Taiwanese Meat Sauce on Rice (肉燥飯 / Rou Zao Fan)

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Once again it is Monday (almost Tuesday). The weekends always fly by too fast.

This past week was good. It was the annual Users Group Meeting (UGM) at Epic, so I stayed with a friend in Verona for a couple days to avoid morning traffic. The week went by really fast. The school year just started so my weeks get a whole lot busier. With AAIV small groups on Wednesdays, Harvest family groups on Thursdays, and AAIV large groups on Fridays, I have 3/5 of my weekday nights booked up already. This week was also my church’s week to serve food at a local homeless shelter, so Tuesday night was spent prepping chicken salad for ~80 people. This is to say I had a long, busy, albeit good week.

Weekends in general are just as busy as weekdays. On Saturday I went apple picking in Mt Horeb with a couple of friends. Got lots of Honeycrisp apples and had some hot cider. After apple picking we went to “downtown” Mt Horeb, had lunch at a place called The Grumpy Troll (we shared a 1.5 lb soft pretzel!!), and then wandered around the town looking for trolls. When we got back, we needed to get 150 servings of sandwich material for church lunch on Sunday, so we headed to Costco and I ended up getting a membership. I had been thinking of getting one for a while, but was never sure how often I’d use it. But these days between getting things for church and for the homeless shelter, I end up going to Costco more often that you would expect someone of my demographic to go. Plus, I really like wandering Costco. Not just because of the free samples, but also because they have a lot of random things that you won’t find at a normal supermarket like Korean BBQ pork jerky. It turned out to be quite delicious but a little too chewy for my jaw. After the Costco run, we grabbed some supplies to make apple crisp before meeting a bunch of other friends at Perkins for dinner. After dinner we made apple crisp to bring to church on Sunday. And then it was Sunday.

Sunday morning. I forgot to set my alarm and woke up at 7:45. What time did I need to be at practice? 8:00. Ruh-roh. Jumped out of bed and thankfully was only 10 minutes late. Sunday afternoon. Decided to make a Taiwanese dish for dinner. Went shopping and spent the rest of the afternoon cooking. Made a second apple crisp because most of us who made it on Saturday didn’t actually manage to get a piece of the first one. Just for reference if anyone wants to make the crisp, it’s just the recipe link that I pasted above, but halve the water (1/4 cup) and double all the ingredients in the “crisp” part.

So onward to the Taiwanese food. I adapted the recipe from Tiny Urban Kitchen but made some adjustments. I was aiming for 20 people or so, so I scaled the recipe up a bit. I skipped the mushrooms because one friend doesn’t eat mushrooms, replaced ground pork with ground turkey because one friend doesn’t eat pork, and replaced the shallots with onions and garlic (just ‘cuz). It turned out to be really good, but a tad salty. Next time I’ll cut the soy sauce more. But I’ll definitely be making this again.

Ingredients
5 lbs ground turkey
2 medium onions, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2.5 cups soy sauce
5 tbsp rice wine
5 tbsp sugar
2.5 tbsp five spice powder
2 cups water
10 cups cooked rice

In a large frying pan, cook onions and garlic until brown. Add turkey and brown. Transfer the meat, onions and garlic to a large pot.

Add soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, five spice powder and water. Bring to a boil then lower heat and let simmer for an hour or so.

Serve over rice. (I also served with stir-fried broccoli).

Caprese Pasta Salad

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I walked into my friend’s office today. I noticed that her officemate’s calendar was on September. I thought to myself, “That’s odd, it’s not September yet…” I proceeded to chat with my friend for a few minutes when I noticed that her calendar was on September too… and then I realized. It is September. Crazy!

Today felt so much like a Monday. I suppose Labor Day does that. Hopefully that means that on Friday it won’t feel like Friday and then I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I feel like some people come back from vacations refreshed and ready to get back to work. I always come back from vacations feeling like I need another vacation.

We had a Labor Day barbecue at James Madison Park yesterday. It was really nice. The park was right by the lake and the temperature finally cooled down. The last couple weeks have been gross and hot and humid, but yesterday was 70’s, dry and breezy.

There was so much food at the barbecue. A couple of the guys grilled burgers and hot dogs. There were a couple of different kinds of pasta, veggies, chips, and a bunch of desserts. A friend made these amazing peanut butter nutella cookies. So good. But dangerous! I was eating one and my friend made me laugh. I inhaled some of the cookie dust and started coughing up a lung.

I made a caprese pasta salad. It was a really simple recipe, but it was really good. I loooove fresh mozzarella. And thank you to my roommate for letting me use her olive oil and balsamic vinegar!

Recipe from Once Upon a Recipe

Ingredients
2 lbs uncooked pasta (I used rotini)
1 lb grape tomatoes
1 lb fresh mozzarella balls
3/4 cups olive oil
8-10 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
basil
salt
pepper

Cook pasta. Drain, rinse, and let cool.

Slowly heat the olive oil, garlic, and pepper flake over low heat for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors infuse. Let the oil cool.

Mix the pasta, oil, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, and mozzarella balls together. Add salt, pepper, and basil to taste. Mix well.

Refrigerate for several hours and serve cold.

“I Don’t Know” Pasta

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My friend and I semi-joke around about starting a restaurant sometimes. I cook but don’t bake. She bakes but doesn’t cook. So together we make a pretty good team. We sometimes talk about running away to culinary school… maybe one day we’ll actually do it.

I think it’d be funny to open a place called “Wherever”. The idea came because my friends and I are generally incredibly indecisive. So when the question comes up of where to go to eat, invariably the answer is usually a shrug paired with “wherever”. Since there currently isn’t a restaurant called “Wherever”, this answer isn’t very helpful for decision making. But if there was… voila! Decision made.

Going along with that idea, we would have dishes with names like “I don’t know”, “Whatever”, “Anything”, and “Surprise me”. When I was a kid, my mom would always get so annoyed at us when she would ask us what we wanted to eat and we would reply “I don’t know”. She’d always go, “There’s no such thing as ‘I don’t know’!” Well, now “I don’t know” would exist.

The first time I made this dish was when a couple of friends and I cleaned our other friend’s apartment while he wasn’t in town (his apartment was a DISASTER). After we finished cleaning we made dinner and watched 27 Dresses, Sweet Home Alabama, and Enchanted.

Last night my friend and I replicated the recipe, but a much lazier version. Instead of chopping broccoli we bought 2 bags of pre-cut florets and instead of making my own white sauce, we bought jarred sauce. We were both feeling pretty lazy and were in the middle of a Toy Story marathon. Normally I would always opt to make my own white sauce rather than buy the jarred stuff. If anyone would rather make their own white sauce too, my method is to simmer heavy cream with grated parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic (or garlic powder). The ratios of these things will vary greatly on how cheesy/salty/peppery/garlicky you like your white sauce. If you’re lazy, pressed for time, or just awful in the kitchen, jarred sauce is good too.

Currently things are going well in Madison and I have no intention of leaving my job here, but if we ever decide to open “Wherever” I’ll be sure to let you all know! 🙂

Ingredients
1 lb uncooked pasta (my preference is for farfalle, but any kind should do)
2 15 oz jars of white sauce (I use Classico roasted garlic alfredo or make my own)
2 16 oz packages of Polish Kielbasa
2 large heads of broccoli
oil
salt
pepper
garlic powder

Cook pasta to your preferred consistency.

Cut broccoli into bite-size pieces, and kielbasa into slices (~1/2 cm thick).

Heat olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, add broccoli. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste and stir well. Add a little water (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan). Cover and allow broccoli to cook until it’s a vibrant green (i.e., still has a crunch but is completely cooked). Remove the broccoli and set aside. Fry the kielbasa slices until cooked through and browned slightly on both sides. Remove and set aside.

Heat the sauce in a saucepan. Once hot, add the broccoli and kielbasa. Simmer for a few minutes to let the the broccoli and kielbasa soak in the flavor of the sauce. Serve over pasta.