Our 4th of july 2021

Hope everyone who celebrates had a safe and fun 4th of July holiday. Our 4th of July this year was very different from last year’s celebration. In contrast to last year where everyone on our street and all over the Bay Area came out to blast the evening away, no one on our street lit any including Mr Sweetie who looks forward to lighting fireworks year after year. We did not want to light fireworks in respect to city officials’ requests to hold off due to threats of wild fires. Of course, it still did not prevent people from lighting even a week before July 4.

We spent July 4th weekend finishing up renovating the kitchen floor. Well, he did all the work but I spent all of Saturday putting things back and reorganizing after the final tile was dry enough. We were so pooped that it was pizza night delivery that evening. All the hard work was so worth it, though. Mr Sweetie did a fantastic job and I have a beautiful new kitchen floor! For Sunday, July 4th, I cooked up a storm. On the menu:

  • Tomatoes, avocado, red onion and lime salsa served with tortilla chips
  • New York steak for him
  • Salmon for me
  • Sides: Twice baked potatoes and corn on the cob
  • Berry Cobbler for dessert

HOW I COOKED THE STEAK AND SALMON:

I was proud of myself for making this meal. The steak was perfectly medium rare. I seasoned the steak with salt and pepper, and seared it first on high heat (using a combination of vegan butter and oil) then lower the heat to medium. I cooked it for about 8 minutes on one side then about 6 minutes on another. As you can tell, the salmon was still raw in these photos. I waited until the steak was done and let it sit for about 10 minutes to let the juices return to the meat. Then I cooked my salmon in the steak oil and juices until it was just little bit done but still pink in the middle. It gave the salmon a nice flavor of the meat but the taste of the oil and butter were not overwhelming. Plus I was trying to be efficient and creative.

I will let the photos do the talking at this point. I hope to post the recipe for my Berry Cobbler next.

Have a lovely summer season!

Being grateful | may 2021

I hope that everyone is having a beautiful summer! We are in the middle of June as I am writing this. We are finally experiencing summer in the Bay Are while we are in the middle of a heat wave. I am not sure how long this is going to last because we often say that summer in Bay Area does not really happen untill October for a couple of weeks then all of of sudden fall kicks summer in the behind.

How I miss writing these gratitude posts where I chronicle and remember all of God’s blessings all throughout the month. Happy moments and simple joys are once again re-visited as I put those memories in this little space on the internet. So far, I have only written one post in this series which I posted on my old blog, and it was for January 2021.

My blog has gone on many revisions this last year and half because of the pandemic. I have been blogging for almost a decade now primarily as my form of journaling, writing restaurant reviews, food photography and to keep recipes of food that I cook. With the lock down, my blog has turned into a cooking blog. How I enjoyed those moments of cooking and taking pictures while WFH in the midst of the raging pandemic. Cooking made me feel safe and grounded despite all sadness and devastation, and connecting with other bloggers all over the world while we were all staying home.

Those days are over now as I returned to work full-time on June 1st. I thought that I was going to be sad but I am actually very happy going back to the intimacy of my own office. This also means that I will not be able to cook and take food photos as much anymore. This also signals that I need to revive my Being Grateful series.

I promise that there will be more recipes to come but there are also going to be more posts on restaurant visits now that we are allowed to dine safely again. Thank you for visiting and I am glad that we all survive and continuing to survive. Please remain safe, healthy and happy. In the mean time, these are the things that I am grateful for in May:

BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS OF FRIENDSHIP

BFF and I spent a Monday afternoon at what we consider our BFF HQ which is the Ferry Building. It was such a memorable and enjoyable afternoon as we lingered over a bottle of bubbly and noshed on cheese and mezze. As always we could talk for hours catching up about life, family, friends and food! It was very cold and windy that day in this part of San Francisco but it was actually quite cozy.

SATURDATES

We finally got to dine out after a year and half of ordering food delivery on Saturdays! We saw this Mexican restaurant while we were driving home from a home renovation store. (Mr Sweetie is renovating our kitchen floor as his Saturday hobby/project.) We saw that the parking lot was converted into a spacious and cozy outdoor space, and I felt safe enough to say “yes, let us eat here.” How I enjoyed eating a plate of tortilla chips and salsa, and food that did not come in to-go boxes. I had a shrimp plate with Mexican rice and beans while Mr Sweetie had Chile Relleno. Such a nice meal despite its simplicity!

Other delivered meals we had in May:

  • Cheesesteaks and curly fries during Memorial Day Weekend
  • Trio of Sam’s Crispy Chicken (Oakland) with waffle fries. (These were so delicious that we ordered them again a couple of weeks later.)
  • Korean pork bowl from Belly (Oakland). It was also very good that we went to eat there in June.

FAMILY SUNDAY

I got to visit my sister, nephews and brother in law after online church. As always I was fed with delicious Filipino food. My nephews and I made sushi bake after lunch. It was hit!

IN MY KITCHEN

My kitchen adventures are over for now since I returned to the office full-time since the end of May. I miss my cooking days tremendously which I managed to do while working from home. This month, aside from making Sushi Bake with my nephews, I got to cook Korean Braised Tofu and Garlic Noodles.

No worries, I will always be posting new recipes but not as often as during the lockdown.

ETC….

  • Among my simplest joys during the lockdown and WFH were my morning egg toasts with coffee while I was checking my emails in my pj’s. I will miss those mornings tremendously.
  • My sister got me a couple fancy Filipino-flavored butters (Enseymada and Buko Pandan). I enjoyed them with toasts as well.
  • One of my supervisees gave me a nice candle and mug as she was leaving on a scholarship at John Hopkins. She will astonish the world one day with her success, intelligence and compassion. It was a pleasure to be her mentor.

What I am Grateful For…

Mr Sweetie got me these roses while we were having dinner at the Mexican restaurant. A flower vendor was selling flowers. He asked me if I wanted a bouquet. I chose the simplest one while he gave her double the price of the roses. I was happy and the flower seller was happy. Mr Sweetie was happy to have made us happy. Happiness all around! 🙂

There is so much to be grateful for this month. I am grateful for more freedom to enjoy the simplest things that were not safe to do just few months ago such as dining outdoors, and something as simple sharing a basket of chips and salsa. As much as I am sad to be no longer WFH, I am grateful to be able to return to the solitude of my cozy office, and see my co-workers again where we are all healthy and safe.

I am grateful for beautiful moments of friendship such as the Monday afternoon spent with BFF, and fun moments with my family.

The end of May brought challenges where faith has seen me through although I did not get to know the wonderful outcome until June. It was all well — everyone and everything.

I am grateful for His blessings that He poured onto me and my loved ones this May 2021.

Here is my Gratitude Post from May 1-9, which I posted here.

Korean red chili pepper stew (gochujang jjigae)

A Korean-American friend of mine told me a while back that I must have been Korean in my previous life. I just love Korean food, even dishes that she thought would be too spicy for many people. I used to devour her homecooked lunch. LOL!

Continue reading “Korean red chili pepper stew (gochujang jjigae)”

Easy garlic noodles (vegetarian version)

First of all, this is not a sponsored post. In fact, this recipe does not even contain Sriracha in it. LOL! I just could not resist getting the Sriracha mug set last Christmas. It is just the cutest gift set for Sriracha lovers which included an oversized mug, chopsticks, chopsticks holder and a small bottle of this Asian hot sauce.

If you have had a chance to dine at Crustacean or Thanh Long in San Francisco, then you probably understand Bay Area residents’ obsession with garlic noodles. (Thanh Long is Crustacean’s sister restaurant.) Not just garlic noodles but THE GARLIC NOODLES served at Crustacean or Thanh Long. Many people from the Bay Area tried (still trying) to duplicate this signature side dish from these San Francisco institutions which are known for roasted Dungeness crabs paired with a plate of buttery, garlicky garlic noodles.

I tried recipes in the past given to me by friends who swore by “It is exactly like the garlic noodles from Crustaceans!” NOT! Not even close. Now, I would not say that the garlic noodles on this post is like Crustacean’s. Honestly, it has been years since I dined at this San Francisco restaurant so I sort of have forgotten what their signature side dish would taste like. However, this Quick & Easy Garlic Noodles that I have adapted from Budget Byte’s recipe is very good. I have made this dish twice, and both times, it was hard to stop eating. It is so comforting and addicting!

I am posting a vegetarian version of this dish (and that can even be made vegan) because I am planning to post a non-vegetarian version in the future (also very, very delicious) that contains fish sauce. This dish is also really so easy to make that you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry. Let us start cooking!

Easy Vegetarian (Vegan) Garlic Noodles

  • 1 lb (16 oz) angel hair pasta or spaghetti noodles
  • 8 cloves garlic to 1 head garlic (8 cloves garlic is the minimum)
  • 3 bunches green onions (sliced and save some for toppings)
  • 4 TBSP vegan butter (for non vegan version, use regular butter)
  • 3-4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 TBSP brown sugar (see my note)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2-3 TBSP vegetarian oyster sauce (use regular oyster sauce for non-vegetarian or vegan version)
  • Parmesan cheese (for non-vegan version) Totally optional

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, combine oyster sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil.
  2. Cook the noodles according to the package directions until al dente. Do not overcook. Drain noodles then set aside.
  3. While the waiting for the pasta to finish cooking, mince the garlic and slice the green onions.
  4. Melt the butter in a large pot or skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté the garlic and green onions in butter until they are soft for about one to two minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat. Add the drained pasta and sauce mixture to the pot. Stir well to coat the pasta making sure that the garlic and green onions are distributed throughout the pasta.
  6. Top the pasta with any reserved sliced green onions, then serve. (Top with parmesan cheese for non-vegan version. Optional.)

MY NOTES

  1. This noodle dish should not be dry or soupy but still moist. If dry, add a little bit of pasta water then mix again. If too soupy, drain your pasta better next time.
  2. I used Mykonos vegan butter. It is a very good brand. Mr Sweetie was not able to tell that it was vegan until I told him.
  3. If you want the dish to be creamier, you can add 2 more tablespoons of butter but I refuse to! Four tablespoons were more than enough that I can handle without feeling like I am clogging my arteries even with vegan butter.
  4. Do not scrimp on garlic! This is garlic noodles after all! Add as many garlic cloves as you could bear to peel and mince. The more the merrier!
  5. Oyster sauce is not vegetarian. It contains oyster extracts. Use the vegetarian version if you want to make the dish vegetarian. You can also use Hoisin sauce which is vegan. It is just a little bit sweeter than oyster sauce.
  6. As it is always my practice when cooking, I taste sauces separately first before adding to the dish. I found that 1 tablespoon of brown sugar is enough for me. Two tablespoons are too sweet but find out for yourself what your preference is by adding one tablespoon of brown sugar first on step #3. If you prefer sweeter, add more sugar.
  7. This dish can be made non-vegetarian or non-vegan. Just use regular butter and oyster sauce.
  8. If you can eat dairy or you want non-vegan, add grated parmesan cheese. I promise you, it is fabulous!

Weekly joys in pictures | May 1-9, 2021

The lockdown has given me an opportunity to indulge in things that I really enjoy such as cooking and taking food photos. These used to be just items on my “someday list” before the pandemic. I am happy that now my blog contains delicious recipes and photos of the food that I cook. I miss posting, though, about other things that bring me joy. When I first started blogging in 2013, my blog was really a journal of my everyday life with my family, friends and BFF, reviews of restaurants where Mr Sweetie and I dined, and keeper of simple joys.

I miss posting about all of the above in addition to what I cook in my kitchen. Even though I am working from home, life continues to be as busy as ever with not much time left for other hobbies that I want to pursue such as reading, scrapbooking, more photography, writing, etc. etc. (I want to do it all!) I am also lagging behind in my Monthly Gratitude posts which I have faithfully written for years. I managed to finish my “January 2021 Being Grateful” post just a couple weeks ago and we are already in May! LOL! (If you want to read it, I posted it on my old blog here.) In reviving the spirit of journaling, I am starting with these snapshots:

SIMPLE YUMMY JOYS

Food brings me lots of joy, most especially these that that were given to me by family and friends because it meant that they were thinking of me. Here are the treats that I got this month:

  • Mocha Sponge Cake — My sister gave me this Asian cake. I shared it with my team mates who really enjoyed it.
  • Empanadas and Artisan Bread — I also discovered the joys of freezing my food. (Thanks, BFF!) I used to compost everything past their expiration dates or if I knew that I could not eat them. BFF gave me artisan bread and empanadas which I froze. Finding treats in the freezer was like finding treasures. Guess what, bread freezes really well! The empanadas were yummy, too, after two minutes in the air fryer! The artisan bread loaf was so good toasted topped with Smoked Salmon Spread from Trader Joe’s.

DATE NIGHT YUMMY EATS

  • Aburaya (Oakland) — Food delivery have been blah. They are just not the same. My Japanese friend chicken from Aburaya was the bomb. Will definitely get more next time!
  • Homeroom (Oakland) — He has been surprising me with mac and cheeses from Homeroom! They are deliciously wonderful but I cannot possibly eat all of them. I ate one bowl while the garlic mac and cheese to the freezer it went!
  • Governor (Oakland) — It was British food galore! Governor would provide one meal to a family in need for every meal ordered which was why I chose to try this eatery. We had fish and chips, yorkshire pudding, chips, mashed potatoes and gravy. Too salty for our taste but it was nice to try something different and to know that another family was being fed as well.

FAMILY SUNDAY

Lunch with at my sister’s house. Had apritada cooked by my brother in law. Chicken apritada is Filipino stewed chicken in tomato sauce with potatoes. Very tasty. My BIL is a great cook. The my nephews and I made mini-donuts on my DASH donut maker. As you can see, they went crazy with the toppings — Nutella, chocolate syrup and powdered sugar! LOL!

CINCO DE MAYO

Tacos and margaritas for Cinco de Mayo. As it has been our yearly addition, Mr Sweetie made me margaritas although he did not drink any this year. I made yummy tacos.

MAY FLOWERS

We did not get April showers this year but the world seems to be exploding in May flowers! Sadly, I miss walking among the flowers in the spring. I missed stepping on crunchy leaves of different colors during the fall. I miss walking in my neighborhood and the freedom to explore anywhere I want. I miss being able to stop on a whim to take photos of things that make me smile during my walks. A year and half ago, in January 2020, I had a scary experience while walking home from work. I am thankful that I was completely unharmed. (Remaining calm and having the presence of mind were what helped me get out of the situation unscathe.) I stopped walking since then. Materials things were taken from me which were readily replaced. What I am still trying to recover is my sense of safety and security. I try to find joys whenever I can find them while still feeling safe such as visiting the farmers market. I am slowly trying to stretch my comfort zone by challenging myself to walk again instead of driving everywhere. Coupled with my experience are the atrocious attacks on Asians. Being Filipina who has lived most of my life in the US, I have never felt afraid for my life or safety while participating in daily activities of life. Now I am often in a state of hypervigilance while walking on the streets of San Francisco or being on the train. The only times I feel safe are when I am home or in my car. As much as I live in a beautiful and safe neighborhood, the threat of being hurt looms around me and follows me everywhere. Ignorance, racism and violence hurt all of us even if we think that we are immune from those issues.

While we were visiting Mr Sweetie’s parents during Mother’s Day, I saw the deep pink flowers on a long stalk across the street from their house. The stalk was tall and high bursting with beautiful fuschia flowers blooming from it. It was as if it was reaching out to the sky. I took a picture because it was a beautiful and unusual plant, but also because it reminded me to remain hopeful for better things to come.

Please stay tuned for part two of May in Pictures! Thank you for reading and stay safe.