I’m happy to say I didn’t generate any food waste this week. I’m getting better at fully using up the things in my fridge, and it’s probably because cooking for two people is easier than for one, even if I have to make separate meals a lot of the time.
Monday: Apple Butter on Smearcase and Fried Rice with Chickpeas
For lunch, I only had an hour between class and tutorial today, so I dolloped two big spoonfuls of my homemade apple butter (recipe from Pressure Cook Recipes) (90 g) on a bowl of 1% cottage cheese (180 g). It looks like genuine shit, but tastes pretty amazing for something that requires no preparation whatsoever. Ordinarily, I’m not huge on the taste or texture of cottage cheese, but this worked for me!
Believe it or not, I’m not the creator of this recipe. Apparently it’s quite popular among older generations of the Pennsylvania Dutch, and is traditionally known as ludwarrich on smearcase. I feel like the traditional method doesn’t intend for anyone to use $2.99 processed cottage cheese from No Frills, but that’s what I had on hand!
I had a small break between my morning and afternoon classes, so I came back to prep a batch of rice for dinner. Unfortunately, since I was making so much rice, it didn’t come to pressure in time and I had to leave again before it was ready. I told Kevin to release the pressure for me, but he’s never used the Instant Pot before and it took him a while to figure out, so the rice ended up cooking for an extra 10 minutes before he managed to release the pressure. Since I’ve learned from experience that the quality of rice is so time-sensitive, I was afraid the rice would turn out mushy and overcooked.
When I came home later to inspect it, it was clumpier and softer than usual, and the fried rice I made with it for dinner was a bit too sticky. (I reduced the amount of rice I usually use and made up the volume with chickpeas, since I was afraid the mushiness would be too unappetizing. But it wasn’t too bad. I ended up having to pick the chickpeas out later anyways because Kevin didn’t like the texture, lol.)
It could have ended up a lot worse! Hopefully, after a day or two in the fridge, it’ll return to having that well-defined separate grains texture we love in fried rice.
Tuesday: Omurice (my first time!) and Chickpea Curry
My first class today was at 11:30, so I took my time making breakfast for Kevin today. I decided to try making omurice for the very first time. I was kind of intimidated, but after watching two YouTube videos, I thought, “this doesn’t look too hard!” It turned out so well, I impressed myself.
First, I added one finely diced onion along with a drop of vegetable oil to a non-stick pan on medium-high. A few minutes later, I added half a can of roughly chopped spam (in “MaLa Spicy Szechuan” flavour. It’s so good!) and sauteed until the spam began to brown. I then added some of the rice I made from yesterday. I’ve cooked fried rice so many times now I don’t even bother with measurements, I just eyeball everything.
After roughly breaking up the rice clumps, I added a pinch of soy sauce and kept adding ketchup until it achieved the colour I wanted, maybe 3–4 tbsp. When the rice had fully separated and everything was a nice even colour, I transferred it from the pan into a bowl. In the pan I now added two eggs + 50 mL of aquafaba, or essentially three eggs, and quickly spread it into a thin layer to make like an egg crepe. In retrospect this was way more egg than necessary; next time I would use that same amount of egg but for two crepes. I also turned the heat down to medium-low at this point.
As the egg was coming together, I used about half the fried rice mixture and shaped it into an oblong shape on a plate. Kinda like a football lol! Once the egg was done (it doesn’t take long to cook), I draped it over top of the rice. This is where I failed a little bit, since the crepe was bigger than it should’ve been. I tried tucking the bottoms in a little bit, but it was quite fragile so it started tearing, so I thought fuck it and just let it droop over the whole thing like a blanket.
Kevin said this was his favourite fried rice so far, and he really liked the egg-over-rice concept, so even though it was ugly, it sure was tasty!
For myself, I repeated the apple butter/cottage cheese combo from yesterday for breakfast. After grocery shopping, I made a late lunch with a bunch of leftovers in the fridge—spinach, half-used jars of crushed tomatoes and coconut milk, and boiled chickpeas.
This walk-away curry was perfectly delicious, even though I substituted the crushed tomatoes for grape tomatoes and tomato paste, and used only half a jar of coconut milk since that’s all I had left. I also made it in the slow cooker by leaving it on high for two hours. I filled a huge container with it, so I have back-up meals for the rest of the week now!
Oh, and here’s a little bonus thing I made: Since I’ve been falling over myself looking for soy recipes ever since I ordered 25 lbs of raw soybeans, I decided to just blend up a cup of soaked soybeans and pressure cook them, to see what they ended up like. It ended up with a soufflé effect in the pressure cooker, which I was so not expecting!! Once I let it cool down and stirred it, it went back down, but I thought it was cool how it could rise so much. I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with it, at this point. Maybe add it to some brownies recipe? Pancakes? The consistency is like okara, but thinner. I was thinking of eating it like yogurt, with some oats and berries, but it might be too gritty. Oh well, I’ll figure it out! It’s been so fun experimenting with different ways to use soybeans. I am seriously mad for soy in almost any form, and I’m so excited to be able to play around with it.
Wednesday: Chocolate Cream Pie
I was in a huge rush getting ready this morning, so I only had time to eat an egg for breakfast (it sounds so sad, a single egg). By 11 o’clock, I was super hungry, so I stopped by the café at DP and bought what I thought was a donut, but turns out it’s called a cream pie. In my experience with pastries from that café, as long as it’s not stale and the icing isn’t hard, it’s good. This was definitely satisfying enough for me and my starving tummy.
For dinner, I had another serving of the red beans and rice I made last week. At this point, I’m honestly just trying to get rid of it. I’ve accepted that it just doesn’t taste that great, but at least it’s filling and healthy.
Thursday: Mock “McGriddles” and Nuri Village
Kevin was really hungry last night, since all he had to eat was the leftovers from making omurice, so I told him I’d make him a hearty breakfast this morning to make up for it. During the night, I came up with the genius idea of using PANCAKES instead of english muffins to make a breakfast sandwich!
After 2 minutes on Google I found out McDonalds beat me to this idea :-/
Anyway, I still had a hack at it, and it turns out to be really easy. I mean, it is essentially frying up pancakes, eggs, and bacon and stacking them together (and adding cheese slices… but I didn’t have any on hand). The hardest part was making the pancake batter! I wanted to use the soybean pulp I made on Tuesday, but it took some trial and error to figure out how to turn it into a nice thick pancake.
It turned out surprisingly decent (Boyfriend Approved™), despite my fumbling around, although I still want to play around with the pancake batter formula so I can replicate it next time. (This one was made by adding different ingredients and going through a few very fragile and soggy pancakes until I got lucky.)
For a linner (late lunch/early dinner?) we walked to Nuri Village. I’ve wanted to try Nuri for a while now, ever since it opened earlier this year, since we have a serious lack of decent Korean restaurants in the plaza. Because the restaurant is still fairly new, everything inside looked clean and shiny, so it was a nice place to have a sit-down meal.
At Nuri, I ordered a refreshing bowl of cold buckwheat noodles, and I found an amazing new lifehack to eating them! This restaurant provided a pair of scissors and apparently you are supposed to cut the mass of noodles into quarters before eating, but I didn’t know this until I was halfway through the bowl. My personally developed technique is to pick up a bunch of noods, cut them at just the point where they form a perfectly-sized mouthful, then eat happily! Totally mess-free, no slurping or splattering of sauce.
The real highlight of today’s meal, though, was Kevin’s order of a whole spicy chicken. I feel like the picture doesn’t do justice to just how massive this plate was. Two servers carried it to our table. I honestly felt scared just to be in the presence of so much meat.
Obviously, he didn’t finish even a quarter of it, so we packed the rest of it up to take home. For $29, this is a pretty good deal, and I’m glad that I won’t have to worry about dinner for him for the next few days!
Friday: “Freezer Cleanout”
For breakfast I had the “old faithful” recipe of the week, aka apple butter on cottage cheese, and then it was off to class, with a sliced bell pepper and quarter cup of roasted chickpeas in my bag.
My roommates are planning to have a fridge cleanout on Sunday, because to be honest, the freezer situation has been hovering on the brink of chaos for a while now. It’s literally always crammed full of stuff, and I swear a lot of it seems to be forgotten or expired. So I preemptively looked through the freezer a bit and tried to get rid of some food.
I reheated two tuna casserole muffins (made months ago from this Chicken of the Sea recipe) and a slice of onion cheese pizza for dinner. It was all edible, which is pretty much my only requirement for frozen meals. Sometimes you try to defrost things from the freezer and they end up tasting so gross, which is a shame because the whole point of freezer meals is to reduce food waste, not add to it. I’ve had this experience a lot with egg cups, to the point where I’ve stopped baking them in the past few months, but I may make this recipe again.
No pics, sadly. I ate them before I remembered! Here’s a pic from last October when these muffins were first made :’)
On another note, I’ve started trying to ferment my own natto today. The last time I called my mom, she mentioned doing this all the time at home. You take a little bit of store-bought natto (or your last batch of homemade) and mix it into a bowl of boiled soybeans. The thing is, I can’t remember what she said about the temperature to keep it at, or any other details. I looked online, and all the instructions make it sound complicated, for example, you need to spread the soybean-natto mixture in a thin layer, and leave it in a really warm environment (like yogurt-making conditions), etc… I’m kind of concerned now, because I put the mixture into a tall glass, the opposite of a thin layer, and I’m using a very, very old batch of commercial natto. It’s not even very sticky or stringy anymore. I hope the culture inside is still alive, yikes!
Saturday: Curry, Red Beans & Rice, and American Goulash
A quick Amazon kitchen-related shopping trip this morning. I ordered a shelving unit on wheels this week from Amazon to deal with the space issues in my kitchen, and I can’t wait to use it! Also, in anticipation of my mixer arriving from the UK, I’ve ordered this universal adaptor to convert the wall outlet plug.
I felt hungry not long after waking up today, so I decided to eat a big breakfast. 340 g of my chickpea curry and 175 g of rice adds up to 630 calories, but boy, was it worth it. I’m writing this in the afternoon and I still feel full!
I had a snack at lunchtime of a sliced red pepper. I’m honestly learning to love munching on bell peppers. I used to hate bell peppers in any of the dishes my mom made (usually a stir-fry), but I’ve been using them more and more in my own cooking. I guess peppers for me have been a very long journey of acquiring tastes, but they’re practically a staple now. Raw, they’re super crispy and work as a great snack, and cooked, they go well in so many soups and stews.
For dinner, I ate the last of my batch of red beans and rice, which as you can remember for last week wasn’t super successful. This time, I added a pinch of bouillon powder just to see if it would help the taste, because in my experience, that stuff makes ANYTHING taste 10x better.
It did improve the flavour a little! Still, not something I would make again. Or at least, next time, I’ll cook the rice separately.
For the boyfriend’s dinner, I was fortunate to stumble on a recipe for American-style goulash. I’d been looking for a recipe to use the ground pork/beef blend I’d bought a few days ago, so this was perfect. The only ingredient I didn’t have was marinara sauce, but I substituted what was left of a can of crushed tomatoes (maybe 200 g) and a small can of tomato paste, watered down with vegetable broth. I also added a pinch of MSG, an extra clove of garlic, and two small onions instead of a large one.
It was a quick one-pot recipe in the Instant Pot, and made about four servings—such a time-saver! Kevin liked it but he thought the pasta was a bit small for his taste. I’m going to try bigger macaroni, or maybe penne, next time.
For breakfast, I tried making a flourless mug cake from The Big Man’s World. It was… disappointing. I decided to bake it in the oven instead of the microwave, since it was mentioned that the oven bakes it more evenly. However, it ended up taking over 30 minutes to cook fully (instead of 10–12 as per recipe), and even then, the inside was too gooey for my taste. I really didn’t want to bake it longer than that, though, since the top was beginning to look overdone. The flavour was pretty decent, and I am pleased about the fact that the banana alone provides all the sugar necessary for the cake. I plan on experimenting with different adjustments next time to prevent these issues.
On another note, my natto is fermenting nicely! It’s taking longer than it typically should, but that’s to be expected since I’m not fermenting it at the right temperature per se. Almost any instructions I could find online for natto involve storing it in a warm place continuously, but the only places like that in our apartment are the toaster oven (probably too hot, even at the lowest setting), and my Instant Pot on the yogurt setting. Our Instant Pot is kept in the common area, though, and I don’t want to stink up the whole living room with the fermentation process, so I’ve been keeping my natto in our room, which is definitely not warm enough for proper fermentation.
Out of desperation, I decided to follow one Reddit post that mentioned successfully making natto in the microwave, which sounds sketchy as fuck but what did I have to lose? According to this guy, you can microwave it a tiny bit every 8–12 hours just to warm it up, then wrap it in a blanket to keep it warm for as long as possible. To be honest, I didn’t notice the part about wrapping it in a blanket at first, so stupidly I just microwaved it for about 30 seconds and set it aside and forgot about it.
Well, this morning I went to go examine it and give it some stirring before microwaving again, and there are definitely strands forming throughout the mixture! The smell is about right too (that is to say, pretty pungent…). I’m shocked that my ghetto fermentation set up actually worked.
I’m going to let it do its thing for another day, then put it in the fridge this evening to age another couple of days. I don’t want to leave it out for too long, that seems risky.
Fingers crossed that by some miracle this actually turns out well!