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!

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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?

Soy Ginger Pork Stir-Fry

Rain and clouds never fail to make me extra lazy. I didn’t manage to get anything done until Mark got home at about 4 in the afternoon yesterday because I was tucked snugly under the blanket on my couch.

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It’s my first autumn/winter in North Carolina and I’m mildly surprised at how warm the weather still is in November. We had a short shower yesterday, which brought temperatures down into the mid-60s and me under the blanket, on the couch.

Gloomy days also has this way of making me miss home, so I decided I’d whip up a quick dinner that never fails to remind me of home. I also got Mark to eat an entire serving of choy sum this week; a type of Chinese cabbage found in many popular dishes back home — a staple when I was growing up. 

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What reminds me most of home and family often is my mom’s simple home-cooked meals. Her soy ginger pork stir-fry is one that’s incredibly easy yet delicious at the same time. I used some leftover pork chops and marinaded them in soy and oyster sauce and some fresh cracked pepper plus salt to taste.

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Ginger is also common in a lot of Chinese cooking. Growing up, my grandma and mom would say that its pungent and slightly bitter heat is good for keeping warmth in the body. Adding some Chinese rice wine, this dish is often served to women after childbirth with the belief that it will help nourish and heal the body after labor.

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I brown the ginger with garlic in a pan to start and the smell in my kitchen is divine. Towards the end of cooking, I like to throw in a handful of chopped scallions just for color and a little bit of crunch. I love scallions, or green or spring onions, as some would call it. I’d put it in everything if I could!

Here’s a cool trick I learned. When using scallions, save the ends where the little roots grow (as pictured above) and submerge them in a glass or jar filled with water. Place them on a sunny window and the onions will start to grow, meaning you get to use them again! And again. Anddd again. Rinse the root out about once or twice a week and replace with fresh water. This should help you save at least 50 cents from the grocery store.

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Last night I also wanted a good serving of veggies with my dinner so I stir-fried some broccoli with garlic and oyster sauce and made a cup of brown rice as sides for both Mark and I. Needless to say, I went back for seconds.

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I think mom would be quite proud that I’m finally able to prepare some of her simple dishes and hopefully, she’ll pass more recipes to me as I grow older.

Soy ginger pork stir-fry

Ingredients:
2 pork loin chops, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
A knob of ginger (I used one about the size of my thumb), peeled and julienned
Handful of scallions, chopped

Marinade:
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
A pinch of salt

Directions:

Add ingredients from marinade into a bowl and mix well. Stir in pork slices and mix until evenly coated. Set aside for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Using a medium to high heat, heat pan or work with vegetable oil.

Brown garlic. Be careful to watch as it browns (sometimes burns) quickly. Add ginger and fry until fragrant. Then, stir in the pork marinade and cook for about 10 minutes or until it is almost done. Add water to help scrape the pan and giving the dish its luscious sauce. You can always add more water if you want it saucier. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes, until pork is done and tender.

Toss in scallions and a little bit more salt and pepper to taste. Serve with steamed rice.

What’s your favorite hand-me-down recipe?

Banana Granola Muffins

I’ve been approaching life with the same negative outlook for as long as I can remember.

I remember the growing pains that came as a low-esteemed 14-year-old. The angst I had as a confused 17-year-old and then the depression in my late teens and early 20s. Unwillingly, I had carried some of the pain throughout the years into adulthood and today, I’ve decided to get rid as much of it as possible.

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Somehow, someway, I must have done something right to have met a man who loves me for who I am. And though it is still taking me time and effort to accept this fact, I can say today that I am the best I have been in a long while.

My day today comfortably ended with a cup of chamomile tea and a pleasurable bite into one fresh banana granola muffin. It’s nice how certain foods bring you that sense of familiarity even in a sea of change. Banana muffins have always been one of my favorite breakfast foods and being able to make it from scratch in my very own kitchen makes it that much more satisfying.


Life has been mundane but not mediocre for me lately. I left my job a month ago and moved to live with Mark in Havelock, NC — a small military town right outside of a Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. He found a cozy townhouse where he works in and right now, it’s just me and him. I have yet to get a job here but am actively looking for one. There is still what seems to be a mountain of paperwork I have yet to complete but I’m doing the best I can and hopefully, I will have it all filed before the end of the year.

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Other than that, living with my significant other has been a challenging yet exciting adjustment that I’ve made. Before this, Mark and I were in, what I would call, a “short” long-distance relationship. Long enough that we didn’t get to see each other as frequently as we would like, but short enough that we could make it to each within a day’s drive.

We lived three hours apart and got to see each other only over the weekends, so our relationship consisted of a lot of texting and FaceTime dates. We took turns visiting each other over, which got old (and expensive!) really fast.

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I would be lying if I told you that the transition went smoothly. I think it has been harder for me simply because I was moving again to a new town, losing my income and friends but I’ve been coping. Mark has been incredibly supportive of my needs and I’m sure that it’s just a matter of time before I feel at home again.

Today, I tried my hands at some baking and the results were pretty satisfactory. Mark isn’t that much of a picky eater, so I’m lucky I get to try out recipes without wasting any food either. I might make some adjustments to the recipe in the future but I’m glad I have these banana granola muffins to look forward to for breakfast this week.

Banana Granola Muffins
Recipe adapted from Kelly Senyei, from Just A Taste.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup granola of choice
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup vanilla non-fat yogurt
6 tbsp butter or margarine, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking soda. Then mix granola. In a separate bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, eggs, butter, yogurt, vanilla.

Slowly fold in the wet mixture to the dry mixture, adding in batches until both mixtures are combined.

Scoop batter into the muffin pan, and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick or knife inserted into the muffins comes out clean.

Tire

It’s just another warm Tuesday afternoon in my small town of Lumberton.

I am sitting cross-legged on an old couch in a fairly clean laundromat on the north side of town. The 5 o’clock news and the steady hum of the dryer serves as background noise.

The place is empty.

The Mexican lady and her kids who were running around earlier have left. It is almost time for dinner and soon, when autumn comes, it will get darker sooner too.

It’s weird how I find solace in odd places like these. The laundromat. A coffee shop. An airport terminal. I found myself thinking, as I separated the whites from the blacks and colors, about my day. What I’d eaten. Pizza. Yuck. Could’ve done better there.

Jeans. Tank tops. New underwear. My boyfriend’s t-shirts.

Interesting how my life has come to this.

Just about an hour ago I was taking pictures of an intersection in town that may or may not be getting new stop signs installed. Then I find myself washing the shirts he left behind after his weekend excursion with me, which, since then, I have barely heard from him at all.

I seem to transition seamlessly from work to dealing with my precarious emotions. I find myself craving a conversation. I used to wake up to texts from him that were sent at 5 a.m. Now, I’m lucky if I even got one before 5 p.m.

I hate to sound like I’m complaining. The past few months have been blissful. From bouquets of roses to candle light dinners, whispers of sweet phrases to honest confessions, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I felt sad for girls who are alone, amazing women who deserved love more than anything else, but had no one. I finally had him, and we were in love.

When he said he loved me, we were half-drunk of a red wine and a bottle of whiskey. The room was dim and a really cheesy R&B love song played in the background. Yet, I said it back without being sure why, only knowing that it felt like it was the right thing to do and once I had said it, I wanted to say it over and over again to him.

I don’t know what love is but I know I’ve been in love.

I know I was in love with B when I stayed with him for a year and then longed for him even more for another year after that. I know I loved A when I convinced myself that I was still special despite all the other girls he had. They were love, in a mutilated way. It was the only kind of love I knew and inevitably, it hurt.

As I try as hard as possible not to fall into the labyrinth of love this time, I find myself holding back so much of myself to this person who deserves so much more than just part of me. But despite knowing that, I don’t know if I can chip away the walls that I’ve spent so long building.

My clothes are sitting in the dryer and I’m holding back tears in an empty laundromat as dusk approaches.

I cry when I think about the day he no longer wakes up and looks forward to talking to me. Or when our conversations turn into routine. When he already knows every inch and nook and cranny of my imperfect body and is tired with me.

I mostly cry when I think about the day when he realizes how mediocre I am, will always be.

Present

They say timing is everything.

Maybe in another time, place or space, we would be perfect. If only I was the girl you met in that bar two years ago. Or the girl you meet in coffee shop five years from now. Maybe we wouldn’t be faced with this.

I sit alone again tonight with words as my company, thinking of the last time I held your hand, wondering of the next time I will feel them again. Afraid of the possibility that I will never be in the same room with you again.

Life is unfair like that and God hurls tests like these towards us.

I don’t know why I said hello, or agreed to have dinner by the river with you that Friday night, but I never did regret it.

I never regretted the time I drove six hours just to hear your voice. Or the time I stayed up with you driving across state lines to get to your house. I never regretted that one more shot of tequila with you. Or the time I had to tuck you into bed — I would do it all over again.

I don’t know how it’s going to be when I have to say goodbye permanently. I already hate it when we say goodbye on Sundays, but if it’s inevitable then I would say it, even if it kills me.

Odds are you will meet somebody else someday and it will break my heart when you do, but if you were standing in pictures and at the altar with her, feeling fully happy, then I will find it in me to share that with you.

I promise I will always remember you.