Archive for Food

Kid cuisine

More than one person from home (one of which is my mother-in-law, who poses the question to me once everytime I call home to check on the old folks) has asked me this past week what my kids and I eat everyday here in the States.

It's as though the US is this big black hole where all manner of edible matter disappears. Or perhaps they don't think much of me as a cook, so keeping my kids and I from the verge of starvation without spending the family fortune on take-out can be quite real a possibility.

Whatever it is, relax guys. I can bang a skillet/wok and a spatula together when I set my mind to it. If you don't believe me, ask my hubby, although I must say his needs are pretty simple to fulfill, Thai Chicken Rice being his only request most of the time. And I don't see my kids complaining. Skyler is skinny not for lack of food, so don't go pinning that on me. She will eat pine chips and plastic tomatoes, so -…

*we interrupt this blog entry with a short message about how cute Jenn's kids are. Again.*

We'd gone to the beach and Rae, my four-year old (omg, she IS four years old!! sigh…) managed to wet her undies so she went up to change herself. Came down with her shorts on backwards.

Mommy: Babe, your panties are on backwards.
Rae: (looks down) Oh! (sheepish smile) Silly me!
Mommy: It's okay, we're at home. You can leave them like that if you want to.
Rae: (looks at me, and then outside through the glass doors, and then back at me again) Did you lock the doors?

*end message*

…she LOVES my cooking, although that doesn't really make me sound very good.

So what do I eat everyday? I call it kid cuisine.

For breakfast, they have some kind of fruit, usually bananas or oranges, and cheese and usually a sandwich. When Lokes is around, he makes breakfast so I can catch a few more Zs, and he makes eggs most of the time. I've managed to convince the girls cereal is yummy, so yay, since that involves not having to turn on the stove. As for me, I eat whatever is left over on their plates. And of course, coffee. Yes, you can EAT my coffee, yum yum.

For lunch, it's more sandwiches, more cheese, more fruit. Sometimes I'll make chicken nuggets or that egg snack they both love if I have leftover bacon from breakfast.

Dinner is the main event which I agonise over the night before. Usually we have one meat dish and peas/carrots and/or rice. I've discovered putting a four-cheese-blend on rice is yummy. I make them into little rice balls, sometimes with steamed chicken and veggies. Sometimes I make Chinese-style chicken and potatoes. These days, we have a lot of pasta, which is Rae's flavour of the month. So again, it's kid cuisine, so long as Lokes is travelling 'coz I can't be bothered to cook for me when the kids will no doubt have loads left over.

By the way, you do notice I have a recipes blog. Motivates me to be a bit more adventurous than just Thai-freakin'-Chicken rice.

Hmm. Wonder if I have some Napa cabbage in the fridge?

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Why nuggets are crunchy

While having dinner (Jack in the Box):

Daddy: Why are the nuggets so crunchy?
Raeven: Because they're born like that, daddy.

Now we know.

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Oyster Sauce, and the best cook in the world

I've always thought my mother's the best cook in the world.

Her Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce.

Her Chicken and Potatoes in Oyster Sauce.

Chicken and Ginger in Oyster Sauce.

Sunny Side Up Eggs with Oyster Sauce.

Yes, Oyster Sauce was a big part of my mother's cuisine. And my sister and I ate it up, smacked our lips and proclaimed my mom's food the best in the world, then and now.  

It wasn't until I got married that I discovered in slow-motion disbelief how little I actually knew about 'real' cuisine and cooking beyond Oyster Sauce. My mother-in-law, a housewife, had cookbooks upon cookbooks of dishes that she'd made, experimented with, adapted, created from scratch and basically memorised after years of feeding her two boys and husband, all of whom proclaim that she was the actual best cook in the world.

Of course, I would protest. In my heart. Her Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce was nice, but it came nowhere near my mother's. It was a family recipe, handed down by my grandmother and adapted by mom. And even though it was simple to make and required no real skill, my mom's Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce would be the one dish that I'd remember my mother's cooking by. And noone could take it from her.

Thing is, my mom's cooking wasn't about just taste or skill (or the lack of which). It was the fact that she'd been a working mother, who chose to teach afternoon classes because she wanted the time to make sure my sis and I always had homecooked meals everyday when we came back from school. Looking back, sure, the dishes we'd grown to love so much were really just mediocre. But it was whatever my mom could find the time to make, and what our family budget would allow.

It's been exactly one week since my in-laws have gone home, and I've been cooking up little storms everyday (well, almost. We're having Jack in the Box tonight because I got sick of rice). They're simple dishes, just like mom's, but as I watch my family tuck heartily into each meal I'd spend my time and effort making each day, the realisation that I am making history as the person who noone is ever going to measure up to in terms of homecooking as far as my kids are concerned, settled on me like a warm blanket.

Not exactly one of my cita-citas (objectives in life), but man, it feels great to know I will be remembered that way.

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Google doing recipes

Look what I found trying to Google for Chinese pork recipes:

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And these were the results:

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I was telling Lokes the other day that someone should make a 'reverse' search engine for recipes where you input the ingredients you have in your fridge/pantry and then see what kind of dishes you can make instead of having to look around blindly.

Looks like someone in Google is already working on it?

(And you read it here first, from a newbie cook, no less!)

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Travelling for food

My friend Sharon, a Malaysian lady who also lives in Seattle with her family, said something the other day when we went trekking together, that struck me as irrefutably true, and I was surprised I'd never realised it before although it's something most Malaysians would already know: that Malaysian Chinese will travel anywhere, just to eat.

From the famous Klang Bak Kut Teh to Penang's Jelutong Asam Laksa to Ipoh's Cowan Street Chicken Kuay Teow soup to Sabah (or was it Sarawak?) for its Ko Lor Mee, we pride ourselves as being the most travelled food lovers in the world. And that is because we are blessed in Malaysia to have a diverse array of multicultural cuisines, all within driving distance. Well, one has to take a plane to Sabah/Sarawak, but even that has not stopped us.

In the US, we are still trying to find our way through the many gastronomical delights the beautiful city of Seattle has to offer. Arby's Reubens are good. The Malay Satay Hut is not. We found a Chinese eatery called Joy's Wok just ten minutes walk from the house, that serves tasty and cheap standard fare like Sweet and Sour Pork and Chow Mein.

Still, after three months, the food trek has been pretty tame. We've not found something that keeps us going back for more, so much so that if a friend from Malaysia is visiting, we would not be able to take him or her anywhere that's uniquely Northwest American. Mostly also because we don't know what THAT is. Yet.

Anyway, back to this whole travelling to eat business.

Yesterday, for their last night in Seattle, we decided to bring Lokes' parents to Red Lobster in Lynnwood, a town about 15 miles from Redmond, to enjoy their LobsterFest, because their ads on TV just made it look too good to pass (yea, we're much too gullible when it comes to food). Since we couldn't make a reservation, we decided to throw all caution to the wind and drive that many miles to see if the seafood was really as good as it looked.

30 minutes of uneventful driving later, we arrived at the bustling town of Lynnwood, which seemed like a small metropolis of restaurants, eateries and delis. I mean, never have we seen so many places to eat crammed into two, three strip malls side by side like that. Every American restaurant brand was there, including of course, our destination, the Red Lobster. Lokes dropped us at the entrance, we wrapped up the kids and proceeded to enter the establishment, our appetites ready to take on as many grilled crustaceans as we are willing to pay for.

Only to be faced by a wall of people waiting to be let in.

"How does it look?" I asked the hostess, a young, attractive girl who seemed very stressed out by her stressed out would-be customers. I mean, the waiting lobby was PACKED with hungry people. Who wouldn't be a little worried?

"How many?" she asked.

"Four adults and two kids," I answered.

She flipped her pages and pages of people's names, and came to an empty one, scribbled a "four" on it, and looked at me.

"30 to 40 minutes?"

In the best Malaysian food travelling tradition, we chose not to wait. I mean, driving 15 miles for lobster we don't know is good or not, is already giving it face. To have to wait what could be an hour to eat? No way.

We ended up at Applebee's, just down the road, and ended up having a scrumptious shrimp dinner that my in-laws thoroughly enjoyed. Sure, we spent 30 minutes on the road, but it wasn't wasted. We discovered a food lovers' paradise here just waiting to be explored.

One outlet at a time.

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Nothing like cake

So I'm really down and out after a weekend of frolicky family fun.

My head aches. My nose is nnduck. I actually had to put on a sweater and gym pants to sleep last night because I got the shivers, and I don't own a pair of decent 'jammies and never had.

But yes, I own gym pants.

Anyway, I was still together enough to make angel cake (we Malaysians call it chiffon cake) this morning, but only because I couldn't wait to use all my new baking utensils. I've never baked in my entire life but since we have an oven here, and you know, some cake is always useful to cheer up an otherwise miserable Monday, so I did it. Right now, it's cookin' in there and the smell of vanilla is wafting through the house. Mmmm…I feel better already.

Comfort food. Nothing wrong with it.

Watch out for the recipe in my n00b cook's blog.

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Shameless plug for my cooking blog

I've updated it with some tips and more recipes.

Go wild!

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