This week’s meals are a bit all over the place. Highlights include: burrito bowls, weekend potluck, a yummy new sauce for bok choy, shopping at St Jacob’s Farmers Market, and spicy ramen challenges to top it all off.

Monday

Pressure Cooker Chicken Biryani

chicken biryani

I made the Two Sleevers’ recipe for IP chicken biryani for lunch. The spices smelled so good when I sauteed them with a tbsp of margarine (since I was out of ghee). I also left out the cilantro and mint ‘cause ain’t nobody got time for that. They were not missed.

The only hitch I ran into was the step for adding salt. I am terrible at salting my dishes correctly, and when the instructions say, “salt to taste,” or “pinch of salt,” my fear response kicks in. Hastily, I decided on roughly 2 tsp of kosher salt. Only after I added it, did I think to check the comments on the recipe page for guidance. In fact, the author did mention in one of the comments that she used 3/4 tsp. Sooo… even taking in the fact that I used kosher salt, still definitely messed up the salt there, but Kevin had no complaints. However, he did mention that there seemed to be something missing in the dish… he couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but said it probably wasn’t the cilantro or mint that I left out. We have it narrowed down to either needing more salt (:-0 why do I find this unlikely) or addition of some spice.

In addition, I’m lost at how this recipe could be for six servings. It only made three moderately-sized bowls for me. So this meal is probably not going to be remade anytime soon, although I do want to try some other biryani recipes since Kevin enjoys them. I guess I’m just disappointed with the Two Sleevers recipe blog because it has a reputation for good Instant Pot recipes, but in both of the dishes I’ve made so far, Kevin has found something lacking.

Community Meals, courtesy of EngSoc

Dinner today was brought to you by the Waterloo Engineering Society. :-) EngSoc is doing a new community meal initiative in order to, in their words, “promote a social, friendly environment which means if you’re hungry, you should be ready to sit down and make friends!!” Maybe there’s an implicit “for engineering students” in there, but others have told me that EngSoc events appear to be open to everyone, so what the hell, free food! And a three-course meal at that.

I had a lot of fun chatting with my tablemates (who both turned out to be in Science, not Engineering, like me LOL), and even though the food was strongly reminiscent of first year cafeteria meals, it was a lovely way to spend an evening.

engsoc community meal: sandwich, soup, potato salad

For bread, we were each given one grocery store hot dog bun with big slabs of butter (not pictured). I dug into it immediately, because it was past 7 pm at this point, and I was starving!

The appetizer was minestrone soup, which was actually delicious. Minestrone soup is constantly wowing me with how good it is—it’s never my first choice of soup, but whenever I have it I’m like, I could eat three more bowls of this.

Our mains were build-it-yourself rye sandwiches… the vegetarian option was three different kinds of cheese and baby spinach. I’m not complaining, I love both spinach and cheese! I also spread some yellow mustard on my bread slices, which added some sharp tangy flavour to complement the mellow cheese.

Finally, there were two potato salad options available: one with egg and one without. I liked the with-egg a lot more. The eggless salad tasted like it was trying to compensate with extra salad dressing, which made it too overwhelming sweet and sour for me. I ended up eating most of the spinach with the potato salad rather than with the sandwich. Guess what? Raw spinach and potato salad is actually a great combination.

engsoc community meal: tiger brownie, neapolitan ice cream

For dessert, we were given the choice between two brownies (triple chocolate and tiger), in addition to a scoop of neapolitan ice cream! I don’t like neapolitan very much, but I haven’t had it in a while, so was happy to try a bit. It’s still nothing special to me, but I don’t mind it.

The tiger brownie tasted a bit like an ultra-dense chocolate chip cookie. It was delicious too, but overly sweet in my opinion. I liked how chewy it was.

After dessert, we stayed and kept talking for a while, and ended up getting roped into helping the EngSoc organizers stack away the chairs and tables. I got a great arm workout for sure this evening, and I’d say we definitely “deserved” our free meal, even though we aren’t Eng kids :-D

Chicken Burrito Bowls

chicken burrito bowl

I came home after nine and Kevin had gone almost eight hours without food at this point, so he was very hungry and I had to come up with something quick. I settled on this 20-minute chicken burrito bowl recipe from Damn Delicious. It took me longer than 20 minutes because I had to de-bone my chicken first, but the rest of the recipe went fast because there are no sauteeing steps or anything. Just dump stuff into the Instant Pot, and set a time!

I didn’t have green chilis, so I used dried Thai chilis instead. (I’m not sure what green chilis are, if we’re being honest—aren’t most hot peppers, like jalapenos, poblanos, serranos, green?) I know Thai chilis are one of the hotter common ones, but this is my bf we’re talking about, so I was pretty heavy-handed with them, adding 6–7 into the pot.

Kevin’s main complaints:

  1. Too spicy (maybe I did add too many peppers after all…)
  2. Rice too mushy (probably because I didn’t rinse them in my hurry to get this meal out, but I will also be more careful with measuring next time instead of eyeballing. Also, I didn’t quick release quite on time, so probably added an extra five minutes to cook time.)

Other than that, though, he LOVED IT! He says that this can go into the weekly rotation as a regular meal, which is perfect for me because it’s one of the easiest recipes ever.

Stuff he suggested adding for next time:

  • Pineapple chunks
  • Spam
  • Guacamole

I will be trying to some variations on this soon!

Tuesday

Bok Choy in Garlic–Oyster Sauce with Cheesy Cauliflower Nuggets

steamed bok choy with cauliflower nuggets

Before we left for Markham last weekend, I pre-made a bunch of cheese-stuffed cauliflower nuggets from a Tasty recipe. I finally got the chance to try them today, and they were… disappointing. The cauliflower was not crispy at all, still soggy in fact, and developed a weird taste. They were extremely fragile and a few fell apart as I pulled them from the baking sheet. The cheese made it edible, but nothing more. I swear this is the last time I’m going to be making cauliflower or broccoli nuggets. All my attempts have been failures.

The bok choy I prepared, on the other hand, was absolutely amazing. I used an NYT oyster sauce recipe. I did modify it a bit to make just one serving, and played around with the ingredients and ratios to suit my taste. I may add less vinegar next time, because I don’t like very sour dressings (I’m not even a huge fan of vinaigrettes).

Wednesday

Chicken Cacciatore

chicken cacciatore

This IP chicken cacciatore came from Skinnytaste and I picked it because 1) Kevin loves almost all tomato-forward dishes and 2) I was too lazy to debone the chicken thighs and this dish does not require deboning or even chopping meat. I served it on rotini pasta over some dried basil and parsley.

The sauce was… very, very watery? I was expecting the tomatoes to break down into a homogeneous puree, but all they did was release a lot of water, lol. After I served this, I blended the rest of the sauce to make it thicker. I think next time I will try using passata instead of crushed tomatoes.

Kevin said it tasted fine, but obviously the extra liquid left a lot to be desired. We’ll see if he likes the smoother blended sauce tomorrow.

Thursday

Bok Choy in Garlic–Oyster Sauce, Tweaked

steamed bok choy with garlic–oyster sauce

I revisited the garlic–oyster sauce I made on Tuesday to create what I think is the ultimate recipe:

  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp oil (literally the smallest splash)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (I used pre-minced jarred garlic)
  • 285 g baby bok choy, thoroughly washed

The sauce is easy-peasy and goes so well with bok choy. I mixed it up in an extra measuring cup after dumping all the ingredients in. I steamed my bok choy instead of stir-frying it because it’s healthier and I like the clean, fresh taste of bok choy on its own. I used my Instant Pot, on the PRESSURE COOK setting at HIGH for 0 minutes (yep, you can set it for 0 minutes!) and they turned out perfect: tender with a bit of crunch, holding onto their pretty green colour.

In all, both the bok choy and the sauce were 37 each, making it just 74 cal altogether for a satisfying umami bomb. And look at that volume, babie!

Chicken Biryani Leftovers

chicken biryani

Kevin’s dinner was biryani again. I feel like he is really grinding through it at this point. It’s pretty frustrating, because I have no idea what’s missing from the recipe, and Kevin can’t articulate it either. As far as the rice portion goes, it tastes fine to me, but I can’t try the chicken. Kevin says that it just doesn’t taste like a “restaurant dish.”

I’m hesitant to try more biryani dishes, when I don’t know how to improve on this one. Maybe I’ll shelve this for the future when I’m more familiar with Indian cooking in general.

Friday

Brunswick Canned Fish

brunswick canned sardines

I definitely didn’t eat enough last night, because today I woke up freaking STARVING.

I decided to try out some of the canned seafood I bought. I bought a ton of these when I went to the grocery store on Wednesday: they were on sale for 99¢ and I’m a hoe for sardines and herring, so I bought 20 cans! They’re such a quick, easy snack when you need food right this second and want something flavourful, yet healthy.

2⨉ Spicy Noodles Challenge

Samyang’s infamous Hot Chicken Ramen hold a special place in my heart because it’s what brought me and Kevin together. That said, every time I’ve eaten it, it’s been a less-than-enjoyable experience. The flavour is really good, but the sauce is just so over-the-top spicy that you’re too focused on your combusting tastebuds to enjoy the noodles, you know?

Today, our student association was hosting a challenge for who can finish a pack of these things the fastest. I went with Kevin to help set up, but I didn’t want to take part in the challenge because I’d rather “savour” my noods at a leisurely pace. So I ate a pack before the challenge officially started, and took my sweet time with it. Yep, I’d forgotten how truly hot these are because my entire mouth area was ON FIRE. I drank an entire litre of water and went through five napkins in 10 minutes, no exaggeration, because that’s how much it burned.

Anyway, glad I got a free meal again, but def won’t be doing this anytime in the near future. Love ya Spicy Noodles but not enough to eat you!

Saturday

Churros and Old-Fashioned Churned Ice Cream from St Jacob’s Market

churros from st jacob's market old-fashioned ice cream from st jacob's market

I went to St Jacob’s Market in the morning with Naman and Corinna, and it was just our luck we had to go on a hot cloudless day. It was worth it, though: I haven’t been to St Jacob’s since last fall and it was so fun to browse the stalls and buy fresh produce. I don’t know what it is about farmer’s markets, but looking at the colourful piles of fruits, veggies, and freshly baked bread, sitting under each vendor’s tent just makes me feel happy!

I guess Naman was hungry, because one of his first purchases was a bag of chocolate-drizzled churros. We each had one and they were omg delicious. Crunchy, fragrant, sugary, what’s not to love?

A little afterwards, we bought some fresh raspberry lemonade, which was a lifesaver because I had forgotten to bring a water bottle. The lemonade was kind of overpriced, though, at $5 for a modest plastic cup, so I ‘ll just remember to take my water with me next time.

Finally, as we were about to leave the market with our shopping, we stopped for one last treat: old-fashioned churned ice cream. This is one of those novelty stalls, where they had a little John Deere engine churning a barrel full of ice cream manually (I was expecting hand-churning, tbh, but it’s pretty unreasonable to ask anyone to do that on a hot summers day). The only flavour available was vanilla, which I got a scoop of, along with some chocolate syrup on top. The ice cream doesn’t taste as homogeneous as

Potluck and a Horror Movie

weekend potluck with the girls

Threw a lil potluck today, hosted at Annika’s apartment! Clockwise from top left: Crystal’s famous Japanese curry, Shannon’s homemade calamari with kewpie mayonnaise, sweet chili Cheetos and sesame noodles provided by Annika, and chocolate chip cookies and blueberry muffins from me. Everyone did an impressive job today, and I hope we can have more of these potlucks in the future, especially if my friends can always make such delicious food.

We continued our horror movie tradition this weekend by watching Us by Jordan Peele. Snacking on homemade noms + a good film = the best of times ♡

Paldo Volcano Spicy Chicken Noodles

paldo volcano spicy chicken noodles

Even though I had already way over-eaten today, Kevin wanted some late-night noodles, and due to my weak willpower, I made a pack for myself too. This brand is similar to the Samyang 2⨉ Spicy Noodles, but not quite as spicy. Kevin was disappointed in them, in terms of both flavour and heat, and I agree that they are not quite as addictively savoury, being a little too sweet. (Btw, the colour of this photo is inaccurate; this was only after adding 1/2 of the hot sauce packs. The finished product is a lot more red.)

I love how thick and chewy the noodles look when they’re cooked. Just mmm! Completely serious, if I could eat this every day forever, I would. How can something so tasty be so bad for you :-(

Sunday

Chicken Rice Bowl

chicken rice bowl

This was a repeat of the same burrito bowls recipe I made this Monday, but I can’t quite call it the same thing, because I didn’t use taco seasoning this time. I ran out, so I used cajun seasoning instead, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. Success, Kevin still liked it, although he did prefer the taco seasoning. The other thing I did wrong was mixing the rice into the rest of the ingredients before pressure cooking. This resulted in some of the rice burning on the bottom, oops. Guess there’s a reason the rice is only to be layer on top!