Photo Albums, a little musing

IMG_6755Does any one still print photos and make photo albums? I remember when my siblings and I were younger it was such a tedious task that my parents made us do, having to sort through stacks and stacks of photos and then organizing them into a somewhat coherent photo album. 

Now my mom stores these precious albums up high in her dresser cabinet. When I’m spending some time at my parents’ house it’s actually really nice to take down one of these albums and peruse through the years of memories my family created when we were all so young just starting to figure out the world for ourselves.

Now that I have a family of my own, seeing the photo albums my mom kept inspired me to want my kid/kids to have the same experience and enjoyment of cherishing their childhood memories one day. I decided to start the task of sorting through thousands of photos saved in external hard drives and print the photos to organize albums.

What was once a tedious task as a child is now something I’m eager to start as an adult.

A nostalgic challenge I’m up for.

It’s Good to Be Home and Opo Squash Soup with Shrimp

 

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Moving back home has a been so nice. Being near my parents has made a huge difference in our daily lives. A major benefit of being near my family has been the abundance of family support and company they have offered us the minute we got back. From cooking to unpacking, they’ve added so much more enjoyment and warmth to our day.

Aside from the company of our family, the abundance of vegetables and herbs from my dad’s garden has been so enjoyable.  I know we’re adults with our own daughter, but it feels nice to have our parents nearby and feeding our bellies every so often. Opo Squash and Kabocha Squash are two abundant vegetables in my dad’s garden and I’ve been happily accepting them when I’m offered. One of the easiest ways to use it is in soups.

The method is very easy and a trick I learned from my mom is to not add too much water  when making soups because a lot of vegetables release their own liquid so it will make your soup that much sweeter if you don’t dilute it by adding too much water. So for about 4 cups of chopped up Opo Squash or Kabocha Squash I’ll add about 2.5 cups of water.

I usually use water because I prefer the milder flavor for this soup compared to using chicken broth but you can definitely use chicken broth if you prefer! You can use any protein you want to add to this soup, pork ribs are very common addition, but I like using shrimp.

Ooo Squash Soup with Shrimp (Canh Bau)

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup -1/2 cup of onion, minced
4 cup of opo squash, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch to 1/3 inch pieces
1 cup of peeled shrimp, chopped and season with a pinch of salt and pepper
1 Tbs fish sauce (You can always start with 1/2 Tbs and add more later, but I like more salty flavor)
2.5 cups of water (If using chicken broth use less fish sauce to start)
salt and pepper
cilantro for garnish
2 tsp vegetable oil

In a medium size pot add oil over medium heat sauté onion and garlic untill onions are translucent. About 2-3 minutes
Add shrimp and sautee untill shrimp turns pink.
Add water cover and bring to boil.
Once boiling add the squash and slight cover with lid.
Once water comes back to boil, add fish sauce, pinch of salt, and pepper and lower to medium low.
Cook for about 15-20 minutes until squash is soft.
Taste and adjust season as necessary.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

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Moving Time

I know this is a cooking blog..but after about a 9-10 months hiatus (no, I didn’t have another baby…at least not yet), I think it’s ok diverge a bit from food. It’s going to be an interesting 2-4 weeks coming up. After 3 years of living in sunny San Diego. Our little family of 3 will be packing our belongings and making the trek back up to Northern California. We’ve lived in Southern California for about 10 years, so it’s hard to believe we’re moving back up north and will most likely be putting down roots there and maybe…MAYBE even expand our family of 3 to 4…..🤗 So with moving and settling down in our new place within the next few weeks, cooking will be very interesting as I start to clear out our fridge and refrain from buying any new groceries or pantry items (I’m already low on soy sauce!).

I’m pretty excited about our new place. We’re still renting for now but I’m finally getting a kitchen with stainless steel appliances! I know it sounds so trivial but I’ve wanted them since we’ve began renting 10 years ago and we have lived in 4 places! But… it was never in the cards for me…until now =) I also REALLLY wanted a back yard for my daughter to run around in and I was beginning to have concerns that I wouldn’t get it. But we found a great house with a back yard and it’s the perfect size. What’s even better is the yard comes with citrus trees! yay yay

So let’s get back to cooking, I asked my husband go to Costco on his way home from work yesterday to get some groceries (remember we’re functioning on 1 car at the moment). Once he got home, he commented that I gave him quite a list for only being here another two weeks. I didn’t realize how much groceries I asked for until I saw how full our fridge was. That’s the thing with having a toddler, I can’t risk her not having any fruits or vegetables right? Let’s just say I will be on my very own at-home version of Chopped everyday for the next couple of weeks!

Salt and Pepper Tofu

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When it comes to tofu there are only a few recipes that I can depend on that both my husband and I will enjoy, Salt and Pepper tofu is one of them.  It’s such a simple dish and if you buy your tofu already fried it’s also a very quick dish to make. Despite it’s simplicity, it is so tasty and packed with robust flavor. My sister wanted to try to make this so I’ll share with you the recipe! Like other recipes, after making this a few times, you’ll discover the ratio of spices that suits your taste buds best.

Salt and Pepper Tofu (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)
1 package fried tofu (cut to your preference, I like 1 inch cubes)

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I like buying pre-fried tofu for this recipe

1 Tbs cooking oil
1 Tbs minced garlic
2 stalks of green onions, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño cut into pieces
1 small bell pepper cut into 1 inch cubes (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper

1. In a small bowl, mix salt, sugar, and white pepper and set aside
2. In a large skillet on high heat, add oil
3. Once pan is hot, add bell peppers and cook until soft (3-5 minutes)
4. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds – 1 minute
5. Add tofu and stir until brown to your preference. You may have to let the tofu sit on each side for a while to get it to brown.
6. Once the tofu is cooked and browned on each side, add in the salt and pepper mixture and toss.
6. Add in green onion, cilantro, and jalapeños and quickly toss untill herbs are wilted and turn of heat.
Serve and enjoy!IMG_7024 2

 

 

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup and I’m a Year Older 🤷🏻‍♀️

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I wanted to make butternut squash soup this Sunday. Usually I would use milk to make it more creamy but I remembered I had some coconut milk in the fridge. Hmm…intriguing I thought. Honestly, I was hesitant to use it because to me coconut milk doesn’t seem like a natural partner to butternut squash. But something inside me was whispering that it just might work. I did a quick search on the internet and came across this recipe. It looked similar to what I had in mind so I gave it a try.

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Yay for trying new recipes and it actually being delicious!

So, it’s squash time and if you guys are wanting to try a new soup recipe…try this one on NYT Cooking!

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Simple ingredients for a quick and delicious soup,
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If you don’t have an immersion blender, but you love making soups-get one! It’ll change your life.
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Enjoy with a glass of white wine (optional of course)😉

By the way my birthday was last week and my dad sent me this really nice basket.
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I mentioned to him a while back I wanted a shallow basket to harvest herbs in my patio. He sent me this beauty for my birthday. It’s a little too big for harvesting herbs, but I think it’s perfect for my garlic and onions! 👍 Thanks Dad!
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Turkey Meatloaf (I can not take a good photo of meatloaf…but it’s still yummy!)

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I never had meatloaf as a kid. It wasn’t something my parents’ made. My first vague memory of meatloaf was from the TV sitcom, Full House, and Stephanie Tanner has a pretend wedding to her friend, but he goes home shortly afterwards because his mom was making meatloaf, and Stephanie says something along the lines of, “I want to marry a guy who won’t leave me for his mom’s meatloaf.” So with that, I felt meatloaf must not be very appetizing. I mean…it IS called meatloaf and it is literally a loaf of meat.

I don’t even know or remember what made me want to try to make meatloaf, but one day I did, and after I took my first bite, I had a moment of introspection. Why did it have such a bad rap? It is pretty darn tasty and with a side of veggies and potatoes it was down right comforting! Over the years I’ve gone from ground beef to ground turkey meatloaf and I haven’t gone back to using beef since (at least for meatloaf). I’m actually not sure how mine would compare to others since I don’t order it out and never had it from anywhere, but I know I really like the one I make and my husband likes it also. So I will share my recipe with you and if you ever want to give turkey meatloaf a try…why don’t you give this recipe a chance? =)

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Turkey Meatloaf
1.5 Lbs. ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tbs garlic
1 cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped mushrooms
1 celery chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs ketchup
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp paprika
Fresh chopped parsley

Tomato Sauce
8 ounce tomato sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 Tbs Siracha sauce (or to taste)
Combine all ingredients

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. In a skillet over medium heat sauté onion, garlic, celery, carrots, bell pepper, and mushrooms until soft.
  3. Add salt, pepper, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, and about 1 Tbs of ketchup.
  4. In large bowl bowl combine turkey 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, egg, breadcrumbs, spices, vegetables.
  5. Add to loaf pan and spread top with some of the tomato sauce (save some for extra sauce on the side).
  6. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour 15 min
  7. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

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Asian Inspired Fish en Papillote, and an actual weekend (sort of)!

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Yay for weekends. Too be honest, weekends don’t always feel like weekends to me. I’m a stay at home mom and my husband’s schedule is never consistent often working on weekends and nights. So while I can appreciate weekends for their offerings of free time and a break from the work week for many, my own routine and life does not change much on weekends.

But this week, my husband had a rare three days off, no calls, no moonlighting, no presentations to work on… and it was nice. We were able to take our daughter for one last splash in the pool before the weather got too cold, we went to Balboa park and enjoyed the nice weather, had family relaxation time at home, and got dessert at a new restaurant we haven’t tried.

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Delicious Brownie Shake

On Friday, I made Fish en Papillote but I wanted to try something different with it and so I used ingredients for Asian Style Steam Fish. It was such a quick recipe, so easy to make and best of all it was tasty! I wasn’t going to make a blog post about this recipe so I didn’t take many pictures, but it was so good and easy I figured I should just share it now. I know I will definitely make this again.

And now friends, it is Sunday, and my husband is back at work, my daughter is napping, and I am back to the routine. 😌

Asian Inspired Fish en Papillote
For one fish packet
1/4 tsp of salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 inch knob of ginger sliced into thin strips
1 scallion, sliced
a couple slices of chili pepper
1 white fish filet

1. Lay fish onto parchment paper.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
3. Add soy sauce and sesame oil on top of fish.
4. Lay on top ginger, scallions, and peppers.
5. Seal parchment paper.
6. Back at 375 for 20-25 minutes.
7. Garnish with cilantro.