In This Issue...
My love affair with the stand mixer continues so there’s a lot of bread in this post. We also ate out three times this week: at the Bauer Kitchen, Mr Yin’s, and Ennio’s Pasta House.
★ 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! ★
Amish White Bread
Another day, another baking project, am I right?
I made Amish white bread today, recipe courtesy of Kickass Baker. I was craving some slices from a simple white sandwich loaf, and I wanted one that I could make in my new mixer.
Since I was testing this recipe out for the first time, I halved the ingredients to yield one loaf instead of two. Instead of active dry yeast, I used half a tablespoon of instant yeast. And I didn’t really follow the instructions at all except for the ingredient ratios. Here’s what I did:
- Mix water, sugar, yeast, salt, and vegetable oil together in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Using dough hook attachment on low speed, slowly add in flour.
- After all flour has been incorporated, continue to knead for 2–3 minutes or until the ball is smooth (see picture below).
- Form into a ball and rest it for 1–1.5 hours inside the mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap.
- Scatter some flour or wheat bran (I used bran) onto the counter and turn the dough out. Flatten it into a long oblong shape and fold the top and bottom edges up towards the center. Now fold the two sides towards each other (like doing a hot dog fold.)
- Drop the dough baby into a lined loaf pan. Cover with the same sheet of plastic wrap and let rest again, for 0.5–1 hour.
- Bake at 350 °F for 30 minutes.
This dough is a dream to work with. See how soft and smooth it is? So wonderful to handle. Barely sticks to anything, so no need to grease the bowl while you let it rise. It’s so easy and fun to make. I only wish I had remembered to scale down the recipe just a little bit to accommodate for my tiny loaf pan and tiny toaster oven. This bread ended up rising so much, way out of the pan, and in the oven, it rose even more and ended up hitting the top of the oven! I’m just glad that the upper heating element wasn’t on, or the crust would be burnt to a crisp.
That’s the reason you see a dent on the top of the bread, and the reason I had to take it out of the oven prematurely. The inside was a little undercooked, but still very edible. This dough was a great success, and I didn’t even mind the slight gumminess on the inside because the rest of it is so soft and chewy. I can see this being a great recipe for buns too. I do wonder what makes it “Amish,” though. It’s different from Amish friendship bread, which involves a sourdough starter. The ingredients for this one are standard for any Italian bread, and I’m not really sure what it has to do with Amish people especially.
I love how simple this recipe is, and that it doesn’t require any extra ingredients like milk or eggs. I might even try taking out the sugar when I make this again, because I think that’s more for activating the yeast (which is unnecessary with instant yeast) than for taste purposes.
Instant Pot Cheesecake
I also attempted an Instant Pot cheesecake for the first time. I was feeling bad about Kevin’s birthday cake not working out, and he’s been asking for a cheesecake for a while, so I decided to make this for him. This is another recipe I’ve had my eye on for a long time, because how cool is it to make cake in a pressure cooker?! It’s a New York style cheesecake with no frills. Instead of graham cracker crumbs, I used the crust of the failed rum cake from last week, after breaking it up in my food processor. I also didn’t have any sour cream on hand, so I blended together some cream cheese and milk until it reached the same consistency.
Here’s a picture of the cheesecake in the Instant Pot before the cook cycle. Looks pretty much the same before and after baking, right?
I thought it was just ok. But it got Kevin’s unreserved approval, which is huge! I’m pretty surprised, because as I said, it tastes fine to me but nothing special. I’m glad he likes it, though, because it was such an easy recipe and I’ll be making this again and again.
SBSA (our program’s student association) hosts a midterm breakfast every term that’s basically a free food opportunity for science students. Since Kevin is VP this term, he had to arrive before the event started to help out. I tagged along for the food, lol. There was so many breakfast pastries, all provided by the Science C&D. I ate a billion calories because I wanted to try some of everything! I tried a chocolate covered bagel, a blueberry danish, and a chocolate eclair, and took a chocolate chip cookie and raspberry cookie home to eat later. These were some of the biggest cookies I’ve ever seen in my life :-0
Even though cooking steak kinda intimidates me, I finally sucked it up this week and bought a couple of sirloin steaks at T&T. Kevin loves steak so I figured I should make it at least once in a while. I used the trendy reverse-sear method after reading Kenji’s guide on Serious Eats about five times. This thing takes a looong time to slow cook in the oven, but the searing itself is lightning fast. About 45 seconds on each side and maybe 30 seconds for the edges. The result was pretty good for my first attempt. Kevin requested a medium steak, and the inside was perfect, but the outside was too tough.
Fried Onion Toasties
For my own dinner, I toasted up two slices of the bread I made yesterday, topped with shredded cheddar and fried onions. I was expecting the cheese to melt more, like an open-faced toastie, but it kind of… stayed where it was? Disappointing, but then again I am using a low fat cheese so maybe it doesn’t get as melty as regular cheese. The fried onions added a great undertone of flavour, though, so I think this is a really good combo for grilled cheeses.
Kevin went to Toronto this morning for a co-op interview, so no need to cook for two today. For breakfast, I ate something that he would definitely not be down for: marmite toast!! I’ve long been intrigued by marmite and vegemite, and I want to find new ways to eat them on stuff. It occurred to me this morning that I’ve never actually eaten them the traditional way: on toast!
Well, this really put the structural integrity of my sandwich loaf to the test and it didn’t quite measure up. The crumb was a bit too fragile and fell apart when I tried to spread the sticky marmite, resulting in some lovely uneven patches. Overall, I didn’t find this experience enjoyable. Marmite is way too salty to be a spread and I would rate it a 4/10. My favourite application for them so far has got to be the cheesy vegemite scrolls I made back in March.
Vegan Breakfast Burrito
Another ancient freezer find: these breakfast wraps I made at the beginning of second year when I was deeply obsessed with meal prep photos of humongous piles of foil-wrapped burritos. None of my freezer burritos have turned out very appetizing after they’ve been defrosted, and this one was no different. The ingredients in this include: black beans, sauteed potatoes and bell peppers, and nutritional yeast. I dunno guys, I still can’t figure out why meal prep is so popular. Stuff just doesn’t taste good after it’s been frozen and defrosted. (I mean, there are exceptions, but I think this rule applies to 75% of things people try to freeze, which is higher than my university average right now…)
Steamed Buns at Mr. Yin
Even though I’ve had a disappointing food day, not all is lost because I went for dinner after my lab with the Biotech girls 🙂 Get ready for a long and winding tale of adventure and self-discovery.
There’s a restaurant in the plaza, bordering University Ave, called Mr. Yin that sells charming dishes of Chinese food. They offer half off on steamed buns after a certain hour, so we got all these bao for less than $5 all together! The ones on the right are Leek, Egg, and Shrimp; the ones are the left are Pork with Green Onion.
The others also ordered a spicy chicken casserole to share. (Casserole really gives the wrong impression of what this is, btw, because it’s nothing like baked Western casseroles. It’s really a 砂锅, which I’m not sure how to translate to English, but involves braising a flavourful dish in a Chinese earthenware pot. Imo it’s comparable to making a stew in a Dutch oven on the stove top.)
Because it was the only pescatarian item, I was limited to eating the leek and shrimp bao. One bite, in I discovered a problem: I hate leeks. I mean. This is not the first time in my life I’ve eaten a leek, but it is the first time in my life I’ve found out the English name for a vegetable I’ve despised with a passion since I was a young girl.
I’m talking about 韭菜! I have no memory of ever liking this vegetable at any age, and had a traumatic experience of being force-fed and puking in a restaurant. Everyone else in my family (and all of China, it seems) loves the shit out of it. Luckily, my parents started taking my aversion seriously after the puking incident, so I haven’t had it in a looong time, but every few months back home we have a family gathering where my grandparents get together and make a billion 韭菜饼, or Chinese leek hand pies. They always have to make a special one for me with spring onions instead of leek. But see, I’ve never encountered this stuff anywhere except at these family dinners, so I’ve never had a reason to find out its English name… until today.
Yes! Today, I found out that the name of this cursed veggie is leek! I get shivers thinking about all the close calls I’ve had with almost buying it at the grocery store! I noticed immediately after biting into the bun that the taste was identical to what I’ve been avoiding for all these years. But, since there was nothing else for me to eat at the table, I forced myself to swallow and take another bite. And another… And I found out that I can actually stomach leeks! I actually ate a second one because hey, it was pretty good! Still didn’t like the taste of the leek part, but it no longer made me wanna throw up, and the shrimp and the egg were enough to make me come back for more.
So it’s been a couple hours now, and I still feel puzzled over this. I don’t know if this is a freaky one-off or if I’ve really gotten over my hate for leeks. You’re not catching me at the grocery store picking some up any time soon, but it feels pretty powerful to know that I
can might be able to eat them without dying.
Tonight, I learned an English word and a fact about myself. You never know when you’ll learn something new!
* EDIT: I found out that 韭菜 are actually known in English as “Chinese leeks.” Mr. Yin Restaurant just referred to them as leeks, but regular leeks are a whole different vegetable, although both are members of the Allium genus of plants. Sorry, regular leeks, for wronging you. Jury’s still out on whether I like you or not.
Strawberry Tea Bread
I have a serious breadmaking addiction now. Using my mixer is so fun! I love testing new recipes and playing around with ones I already know. This one is a combination of both, sorta. I started off with the same Amish bread recipe I made earlier this week, but instead of water, I used some lukewarm strawberry tea I brewed last night. I was hoping the tea would impart a Strawberry Daiquiri™ flavour to the bread.
Things went sideways when the scale on which I’d been measuring my flour died halfway through mixing. I have a lazy habit of adding ingredients directly to the mixing bowl instead of measuring it in a separate container first, meaning I had no idea how much flour I’d already added or how much flour I still needed to use. I had to eyeball the rest, and things turned out as well as you can expect. The dough was too sticky to shape into proper balls, so I had to the brilliant idea to bake them inside muffin pans.
I should have thought about this decision more carefully before I committed, because they came out… well, muffin shaped, and really stuck to those pans, which I didn’t grease or line. Once I did manage to get them out, they were meh. They were pretty dry and the crust was hard and tasteless. The tea didn’t help the flavour at all; in fact, it hindered it. It imparted a sort of sour smell to the whole thing, not exactly a good kind like sourdough but just a weird one? Anyway, never adding tea to my bread again.
The Bauer Kitchen
We tried a new place today for lunch. The Bauer Kitchen is an upscale “SoHo inspired restaurant” whatever that means in Uptown Waterloo, serving your usual Western fare. We ordered fried cheese curds to start, and Kevin also got a pineapple mocktail. He had the House Smoked Back Ribs for his main while I ordered the Shrimp & Mussel Spaghettini.
The interior of the restaurant is super cute, with nice big windows and unique decor. It’s also connected to a bakery shop next door, but we didn’t stop by because we were both way too stuffed after the meal. About the meal itself… it was fine. I left a little disappointed, but Kevin loved his food.
The cheese curds we ordered? Amazing, set a great first impression for the restaurant. Crunchy and melty all at once: everything I hoped for and more. Fried cheese sounds like it should be heart-stoppingly greasy, but actually the amount was just right for two people and I didn’t feel like it was too rich at all. The two dips provided (aioli and a chili sauce) weren’t very good. The aioli tasted kind of plasticky while the chili sauce didn’t pair well with the flavour of the cheese curds. But the curds were amazing enough on their own that no dip was necessary.
Kevin’s mocktail was also pretty good according to him. I personally am not a fan, but I’ve never liked citrusy stuff that much, so it’s expected. Kevin enjoyed it though, which is what matters. It’s got:
- Pineapple juice ✓
- Soda ✓
- Chili powder ✓
- Edgy name: Death in the Caribbean ✓
all of which is right up his alley! Plus, look at that cute and tropical glass. Makes me wish summer were here already.
The biggest disappointment of our meal at Bauer Kitchen was my spaghettini. The shrimp and mussels both tasted overdone, and the pasta had no character to it. I could boil better spaghetti than this, y’all. Worse, the sauce was so, so bland. Not creamy at all. It had the exact same mouthfeel as the tomato basil sauce I made a couple of weeks ago, and would’ve tasted the same but without the nice hint of basil.
Here and there were also pieces of… soft, overdone onion or cabbage, I believe? (* EDIT: After consulting the menu, it was actually fennel.) It was cooked to the point where I could not have distinguished one from the other. I seriously have no idea what that was doing in the pasta. This dish is not inedible by any means, and it’s not a heavy serving so I was able to finish all of it, but it’s a mediocre menu item that isn’t at all worth $23.95.
My bf had much better luck with his selection of house smoked back ribs. Sorry for the picture, I took it from my side, but just know that it looks so much more appetizing in person. He was so in love with the fries he barely used ketchup on them. I had some, and agree that they’re really good. Thinner than most fries, they smelled heavenly, and hovered on the cusp between crispy and burnt but in a good way. And you best believe that coleslaw was something special because Kevin actually ate most of it. 🙂
Finally, for dessert, he ordered the vanilla bourbon crème brûlée and I had the vegan chocolate hazelnut tart. He complained that his crème brûlée was cold, to which I responded isn’t crème brûlée supposed to be cold? Yes, it turns out only the caramelized part at the top should be warm and the bottom layer should be cold to provide a contrast of sensations. The more you know!
My hazelnut tart was something new for me. I’ve never had a dessert that was this dense. It was like biting into an extremely thick, dark chocolate fudge. It was a little on the bitter side for me, but the coconut ice cream provided a good flavour contrast. Overall, not my favourite dessert but I’m glad I got to try it!
Bolognese and Alfredo at Ennio’s Pasta House
Today is the grand opening of ION, our light rail transit system! Kevin and I decided to ride all the way to Fairview Park, which is at the end of the line, just to see what it’s all about. I’ve never been inside Fairview before, which is one of two major shopping malls in the KW area, because it takes over an hour to get there by bus. It takes half that time when you ride ION!
A block down from Fairview, there is also a branch of Ennio’s Pasta House. I’ve heard good things about Ennio’s, and I’ve been craving pasta since yesterday’s uninspired spaghettini at the Bauer Kitchen failed to satisfy me, so we stopped there for lunch after strolling around in the mall for a bit.
We both ordered from the lunch menu, Kevin had bolognese and I had the classic alfredo. Shockingly enough, this was one of the worst pastas I’ve had in my life. The alfredo started out strong, although I’m personally used to fettuccine instead of linguine. Not a problem, I don’t discriminate against noodle shapes. What bothered me was that, as I was eating, the sauce gradually got thinner and thinner, until halfway through I was pretty much eating noodles swimming in white soup. Take this in, I was putting a spoonful of noodles in my spoon, dipping it to catch some soup, and slurping it up like I was eating freaking ramen instead of pasta. The sauce had become so watery, it wasn’t sticking to the noodles at all, and I was essentially eating plain boiled linguine.
At least the lunch menu wasn’t expensive, at $10.99 and $8.99 apiece. But what an odd experience, especially for a restaurant that focuses on pasta. The service was also lackluster as hell. We came in when the restaurant was almost completely empty except for two other tables, and it took a few minutes for the hostess to even greet us at the door. It took several more minutes after sitting down for a server to come by, and even longer for her to even bring two glasses of water. Considering the service and the quality of the food, it was a substandard experience for me, especially after hearing the hype from some of my friends about this restaurant.
Tea Bread Loaf
So yesterday, when I was baked my tea bread “muffins,” I also baked a loaf from the same dough, but I didn’t take a picture of it until today. I have to say, this crumb actually looks pretty good, and it has a good structure that slices well, so this may be my best attempt at sandwich bread so far.
Taste-wise? Tasteless 🙂 Just like store-bought sandwich bread! Not what I was expecting from a tea-infused bread that I hoped would be full of strawberry aromas, but I’ll take this as a victory anyway!
Homemade Bubble Tea
This weekend, Kevin and I bought a pack of milk tea powder from T&T and it’s been awesome! It isn’t exactly the same as any of the flavours you can get at a shop, but it’s close enough to the “real” thing that it’s totally worth shelling out $6 or so for a 700 g bag of powder, which makes between 3.5–5.5 L of tea depending on how rich you like it.
The best part is, it’s so much more eco-friendly because you’re not using single-use plastics like you would if you purchased bubble tea outside. No, actually, the best part is you can control and adjust your own toppings to your total satisfaction. 🙂
We bought a can of grass jelly (unsweetened) and a pack of brown tapioca pearls to use as toppings. I haven’t gotten to using the tapioca yet, but the grass jelly has been a great addition so far. Kevin likes it more than the stuff in the teashops because it’s quite a bit firmer. Did you know it’s just 75 calories for the whole honking can?
I might buy some just to snack on by itself, because tbh I really like the taste of the grass jelly on its own, too. (If you’ve never tried grass jelly before, though, I’d recommend buying a sweetened one because it’s a bit of an acquired taste. Without any sweeteners, real grass jelly tastes kind of like herbal medicine.) I’m thinking of looking for grass jelly powder next time at T&T so I can try making my own from scratch.
I saw another brand of skyr at the grocery store today! I have this long-running fascination with skyr I can’t explain. It’s part intrigue at its cool-sounding name and how it’s made, and part love for any thick and creamy dairy product. I can’t really tell the difference between it and Greek yogurt, but I keep buying it even though it’s more expensive.
This one is the 2% blueberry flavour from Liberte, which makes some of my favourite Greek yogurt. I ate all 500 g in one sitting, which is something I tend to do with skyr, and I don’t even know how. It wasn’t even like this one was particularly good. It wasn’t that rich, and I don’t like the blueberry flavour as much as raspberry or strawberry. My favourite of all time has to be the 4% raspberry from President’s Choice, but since we don’t have a Loblaws here I guess I’ll only have a chance to eat it again when I go back to Toronto.
Baked Chicken Nuggets
Because Kevin has been buying a lot of Burger King spicy nuggets lately, I decided to make my own healthier version. I used a recipe from Melissa D’Arabian of the Food Network, but baked them in the toaster oven on the convection bake setting rather than frying. Lifehack: use chopsticks to dip your chicken pieces in flour and transfer them to the egg wash and breadcrumbs. So much easier and doesn’t leave your hands covered in sticky breadcrumbs!
I snuck a few bites and oh man, these are actually really good for being not fried. I served them with a bit of Sweet Baby Ray’s hickory & brown sugar bbq sauce, and Kevin liked them too! It’s a time-consuming recipe, especially when you compare with Burger King’s cheapness and convenience, but I wouldn’t mind making this once in a while just because it’s much healthier and I know exactly what I’m putting into these nuggets.
OMG, today was so unhealthy you guys. Kevin and I splurged on a bunch of junk food from T&T today because we really wanted to try everything.
I picked these up for myself because Kevin isn’t a fan of green tea flavours. Holy shit, these cookies have blown my mind. I will never enjoy a regular Oreo the same way again, because these are better in every way: thinner filling, not as sweet, addictive creamy matcha flavour. I don’t think I’ve ever tried matcha and chocolate together, but it’s a winning flavour combo for sure.
Samyang Hot Chicken Flavour Gyoza/Dumplings
Next up were hot chicken dumplings from Samyang, the same Korean company behind the infamous 2⨉ spicy chicken ramen. I’m not exaggerating when I say we’ve been searching for these dumplings for OVER A YEAR. We’ve looked through the freezer aisles at T&T a few times before with no success, but lo and behold there they were today!
Kevin was super excited about these, but he ended up barely eating any. I, also, thought they were just okay, but at least I didn’t mind them enough to stop eating them. Now there’s a half-empty bag of gyoza in the freezer we don’t know what to do with. :-/
Lay’s Deep-Ridged Chips
Seafood!! Chips!! Now this, along with the matcha Oreos, was one of the highlights of my week. Asians always have the best spins on snack flavours, and chips are no exception. These “deep-ridged” Lays came in crab flavour and chili pepper flavour and both were just amazing. One-way train to flavour town.
Westerners, we have to step up our game! BBQ and Ketchup have nothing on these.
Homemade Poutine with Chicken Gravy
I made “poutine” of sorts for dinner. I was inspired by the smashed potatoes in Kevin’s poutine at Poutineville so I steamed some small potatoes, sliced them in half, flattened them with a fork, and baked with liberal olive oil and s&p. Hell of a lot easier than making actual fries, and tastes pretty good too.
For the gravy, I followed this Inspired Taste recipe, using chicken stock and a teaspoon of dried basil. I never knew it was so easy to make gravy! It tastes a bit funky since it’s made from chicken broth, and I’m going to follow Kevin’s suggestion of using beef stock next time for a more traditional poutine gravy flavour. Other than that, the texture and everything else is on point. I noticed after the gravy was done that the same website gives a workaround for making vegan gravy, which uses cornstarch instead of butter to thicken the mixture. You know I’m always looking for ways to reduce animal products, so I’ll have to give this a try next time!
Now don’t kill me for this pls, but I had to use mozzarella cheese instead of cheese curds. I’ve looked for curds several times at my local grocery, and I’ve never found anything. Not gonna give up, though. Even though cubed mozzarella makes an ok substitute, I won’t rest until I can make authentic Quebec poutine with real cheese curds!
Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich
Peanut butter and strawberry jelly on homemade toast: what could be simpler yet taste better?
This was my snack today, since I wanted to finish up the Amish bread loaf I made on Monday. PB&J is one of those basic things you do with sliced white bread—a sort of loaf test, if you will. I’m happy to say that my bread more than measured up!