In This Issue...
Another week of eating at home, but our weekend was spent in Markham, where we visited the Night It Up market, ate some sushi, and snacked on some yummy soft serve.
★ My weekly Food Diaries are a way of tracking what I cook, buy, and eat every day. They provide insight into my eating preferences, allow me to analyze patterns in my spending, and help improve my cooking. And I always share my recipes! ★
Slow Cooker Spare Ribs
I’m making a slow cooker spare ribs recipe today for Kevin’s dinner. It turns out that the ribs I bought last weekend for making pulled pork are, in fact, not the best cut of meat for pulled pork. (The best for pulled pork is a thick slab of meat like pork shoulder or something. Meat and its different cuts are endlessly confusing to me!) Fortunately, I was able to find a super simple “set and forget” recipe. I got up early this morning and put everything in the Instant Pot, leaving it on the “Mid” heat setting for 12 hours. I’ll check on it when I come back from class in the evening.
Update: I checked the internal temperature of the ribs at 11 hours, and it was barely 170 °F. I felt iffy about that, even though the meat seemed pretty tender, since I thought it should’ve hit 200 °F or something. I let it run for another hour at “High.” This time I pulled it out, the meat was literally falling off the bones, and the thermometer registered over 180 °F, definitely safe to eat. However, after pulling it out, I saw that the meat was slimy looking and not at all appetizing. Moreover, it didn’t smell amazing like I would’ve expected. I slathered on some BBQ sauce and quickly put it under the broiler (500 °F) for a minute. I was so nervous watching Kevin take his first bite. He chewed and chewed, and slowly came the verdict…
He liked it!!
I swear I breathed the biggest sigh of relief I have all year 😀 I was so happy! I guess that unappetizing smell I thought I smelled was just me. Kevin said it tasted absolutely fine and no funky odours at all. He even said that the BBQ sauce (which I used to try to hide any possibly bad original flavours) was unnecessary, although that made it taste extra good. This means Kevin’s lunch and dinner are taken care of tomorrow. And I don’t have to throw out 3 lbs of good quality spare ribs!
Kevin liked it so much he wanted me to make ribs at least every week. I’m excited, because slow cooking is just made for ribs and there are so many recipes for them out there. Lots of room to experiment and play around with the sauces. It looks like my Instant Pot’s “high” slow cooking setting is pretty much the equivalent to “low” on a real Crockpot, so I won’t waste time with the “low” and “mid” temperatures anymore. Also, Kevin noted the ribs that had been submerged in the cooking liquid were way more tender. (They were falling off the bone vs the un-submerged areas were difficult to detach.) So to cook them evenly next time, I’ll have to either use more liquid to cover all the pieces or pack the pieces more closely at the bottom of the pot.
Black Bean Soup
It was only when I nearly fucked up my Instant Pot on Saturday that I realized how much I rely on it to do my cooking. I don’t own any big pots; just a tiny saucepan and a non-stick skillet. Any stew, soup or similar has to be made in the Instant Pot. And I am really grateful for it! Together with my blender, it churns out an endless array of delicious, interesting, nutritious meals. Today’s black bean soup (recipe from /r/instantpot) is one such meal brought to you by the combined powers of my pressure cooker and blender.
The only issue: I don’t think it’s salted enough? The recipe itself just says “some salt,” and I’m terrible at estimating how much salt a dish needs. It tasted quite bland, and the jalapeno peppers (I think?) made it a little bitter.
I used the lentil recipe from last week for the tortillas, this time mixing some salt and pepper into the batter. This helps the flavour a lot and is a real improvement from last time. I’ve also found that, contrary to what they say online, cooking the tortillas on low heat is more effective. On high heat, the face-up side wasn’t fully set but the bottom side was already getting burnt. Cooking on a low-medium heat cooked the entire tortilla more evenly, making it easier to flip.
I prepped the veggies by covering them with generous amounts of taco seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper, and a layer of cooking spray. I should’ve tossed them with the spices in a bowl before laying them on the sheet pan. Oh, well. Lessons for next time!
I’ve been following a diet for the past few days called “OMAD,” short for “One Meal A Day.” It is what it sounds like: you eat all of your calories for the day within a short period of time, an hour or so. No food for the other 23 hours. Have you heard of it? I would love to know about your experiences if you’ve used this diet. I’m not even a week in, but I really enjoy it right now. Instead of limiting myself to three low-calorie meals a day, I enjoy one big meal that makes me really full. I’m one of those people who can eat a lot at once, so OMAD works well for me. I’m not disciplined enough to stick with it every day, but it’s always enjoyable on days when I do.
Black Bean Soup, Sans Beef Stroganoff, Fruit, and Homemade Dinner Roll
Today’s meal added up to roughly 1200 calories. Not pictured are some cheese curds from the opened packet I used to make poutine last week, which I estimated at about 200 calories. WOW! A super filling dinner. The black bean soup, especially, was unexpectedly satisfying, and I actually had a hard time finishing it all at once. The problem with the taste yesterday was definitely: not enough salt. I added five more dashes today and it’s absolutely wonderful. Just spicy enough, too!
Blueberry Okara Muffins
I woke up this morning meaning to make some orange muffins with the remaining three oranges we have, but realized I have a ton of okara in the fridge that I need to find a use for. These vegan blueberry muffins were one of the first Google results for “blueberry okara muffins,” and they looked pretty good, so I gave them a shot! The batter was very easy to whip up. When I spooned it into the muffin cups created some lovely blue-gold swirls.
I changed the recipe slightly by using 210 g of okara instead of 170 g, and only used 100 g (roughly 1/2 cup) of sugar. I also reduced the oil to 13 g (1 tbsp).
These take longer to bake than the instructions indicated, especially if you want the tops to get brown. I baked them for 25 min at 375 °F, then 10 min at 400 °F to get the tops to brown. This was perfect for the muffins that I didn’t put in a silicone cup. But for the ones that were in the silicone, I’d recommend another 5 min at each temperature. Though fully cooked, they were pasty white on the sides and bottoms, and even the top could’ve done with a little more gold.
But wow—just look at how gorgeous they look! This recipe has definitely exceeded my expectations.
I admit, I was skeptical about these cookies. Even the photos on the recipe page don’t look enticing, being a pile of beige, homogeneous flat lumps. And mine looked just like that, too. But once I had a whiff of them I realized they smelled pretty good! Then I tried one… and was pleasantly surprised! I need to stop being so scared to put okara in things, because so far I haven’t tasted it in any of the recipes. You can’t taste it, nor does it alter the texture from a regular flour muffin.
At 91 cal each (I made 14 cookies out of this recipe, following it exactly other than reducing the sugar to 100 g), and containing no butter or oil, these cookies aren’t the most addictive snack you’ll eat in your life. But the crunchy exterior, the chewy interior, and the coconutty aroma add up to make them a surprisingly yummy treat.
Hmm, speaking of coconut, I listened to a Stuff You Should Know episode today about a coconut cult. In the early 20th century, a German named August Engelhardt moved to a remote island and formed a kind of nudist, coconut-worshipping colony. He wrote a book about how health and happiness can all be found by eating only coconuts, and actually managed to attract a few people to join him!! I’m starting to think there’s a cult out there for everything. Maybe I should start a tofu cult.
It’s sad that the place I buy food from most often from on campus is DP’s Browsers Cafe, arguably one of the shittiest options for food. The fridge is perpetually half-empty, with the only options being stale sushi, soggy wraps, and salads that don’t have enough dressing. Also, they sell pre-packaged, hardboiled eggs for $2. Who even buys that?! There have been times when I’m desperate enough for some protein that I think about it, but I have standards. All I have to do is imagine how rubbery and wet the eggs will feel in my mouth, and I’m good, thanks.
The thing is, DP is located in a conveniently central location between all my classes, and typically the only time when I need to buy campus food in the first place is during those pressed minutes between classes when I suddenly realize I’m hungry af and won’t make it through my next class without some emergency nourishment.
So yeah, after staring dismally at the food selection for a few minutes, I decided to go with something new: a cheese scone. It tasted like what you’d expect it to: dry, tasteless, overly buttery. How can scones use up so much butter and still be perfectly bland?!
Spicy Cucumber Tuna Roll
I made myself a little snack after my lab (just one more to go now!!) consisting of a can of tuna mixed with two wedges of Laughing Cow and a good splash of Tabasco, rolled up in cucumber strips. I got the idea from Reddit’s dieting community, but I couldn’t quite get the execution right. My vegetable peeler made the cucumber slices too thin—good peeler, bad mandoline subsitute—and using a knife resulted in the super thicc strips like you see here. Didn’t matter, though, because it still tasted good! In the ended I just sliced little pieces of cucumber and mixed them into the other ingredients like a sort of salad. I don’t really like cucumber, but in this case it added a bit of fresh crispness to the tuna and cheese that I loved.
Instant Pot Spare Ribs
Another PORK RIBS SUCCESS! I bought a huge rack of ribs two days ago after Kevin had such high praise for my first try with ribs. This time, I didn’t prep the ribs far in advance, so I used an Instant Pot recipe instead, hoping it would deliver the same results in less time. It did!
(Is it just me or does the left piece look like a lung?)
I seasoned the ribs with garlic salt, ground pepper, and more sea salt. Following Amy and Jacky’s recipe, I placed the rack on the trivet and added one cup of cold water to the bottom. Then I used the Pressure Cook setting on HIGH for 28 minutes, before letting all the pressure release naturally.
I cut it into three pieces: two smaller pieces, which I coated in BBQ sauce and put under the broiler at 400 °F for five minutes, and one large piece which I put into a container in the fridge for tomorrow. As I was taking them out of the pot, they didn’t quite seem “fall-off-the-bone” tender yet. Next time, I will add an additional three minutes to the cooking time and see if that makes them even softer.
Kevin didn’t seem to think they needed any improvements, though, because his only comment was, “So good!”
I made cornbread today to go with the leftover pork ribs! It’s actually vegan, too, but we weren’t able to taste the difference at all. There’s absolutely no reason to make non-vegan cornbread, imo; you’re not sacrificing any flavour or texture in the least. The recipe I followed was from Hot for Food. I used soy milk as my non-dairy milk, and added about double the jalapeno peppers called for. It turned out amazingly fragrant, and I love the little kick that the peppers add to each bite.
Kevin didn’t like it very much, but oh well, didn’t expect him to. Maybe next time I’ll serve it with some butter and he’ll enjoy it more.
The only thing I wish I could change, personally, is the calorie count! It’s almost 250 calories for just one of these squares. They are quite filling, mind you, but they’re gone so fast… I could literally eat five of these in a row before I know it.
Kevin and I took a rideshare to the GTA this morning to tour a few places for our upcoming work terms in Toronto, and to check out a night market happening in Markham this weekend called Night It Up.
Ice Cream with the Flavours of Our Childhood!
On the way, we stopped to get ice cream.
This soft serve spot brought me back to my childhood. As a kid, I loved chewing on the iconic White Rabbit candy with its edible rice paper wrap. When we moved to Canada, it was one of the treats I missed most until we found it at a local Asian grocery store! I haven’t eaten it for a couple of years now, which has been good for my teeth and my waistline. Matcha Tea & Dessert in Markham offers a White Rabbit-flavoured ice cream, and I knew I just had to try it!
There are other amazingly nostalgic flavours at this place. Kevin ordered the HOT-KID soft serve (right), and there is a Vitasoy flavour as well. Imo, the HOT-KID option is even better than the White Rabbit one. The taste is deeper and even richer. Kevin, in fact, thought it was too rich. Like such a thing is even possible, fool!
Beyond those three flavours, Toronto’s food media sites have also featured this shop for its 24K gold-covered ice cream. I felt seriously tempted. In the end, though, I figured I would be even happier with a candy-flavoured cone for half the price (the ice cream with gold flakes was $12, while ours were $6). I’m definitely coming back to this place next time I’m in Markham.
Night It Up! Markham Night Market
Contrary to its name, Night It Up is an all-day affair. In fact, we visited well before night time, hoping to avoid the crowds, but it was still packed with people in the middle of the day. This was both mine and Kevin’s first time at the festival.
Because Kevin is a seasoned night market-goer, having experienced the much bigger one in Richmond every year, he advised against buying anything because stuff at these places is always overpriced. Since we had just eaten ice cream, we weren’t particularly hungry anyway. We just browsed the stalls to check out the cool food products on offer.
Above: okonomiyaki, ice cream, and lamb meat skewers for grilling.
We saw your standard Asian food festival items, like takoyaki, bubble tea, and bingsu, but also some representation from weirder items. The one that surprised us the most were the “smelly tofu” (臭豆腐) stalls. The smell was sooo bad all around their vicinity. Good for them for getting a spot, and I hope a lot of people tried them!
Smelly tofu, despite its terrible stench, actually tastes really good (don’t ask me how that’s possible). My dad has always loved the stuff. When I was little, my mom and I would banish him to the living room to eat it so our own dinners wouldn’t be spoiled. However, I tried it for the first time a couple of years ago and ended up really enjoying it! There is truly no limit to the weirdness of soy products that I will eat and love.
After visiting Night It Up, we ate delicious sushi for dinner at Sushi Aoi. This has got to be one of the best deals in terms of price and quality that you can get, much better than the limited choices we get in Waterloo. Is this what GTA residents have access to on the daily?!
This sushi boat got split between four people, came with over 60 pieces, and only cost $80 total. I was pretty stuffed afterwards, even though we hadn’t eaten anything else all day except for the ice cream. My favourite were the small nori-wrapped rolls near the foreground of the pic. The filling was I think a mixture of cooked fish and hot sauce? The hot sauce made me think of the cucumber tuna rolls I made, but these were so many times better. Delicious!