My Food Diary: Simple Home Cooked Meals
In This Issue...
My parents and I enjoyed a week of entirely home cooked meals. Being back home is great. Having a whole kitchen to myself when I cook is the best feeling ever!
★ 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! ★
Grandma Gracie Eggs
Maybe there is another more well-known name for this style of scrambled eggs, but since I first learned of it from an /r/Old_Recipes poster’s Grandma Gracie, I’ll just refer to them as Grandma Gracie eggs. Anyway, this is probably my favourite way to scramble eggs now!
Basically, you try to avoid mixing the whites and yolks too much, by only scrambling the whites to begin with, then when they are mostly set, breaking the yolks and scrambling them. The texture is a lot silkier than regular scrambled eggs (I took mine off the heat when the top still looked a little shiny). It’s almost like a fried egg and a scrambled egg rolled into one!
This week’s obligatory cookies are made from a Food52 recipe. Unfortunately, it seems my mom’s mixer is slightly out of alignment. This hadn’t been an issue for bread last week, but today I found out the hard way when my cookies were unevenly mixed. The first batch of cookies, scooped from the top of the cookie dough mixture, were quite stiff when baked, because not all of the butter had been evenly incorporated. The final batch of cookies were so saturated with the sugar and butter that remained at the bottom, that they spread out too much in the oven, and got stuck to the baking sheet.
Well, here’s one of my early batches, which although too firm and crunchy, were at least edible. I actually loved the taste of these. Turmeric may seem like an odd flavouring choice for cookies, but it’s delicious and adds a vibrant yellow colour to the cookies. The taste reminded me a little of gingerbread, but you’ll have to try it to really appreciate it!
Glass Noodles with Braised Tofu and Napa Cabbage
For lunch, I made my dad and I a pot of glass noodles with braised tofu and napa cabbage. It was inspired by a similar recipe using pork instead of tofu. I used the sauces listed in the recipe to marinate the tofu for half an hour, before adding it to the pot. This dish tasted pretty good, but we realized halfway through that I’d forgotten to add some shiitake mushrooms. The mushrooms would probably have made it taste much better.
Anyway, I’ll be trying this again when I get back to Waterloo. My parents sent me a big package of glass noodles last term that I never got around to cooking with, so they’ve been sitting on my shelf for months. This is a pretty yummy way to finish them off. Next time, I plan on using a more smoky marinade for the tofu, and baking them prior to adding to the pot, for a firmer, meatier texture.
Spinach Egg Drop Soup
Dinner was a spinach egg drop soup by my mom. It’s a crazy simple staple from my childhood and it tastes way better than you’d think to look at the ingredients. All you do is:
- Boil a bag of spinach
- Add 1 tsp each sesame oil and salt (double the amount if using kosher salt)
- Drop in a couple of beaten eggs
- Add 1 tsp of cornstarch and stir
- More salt to taste
I just can’t get enough of spinach and eggs in any form…
Cucumber Bread Toast with Soybean Spread
Back in high school, I was addicted to this one brand of yellow soybean paste called YES! I used to eat it on mantou, on wotou, on toast, in congee, with any and every carb. I was happy to find this morning that my parents still stocked it in the fridge.
This morning I spread it on some of my homemade cucumber toast from last week. The toast was a bit dry, but together with the soybean sauce it was pretty good!
Shrimp and Vermicelli
Went to visit my grandparents again this afternoon, and my grandma prepared some steamed shrimp and vermicelli with ginger and goji berries. Another simple and delicious dish! I’m planning on trying this one myself back in Ontario, maybe add a little oyster sauce and hoisin…
My mom used to make a dish quite frequently for potlucks and dinner parties, using scallops in shells and wrapping each scallop with some vermicelli and minced garlic. It was one of my favourite dishes, and this reminds me of that a little. What’s better than seafood and noodles?
Whole Wheat Carrot Bread
This lovely loaf is courtesy of another delicious King Arthur Flour recipe. First, I boiled the carrot (I found that one medium carrot, peeled, was about 85 g). I used KAF’s baker hotline (first time calling!) to confirm the same carrot weighs roughly the same before and after being boiled.
I only added half the sugar (so 1 tbsp, or 14 g) because I wasn’t looking to make a sweet bread. I only added enough to give the yeast a jumpstart.
Ran into a slight hitch at the start of this recipe because I had totally missed the last ingredient on the list, the 2 cups of whole wheat flour. Naturally, when I mixed all of the other ingredients together, it was way too wet to knead! After struggling a bit and wondering whether or not I should just let this sit overnight as a no-knead bread, I realized my mistake.
After adding the right amount of flour, the dough came together beautifully. I hand-kneaded this one, and it was super fun!
Overall, I love how this bread turns out. The crust is the most gorgeous burnt orange and the crumb is an equally beautiful yellow. And even though I barely added any sugar, it’s still slightly sweet!
Today’s spin on the quintessentially British fish pie comes from a user recipe on BBC Good Food. I was hesitant about it since the recipe didn’t have a picture or any ratings, but gave it a whirl all the same. The dish turned out pretty well! I used frozen haddock fillets and some leftover bread crusts from yesterday’s carrot bread.
I don’t think I would make it again simply because it was super duper rich with all the milk, cheese, and breadcrumbs. I typically prefer seafood dishes to be on the lighter side so I can appreciate the flavour of the seafood itself. But surprisingly, even though this kind of dish is not to their taste either, both of my parents approved!
Spicy Honey Garlic Tofu on Napa Cabbage
Are y’all tired of Napa cabbage yet? I know I cooked a lot of it last week, but that’s because I’ve been trying to use up the three heads of Napa cabbage currently in our fridge. And even after this dish… I’m… still… not… done…
Anyway, another thing we currently have a lot of in our fridge is tofu. Which is an amazing problem to have, because I could eat tofu every single day. Today I chose a pretty classic preparation, a sweet and spicy dish with a garlicky kick. I skipped the step for coating it in cornstarch, since I wasn’t really aiming for something with that heavy, fried, and breaded taste.
This was a big hit with my dad! He said it tasted very similar to yuxiang tofu. I’ve never heard of yuxiang before, which is a spicy Sichuan preparation. That’s definitely going on my endlessly lengthening list of things to do with tofu before I die.
Chiffon Cake with Fresh Blueberries
Chiffon cake is my mom’s signature cake. Even though it looks simple, I love it because she adds a lot of extra eggs. You may think it’s weird, but I like my sponge cakes to be super eggy!
Lately she’s complained that when she makes chiffon cake, there are always these lumps of unincorporated flour in the finished bake that she can’t get rid of without over-mixing the beaten egg whites. That was the case for today’s cake as well. I told her I’d look into it. I’ve never made chiffon cake before, but I’ll be giving it a try in January to see if I run into the same problem myself.
Egg Fried Rice and Sticky Sesame Shiitake Mushrooms
I’ve made the Woks of Life fried rice recipe before, but this time I got lazy and thought, what if I throw all the eggs in with the rice instead of scrambling a portion of them separately? The answer is, you get slightly mushy, slightly wet rice. The result is still tasty, but texture-wise it compares pretty unfavourably to the original recipe.
I served the rice with some sticky sesame shiitake mushrooms. The original recipe calls for rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms, but I used fresh instead. Dried ones have a more concentrated flavour, which probably would’ve lent an even more umami flavour to the dish, but personally I love the, well, fresh taste of fresh mushrooms.
Apple Quick Bread
The recipe for today’s bake comes from the /r/Old_Recipes community on Reddit. Per the suggestions of one of the comments, I beat the eggs on their own first, then trickled in the oil (I only used a little over half of the recipe amount, so 160 g). Once all the oil was combined, I added the sugar by the spoonful.
For one loaf, I folded in one diced apple. For the other loaf, one diced orange and a big handful of walnuts.
Even though walnuts have proven their worth in quick bread before, I find that I’m continually underestimating the flavour they bring to a recipe. Shame on me!! I find myself leaving them out to cut down on the calories, but tbh the heavenly smell makes it worth the calories. The smell of the loaf with walnuts was soooo much more enticing than the one without nuts.
However, I won’t be adding oranges next time. I added them this time as an experiment, but as I feared, they turned out quite sour and bitter after baking. (Although, my mom really liked them, so YMMV.)
Instant Pot Lentil & Wild Rice Soup
My mom requested a soup for dinner, and for whatever reason I was feeling lentil-y today. I concocted a recipe for I’ll have the recipe up soon.
I took a lot of liberties with the recipe, using the ingredients I had on hand. I left out the corn, sweet potato, and jalapeno, used corn tortillas (two for each quesadilla) instead of large flour tortillas, and skipped all the condiments (lime juice, salsa, sour cream). I also added in the last bit of shiitake mushrooms leftover from Thursday. Delicious even with my substitutions!
Cooking it on the cast iron pan was a good call, the crisp, nearly-charred tortillas gave the quesadilla a nice smoky flavour.
My parents bought some live crabs from T&T today, so we had the family classic for dinner tonight: simple steamed crab. Kevin thinks we’re weird, but my parents and I love to eat crab like this straight up, no other ingredients necessary. It’s my opinion you get to enjoy the pure taste of the crab itself best this way!
Savoury Herby Oatmeal
My mom was boiling oats when I came downstairs this morning, and I got inspired to try a savoury oatmeal. I was missing some of the ingredients, so I kept it simple. My oats base was made with 1/2 tsp salt, a pinch each of oregano, basil, and thyme, and I added some turmeric at the last minute for colour cause why not? Next time though, I would skip it. Didn’t really jive well with the Italian seasoning.
I mixed in a chopped avocado, set an egg sunny side up on top, and sprinkled on some red pepper flakes. Result: delicious! The only things I would change: skip the turmeric, and just half an avocado is enough.
Not to brag, but my egg was perfect. The whites were just set, very soft, while the yolk was molten.
Spicy Noodle Stir Fry
The recipe I followed for tonight’s dinner is a spicy udon stir fry, but instead of udon, I used my mom’s homemade whole wheat noodles.
I subbed in Napa cabbage (sigh) for the spinach, and skipped the brown sugar. Unfortunately, while I don’t usually miss the sugar in a recipe, this one seems to need it. It tasted like it was lacking something. I’m not sure if it was the sugar, but since I followed the recipe closely otherwise, I’d say that’s the key.
Wow, this has got to be one of my favourite white bread recipes to date! King Arthur Flour, which I got this recipe from, are not lying when they say, “This recipe produces probably the most flavorful “white” bread we’ve ever had.”
It makes some damn delicious sandwich-style bread, and unlike your regular old grocery store loaf, this one is so tasty that my parents and I ate most of it straight up. No toppings or spreads required, even. The only thing is you’ll need a strong mixer to beat together the ingredients. Yep, this loaf differentiates itself from your run-of-the-mill bread recipe in two ways:
- requires you to beat the ingredients at high speed (not simply to knead)
- utilizes an overnight proof
so it’s more time-consuming than some other sandwich bread recipes, but I think if you’re craving some really decent bread, it’s worth it.
Here are the times I baked my loaves for:
- 43 min for the log bread (24 min uncovered)
- 42 min for the swirl bread (26 min uncovered)
If you think of bland flavors when you think of potatoes — think again! This recipe produces probably the most flavorful “white” bread we’ve ever had. Moist and very sliceable, it’s wonderful for sandwiches and toast; it has that “spongy” texture, perfect for spreading peanut butter or loading on tuna salad without crumbling.King Arthur Flour
Butter Tofu “Chicken”
Finally, our last recipe of the week. After the great success of the potato bread, this one was a letdown. It’s a vegan butter “chicken” recipe that uses tofu in place of the meat, and since I love tofu and I (used to) love butter chicken, I was pretty excited to try it. I threw in a small handful of green beans as well since they were getting a little old in the fridge.
Despite the multitude of spices, it turned out kind of… bland? I don’t think the spices are quite right. I’m going to try out some other butter tofu recipes and hopefully find a tastier one.