describes who I am. A vast assortment of two very different worlds.

I’ve been wanting to make chicken kabobs for the longest time. I’m a huge fan of Greek food. Falafels, grilled meats, cool cucumber and mint relishes… I am still full from dinner but am already salivating with just the thought of it. But since I live in such a small town in the south, half of the ingredients to make a decent kabob is unavailable. I have even debated doing my grocery shopping online but I know Mark will think I’m crazy.

Back home, we have a similar dish called satay, which is basically chicken or beef, marinated for hours in a spicy, nutty mix and then grilled over a charcoal fire. Put it simply, it is divine. The meat is made to order and comes to you piping hot, succulent and juicy, charred and burnt on the edges and served with a chunky peanut dipping sauce. Most come with slices of cucumber and onion, and sometimes if you’re lucky, you get ketupat with it too! A dense rice cake just made for dipping into the sauce. I think I just heard my tummy growl again…

Dinner tonight was an extremely healthy take on the kabob and satay. No spicy peanut sauce, no cool feta salads, just a bright, citrusy marinade for my chicken. Ultimately, it’s still chicken on a stick. There’s something so fun about having props in your meals. Like it’s an event or a party. Forget silverware, I get to use my hands and drag pieces of juicy meat off a stick into my mouth, slathering sauce all over my cheeks.

I think that’s why babies have so much fun making a mess during meal times.

Lemon & Orange Chicken Skewers

Ingredients:
18 wooden skewers
3 boneless, skinless, chicken breast
1 zucchini
1 yellow, green, orange bell peppers
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 green onion
1 cup button mushrooms
1 tbsp light mayonnaise

Marinade:
1 lemon
5 clementines
1 tsp. dried rosemary
3 bay leaves, crushed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

In a bowl, zest lemon but only juice half of it. Juice the rest of the clementines and add it to the lemon juice. Add garlic, basil, bay leaves and rosemary and mix well. Slowly pour olive oil into mix, whisking the entire time so the oil incorporates with the juice and forms a smooth emulsion. Add salt and pepper.

Clean and slice chicken breast into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl. Pour half the marinade to the chicken, mix well and let marinade in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight. Chop zucchinis into wheels and bell peppers into about 1-inch sized pieces. Clean mushrooms and roughly chop green onions. Place vegetables in a plastic baggie and pour the other half of the marinade. Let rest, refrigerated for at least an hour.

When about to cook, soak wooden skewers in cold water for about 30 minutes to an hour to avoid burning in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheet with foil.

Thread a cherry tomato onto a skewer, then chicken meat, then a green onion. Repeat until skewer is full. Use remaining skewers for vegetables. Place the chicken on a cookie sheet and vegetables on another.

Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked and vegetables are soften.

Tip: I added more cooking time to the meat and veggies by putting them under the broiler to try and get a charred look, similar to what you’d see if you’d grilled them!

Italian Meatballs

Temperatures decided to climb a little bit more today and upon looking at the forecast for the rest of the week, it showed temperatures up to the 70s by the weekend.

Still, I am sympathetic towards my friends and people all over the Midwest and Northeastern part of the country. Especially my brother living in Minneapolis right now. It cannot be comfortable. They are calling it the polar vortex and just the phrase itself sounds chilling. Brrr…

I had gotten an early morning text from a friend who I had met from going to yoga class. She asked me if I was up for a pilates workout this morning but I wasn’t. The covers had gotten the best of me. Again.

Instead we made plans to go on a hike. I liked that idea a lot better since it meant I got to laze around a little more. Or I mean, complete some household chores before leaving… I met up with her at about 1 o’clock and we went to explore a couple of hiking trails near the area. She brought along her 3-year-old German Shephard/Labrador mix by the name of Eli. He had a wild time running around the woods, chasing squirrels and relishing in the vast openness.

Quite honestly, I had a great time being in the sun and outside too. It was nice hearing the crunch of leaves under my shoes and having good company. We trekked along for about an hour before deciding that we should turn around on the trail, just in case we got lost.

I had forgotten to eat lunch before leaving on the hike, so I came home absolutely famished. I had nearly gone through an entire box of strawberries before I realized that Mark would be home in about an hour, which meant I had to have something lined up for dinner.

Still a little tired from the hike, I just sat on the couch to catch up on Downton Abbey. It wasn’t until Mark came home and said he was going to order pizza that I pulled myself up to the kitchen to fix something quick.

We had gotten frozen meatballs once from the grocery store and I honestly hated the way it tasted. Not so much the flavor, just the texture. There’s something about frozen foods that tastes so…processed. Seeing that I had 3 pounds of ground beef in the refrigerator, I decided I would make my own meatballs to add to spaghetti, which is to date the easiest dinner for me to whip up.

I really thought I would have leftovers for subs tomorrow but I guess they turned out pretty good because we didn’t leave any at all! I decided to forego adding bread or breadcrumbs to my batch of meatballs because I’m carb-conscious like that. I’m not sure if that’s even a real word… If it’s not, can I just make a thing now?

Italian Meatballs 

Ingredients: 
1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 medium-sized onion

Directions: 

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

In a bowl, beat egg. Combine all ingredients together and mix well, until everything is blended together. Pinch portions of the mixture out and form into medium-sized meatballs by rolling the meat between the palm of your hands. Continue until all the meat has been formed into well-sized balls.

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Place meatballs in pan and cook until the outsides are brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer meatballs onto baking sheet and bake in the oven until done, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Place meatballs in marinara or pasta sauce and let simmer for another 10 minutes so the flavors blend.

Serve with cooked pasta of choice or on a hoagie as a meatball sub.

Recipe yields about 16 meatballs.

Chicken Piccata

My destination is no longer a place, rather, a new way of seeing.

I burned the chicken tonight.

In between running in and out of the kitchen to try and talk about things with Mark, I’d left the heat on too high and was gone too long so I came back to a charred piece of chicken breast. Aside from that, I’d also forgotten that I’d left a Ziploc baggie on one of the burners and had conveniently turned the burner on so I also walked into a smoky kitchen filled with toxic fumes.

Today was not one of the better days.

Temperatures plunged into the negatives in some parts of the country. I had spent the earlier part of the day catching up with my best friend, who looked lazy and snug under her covers in her New Jersey home. Here in Eastern North Carolina, meteorologists advised to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary and so I did just that.

I tried keeping busy. I took an extra long shower and made the effort to shave since I wasn’t taking the time to wash my hair. Still, there was time on my hands. Some days I feel so trapped and aimless. If you’d asked me ten years ago where I would see myself today, I would answer honestly not here. Not married. Not starting a family. Just, not yet.

But life has a funny way of springing things on you. Like how I got my first job out of college all the way across the country and then finding out it’s not what I thought it would be. I wasn’t Lois Lane but I was willing to work hard for it.

And then I fell in love.

Just when I had vowed not to fall in love. Just when I was ready to give up and shut everybody out, Mark walked into my life in the most unsuspecting way. Looking back, I guess I was alright not having anyone. I’ve had some pretty awful experiences with past relationships so taking a couple more years away from it seemed to make the most sense despite pangs of loneliness.

But our paths crossed and he came in the midst of all the change in my life. I probably wasn’t prepared for any of it but I did what they told me to do you know? Live for the moment. Seize the day. You Only Live Once.

One thing led to another and I find myself here in our quiet townhouse while he works on his computer and me coping with yet another change and the fact that I’d burned dinner.

I made chicken piccata for the first time without really knowing what it was except for the fact that I had all the ingredients I needed for it in my pantry and my refrigerator. Did not have a mallet however to pound the chicken so I used the back of a pan, which worked just fine. And it helped me let go some of that frustration as well. I’d recommend serving this with fettuccine noodles.

Chicken Piccata
Recipe from My Recipes

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts
1 lemon
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp butter
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Place chicken breast in between two sheets of wax paper or on cutting board with a sheet of plastic wrap to cover. Using a mallet or the back of a non-stick frying pan, pound chicken until about 1/4 of an inch thick.

Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Heat skillet with 1 tbsp of butter and some vegetable oil. Cook chicken on one side, about 3 minutes, until brown. Flip and cook the other side until chicken is done. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Add lemon juice and chicken broth to pan. Bring to a boil and scrape whatever bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally until gravy thickens. Pour gravy over chicken and serve.

Chicken & Beef Fajitas

The New Year got off to a rocky start for me.

I had spent the first day of 2014 feeling absolutely miserable but glad that once it had all came to pass, I got to find a new little outlook on life and my current situation.

With that being said, I honestly didn’t think about making resolutions this year. What’s the point when all I’d end up doing is breaking them by the first weekend of January anyway. But as I tried to find things to occupy myself today, I realized that I needed goals– a sense of purpose.

In college, I’ve always worked well with having a planner. Scribble down lists, notes and deadlines only to scribble them the day or week after and feeling such a sense of accomplishment once a task (or more realistically, an assignment) is done!

Since I am (unfortunately) no longer in college, I have yet to use a daily planner but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have lists or notes to jot down somewhere. Thus, for 2014 I have decided on three food resolutions.

One. Giving up red meat. I realize that giving up pork such as bacon or sausage or just simply pork will be difficult. Who doesn’t love bacon? Personally though, I am a sausage person. Patties, links, both… That would be my meat of choice at breakfast and giving up red meat would just mean eliminating half the reason I love breakfasts so much. But in an attempt to be more conscious of what I eat, I think this would be a good start.

Two. Giving up (unnecessary) cheese. To put it in the words of Mark, cheese can be unnecessary. I had never heard of such a thing until I met him. I always thought cheese was necessary. Quesadillas, pizzas, dips… I could go on forever but I guess he’s right. I could always go for a sandwich sans the cheese. No cheese in my burritos or tacos. No cheese on my eggs (cries, I love cheesy eggs). It seems like an expensive price to pay, but to quote Mark, “Oh, you’ll live!”

Three. Giving up cigarettes. Yes, yes. I’ve read all the articles, statistics, comments and received more than enough judgmental looks to warrant me to come to this decision. Honestly, I’ve also given some of those judgmental remarks. But this year, I will be making an actual effort to say no. Actually say no when I reaaaally want to say yes. I’m quite nervous to take this on but optimism should get me somewhere, right?

With that out of the way, I was really excited making dinner tonight. Maybe it because the process seemed to tedious so it had to yield a phenomenal result. Or maybe because it’s from one of my favorite Food Network stars. Or maybe because it’s my first time making it all from scratch. Or it’s all of the above! Either way, I was excited.

I’ve never really had Tex-Mex food until I came to the States. We had Chili’s back home but I’ve always stayed on the safe side of the menu. I remember eating my first burrito under the shade of a tree in between class on campus and thinking, why haven’t I had this before? Burritos are yummy but burrito bowls are so much better to me. And don’t even get me started on Chipotle. I’m really starting to think it’s a cult… (not complaining though!)

Tonight I made chicken and beef fajitas with lots of bright, crunchy peppers and warm wheat tortillas. I’m starting to learn my way around Tex-Mex cooking. Chili, tacos and now marinated grilled meat. My meat-loving man does not complain! I took the extra step of making guacamole and dinner was complete.

Chicken and Beef Fajitas
Recipe by Ree Drummond, from The Pioneer Woman 

Ingredients:
12 oz. flank steak
2 chicken breast
1/2 of a medium-sized red, green, yellow and orange bell pepper
2 medium yellow onions

Marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp sugar

Directions:

Mix together ingredients for marinade in a small bowl.

Clean and prepare meat. Stab chicken breast with fork to allow for flavors to seep into the meat. Pour 1/3 of the marinade over steak and another 1/3 for the chicken. Make sure to marinade both meat in separate dishes or baggies. Julienne peppers and onions and pour remaining marinade over the vegetables. Leave to marinade in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Heat grill and cook beef until preferred wellness. Cook chicken in a pan or on grill until done. Heat up pan with a some oil and saute vegetables. I like mine a little charred yet still crunchy so I cooked it on high but constantly stirring so it doesn’t burn.

Assemble ingredients on a warm tortilla and serve with cheese, sour cream, salsa or guacamole.

What’s your first memory of a good Tex-Mex dish? 

Vegetable Medley Stir Fry

Weekends in this little town can be quite dull.

Mark and I decided to go to the movies after plans to go bowling fell through last night. I was happy with that but I didn’t think it was going to cost just as much (if not more) than bowling! It was probably close to $40 for two tickets and some popcorn. I thought that was quite a splurge but maybe it’s just because I’m used to watching an unlimited amount of movies on Netflix and over the Internet.

We picked American Hustle over all the other good movies in theaters currently and I really enjoyed the film. I thought Amy Adams’ character and acting was brilliant. It ran a little over two hours but I was hooked the entire time. I’d recommend it as a good drama to watch.

I was lucky to have Mark make dinner tonight. I think he likes cooking every now and then and he’s not bad at it at all! He’s the best at making breakfasts, especially eggs! I can always count on him to make a darn good omelette on the weekends. Mmm…

Tonight he came up with a vegetable turkey stir-fry. We had just bought a bunch of veggies so I guess it made sense to put it all together. He also picked up a cajun-rubbed turkey breast at the store. It came pre-cooked but I figured you could always substitute it with chicken or a meat of your choice. I think shrimp would work well too.

I thought it turned out well for how quickly put together it was. He said it was an original recipe and I suppose he’s right. The only oversight on our part was not seeding the jalapenos before adding them to the dish. Boy… it was spicy! Being away from home for so long and away from spicy food in general have substantially lowered my tolerance to heat. I can maybe only do some Tabasco now so the heat from the peppers kicked my butt.

He was constantly making sure that I took enough pictures of our dinner for the blog and stopped to ask if I had snapped a shot every other step of the way. I suppose it’s pretty fun having him in the kitchen with me. He’s not a picky eater and will eat just about anything (except seafood! sigh…) but it’s interesting to see what he comes up with.

He chose to add some sun-dried tomato dressing, which I thought was a little odd but in the turned out wonderfully because it brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes and toned down the heat from the jalapenos a lot. With that being said, I still highly recommend that the jalapenos be seeded, unless you’re the kind who particularly enjoys the burn.

Vegetable medley stir-fry 

Ingredients:
1 red, green or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 yellow or green zucchini, chopped
1 tomato, diced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 jalapeno, seeded (optional)
8 to 12 oz. of protein of choice (optional)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato salad dressing
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

On medium-high, coat the pan with oil and wait until heated through. Place onions, peppers and jalapenos into pan. Cook until onions are tender and translucent then add zucchinis. If using uncooked meat, add meat first and stir until meat is fully cooked. 

Close pan with lid and wait 1 to 2 minutes for the steam to cook and soften the vegetables. Stir in tomatoes, sun-dried tomato dressing and seasonings. Stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated with the sauce. Let simmer for a couple of minutes before removing pan from heat.

Serve warm with rice or quinoa. Or serve chilled with penne pasta as a pasta salad.

Beef and Broccoli

Mark came home at about 10 a.m. the next day.

The morning’s weather was dreary. Rain dropped steadily outside my bedroom as I rolled over to fill the empty spot beside me. I was so glad he had decided to come home. I woke up, brushed my teeth, tidied the room a little and rolled back under the covers to wait for him. 

He was in the exact same jacket and shirt despite bringing a change of clothes with him when he left.

“I’m sorry…,” he whispered and I couldn’t help but well up with tears again.

Our “first fight” had undeniably left us both exhausted. I had spent hours on Skype with my mom the night before, seeking for advice and solace, and she gave me enough to finally fall asleep for a couple of hours.

Mark crawled in beside me that morning, which felt like routine. Comfortable routine that I’ve sometimes taken for granted, especially in the past couple of months. He gave me the opportunity for some answers and I gave him the chance for apologies while offering some on my part too.

I realized that the road to our lives together had only just begun. Fights are inevitable and the best I can do is to take each one as they come, reconcile and hopefully always remember the love that we have for each other.

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Winter has decided to kick in here in Eastern North Carolina so Mark and I are always on the couch by each other facing the tv. Yesterday he felt so comfortable being in his uniform that he didn’t change out of it until it was time for bed. He called it being “ultimately lazy”.

We spent the majority of the day cleaning the house after our small holiday stint with my brother, who was visiting for a couple of weeks from Minneapolis. Dishes piled up so quickly and pine needles were all over our living room floor after  tending to our first real Christmas tree. Mark figured out how to work a hand-me-down vacuum while I scrubbed some toilets and wiped a lot of counters down.

Mark is a huge fan of red meat. Me, not so much. I like my white meat. But we recently did some grocery shopping and found a good deal on flank steak, which I thought would be great for stir-frying. Dinner tonight was stir-fried beef and broccoli, which I think is an American favorite when it comes to Chinese food and takeouts. Honestly, Chinese cooking here is almost as foreign to me as American cooking just because ingredients are so different so dinner can be quite an adventure.

I got two thumbs up for making dinner tonight though and couldn’t be happier because it was so easy. Mark was happy that I made white rice instead of brown (I figured I’d indulge) and seized the chance to sprinkle half his serving of rice with white sugar. Apparently, it’s one of his childhood favorites. Either way, we were stuffed, leaving more than enough for leftovers that I or him will be finishing in no time.

Beef and broccoli
Recipe adapted from Kristin, from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:
12 oz. flank steak, sliced
1 crown broccoli, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
Pepper to taste

Marinade:
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp corn starch

Sauce:
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp corn starch, dissolved in water

Directions

Marinade steak with soy sauce and corn starch in a baggy and let it rest in room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir together sauce ingredients, dissolve corn starch in water separately and set aside.

On medium-high, heat oil in wok or pan. Plan marinated beef in oil in a single layer and wait for side to cook, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and stir evenly.

Add broccoli and sauce mixture to the pan. Stir all the ingredients until sauce coats most of the broccoli florets. Close the pan with a lid and allow steam to cook the broccoli until tender, about 2 minutes. Add dissolved corn starch and stir until sauce thickens and meat is well-done.

Serve with steamed rice or fried noodles.

What’s your favorite kind of leftover meal?