I just made some black pepper tofu stir fry thing and am now just chilling while Pitch Perfect 2 is on (you know how much I love movies with songs and coordinated dances!!). Work was pretty chill this week so I’m trying to use the downtime to kinda frontload stuff and get ahead.
This morning, I brought my butterscotch blondies to work because they were so good and I know if I didn’t share them, I would’ve end up eating it all myself… and that would’ve been so bad. I think people liked them but they weren’t as amazing as they were yesterday. I was FaceTiming May May yesterday while the blondies were in the oven and when I took them out she witnessed my sheer surprise when I tasted them for the first time. I liked that May May was at least “there” for that because I definitely miss baking stuff and just texting my friends saying like “hey guys, I made this, come over to try some if you’re free”. So it was at least nice to share it with people at work.
Also, this week, I’m hoping to hear back about whether or not I got into this audio production bootcamp program thing that NPR has for interns. It’s this 2.5-day program where we get like a crash course in audio production from some senior editors and at the end of it we get paired with a mentor from the newsroom or something like that. Everyone who was interested had to take this test of audio proficiency last and out of the 20 or so people who took it, only 8 people will get in. I’m kind of not a fan of the competitiveness it adds but it is what it is, I guess and if I get it, cool, and if not, it won’t make or break anything.
We (we as in the How I Built This team) also just announced that we’re putting on a couple more live shows this year, which is exciting! The next one is on 30th Nov in DC. Guy will be interviewing Robert L. Johnson, who founded BET and I’m so excited that it’s local because I’ll get to go!!
In other recent updates, Ken came to visit again! We went to Thip Khao, which was that Laotian place I took Jamie when she came a couple of weeks ago, and it did not disappoint. The fried catfish and tofu laab were just amazing. Before dinner though, I took Ken to NPR to see the studio and my office and he seemed to really enjoy it, which made me really happy! I loved getting to share my “new world” to an old(er) friend.
After NPR, we came back to my neighbourhood to get dinner and the wait for the restaurant was like an HOUR. It was raining so we couldn’t just walk around and there weren’t any restaurants in the area that were nearly as good so we just went to this random place nearby to wait. At first, Ken suggested we go to Five Guys to split some fries but then I was like no lah, and suggested we go to this place called Z Burger??? because a sign said they had milkshakes and I had been craving milkshakes. But we walked in and I got distracted by onion rings!!!! Hahahaha. So we ended up getting onion rings and… fries. It was good though! I grilled the guy at the cashier over what kind of onion rings they had (breadcrumbs? floury? big? small? how many do you get? etc) and he seemed very amused by my indecision haha. But he gave us “Z sauce” which was thousand island + cajun and was just amazing with onion rings….. and….. this paragraph has evolved into a paragraph about food and isn’t about Ken anymore but um… basically it was a fun weekend. Here’s a picture of me and my preferred ring that Ken took:
Anyway, I think that’ll be all for this week, haha. I’m going to febreeze the hell out of this apartment to tone down the black pepper smell lol byeeee!
I’ve never been much of a cook, really. Up until college, I probably only ever fried eggs, helped my mom stir whatever was cooking in a pot, and take the chicken out of the freezer. But after I got off the dining plan in freshman year, I kind of started experimenting and I actually realized I really liked cooking for myself. I emphasize “for myself” because I’ve never cooked for more than 3 people and because I don’t like cooking what other people want me to cook, I just like cooking what I want to eat whenever I want (hahaha).
So yeah, throughout my time in college I became increasingly curious about what I could make and in senior year especially, I became so hooked on watching Martha Stewart videos on YouTube (yes, I’m one of those people) so I really got a lot of cooking ideas. I was going through my photos recently and decided to round up a bunch of my favourite cooking experiments from this past semester.
My number one favourite is probably ricotta pancakes. These were the softest, fluffiest, most indulgent pancakes I have ever had. If you know me, you know I don’t talk myself up very much but I actually think the best pancakes I’ve ever had were these ones, made by me. This was the recipe I used: you need ricotta cheese, flour, milk, eggs, baking powder, salt and butter.
The thing about this recipe is that I usually avoid recipes that involve separating eggs and beating the whites separately but for this one, I decided to do it and honestly… there’s no going back. Because I don’t have a mixer, my arm got so sore after beating the egg whites to get stiff peaks (I used the Kitchn’s visual guide to beating egg whites—super super helpful!) but I swear, it was worth it. I think folding in beaten egg whites separately really makes all the difference. Although, naive me thought I’d really get to taste the ricotta cheese in the pancake but it’s really more about giving the pancake a more moist and indulgent feel, which was not what I expected, but still so good. I also tossed in some lemon zest just because I like lemon zest.
After I cooked it, I ate it with butter and honey just because I wasn’t going to buy maple syrup for this one batch of pancakes. Ahhh, I genuinely can’t say enough good things about it because this was probably one of the best things I’ve ever made and I highly recommend you try to make it.
Lemon Sugar Cookies
When I first came to the US, the idea of sugar cookies were so foreign to me. But I think they’re just cookies with like… sugar on top? Anyway. My friend Petra posted a picture of lemon cookies ages ago and I loved the idea so much so I tried it myself. My sister Aida and I made it together last year once and I remember reallyliking it because of the lemon sugar on top so my friend Jamie and I made it again a few months ago with this recipe for the cookie and this is the recipe for the lemon sugar (basically sugar and lemon zest) which is what you roll the cookie dough in just before you bake it.
They had just the right amounts of of chewiness and crunchiness and I love both the sweetness and sourness in a cookie. In fact, I’m starting to think it’s the perfect thing for summer and maybe I’ll make it again soon.
If you’ve seen Princess Diaries a quarter as many times as I have, you’ll remember that in the state dinner scene, (where she gets a brain freeze) they serve this green soup that has a G on it. I obviously don’t know what soup that is, but I’ve always thought it was spinach soup and I’ve always wanted to have spinach soup. At home, we’ve made mushroom soup a few times before so I thought I knew the basic concept and it couldn’t be that much different (I was actually kinda wrong, I think mushroom soup is slightly easier). Plus, I love spinach—palak paneer is probably one of my all time favourite indian foods—so I really wanted to try this recipe, especially after I watched Thomas Joseph’s Kitchen Conundrums video on it.
Let’s go on a tangent for a little bit: I really don’t know how many of you ever click on any of the links I include but I cannot recommend Kitchen Conundrums highly enough when it comes to cooking videos. I just love how much I learn about the techniques behind cooking every dish they feature. Like for this one, Thomas Joseph explains the difference between using a bechamel and a veloute as a base for creamy soups and he tells us that whenever you’re cooking with flour or some sort of starch you have to bring it up to a boil and then let it simmer and those things are always very useful to know!
Ok, now back to the soup. You start with a roux, which is butter with onions and then flour. Then you add chicken stock to the mix, boil it all and let it simmer. And then it starts to get a little complicated once you start to work on the spinach. You first have to blanch the spinach, which basically means putting it in boiled salted water for a while to cook it a little and give it flavour but then you have to quickly take it out and put it into an iced bath to stop it from cooking too much.
Then, you blend the veloute and the spinach (which you should obviously dry first) in a blender. After that, you put it back in the pot for a bit and add some cream and honestly, spinach never tasted so good. Yeah, it is kind of annoying because there are quite a lot of steps but it’s not difficult, you know? And to me, it’s so worth it.
I love potatoes. Did you know that? Next to eggs and cheese, potatoes are in my upper echelon of favourite foods. Slightly below it is salmon and noodles and rice, but let’s not get into my whole food ranking right now. Last winter break, I was in London and the night before my flight back to Philadelphia, I went to Poundland to look for a microwave food cover thing and ended up getting distracted and coming out with a silicone spatula, ceramic dish and a grater. It was at that Poundland that I decided I’d make rosti with that grater when I got back to Philly.
I can’t remember what recipe I followed to make my rosti because the thing is, what I usually do is read like 5 different recipes, watch a couple of YouTube videos on it and then set off to just do it myself once I feel like I got the basic concept down. I can’t even remember exactly what I did, which isn’t helpful to you, I know, but I think there was some parboiling and an iced bath involved as well. But I think you don’t have to do all of that, you can probably get away with just peeling the potatoes, boiling them, grating them (this unsurprisingly turned out to be the most tedious part) and then mixing them with whatever you want to cook it with. I put salt, pepper, some paprika and scallions.
I think some people cook it all at once in a large pan but I wasn’t really a fan of that and I just think making lots of smaller ones just made more sense to me for whatever reason. So what you do is just take a bit of this mix at a time and fry it! It’s pretty simple. Like the spinach soup, it’s totally not difficult but probably more tedious than you’d like. The payoff though, was so worth it.
I ate it with smoked salmon, sour cream and dill and it was probably the best savoury breakfast I’ve made for myself this entire year.
I first made spaghetti squash with Cristina last fall, and I really just marvelled at the fact that spaghetti squash is a thing in this world that exists. I don’t remember feeling as awestruck about produce like that ever before and I don’t think I have since. But basically, it’s squash which turns into these spaghetti-like strings if you carik them after you bake it. I don’t know how to say carik in English—pull apart into bits?!
So yeah, we made it once last fall and it was so delicious. I wanted to make it again but I think it was out of season so I could never find it. Then, one miraculous day, I was at Frogro with Jamie just accompanying her when I saw one lonely spaghetti squash just sitting there in the produce section. I couldn’t believe it, there was only one!!! So I took no chances and bought it immediately. I’m so glad I did because I don’t recall seeing it there again.
First, you have to poke a few holes along the line in the centre where you’ll cut it, and then microwave it for like 20 seconds. We tried cutting it without microwaving it that one time and my god was it difficult to cut. After microwaving it, it was so easy even I could do it (I’m not very strong, lol). Then you remove the seeds, put some olive oil, salt and pepper and bake it skin up at 400 deg F/200 deg C for 30 minutes ish? Until the squash is done, basically.
While it’s baking, cut up some vegetables to put inside. Once it’s done, use a fork to like “tear” the flesh into shreds (i.e. the simple Malay word, carik) and then put in the vegetables you want, put some cheese on top and bake it for another, I don’t know, 10-15 minutes, until the cheese melts.
This recipe is really easy but truth be told, I think I mostly like it because it’s still so new to me and so it’s just so much fun to rip the squash into spaghettis, haha.
Pecan Pie Muffins
I really had a huge baking obsession this past semester. I must say though, that the pecan muffins I made were probably tied with the gooey butter cake for Best Thing I’ve Ever Baked. I don’t know how to describe to you how perfect the texture of these muffins were but imagine this nice crunchy top and once you bite through that crisp, the inside is soft and chewy and nutty and just brilliant. Sigh. Thank you, Martha Stewart for this gem.
It’s a pretty basic recipe: flour, salt, baking powder in one bowl. Brown sugar, eggs, melted butter, milk in another bowl. Then, combine them and fold into it some toasted chopped pecans and that’s pretty much it, you’re ready to scoop it into the tray!
You could really really really just eat them like this and I promise you they’ll already be really good, but I’m extra, so I added cream cheese frosting because I miss those walnut cakes with cream cheese frosting we used to get from Marks & Spencer. I borrowed a mixer from Ken’s house just to make this frosting and (I’ve been saying this a lot in this post, but) it was so worth it.
Gooey Butter Cake
I’ve actually written about these before, but if I’m going to write about the best recipes I’ve tried this past year, it would just be flat out wrong not to include gooey butter cake. Apparently this is a St Louis thing? Again, I found out about it from a Karlie Kloss video and decided to make it because the recipe is incredibly easy. It’s like her aunt’s recipe, it has only 6 core ingredients and it’s so easy you don’t even have to try to memorise it.
First, you need a melted stick of butter, a box of cake mix and an egg. Mix all of that together. It becomes this like cakey mixture which will be the base crust thing, and you press it onti the bottom of your tray (9 x 11″-ish). Then you’ll mix 8 oz cream cheese (which is like one box I think), 2 eggs and about 3-4 cups of baking sugar. This becomes the thing that’s really nice and gooey. Once it’s mixed, just pour this second mix on top of the base. I just added blueberries on top and let them sink into the gooey mixture at this point but I think the classic recipe doesn’t have any fruit in it and I can imagine it’d be really good like that too. Then just bake it at 350 deg F for 30-40 minutes, you really have to wait and see. Once it’s done, let it cool for a bit so that the top will form this crust-like thing. Then, sprinkle some icing sugar on top and you’re done!
So yeah, those were probably my most noteworthy cooking endeavours this past year. It literally makes me so happy to even just look back on all of these pictures and remember how much fun I had making them and how elated I was when I got the first taste of each one of these things. I hope you’ll make some of these!! The last time I posted some recipes, a few people actually sent me pictures of their attempts at baked eggs and pancakes and some other stuff and it just made me really happy so if you do make any of these, please send me pictures and tell me if you figure out any improvements or whatever. Also, if you think there’s a recipe I’d like, please send it to me, I absolutely love it when people send me recipe recommendations 🙂
OH MY GOD. I am NOT at my best today. Let’s just say, in a fight between me and my laziness, today I was badly defeated and it’s a good thing that no one has seen my room. I’m sitting at my desk next to a dirty plate and a couple of used cups. There is a t-shirt and some pants on my unmade bed. My shoes are not arranged and my socks are not in the shoes. And I don’t know. It all just feels gross, but today was my rest-and-don’t-talk-to-anyone day because this past weekend has been a lot.
It has been fling weekend!
It started off on Friday, for me. I don’t usually do fling—but it’s my last year and Zedd was our performer this year (!) so I decided to go. I’m so glad I did because it was so much fun. I absolutely loved his set. Michael Jackson’s Thriller, MAGIC!’s Rude, Chainsmokers’ Closer, Queen’s We Will Rock You and of course, all of his own hits. Man, listening to Stay, Break Free or Clarity will never be the same again.
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Of course, part of the fun was also just having fun with my friends, Hui Jie, Ken and Selina (plus a couple of Selina’s roommates, Tanya and Mounika). I am probably such a dorky dancer but my friends were also dancing however they hell they wanted, so when we weren’t jumping with the crowd, I was so glad I could easily have fun dorky dancing without feeling alone. I think it’s fun to enjoy music at a concert the same way you enjoy the same songs when you’re alone in your room.
It rained on us that night and literally all my makeup was washed away in the rain. And I don’t mean it like drizzled on us. No. It poured. We were absolutely soaked. To the point where we could squeeze our clothes and like a tonne of water would drip from it. But it was one of those things where you just laugh about it and keep dancing, and I don’t think I’ve felt that way since I was 7? 8? playing in the rain with my sisters.
Saturday was much more chill, though I got up early because I wanted to bake a cake! Karlie Kloss posted a video of her baking St Louis Gooey Butter Cake and it looked so, so, so easy that I just had to try it. And it really was super easy! Probably one of the best recipes in terms of effort-to-payoff ratio. It was so delicious, especially when it had just come out of the oven and it made my room smell absolutely amazing for the whole day. Such a nice change from the typical stubborn smell of onion which is literally the bane of my existence. (My “room” is set up in a cordoned off space in the living room with just some screens and curtains so like, you can imagine.)
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I brought that cake to our “picnic” later. My friends and I usually picnic on Sunday after fling, but Hui Jie had plans so we bumped it up to Saturday and as our luck would have it, it rained!!!! I was pretty miffed that we didn’t get a senior picnic picture because I’ve instagrammed one every year and was planning to compile them but oh well. We still had fun. We ordered take out and played card games and later all took a nap, haha.
Here’s a story: we played “heart attack” which is this game where like, once one person in your group has collected all the cards of the same number, they put their hands down in the center of the table and everyone else has to pile all their hands on. Then, the person who “won” gets to try to “slap” everyone’s hands—so you have to try to pull your hands away before they do it. When Hui Jie won a round yesterday, she slapped my hand and for some reason, like a little 5 year-old kid who ruins the big kids’ games, I just started crying from the sting. Like really crying. But also while hysterically laughing at the same time. You could tell even I was very confused by what was happening, lol. But we’re all good and I think it’s something we’re going to laugh about for a long time.
Then, later that evening, May May and I went to watch a show by a student theatre group. They put on The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which has won a Tony Award for Best Book. It was a fun show! As always, I was blown away by the talent in the cast. They were all such amazing actors and singers. I wish there were more ensemble pieces, songs where the whole cast is singing, because I love those. Last year, I saw the same… group? company? club? (what do you call them?) put on All Shook Up and I ended up listening to the original cast’s recording of the soundtrack for the rest of the semester. This one didn’t have quite as many catchy tunes but I still loved the charming storyline and the fact that the show involved audience participation.
I was quite sad that that was probably the last Penn student performance I’ll get to watch! And I was fully aware that it was the last performance for some of the seniors in the show/board so watching them all sing The Last Goodbye as they exited the stage was so emotional because it was also a goodbye to their Penn acting careers, to Iron Gate Theatre and all of that. Ahhh. After that, May May and I stopped by Sitar on our way home to get a cup of chai and that was a sweet way to end the night, too. No pun intended because there was definitely no sugar in my drink.
So yeah, today was mostly me chilling in my room (with the exception of a quick trip to the library to return stuff and probably a short walk to get some food later). I also watched Netflix’s Girlboss today, which is based on Sophia Amoruso’s book of the same title and her building of Nasty Gal. You might know that I thoroughly enjoyed her book last summer so I was quite interested in the show—I found that it was somewhat annoying but enjoyable enough to watch in one sitting. I liked the book better but to be fair, I actually shouldn’t make this comparison. The Netflix version does come clean about the fact that it is only a very loose adaptation. However, there are also things in the Netflix version that I liked which weren’t in the book: visuals obviously, but I also appreciated the fact that the show more than passes the Bechdel test (do two women speak to each other about something other than a man?) and that the protagonist is flawed and multi-dimensional.
I also watched The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks!!! Please, please, please watch it when you get the chance! It’s based on a non-fiction book in the same name by Rebecca Skloot. Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, but her cancer cells were taken and ended up becoming the first cell to “stay alive” and be “grown” outside of a human body. But her identity was secret for a long time; her cells were called HeLa cells and had even been thought to come from a woman named Helen Lane (a white-sounding name, though Henrietta was black). HeLa cells ended up being crucial to the discovery of the Polio vaccine and the development of in vitro fertilisation. It was also important for cancer research. It was even sent to space to study what would happen to humans out there. Patient consent wasn’t required at the time so her family never even knew of Henrietta’s contribution to science, much less were compensated for it or even educated about any of it at all, although a lot of people obviously gained fame and recognition from it. Henrietta’s youngest daughter suffered from anxiety and schizophrenia and a stroke because of all of her worries and confusion and longing for/about her mother.
Oh, but don’t worry—you learn all of that in like the first 2 minutes or so of the movie so I definitely didn’t give anything away. (Though, if you are interested in the science of this story, I strongly recommend this Radiolab episode about Henrietta Lacks; it’s amazing and includes real life audio from the family and the author, which you don’t get from the movie). The movie was less about the science of her cells, but was more about the humanity of the story. It was a moving story about this family and how they endured this legacy of suffering, and you learn it all along with Rebecca Skloot who’s trying to write a book about Henrietta Lacks. It’s a heartbreaking film about race, ethics in medicine/research and journalism. Plus, Oprah Winfrey’s performance of Deborah Lacks was just amazing. You forget that she’s, you know, Oprah. I really want to read the book now but yeah I’ve definitely said enough about it—just go watch it somehow. If you’re in the US, get a HBO Now free trial! Yes, I want you to watch it that badly! If you’re not convinced, watch Katie Couric interview Rebecca Skloot and Rose Byrne (who plays Skloot in the film). Don’t you just love how I went to an amazing concert this weekend but end up writing the most about a movie?! Haha. Well, I do.
Anyway. I’m gonna go figure out my dinner because I’m getting pretty hungry. I hope you had a wonderful weekend and thanks for reading!
P.S. Hui Jie wanted me to add to last week’s post: she chose the tudung/headscarf that I wore for Sunday’s reading on Penn Monologues. Or rather, more accurately, she (lovingly?) forced me to wear that one because she “missed” it.
Every now and then, I’ll think of something I want to make but realise I don’t have one thing to do it. One of the things that one thing tends to be is a muffin pan. Well, this one week, (I’ve been putting this post off for so long I don’t even remember what week it was) I managed to get my hands on a muffin pan.
The first thing I made were these egg breakfast muffins. They were so good. I mean, it combines everything I love in a breakfast: some salmon slices, a bit of vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach), cheese and of course, eggs.
All I did was sauté the vegetables a little bit with some garlic and olive oil, then add them into a bowl of beaten eggs. Toss in some mozzarella. Salt and pepper. Butter the pan. Pour them in. Bake at 350 deg F/180 deg C for about 20 mins. It’s that easy! I like baking because I can take a shower or whatever while it’s in there and I don’t really have to do anything other than wait.
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I brought these muffins to Astronomy that week (again, no idea what week this was). Ken and Hui Jie ate some in class and they didn’t throw up so I guess there’s that!
I also really wanted to make muffin pan potato gratins because I’ve been obsessed with this Youtube channel called Everyday Food—they make every recipe look so simple and so good that it literally inspires me to keep trying new things.
Anyway, so the potato gratin recipe was probably the simplest one. It’s probably one of the simplest things in the world to make, ok so listen up: preheat your oven to 400 deg F/200 deg C, slice some potatoes up thinly (I only used one), season them with salt and pepper generously and stack the slices up on the muffin pan. Then, pour some good old heavy cream over each stack of potato slices. The recipe recommends about 1 tablespoon for each stack but I just did whatever I wanted because I hate measurements.
You might remember this picture right on top of this paragraph from Jamie’s instagram post which I posted a screenshot of on my #TeamGratitude post a few weeks ago 😉 she really liked it, which made me happy!
Okay, so the last thing I made with my borrowed muffin pan was banana muffins! Bananas are not my favourite fruit because of their mushy, fibrous (?) texture. I only buy them because they’re super low-maintenance. Like, when I want one, I don’t need to slice it or anything like I’d need to with peaches or apples. (Yes I have to slice apples because I feel like I have weak teeth)
The thing about buying groceries in general though, is that sometimes I don’t know what I’ll need/want to eat. So I bought some bananas and ended up not eating them quickly enough. I had three browning bananas sitting on my counter and I decided to turn them into muffins. I know my mom makes banana pancakes, but I just can’t say I’m a huge fan of banana pancakes because I feel like it makes pancakes less fluffy (?) so I thought I’d try muffins instead.
All you need to do is mash 3 bananas, add some sugar (according to this recipe—which I’m not entirely sure is the one I used LOL—3/4 cups), an egg and some melted butter. Then add the flour, baking powder and salt and bake! I was actually surprised that the recipe was enough for 12 whole muffins.
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This was super easy, like I literally whipped them up just as I was about to go out to see Cristina that Sunday. They also seem to keep for a few days. I brought them to Astronomy on Tuesday for Ken and Hui Jie to eat as well and again, they didn’t throw up so there’s that! Haha.
Anyway, I encourage you to try some of these because they make your kitchen/living room smell sooo nice!! Also, I have a long list of other recipes I wanted to post about but never got around to doing so maybe I’ll do that this week or the next 🙂 until then, have a good weekend!
Ever since Thanksgiving, I’ve been obsessed with baked vegetables. My friends Ece and Sofia made ~friendsgiving~ dinner for a bunch of us that weekend. Their spread included the most perfectly seasoned baked brussels sprouts, squash and etc. It’s just so easy to make and I’m not sure if it’s healthy but what’s more important is that it feels healthy right? Haha.
I’m no chef, but I’ve made baked vegetables of different sorts a few times now, with different combinations of ingredients and I’m still in love every single time I make it. First, I made red potatoes, broccoli, red onions and some leftover peppers I had from sweet and sour fish. I chose red potatoes because I feel like they’re tastier? Also, potato skins are amazing. You probably already know this but you shouldn’t peel the skins off, they make the potatoes taste better.
All you have to do is chop up the vegetables, put them in a bowl, drizzle some olive oil over it, sprinkle some seasoning on top (I used salt, black + white pepper and my fav paprika), add fresh rosemary and thyme then mix it with your hands (just because it’s funner that way). It’s so unbelievably easy and IT TASTES BETTER THAN IT LOOKS, I SWEAR.
The next time, I made broccoli and onions because I felt that the potatoes—even though they were the most delicious—were a bit too heavy. I added some tomatoes instead. Same procedure, and voilà.
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In all honesty, I would have liked the tomatoes to be a little more charred but I guess I don’t know how to do that/should have kept them in longer? (lmk if you know. I can already imagine that my mom will respond to this with a report of a thorough Google search haha)
The evening before I left for break, I needed to use up one last sorry potato so I made baked potatoes but I was out of fresh rosemary so I used dried rosemary and it was good but it just wasn’t the same. The flavour wasn’t as strong and most importantly, it didn’t make my whole apartment smell of rosemary. BUT. I love potatoes in all forms. So it was still good.
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Today, I made kale chips! I have always loved kale, especially with quinoa and Sweetgreen’s spicy cashew dressing, ugh, so good. But yeah, I always knew people sold kale chips and I know they’re pretty easy to make, I just never made them. Then over break, my friend Qamarina and I had dinner together and we shared a small kale salad and she said she loves baked kale chips and told me how to make them. So when I got back to Penn, I knew that would be one of the first things I’d make.
It’s the same concept: drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and paprika and bake for 20 mins. I actually thought it would be more complicated than this but it wasn’t. I don’t quite love the smell of kale in my apartment but the kale chips themselves tasted amazing and I’m still munching on them as I write this.
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Downside of kale chips: you have to floss before you speak to anyone after. Hahaha. I ate them for lunch and then was 5 mins late to a meeting because I didn’t budget enough time for flossing. I did a quick mirror check before going out and was horrified lol. Crisis averted.
Anyway. I can’t believe I made a whole post on my baked vegetable endeavors. But I just can’t recommend them highly enough. GO MAKE THEM. AND FLOSS. BYE.
I’m in London again, and it’s nice. 10-degree weather. Crossword puzzles. Harry Potter movies. Sporcle flags-of-the-world quiz. Watching The Chaser on TV. Cycling the relatively-empty streets at night. Doing the dishes while watching Narcos. Sleeping in until 10.30 am. Finishing book after book. Journaling before bed.
Life feels slow. It feels easy. I had a nice day today. We went for a stroll along River Thames, came back to the apartment, watched some TV and then my sisters and I cooked dinner.
There were a bunch of things I had seen recipes of and have been wanting to try, so I decided we make stuffed mushrooms, mashed cauliflower and creamy tomato pasta. Cooking with my sisters is always so much fun because somehow or rather, we always end up laughing hysterically about something. You know the kind where you laugh so much you don’t make anymore sound? Yeah, like that. Today, for example, we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the dishwasher—it started overflowing bubbles and for some reason that was just hilarious to us. Anyway! I think dinner turned out well, or at least, I was really happy with it and it actually wasn’t too difficult at all. I’m definitely going to try to make mashed cauliflower again when I go back to Penn.
The best part of being on holiday is probably family; playing Sporcle quizzes (which, if you know me, you know I just love) with other people is always 10x more fun. Julia and I played this Harry Potter logic quiz which is kind of like a Sudoku-style logic game and oh my god, we were hooked. We legit spent like 2 hours playing 3 of them (this one was our favourite!) and then we played the flags of the world quiz which for some reason is just always so satisfying. My sisters and I also have been toying around with this crossword puzzle book my mom bought recently but it’s so hard. I’ve only ever done one crossword puzzle in my life and that was Monday’s + with a help of a really smart friend (and, admittedly, a bit of googling). But yeah somehow we still really enjoyed playing them and as I described it yesterday, it “feels like I’m trying to save the universe by cracking some code” (except I was failing which was kinda stressful).
I’m starting to see a puzzle/game-related trend with the stuff we’ve been doing on this holiday which is actually pretty funny although not entirely surprising because I do love a good puzzle game. We’ve also been watching The Chase which is a trivia-ish game show that’s been playing on TV a lot today (the TV says it’s for Quizmas, haha I love it). I don’t quite know how to describe the show but I think trivia is always fun to watch because it’s crazy the sorts of various little things people know!!!
But ok we haven’t just been doing puzzley things. My cousins and I also went cycling around London yesterday night which was a little scary but pretty nice because a lot of the roads were quite empty. We got to see little nooks and crannies of London I had never seen before because we took little back alleys and stuff (some creepy, some pretty). And of course, it’s always always always a good time with my cousins.
On the whole though, it doesn’t really feel like vacation. It feels like an alternate version of everyday life where everything is easy and good… or is that what vacations were meant to feel like? I like that for once, my to-do list consists of: read 2 chapters of book of choice, edit pictures on VSCO, wash hair, moisturise/lotion, buy presents. No meetings. No frantically getting from one place to another. No beating myself up for not getting something right. No waking up in the morning to 20 emails (in fact, I got NO emails today, it was beautiful).
When I was maybe 7 or 8, I was outside of my primary school waiting for the bus. I remember counting coins to see whether or not I had enough money to buy an aiskrim pensel, which was my utmost favourite at the time. I didn’t. I thought that the ice cream man thought I was going to buy something, so when I realise I couldn’t, I just smiled awkwardly and walked away. He called me back and scooped me some ice cream onto a cone for free. I was so profoundly surprised and touched. Especially now, looking back, it really overwhelms me because I know he probably didn’t make much. He must’ve felt sorry for me. But whatever it was, I was really happy.
Then, one day, I saw a police van in front of the school and some police men talking to the ice cream man. I had no idea what was going on but the ice cream man seemed like he was pleading with the police about something and they weren’t budging. They carried his motorcycle into the van and must’ve asked him to come along with them because they all left together. I still have no idea what happened. I don’t even remember whether or not I saw him again after that. But until today, I wonder what happened to him and wish him well.
I’m just currently sitting at Hubbub trying to write a paper thinking about this memory and decided I couldn’t use it to write a full paper so I thought I’d tell you because I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about that memory before.
So yeah, for my memoir writing class, I’m supposed to write a paper about myself in primary school which is why I’m here combing through my sekolah rendah memories when I just got caught on that particular one because I don’t seem to be making progress on my paper. I mean, I’m supposed to come up with a 1500-2000 word essay on something and I have no idea what memory is significant enough to expand into that length. Eventually, my frustration lead me here where I am seeking refuge in a space I feel like I can just ramble about whatever’s on my mind, haha.
You know, it’s just so annoying because I thought I was good-ish(?) or at least like, okay, at writing about myself and yet I’ve spent 2 days going back and forth between things to write about and feeling like my writing doesn’t sounds forced, like it doesn’t sound like me without inserting my “um” and “like” and “you know?” throughout the essay.. I don’t know how to make it work! And it just sucks feeling like you’re not good at doing something you want to do.
Which brings me to my other thing. Last week, I mentioned that I had to do case practice. If you don’t know what that is, basically, if you’re interviewing for consulting jobs, a huge part of the job interview is solving a business case. And I’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks and I feel like I still suck. Like really suck. An interesting piece of feedback I got today from someone I didn’t know well was that I have “a great personality” but that I’m “not using it” and again, that’s so annoying (!!!!) because I hate feeling like I’m wasting my potential and I might ruin my chances at doing something I want to do.
I don’t know. I want to end this post on an optimistic note but right now I just feel like I need to be straight up honest about how the past few weeks have just been a rollercoaster of emotions. Super confident and excited one moment and then almost completely lost and hopeless the next.
And um, yeah. That’s… all I have for you this week I guess. I’m sorry this was a downer but that’s just where I’m at right now. Until next week. ❤️
(An update, 2.5 hours after initially publishing this)
Hi again. Um. I feel better now, hahaha.
See what I meant about the whole ups and downs thing? Anyway! There was actually a couple of things I wanted to blog about this week 🙂
First of all, I made sweet sour dory for the first time by myself and it was so good!!!! This is something we make a lot at home and I was just so excited to have a taste of something very familiar. It’s a little troublesome to make just because you have to fry the fish in batter and then make the sauce separately and I usually prefer to make one-pot meals. But it was totally worth it. I woke up extra early on Saturday just to cook this because I knew it was going to be a jam-packed day and I just wanted to make room for one hour where I get to just do something that makes me happy.
I also made sweet corn soup which is incredibly easy to make (a can of corn, some water, beat an egg in, toss in some crab sticks and add salt/pepper to taste!) and was also satisfying because it’s something I’ve loved since I was a kid. In fact, I’m finishing up the last of it as I type this and it’s still so good.
Earlier in the week, I also made this like chicken salad mix thing my mum makes sometimes at home, except, I took it up one notch by adding celery, cranberries and roasted pecans. I swear to God you guys, it was amazing. The bits of cranberries really made all the difference. I was quite sad as I finished the last of it on Friday. That’s really saying a lot too, because I don’t really like chicken. But it’s also super low-maintenance in that all I had to do whenever I wanted to eat was just add a scoop of this chicken mix into a bowl of salad or spread it on a slice of bread. So yeah, very delicious and super easy.
The only like, really ~fun~ thing I did this week was go to Manakeesh with Busra for desserts like baklava and knafeh—so good! It really helped me unwind because, as I explained earlier, this semester has just been a lot. We ended up hanging out for almost 3 hours and it was just really nice to put everything on pause for a bit.
So yeah, those are the highlights of my week. If you’re reading up to this point, I apologise for what a disjointed post this is. It truly truly truly is a representation of how piecemeal my life has been lately. Ok, now I’ll really leave you until next week! 🙂
The title quote is from a line in Shakira’s song Try Everything, which is on the soundtrack of Zootopia. This line made it into my journal because I love finding inspiration from pop songs which are usually thought of as being vapid and built on trite lyrics. I think it’s cool to find awe in little things.
It got me thinking about how we always say things and underestimate the effect it has on people. Like for example, while I was cooking lunch earlier, I found myself laughing because I suddenly remembered an old funny story told by one of my parents’ friends. Yesterday, I saw a quote in a dorm hallway that literally just said “enjoy every sunset, look forward to every sunrise” and I thought oh my god that’s beautiful because really every dark night is just an intermission between beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
I don’t think the RA who put the quote up meant for it to be so deep or to be interpreted too much, it was just a beach-themed dorm floor but he/she gave me a nice thought. I don’t think my parents’ friend (whose name I can’t even remember) thought his story would continue to occasionally make me laugh for the next 10+ years, but it really does. I don’t know what my point is here exactly… I guess, they don’t see how the little things they did would have an effect (and in this case, a good one) on someone like me, and it’s just a little reminder for me to always put good things out there in the world because you don’t know who it’ll reach and in what ways. 🙂
Anyway, moving on from my sappy life-lessony musings, today has been the first day back to classes after nine beautiful, blissful and restful days. I’ll admit my limbs felt a little heavier today getting out of bed. It didn’t help that we just started daylight savings and it was raining outside. As Professor Cole said this morning, “it’s quite a cruel combination.” Nevertheless, everything will be okay. I’ve hit the halfway mark of what seems to be a marathon of a semester, I finally secured a summer job (!!!!!) and I’m well ahead in terms of my workload.
Ahhh, but break was so good, you guys. I didn’t even leave Philadelphia for any part of it. My break was mostly spent working out daily, cleaning the apartment and doing 1.5-weeks worth of work.
But, of course, the funnest part for me was experimenting in the kitchen!!!
I also managed to spend time with some friends and walk into the city when I got restless 🙂
Okay, I think that was probably the most number of pictures I’ve included in one post so far. But yeah, I’m actually quite pleased with how I spent my break. It was productive and healthy and I had fun. It makes me feel more like I am the person I want to be. But really the reason I stayed in is my sister is visiting me next week!!! That’s mostly why I needed to get work out of the way. I’m really excited to have family around and for the trip we’re going to take 🙂 5 and a half days to go!
Since I have the week off from school, I have more time to do things I usually want to do but don’t have time for. That is primarily cooking, but it also includes hanging out with some of my friends who are also on campus over break and exercising more frequently.
I made some amazing pancakes last weekend as my search for the fluffiest pancakes continued. I used this recipe and tweaked it a little (slightly less milk, more baking powder) and here’s what I got! It was 8/10, I have to say.
I also made pasta with salmon, lemon, butter and herbs with a side of broccoli. This was like, only 5/10 though to be honest. But I’m all about trial and error when it comes to cooking and it was still worth it 🙂
I also made ginger-soy marinated cod (thanks, Trader Joes) to be eaten with rice with ghee and curry leaves as well as some steamed broccoli. It was the first time I used the steamer over the rice cooker and I was very excited about that! This is probably one of my favourite home-cooked meals because it tastes incredible and takes only 15 minutes to make. 9.5/10.
I don’t usually get cereal because I don’t love milk and I don’t usually buy it, but the other day I got milk because I wanted quick breakfasts. It was a busy week and I didn’t have time to be frying eggs and washing the pan etc. in the morning. I got this vanilla and almond clusters cereal (also thanks to Trader Joes!) and ate it with some fruit. Yum. 7/10.
My favourite breakfast though, incorporates 2 of my favourite things: salmon and eggs. I don’t really know how to keep my omelettes intact despite watching the Jamie Oliver video on omelettes like 20 times, but the taste is there for me and that’s good enough.
Apart from the food, I finally managed to jog my way down to the Schuylkill! I hate running outside because I feel super self-conscious about the way I look when I run, haha. But since it’s break, campus is relatively quiet. So, I thought there would be no better time to take the first step in getting over one of my irrational fears. It ended up being so rewarding because it was a gorgeous day, plus getting over a hurdle always makes me feel good.
Besides all of that, I also have been catching up on my backlogged work and trying to get ahead. I broke down everything I need to do in the next few weeks into little chunks, sprinkled across the 9 days of break and so far it’s going well. Something very exciting is happening in the next 2 weeks which is what I’m trying to clear my schedule for. I’m having such a good time with the quiet on campus and not having to be among so many people so often these past few days. Also, I’m really happy to be doing things I said I’d do if I had more time because I didn’t want “not having time” to be just an excuse; the only way for that was to make sure that when I do have time, I get things done.
There’s a very hectic two weeks ahead of me. Once again, I find myself baffled and amused because I don’t know how I will come out on the other side of all of this. Objectively, I know it means I have a lot going on for me, which is exciting! The summer job search is picking up again and since we’re just over a third of the way through the semester, classes are gearing up for the midterms, papers deadlines, etc.
So really, I’ve done nothing much but eat, sleep, study and lie on my couch thinking about possible future careers. Plus, I also don’t want to spend too much time writing this week since my to-do list is bursting at the seams. Given that, I just want to leave you with the best thing that happened to me last weekend.
I went to bed on Friday night thinking about how great it would be if I could have pancakes with chocolate and a side of fruit for breakfast. However! I did not have fruit nor did I have chocolate or even milk for the pancake batter. I rarely leave the house on Saturdays because I like not having to get dressed so going out just for groceries was not going to happen. In times like these, you go to our good friend, Google! (Or, as my mom calls it, Mr. G)
I found this great recipe for milkless pancakes and it was the BEST THING.
1 TBSP. oil or butter or margarine 1 egg 1 cup water
You basically mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet ingredients in the other bowl and then combine them. Then, beat it until there are no lumps and get started making your pancakes!
When I made my first pancake, I didn’t realize I had only just put in 2/3 cups of water so the batter kinda didn’t flow well on the pan and didn’t look great. So I was like “ok fine, I’ll sacrifice this first one” and quickly added the remaining 1/3 cup of water and beat it while the first one was still on the pan. But after I finished cooking the first one, I tasted it and oh my god it was the fluffiest and softest thing ever. The remaining pancakes were easier to make and were still fluffy but not gonna lie, the first one topped the rest. I also think I accidentally added a little too much baking powder so that could’ve been part of the reason it was so fluffy? I don’t know. Clearly, I’m no chef. But I loved this recipe more than any other one I’ve tried and I’m never making pancakes with milk ever again.
As for the chocolate, I didn’t have nutella or anything like that so I just used milo powder + just a little bit of hot water to dissolve it and spread it on my pancake. Best home breakfast ever.
And no, I didn’t do anything to compensate for the fruit. Oops.