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.

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.

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 & 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? 

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?