Since the past two weeks haven’t the healthiest in terms of meals, I’m trying to get back on track with more vegetables and whole foods in my diet. The start of exam season isn’t going to stop me from making yummy food.

Monday

Veggie Hot Dog

yves vegetarian hot dog

A Yves veggie dog, prepped from two months ago. Not much to say here. My hot dog buns definitely need work, as these were a bit too crusty. Not too bad for a zero-prep breakfast, though.

Yves veggie dogs actually taste quite close to hot dogs made with real meat, as far as I’m concerned. But I don’t think I will be buying these that often because they are very processed and, tbh, I don’t need hot dogs in my life this badly.

Spam & Salami Pizza

spam & salami pizza

Mediocre pizza for dinner tonight.

I think this is the first time Kevin has ever complained about too much garlic on a dish. I do think I overdid it this time; I should’ve rolled it into the dough rather than spreading it on top. The other reason this pizza wasn’t the best: I had run out of tomato sauce, so I used ketchup instead. Ketchup works for a lot of things, but turns out pizza isn’t one of them. It was too sweet and didn’t pair well with the salami and spam.

Tuesday

Bok Choy and Spam Fried Rice

bok choy and spam fried rice

I think this combo of baby bok choy and spam is a winner, but this time the rice wasn’t right.

Generally, each time I make rice, it’s a big batch at once that we reheat for the rest of the week (your girl hates scrubbing rice off the bottom of the cooking pot). Last week, I made some basmati rice to go with a veggie egg hash, so that’s what I used tonight. Note to self: Basmati rice does not work in fried rice! The grains had no stickiness and didn’t have the nice chew that you expect from a good fried rice dish.

I also should’ve added more soy sauce. It was hardly salty at all, which was disappointing since the flavour otherwise was great. I will definitely be making this again, but need to do more tasting next time to get the seasoning right.

Roast Chicken with Cauliflower and Potatoes Lyonnaise

roast chicken, cauliflower, potatoes lyonnaise

I gave a go at roasting a whole chicken today! Tbh, I’ve been intimidated by whole chickens for a long time now, but I figure it’s one of those skills that you have to learn sooner or later, so I followed a simple looking recipe from BBC Good Food and crossed my fingers.

Turns out roasting and carving chickens is so much easier than I’d expected. Really, the hardest part is pushing the oil and seasonings under the skin, and the rest is basically putting it into the oven and waiting.

Dinner tonight was a total success! Kevin was a huge fan of the cauliflower (I’ve never seen him this happy over vegetables before) and although the chicken was a bit dry, he still scarfed down a whole thigh. Surprisingly, the worst part of the meal was actually the potatoes, which I only prepared because I was afraid Kevin would protest the lack of carbs—they were over-salted, I think.

Wednesday

Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)

mini mantou in the instant pot

Yes, you can make these bbs in the Instant Pot!!

Mantou were a huge part of my breakfasts growing up, but my mom liked to use whole wheat flour, which is a no for me, so I never particularly liked them. (I love whole wheat flour in so many things, but in something as pure as mantou where there are no competing flavours or textures in the dough, the whole wheat is too much.) However, I’ve always loved the ones served at restaurants, you know, the ones that were fried to golden perfection and dipped in some condensed milk?

mini mantou dipped in condensed milk

When I moved out, I realized I could make my own cute, white flour only mantou. And since I don’t have a double steamer like my parents do at home, the Instant Pot was a perfect substitute!

I’ll be posting a recipe soon, but they were so easy to make. In my experience, steaming in the Instant Pot takes about 1/4 the time it takes on the stove, so I set the Instant Pot on STEAM (high pressure) for 5 min before quick releasing. I made mini mantou, which meant I could steam eight at a time, but if you make them twice the size of these ones and cook four at a time, I would add 1–2 min to the steam time. I’ll be experimenting with bigger buns to verify this before I publish the recipe.

Ube Jam

ube jam

Purple yam jam, or ube halaya, is a Filipino dessert that can be eaten on its own or as, well, a jam or spread. The recipe I used calls for grated cheese on top, but after tasting it I decided it was already plenty rich on its own without adding cheese.

I intended to cook this to eat on its own, but it was way too cloying and sweet for me to take many bites, so the rest of it is probably going to go into an ensaymada recipe in the next few days. This is quite a tedious recipe to make, tbh, because you need to boil all the water off which takes forever. And you can’t turn away from the stove either, because the mixture of coconut milk and condensed milk can very very quickly boil over.

Conclusion: will not be making this again, but am very glad I did because I absolutely love all things ube, and it was gonna bother me forever that I hadn’t tried it.

Ong Choy in XO Sauce

ong choy in xo sauce

Well I am super happy to rediscover another old favourite veggie at T&T that I could never find in western supermarkets. First snow pea leaves, now ong choy, otherwise known as water spinach!

I didn’t want to eat too much for dinner after such a calorific day, so I cooked it following a super simple recipe: pan frying ong choy in XO sauce. It was sooo tasty, and such a quick, easy meal. I want to buy more of this vegetable and try different sauces to go with it!

Thursday

Ube Ensaymada

ube ensaymada

I hinted yesterday that I would make ensaymadas, and here we are!

This is the recipe used for the dough. WOW, it turned out much better than I’d expected. The dough is very very soft, but by using a lot of flour to shape and roll it up, I avoided any stickiness.

To shape each ensaymada, I grabbed a handful of dough (what I estimate roughly to be 1/4–1/2 cup), rolled it into a long, slightly-flattened tube on a floured cutting board, then spread a generous layer of ube jam over the entire top surface. I then held it up in the air from one end. The dough is so soft that it’ll stretch itself out even more when you dangle it in the air. Next, I rolled it up into a spiral shape (like a cinnamon bun) and placed it onto sprayed baking sheet.

ube ensaymada

The bread was totally dreamy after baking. This is one of the softest buns I’ve ever eaten, even the golden crust was super soft and melts in your mouth. Thanks to my generous portioning of ube jam, each bun produced a vibrant purple swirl and hit you with an intense ube flavour.

My only complaint is that the ube jam is still a bit too overpoweringly rich. Next time I think I’ll try filling these ensaymadas with mashed cooked ube on its own.

Saturday

Artichoke-Stuffed Mushrooms

artichoke-stuffed mushrooms

This is the first time I’ve eaten mushrooms all term, believe it or not. I was never the world’s biggest mushroom fan, and since Kevin shuns mushrooms in all forms, I’ve always opted for recipes that don’t call for mushrooms or left them out in ones that do. However, I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a while now, and mushrooms were on sale this week, so I went for them!

While the filling was really, really delicious on its own, I found that the mushroom and filling together was just too mushroomy for my taste. I guess I prefer mushrooms as a flavour enhancer, not as the main feature of a dish, because I would’ve happily eaten the filling as part of a salad, in deviled eggs, or on a baked potato, but not stuffed into mushroom caps.

Sunday

Scallion Pancakes

"dumpling wrapper" scallion pancakes

This is a “shortcut” recipe that uses dumpling wrappers to achieve the thin crispy layers of a scallion pancake. I have to say this is not nearly as easy as the video on the recipe website makes it look: the layered dumpling wrappers did not want to stick together when I pressed them with a rolling pin, instead slipping up and down past each other. Scallion bits were falling out everywhere!

Quite messy, and at that point you might as well just boil some water and make them the traditional way.

All that effort later, and I still ended up with just a few mediocre pancakes. Even though I used medium heat, the outsides browned too much while the inside wasn’t fully cooked. Also, apparently, I used too much scallion (this was coming from Kevin, who loves scallion, so yeah I probably overdid it).

Pork Gyoza with Homemade Dipping Sauce

t&t pork gyoza with homemade dipping sauce

Kevin and I bought a couple bags of “emergency meal” T&T pork gyozas, intended for those days when I don’t feel like cooking anything and Kevin needs to eat a quick meal.

We were both disappointed by these ones. Usually, T&T branded food is pretty on point, but these ones lacked flavour. They were missing that savouriness you expect from good dumplings.

To their credit, they fry up really well (to cook from frozen, you basically heat up 1/2 cup of water with a tbsp or two of oil, then let the dumplings boil in the water until it’s all evaporated off). The outside was so crispy and fragrant and the inside was a total letdown. :-(

The other saving grace was the gyoza dipping sauce I made, following this simple recipe from Allrecipes. It’s soooo easy, but it looks (and tastes) great!

Soft Rum Cookies

soft rum cookies soft rum cookies

From the dough, you can tell that this is one super, duper soft cookie. Even after they’d fully cooled down, it was tricky removing them from the baking sheet because they were so fragile. I definitely ate a few that fell apart on me. I made these for Kevin because he loves the rum flavour in baked goods, but his reaction was totally disappointing. He couldn’t even taste the rum!

I still can’t quite figure it out. I actually added way more rum than the recipe suggested and I feel like it’s quite intense. I personally liked them, but I ended up giving most of them away to a friend because without Kevin’s help, I would end up eating all of them which is seriously not a good idea, especially because I baked some zaeti cookies this same day.

Not-Quite-Venetian Zaeti Cookies

venetian zaeti cookies

Zaeti are a traditional Venetian biscuit made with half flour and half cornmeal. Polenta is frequently eaten here, so it makes sense that they would have a cookie made from cornmeal too, doesn’t it?

My recipe comes from Dead Chef, but I deviated in some pretty significant ways. The recipe calls for rolling the dough out into a thin layer and cutting out triangle shapes for the cookies. Well, at this point in the night I was pretty tired and not in the mood for fanciful cookie shapes, so I simply portioned out spoonfuls of dough and flattened the centre with a spoon, and baked them like that.

venetian zaeti cookies

Would I make them again? Noooo. Not even the right way. I think the use of cornmeal in a cookie is a fascinating idea, but in the end there are better ways to appreciate and enjoy its unique flavour. I don’t like hard, snappy cookies, so I don’t think zaeti are worth the effort for me. I am certainly gonna pick up a pack of the real deal in Venice, though!