Southern Style Grits with Bacon

My siblings and I have been enjoying some great restaurants, but one of my favorite parts of their visit has been cooking breakfast for them! On their first morning I made scrambled eggs and smoothies and yesterday I made oatmeal with banana, blueberries, and toasted nuts. This morning I decided to pay homage to Country Boy, a breakfast spot in our home town, by making Southern Style Grits with Bacon.

If you’re used to making grits from a little paper packet, here’s a great secret: quick cooking grits are just as fast and easy to make as the ones in the envelope! The toppings might take a little longer to prepare, but that’s a small price to pay to have your bacon or cheese grits sans preservatives.

To put together the grits, I started by putting 1 and 1/2 cups milk and 1 and 1/2 cups water in a pot and bringing it to a boil. While that heated up, I sliced three strips of bacon into small pieces and put them in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Once the liquid came to a boil, I poured in a cup of quick cooking grits, covered the pot, and turned down the heat.

The grits only take a couple minutes to cook, so very shortly I had this:

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I mixed two tablespoons of butter and the bacon (with some, but not all of it’s grease :)) into the grits.

I decided to make fried eggs to serve with the grits, so I wasn’t able to serve them immediately. Grits can become somewhat gummy if they’re left to sit around, so I stirred in a little extra milk before I plated them.

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It was a fantastically rich breakfast, and so easy to put together! If I had a stove top with four burners, I reckon the entire meal would be ready to eat in less than 10 minutes.

Southern Style Grits with Bacon

serves 4

1 cup quick cooking grits
1 and 1/2 cups milk, plus more to taste
1 and 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp butter
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Bring milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. While the liquid is heating up, sauté bacon pieces in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add grits to the liquid, cover, and turn heat to low. After three minutes, add butter and bacon with some of its grease, to taste. Salt and pepper to taste and stir well. Serve immediately. If grits are too gummy, add more milk before serving.

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Cooking for the Family…and a Trip to Macau!

Today was my brother and sister’s second day in Hong Kong and we had another day jam-packed with activities! We started with a walk along the Ping Shan Heritage Trail which runs through some of the old villages nearby where I live in Tin Shui Wai. I love that these ancient structures are so near the modern high-rises of my town!

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Some of the buildings had really beautiful carvings and painted woodwork inside. I would love to incorporate elements of these designs into my home someday.

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After our morning stroll, I whipped up a quick lunch. I love having the chance to cook for my siblings family-style! I’m also enjoying feeding them my super-healthy food; I guess like trying to convert people to my way of life. 😉

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I made regular chicken, avocado, and spinach sandwiches for the two of them, but put my sandwich filling in a red pepper instead. It’s such an easy way to put together a meal when only some of the diners are gluten-free.

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After lunch, we headed to Macau where we did some sightseeing and went to Fernando’s, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. It’s a super casual Portuguese eatery with generous helpings of messy, delicious food. They have their own garden in mainland China where they grow all of the veggies used in the restaurant. You can tell from the taste that a lot of care is taken at every step from the garden to the table.

We are totally beat from our day as tourists! I’ll definitely be sleeping well tonight. Until next time!

Sibling Visit!

My brother and sister are in Hong Kong! They had a busy day of sightseeing at Ngong Ping while I was at work and we reunited in the afternoon for a trip to the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok, a foot massage, and a delicious Vietnamese dinner at Nha Trang.

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This Banh Xeo, an omelet filled with a delicious mixture of pork, prawns, onion, bean sprouts and more, is one of my favorite dishes. Before you eat you wrap it all up in a lettuce leaf with cucumber and mint. Amazing! Definitely a dish I want to make at home soon.

We don’t have any pictures together yet because being a tourist in the HK summer weather doesn’t allow for staying very composed. 😉 I’ll be sure to snap some tomorrow before we’re too drenched with sweat!

I’m gonna go enjoy my siblings’ company! See you tomorrow!

Steak Salad with Beetroot

Nick and I have been working as a team when it comes to dinner lately. The warm summer weather has made grilling a fantastic option, so oftentimes Nick heads to the roof to grill some meat while I prepare the rest of our meal inside.

Aside from the fun of grilling, an added benefit is that this method cuts the prep time for our meals in half! We put together this delicious steak salad in 10 minutes!

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Steak Salad with Beetroot

Serves 2

1/2 lb. lean steak
5 oz arugula
1 medium roasted beet, cut into small cubes
2 slices bacon, cut into small squares
1/4 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 and 1/2 oz crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil and vinegar to taste

Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is coated with fat from the bacon, add the onion slices and salt and sauté. While the bacon and onions are cooking, combine the arugula, blue cheese, and beet in a serving bowl. Add onions, bacon, salt and pepper and mix again.

Cook your steak as desired on the grill or in a skillet. Slice into strips and serve warm on top of the salad. Serve with olive oil and vinegar of your choice.

Hong Kong Style Cabbage and Eggs

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I started seriously tossing around the idea of this blog! I didn’t intend to post every day, but after a few days of doing so, I realized that the habit was giving me something to think about and focus on – a creative outlet with some structure! I’m so grateful to everyone who has read and shared their feedback.

I’ve been experiencing some new health struggles over the past week, and cooking and this blog have given me something positive to focus on. Having a healthy distraction is so important, and every “like” and comment I receive here encourages me to keep going and focus on the good stuff. 🙂

After a somewhat discouraging morning earlier in the week, I was looking for some comfort food for lunch. My old standby was a peanut butter sandwich, but I thought I could do a little bit better than that – like, something with at least one vegetable. I had half a cabbage in the fridge, so I decided to make a simple Chinese style dish.
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I stir-fried the cabbage and put it on white rice with two fried eggs. That’s it! This super simple dish is the kind of thing I see all the time at the hole-in-the-wall local eateries lining Hong Kong’s side streets. It’s delicious, quick and easy to prepare, and about as economical as you can get!

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Hong Kong Style Cabbage and Eggs

makes one serving

1 cup cooked white rice
1/2 medium cabbage, shredded
1 tablespoon pure sesame oil
1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons coconut aminos or tamari
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 eggs
salt and pepper

Heat sesame oil and one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and ginger and stir fry until fragrant, about one minute. Add cabbage and coconut aminos, stirring frequently until cabbage is softened to your liking, about four minutes.

Remove cabbage from pan and place on top of cooked white rice on your serving plate. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet and fry eggs with salt and pepper.

Serve the eggs on top of the cabbage and rice. Season with additional coconut aminos as desired.

Eating Out In HK: Great Food Hall Salad Bar

It’s more take-away than truly eating out, but the newly refurbished salad bar at Great Food Hall in Pacific Place deserves more than a passing mention. Although it’s an awesome option for lunch, the bar is open all day and works just as splendidly for a super casual dinner or a snack in the middle of a shopping spree!

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With so many items to choose from, the options are almost limitless when creating your salad. One of the greatest features of the bar is that there is no limit on the number of toppings you can select. Prices are based on the size of the bowl you choose, not the content of your salad – and the prices are incredible!

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I was feeling very hungry during this visit, so I chose the large size, and it still only cost $59 HKD ($7.50 USD). The medium, which is also big enough for a full meal, especially if you select filling items like pumpkin, beans, and hard boiled eggs, costs $49 HKD ($6.30 USD).

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The quality of the produce is unmatched, and the dressing options are delightfully unexpected. This was my second visit to the new salad bar, and I look forward to creating new, delicious salads during future visits!

If you decide to check it out and you’re gluten free, be sure to pick up a loaf of the bakery’s Celiac Friendly Loaf while you’re there. As far as I know, Great is the only grocery store in Hong Kong to bake fresh gluten-free bread, and it is delicious! I love having it toasted for breakfast with a smear of almond butter!

Products I Love: Neutrogena Makeup Remover Towelettes

Years ago, during my first week of performing with a touring children’s theatre show, my new roommate and I went shopping for supplies we needed for our new jobs. Up until that point I had always used liquid eye makeup remover and simply used face wash to remove the rest of my makeup. For my new job, however, my makeup would be heavy and for the first time ever I would be performing in a show with a long run, rather than only two or three weeks of performances. For the sake of my skin, I was gonna need something with a little more power.

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My roommate immediately grabbed these Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, claiming that they were the best makeup wipes ever. I assumed they would be good, but having never used makeup wipes before, I had no idea how far ahead these wipes were than the competitors.

Four and a half years have passed, and as you can probably guess from the crinkled package, I still don’t go anywhere without my Neutrogena towelettes. The few times I’ve been forced to use other brands, they haven’t even come close in terms of makeup removal, softness, or the aftereffect on my skin. One of the best things about these wipes is that if you’re in a rush, or don’t have face wash around, you don’t need to wash your face after using them. A quick rinse is fine, and you’re good to go. I often take advantage of this if I’m changing my makeup quickly after work or taking my makeup off before I step into the yoga studio.

I love these wipes so much that the first time I moved to Hong Kong, I brought six months worth just in case they weren’t sold here (they are). If you’re looking for a new way to remove your makeup on the go, I can’t recommend them enough.

What are your favorite makeup removers?

Hooray for the weekend!

Nick is back in Hong Kong after a trip to the US, and we were happy to spend a weekend together. We made the most out of his jet lag with an early morning pancake feast!

20130622-142205.jpgI used King Arthur Flour’s Gluten Free Pancake Mix, and I definitely recommend it. Nick said he couldn’t tell they were gluten free and actually preferred them to many regular pancake mixes. Win! I made two different types – banana with maple syrup and plain with the blueberry sauce I learned to make earlier in the week. Look out for more banana recipes in the near future, as I just discovered my banana allergy has somehow disappeared. Such happy news!

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In the early afternoon we went to a dragon boat festival some of my friends were competing in. They placed second in their heat, so hopefully they’ll be rowing toward the finish line in the finals tomorrow!

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We finished off the day by seeing Iron Man 3 (oddly, this was my suggestion, not Nick’s) and heading to Cicada, one of our favorite tapas spots, for dinner. As we were chowing down on one of my favorite dishes, Coconut Shiitake Risotto Balls, I realized that I can probably replicate them at home fairly easily! Look out for my attempt in the coming days!

I hope you’re all enjoying your weekend as much as we are!

California Quinoa Salad

I love cold quinoa salad. It’s the perfect substitution for pasta salad at a barbecue or for a light summer dinner.

20130621-141514.jpgThe flavors in this vegan dish remind me of California – fresh and breezy. It’s quick and easy to make and it’s a great way to sneak some raw kale into your diet! For an extra treat, serve with avocado halves!

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California Quinoa Salad

serves 3 as an entree, 6-8 as a side dish

measurements are approximate

3-4 cups cooked quinoa (make 1 cup dry quinoa to yield this amount)
1 can salad beans, drained and rinsed (I used a mix of kidney, pinto, and garbanzo)
2 cups kale, finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, finely chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa ahead of time, so it has time to cool. I made mine the day before and kept it in the fridge.

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

I have shared this recipe with this week’s Wellness Weekend and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Cornish Hens in a Toaster Oven

I did something really exciting Tuesday morning. I’d been mulling over it for a while, but fear kept holding me back.

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That’s right! I threw away all the medicines I was prescribed last year when my health issues began. I only took these medicines for a couple months because they caused horrendous side effects. Half of them, actually, were prescribed in order to hide the side effects of the other half, and some of that second tier of medicine actually caused side effects of its own. Top that off with the fact that none of them truly helped the original problem. What a mess! I haven’t taken any of them in in over six months, so I decided it was time. I’m a happy girl.

So what’s my medicine now? Food! Here’s a perfect example from Monday night:

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I was so happy with the blend of seasoning on this Cornish game hen. The prep was so easy, although cooking it became a bit of a project thanks to my tiny kitchen.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t actually have an oven. I do all of my cooking in a toaster oven. To clarify, here’s a picture of my kitchen:

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That’s it. The entire thing. The oven is that little rectangle with the kettle on top!

A Cornish game hen seemed like a great option because I figured it would fit into the toaster oven. I was wrong. I ended up having to cut it in half and cook it in two shifts. Luckily, I was cooking for one, so I ate the first half while I cooked the second half, which ended up in my lunch box the next day.

Measurements aren’t necessary for this recipe. Just rub olive oil all over your halved hen and coat with generous amounts of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, parsley, and basil.

Stick the hen halves into the toaster oven and cook away! I cooked each half for 30 minutes (yes, that’s right, my oven doesn’t even have temperature settings).

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The moral of the story is you do NOT need a good kitchen to make a good dinner. I bought my toaster oven from a friend for $20 HK (that’s $3 USD) and I use it to cook up delicious meals on the regular.

What kitchen limitations do you work your way around?