Elissa Cooks Stuff: Pho!!!

Confession: I actually made this dish a long time ago (like, the beginning of December), but I had to wait to blog because there was no way I could tell the story without revealing just how pregnant I was/am. We weren’t ready to tell people yet, so…here you go!

As we were driving home from our epic camping trip at Big Bend National Park, I was simply obsessed with the idea that the best thing in the world would be a big bowl of pho (see? Super pregnant).

Dan, on the other hand, probably just wanted more s'mores.

Dan, on the other hand, probably just wanted more s’mores.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of pho establishments easily accessible from the I-10 (at least, not where we were driving during dinner hours), and even if there were, 13 hours is a long enough drive without having to stop for a sit-down pho experience that no one else would appreciate. Besides, that stuff has so much MSG. And MSG, as we know, stands for Mucho Suckage, Guys.

So I resisted.

But the next day, the pho craving came back, stronger than ever. I couldn’t take it anymore–I had to take things into my own hands and acquire some of that sweet, Vietnamese goodness. And so, I looked up a recipe (this recipe, from the best blog ever, The Woks of Life), strapped Dan back into the car, and went on an adventure to gather pho ingredients.

I mostly followed the recipe as written, with one exception: I googled the internets all up and couldn’t figure out where to find beef knuckle bones within an hour of where I live, so I just bought a bunch of beef shank and hoped for the best. But my friends, the best is what I got. This stuff was amazing.

Charring the onions

Charring the onions

Here it is, just simmering away.

Here it is, just simmering away.

Like a responsible pregnant woman, I omitted the bean sprouts. Sigh.

Like a responsible pregnant woman, I omitted the bean sprouts. Sigh.

And now, the results:

Taste: Heavenly. Tom was making fun of me because I was sitting there talking about how I wanted to eat nothing but pho for the rest of my life. It may not have been the best pho I’ve ever had, but it was definitely respectable. Plus, I didn’t have that icky MSG-overload feeling after I ate it.

Ease of Preparation: Not going to lie, this was an involved process. Including shopping time, it probably took six or seven hours to prepare. However, it did generate something like 8 servings of pho, so that’s pretty reasonable. Still not something I’d probably do super often, but I’ve got a bunch in the freezer for a rainy day, so it’s all good.

Will Tom/Dan eat it?: HAH! Like I’m going to share.

Overall evaluation: SUCCESS! YAY PHO!

Unfortunately, after several days of pho-filled goodness, my stomach decided that pho aromatics were the most disgusting, nausea-inducing things in the entire universe—such is pregnancy life. But I still have a big tub of pho broth in my freezer. It’s waiting for me to come home, like the father waits for his prodigal son—with open, delicious-food-filled arms.

Advertisements

The 2016 GTA Year In Review

Last year it was brought to my attention that the “GTA” in my title made them think of “Grand Theft Auto.” That’s hilarious, so I’m not going to change it. Muahaha.

Anywho, here I am, late as usual, to bring my twelve fabulous readers the famous year in review post! And man, it has been a crazy-good year to review.

The Fam

This was a big year for us as a family. We bought our first house, accompanied Tom’s grandparents on an amazing, life-dream-fulfilling genealogical trip to Italy, road tripped to Corpus Christi and Big Bend National Park, and basically spent a lot of time figuring out how to be a family of three.

We also put up Christmas lights for the first time!

lights

There were definitely some hard times. We all barely survived the plague, and the other plague, and there was the time Dan got that rash and everyone was stressed and I stormed out of the house to go buy Cadbury Mini Eggs. But we made it through the hard times, and I can safely say 2016 had more good times than bad times for the fam.

The best news from this year, of course, is that we’re expecting a baby in July!

Yes, I actually got this fortune cookie right before we made the announcement.

Yes, I actually got this fortune cookie right before we made the announcement.

We’re all very excited, although Dan doesn’t really know what’s going on yet. We’ve told him there’s a baby in Mom’s tummy, and sometimes he’ll say hi to the baby. But then he’ll point to his own tummy and say “baby,” so…we’re still working on it.

The Dan

This has been a big year for Dan. He learned to walk, talk, eat foods, and basically do all the amazing thing he does.

He also met Santa.

santadan

He wasn’t thrilled.

Dan also started Nursery this year. He had a rough time at first, as most kids do, but now he loves it—especially when they bring out the bubble machine at the end!

img_20161113_111711547

One time I went to Nursery with him, and he built a barricade of trucks around me so I wouldn’t leave.

img_20161113_111706113

img_20161113_111643999

I covered most of what there is to know about Dan in my “18 Months of Dan” post, and he’s continued to develop along the same lines. He is much better at communicating now, and learns dozens of words every day. Right now we’re working on saying “please,” “thank you,” and “I love you.” He’s a real sweetheart!

img_20161125_173007683

img_20161121_100648101

The Tom

This has been an awesome year for Tom. He put his Italian skills to good use, got promoted twice, experienced his first turnaround, and was accepted into his first-choice online MBA program. Wow!

img_20170111_182655763-1

Tom continues to be an amazing dad.

Oh yeah—Tom was the scruffiest I’ve ever seen him on our camping trip in November.

img_20161202_105948792

Wut.

The Me

I didn’t really know what to put in this section. It’s not like I didn’t do anything in 2016—it’s just that I don’t have really good physical evidence of my accomplishments. Unlike in 2015, I didn’t get much crafting done, largely because once we moved I couldn’t find my crafting supplies/equipment.

I did, however, learn to cook a bunch of cool stuff: Dancakes, beef with broccoli, japchae, singapore rice noodles, moqueca, pot roast (now I’m a real white housewife!!!), pho (new “Elissa Cooks Stuff” coming soon!), and many other delicious foodums.

(I thought I took more pictures of my creations, but apparently they were all snapchat videos…)

As far as writing goes, I wrote about 71,841 original-fiction words this year. That’s not a lot by most writers’ standards, but considering everything else that happened this year, I’m pretty happy about it. I did participate in NaNoWriMo and win, and I’m still working on that project right now. I’m hoping to do a more in-depth writing post in the near future, so if you have any questions about my writing stuff, leave a comment!

To be honest, 2016 was pretty hard for me. We had a lot of fun adventures, but not a lot of downtime. I spent most of the year exhausted, stressed, and/or sick. I expected the whole family would get sick more once Dan started nursery, but for whatever reason, most of the plagues originate with me. 2017 hasn’t been much better so far, which is part of the reason this post is so late.

I’m starting to realize that I’m a real wimp when it comes to traveling. My body just doesn’t handle it very well, and it can take over a week to physically recover from a short weekend trip. And every time something unpleasant happens while traveling (like, say, Dan and I getting stomach flu in San Antonio, or a night of travel insomnia turning an ordinary case of delayed-onset muscle soreness into an out of control, fever-ridden, excruciatingly-painful nightmare), it just makes staying home and reading books sound that much more appealing.

This year I’m hoping for more relaxing family time at home, more crafting, more writing, and more delicious foods. As far as new year’s resolutions go, these seem pretty attainable.

Looking Forward to 2017

There’s a lot to be excited about in 2017! Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to:

  • Dan’s 2nd birthday!
  • Dragonwatch in March!
  • Our 2nd baby in July!
  • Oathbringer in November!
  • More blogging!
  • The return of THESE GUYS!

img_20161114_115402673

It’s going to be a great year!

Happy mid-January to all, and may all your times be good!

Elissa Cooks Stuff: Dancakes

Dang Gina, when did June get here?

So much has happened in the past two months. Dan turned one, we did buy a house, I plunked out a respectable (and palindromic) 21012 words during Camp NaNoWriMo, and we went on this amazing genealogy trip to Italy with Tom’s grandparents.

All of this is to say I have a lot of blogging to do. I still need to write about Dan’s birthday and first year, an awesome book I read, and various adventures, but everyone is grumpy around here because Dan is working on tooth #6, and to be honest I’m still feeling kind of lazy from jet lag.

(EDIT: Tom would like to add, “I’M NOT GRUMPY!”)

Instead, I’m going to tell you about a food that has revolutionized our lives: Dancakes.IMG_1457.JPG

Right around the end of April, Dan went from wanting nothing to do with finger foods to never wanting me to spoon-feed him again—overnight. Suddenly I was stuck with a huge pot of rice porridge, an open can of salmon, a bunch of pureed fruit, and a baby on hunger strike.

IMG_20160426_114834845

I’m Dan, and I don’t like food anymore.

When he’s not on active hunger strike, Dan loves carbohydrates—just like his father, he would probably eat cereal all day if I let him. But I don’t want to let him. I may be wrong, but a diet exclusively made up of Frosted Mini Wheats doesn’t sound like a good idea. Something had to change.

In a stroke of what I can only describe as inspiration, I remembered hearing about my sister’s delicious banana pancakes from my mom. I knew Dan would love them, and they would help break up the Mini Wheats diet. I started googling up the internet, trying to put together a recipe. I had to be a bit creative since Dan seems to be allergic to eggs, but I now have a procedure that works. Thus, “Dancakes” were born.

You’ll notice this isn’t a very quantitative “recipe,” and I actually have no idea if the ingredient amounts are optimized (or if they’re necessary at all). All I know is that Dancakes are easy to make and can’t get enough of them.

IMG_20160505_091742434.jpgIMG_20160505_091733885 (2).jpgIMG_20160505_091729969.jpg

One batch makes about eight Dancakes, or about two meals for Dan (and one tribute Dancake for me!). They’re better fresh, and better warm. The recipe can be doubled if you want to save some for later (or have some for yourself—they’re delicious), and will last in the fridge for a few days. They can also be frozen and reheated.

Dancakes

Ingredients
1 ripe banana
~3/4 cup oat flour
Pinch of brown sugar OR drizzle of maple syrup
Dash of cinnamon
Smaller dash of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Pinch of baking powder
Milk, apple juice, or water

Procedure
To make oat flour, dump some oats in the blender or food processor and blend/process until floury.

IMG_1436.JPG

Mash the banana with a fork with the brown sugar or maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little bit of your liquid of choice. Make sure you mash the bananas well; any large chunks will oxidize in a few hours, leaving nasty black chunks in your Dancakes.

IMG_1437

IMG_1440

Measure out the oat flour (just eyeball it), and add salt and baking powder. Add to the banana mush, and add liquid until your mixture resembles pancake batter. If you don’t know what pancake batter looks like…well, that’s a problem that’s beyond the scope of this tutorial. Don’t worry, these are super forgiving.

IMG_1441

IMG_1445

Cook the Dancakes for about a minute on each side. Prevent your eager baby from grabbing them out of the pan.

IMG_1448

I ran out of cooking spray, so I had to use coconut oil.

IMG_1451

Confession: I’m terrible at flipping pancakes. Tom, on the other hand, is a pancake whisperer. He is the official pancake man in this house. But Dancakes are my job.

IMG_1454

Yeah, that’s right—I’m the cool mom who makes Mickey Mouse pancakes for her child.

Break the Dancakes into halves or thirds and serve. Make sure your baby has one piece in each hand at all times. Don’t let your baby see you snitching them. Enjoy!

IMG_1457

***

One more quick thing:

You may have noticed the poll in my sidebar. This blog has been up for a few years now, and my twelve loyal readers have a pretty good feel for what it’s about. I’d like to know what you like about this blog, and what content you’d like to see more of in the future. If you could take a second and respond to the poll, that’d be great! Thanks!

 

Elissa Cooks Stuff: Beef with Broccoli (Or, Elissa Kills People: Medical Lackeys)

First things first: Dan’s been under the weather this week.

He picked something up (most likely) from the kid sitting behind us at Stake Conference (affectionately known ’round these parts as “Plague Kid”), and on Tuesday he woke up with a 101.4° fever. The doctor said it was bronchiolitis, which led to a 2-hour wild goose chase around Beaumont as I tried to find him a nebulizer.

CVS: We don’t have those. You need to go to a medical supply store.
Elissa: Okay…where’s the closest one?
CVS: There’s PRN, but I don’t know where that is.
Dan: *cries*
(After a phone call to my dad and a trip across town)
PRN: We don’t take your insurance. These two places do.
Elissa: Great…do you have an address for either of those?
PRN: Nope.
Dan: *cries louder*
(After texting Tom and driving out into the sticks to Taylor Home Health)
THH: We have a nebulizer, but not the exact kind of nebulizer your doctor prescribed, so you need to get a new script. [20 minutes after I’ve phoned Dan’s doctor] They haven’t sent the script over, and we have to have it. Also, you haven’t met your deductible, so it’s going to cost you [amount]. Honestly, you can just go to King’s Pharmacy and buy one for [amount/2].
Dan: *cries even louder*
(After a 15-minute drive to King’s Pharmacy, which is just down the street from our place)
Dan’s doctor’s nurse (on the phone): Okay, so you want me to do whaaaaaat?
Elissa: *bombs every pharmacy, doctor’s office, and medical supply store in Southeast Texas*
Dan: *SCREAMS*

I did salvage a nebulizer from the smoldering wreckage of King’s Pharmacy, which was great.

On Thursday, Dan seemed to be getting worse, and we found out he also has an ear infection. Now he’s taking five different drugs, and thankfully, he seems to be improving.

Oh yeah, and I’m sick too. But I’m a mom, so I’m just dealing with it. And by dealing with it, I mean binge-watching Jane Austen movies and Duck Dynasty with Dan to keep him entertained while I die sit on the couch.

No "Mom of the Year" award for me this year.

No “Mom of the Year” award for me this year.

The same day we found out about the ear infection, Dan’s pediatrician called to say that, according to his blood test results, he’s mildly anemic. It never rains but it pours.

But, that brings us to the real subject of today’s post. It seems like we probably need more red meat around the place! And coincidentally, Tom’s been bugging me to make beef with broccoli forever! So let’s do this!

***

I’ve never been a big beef fan, but this stuff is delicious. The trick to making good beef with broccoli is using Chinese barbecue sauce. You can find it at any decent Asian grocery store.

IMG_20160129_161208176

And in case you’re wondering: no, it’s not very much like American barbecue sauce.

Mmmm, brill fish.

Mmmm, brill fish.

I’d never made this dish before, but it’s pretty straightforward. I used, roughly, the procedure in this recipe, but dude—skip the stir fry sauce. Use the barbecue sauce instead.

As before, I was supervised by the illustrious Chef Dan.

IMG_20160129_161029445

“Don’t try to distract me with this cracker! Get back to work!”

 

I used this stuff to marinate the beef.

I used this stuff to marinate the beef.

 

Cookin some broccoli!

Cookin’ some broccoli!

Beef in the pan

Beef in the pan

I’m typically not really good at thickening sauces, but we pulled through.

Is it supposed to look like that?

Is it supposed to look like that?

IMG_20160129_171415048

That’s better!

The finished product turned out quite beautifully.

IMG_20160129_171547792

And now for the scoring:

Taste: Excellent!

Ease of preparation: Very easy. This one is definitely going into the regular rotation.

Ease of cleanup: No complaints here.

Will Tom eat it?: The first words out of his mouth were, “This is good junk!” I think we can give this a yes!

Will Dan eat it?: Nope. Chef Daniel was not impressed. He tried a little bit of pureed beef mixed with rice porridge, and it didn’t go over well.

IMG_20160129_174614438

Oh well. We’ll cut him some slack—he’s had a rough week.

Overall evaluation: Woohoo! I’m very pleased with how this turned out, and excited that I can decently replicate it. It might even turn me into a beef lover. Who knows?

Happy eating!

Elissa Cooks Stuff: Cantonese Poached Chicken

Inspired by my friend Emily’s awesome Chinese New Year blog post, I’ve decided to introduce a new feature on this blog. In each “Elissa Cooks Stuff” post, I’ll attempt some recipe and review the results. Hopefully there will be some lulz along the way.

When my mom was here after Dan was born, I had a doctor’s appointment in Houston. I couldn’t bring my mom to Houston without going to Chinatown, and we brought home some pre-made chicken for dinner. Guys, that chicken was so good it messed with my mind. Since then, I’ve had all these dreams about going to Chinatown and buying that chicken, and each time I wake up unreasonably depressed because I don’t really have any. This week, after moping yet again about my lack of chicken and wondering if I dared brave a trip to Chinatown alone with Dan, I realized there was an easier option: I could make the chicken myself! To the Google!

I used this recipe, with a couple alterations. For one thing, I couldn’t find smaller organic chickens. I had to go to two stores to find a whole chicken at all—that’s what happens when you shop at 8:30 PM.

I also noticed the recipe doesn’t call for garlic. I felt like it should have garlic (every recipe should have garlic), so I looked up a couple more recipes and decided to add some to the pot.

I have two rules of cooking, and the first is that you can never have too much garlic.

I have two rules of cooking, and the first is that you can never have too much garlic.

Chef Daniel woke up just as I was about to start cleaning the chicken, and promptly took on a supervisory role.

Dan was pretty happy watching me struggle with the chicken from a safe distance.

Dan was pretty happy watching me struggle with the chicken from a safe distance.

I don’t have any pictures of the cleaning process because I didn’t want to touch my camera with raw chicken all over my hands—we’re all about food safety around here—so you’ll have to just imagine me cluelessly fumbling around with the chicken carcass while my phone is ringing and Dan is mocking me from his bouncer.

Chicken giblets. I have big plans for these.

Chicken giblets. I have big plans for these.

I finally managed to get everything into the pot without any major casualties.

There's a chicken in there.

Can you spot the chicken?

However, the chicken fell apart when I took it out.

IMG_0418

Still looks delicious!

It was then that I discovered I have no idea how to cut up a chicken.

IMG_0419

Good enough.

The finished product.

The finished product. Also pictured: steamed broccoli and geung yung (fried chopped ginger and green onions)

Now for the reviews:

Taste: Awesome. I’ve found a cure for my chicken-longing. It was obviously overcooked, but that was my fault. Because I had a larger bird than the recipe called for and I had a hard time keeping it underwater, I decided to cook it longer than the recipe suggested, and I overdid it by about 15 minutes.

Ease of preparation: Reasonable. The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but this was only my second time working with a whole chicken (the first time was heavily supervised, and I still managed to get blood everywhere (so much blood!)), so it’ll be better next time.

Ease of cleanup: Cleanup was a bit of a hassle. There were a lot of dishes, and I had to aggressively 409 everything in the kitchen several times.

Will Tom eat it?: Yes! (Or at least, he hasn’t told me otherwise yet.)

Will Dan eat it?: N/A.

Overall evaluation: I’ll definitely make this again—maybe not every week, because it is a bit time- and labor-intensive, but it’s definitely going into the rotation. Yay chicken!

***

 Sorry, not a lot of baby pictures here. I’ll make it up to you next time, I promise!

…okay, here’s one more:

IMG_2891