I don’t just eat to live, I live to eat.

~See Lemons Eat


30 Favorite Toddler Meals

seelemonsonline : June 4, 2019 9:24 am : Evie, Foodie, list of 30, Parenting

Random Observation/Comment #620: I can’t find a purer way to show my love than through cooking and sharing food.

Why this List?

As soon as Evie could eat solids, I claimed head chef of the household. It started off with creating purees of everything using our Beaba and making sure we had as many colors as possible throughout the day… Not a lot of purple foods.

After the puree phase, we wanted her to eat what we did. We chose overcooking vegetables with less salt and oil while making anything as tender as possible. Since we needed to pack lunches for daycare, I usually cooked two go-to dishes on Sunday and packed it in a thermos with two separate container of fruits cut into chunks.

Good choices for fruits are watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapples, mangos, strawberries, blueberries, and seedless mandarins.

Our method for making her meals is mixing/matching a base, protein, and sauce.

Good choices for bases are bowtie pasta, spaghetti, pearled cous cous, and sticky rice. Note that these sauces are written the way I memorize my recipes.

  1. Vegetable Pancakes – Grate veges like zucchini and carrots mixed with egg, salt, baking soda, and flour. Make like a pancake.
  2. Mapo tofu – Make a thick sauce with miso paste, water, oyster sauce, tomato paste, sesame oil, and corn starch. Brown minced pork. Add sauce and tofu cubed.
  3. Cheese quesadilla – Cook protein. Finely chop. Toast tortillas and mix protein with cheese. Press downward.
  4. Meatballs – Mix beef and pork with cooked onions, parsley, cheese, one egg, and breadcrumbs. Brown on pan and slowly simmer in tomato sauce.
  5. Vegetable Frittata – Soften veggies, salt properly, turn off fire and add beaten eggs. Bake.
  6. Pan fried tofu chunks – Cut 1/4 inch tofu chunks and slowly brown in olive oil. Turn after light browning. Add salt at the end.
  7. Mac and cheese with veges – Cheese mixture with flour, butter, and cheese with heavy cream. Cook veggies, cook pasta, and mix it all together.
  8. Dumplings – Make filling with pork and cabbage. Make sure cabbage is cooked and dried. Buy dumpling wrappers, fill lightly, and use water to seal edges. I personally boil my dumplings instead of steaming.
  9. Cubed sweet potatoes – Cut in cubes, blanch, and dry. Light olive oil and medium heat cooking of all sides.
  10. Stuffed chicken breast – Slit breast along the inside without fully butterflying. Stuff with a mixture that likely includes mashed greens and cheese.
  11. Breaded chicken tenders – Dry, flour, egg, and panko crumbs (with thyme and salt). Medium-to-low heat with olive oil and cover.
  12. Toasted bagel with cream cheese – Halve and toast. Add cream cheese afterwards and serve cut into cubes.
  13. Pizza rolls – Either buy it frozen or make your own. Cut smaller pieces of flatbread or rolls and add tomato sauce + cheese. Everything tastes good with cheese. Serve cubed.
  14. Baked vegetable Fritter – Cut veges and dry. Mix together with breadcrumbs, eggs, and flour. Bake in oven 400+.
  15. Beef stew – Brown something bone-in. Saute onions. Add beef stock and meat with tomato paste, carrots, and potatoes. I personally use an instant pot because I’m lazy.
  16. Pulled pork – Marinate meat and slow cook or pressure cook.
  17. Avocado toast – Toast bread separately. Spread butter lightly. Slice avocados to set on top and smash with fork. Add salt and light cayenne.
  18. Split pea soup with bacon and shredded ham – Soak lentils. Render bacon. Remove. Cube ham. Saute onions or carrots. Add stock, bacon, ham, and lentils. Pressure cook until tender.
  19. Creamy pesto sauce (made with cavatappi) – Since I’m lazy, I just buy the pre-made pesto. Start with butter, flour, and milk. Then mix in pesto paste and pasta. Toss to finish with cheese.
  20. Baked fries – Cut potatoes into fry slivers. Wash, blanch, and dry. Spread on baking sheet. Cover with olive oil and salt. Bake.
  21. Chicken fried rice – Love this recipe with thinly sliced chicken, some easy to cook veges, and overnight cold rice. Sauce is simply soy sauce, ketchup, and salt.
  22. Beef sliders – Simple beef with onion powder and salt. Follow smash burger or regular patty with thumb-sized indent. She likes to eat the potato bun more than the meat, but it’s a good mix.
  23. Japanese Chicken Curry – Chicken thigh sear. Onions, carrots, and potato. Minced garlic and ginger. Curry paste (flour, butter, curry powder). Chicken stock. Coconut milk. Pressure cook. 1 Tbsp ketchup and soy sauce at the end.
  24. Fishsticks – Buy fillets of white fish. Wash. Dry. Refrigerate. Flour, egg, panko. Bake.
  25. Sausage mushroom onion sauce – Cube everything. Sausage first. Remove and add onion to soften. Add mushrooms. Deglaze with some stock or wine. Sausage back in with a bit of heavy cream.
  26. 2-layer lasagna – Make a meat-based tomato sauce. Puree for better consistency. Lots of low moisture cheese choices. Quick layer of sauce, pasta (dry), sauce, cheese, pasta, sauce, cheese. Bake until dry.
  27. Shrimp scampi – Defrost, clean, and de-vein shrimp. Salt and dry. Pan sear with butter and parsley.
  28. Cauliflower gnocchi – TBH I just buy the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s and mix them together with a butter sauce. Evie likes the texture.
  29. Flatbread – Being lazy and trying to avoid a mess in the kitchen, I buy the pre-made flatbread. It’s still fun to add sauce, cheese, and toppings. Bake.
  30. Vietnamese spring rolls – Evie does not eat this, but it’s surprisingly fun to make and practices slicing cabbage, carrots, spinach, and other vege fillings into thin matchsticks. Soak the wraps and find a good sauce for dipping.

~See Lemons Cook for Evie

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30 Drinking Tips for 30-year-olds

seelemonsonline : March 31, 2017 8:00 am : Foodie, Just Life, list of 30

Random Observation/Comment #577: NYC is filled with functional alcoholics. I am certainly one of them.

Why this list?

There are a lot of reasons why drinking changes for your 30s. It’s no longer about getting drunk and pulling off shenanigans – it’s more about being social and catching up with people in your limited time juggling multiple “grown up” responsibilities. The motivation changes as drinking becomes a part of the experience rather than the main focus.

A few other properties include:

  • hosting more get-togethers (yay brunches),
  • fewer calories to watch weight (boo), and
  • complimenting a great meal.

Ultimately, it’s the important fact that drinking for someone older is just borrowed time. Have fun tonight, but pay for it with hangovers lasting full days tomorrow.

How to Write this List

I think most people with 5+ years of drinking experience have learned from at least one bad night. You know, the one that starts with 3 beers and the voice in your head claims invincibility thereby leading to 6 shots and vomit on your clothes by morning? Rookie mistakes. Everyone knows the beer before liquor rule and eat some starch to soak up the alcohol, but I wanted to write this list for the more refined drinker. This is grown-up drinking.

  1. Hydrate during drinking – it cleanses your palette, paces the spending, and avoids hangovers
  2. Know your place – Never get a mixed drink at a beer bar, wine at a pub, or beer at a whisky Distillery
  3. Respect the bartender – tip well. The $1 is usually for a beer, but a suggested cocktail that takes effort and beauty deserves $2
  4. Learn the basics of wine – you don’t need to be an expert, but it’s important to know what type you like to drink
  5. Learn how to make 2 good cocktails for seasonal or food pairing – this is for a hosting party or just having guests
  6. Stock great beer in your fridge – not expensive, but good for unexpected guests
  7. Keep stock of some great wine and some table wine
  8. Keep stock of at least one whisky, bourbon, gin, and vodka – every good bar should have a decent stock
  9. Ice is an ingrident sometimes ignored – I like getting a large cube mold for better presentation
  10. Invest in a bar kit – there are some great deals after holidays
  11. Buy some fun coasters – I love buying coasters from travel. Great conversation starters.
  12. Keep stock of Alka seltzer and blowfish – getting older means more hangovers
  13. Frozen margaritas and sugary drinks should be left to tex-mex with friends or on a beach vacation – It’s not easy to make a good one and has too many ingredients/devices
  14. Invest in decent wine, whisky, and pint glasses – it’s always good to have the appropriate glassware for the occassion
  15. Adopt a favorite liquor store – Befriend them and they’ll likely give you some good deals and some 5-10% off
  16. Research wine clubs if you like wines – you get a great deal especially if you’re already drinking 3 bottles a week – the cost of a $20 bottle of wine is closer to $15 or so in bulk or with the experimental types
  17. Wine fridges – if you drink a lot of wine and have enough space, a wine fridge does help make the wine last longer
  18. Field trips focused on drinking – this is an awesome trip with friends and family. There are wine and beer festivals all around the place and this is a pretty good excuse to indulge like an adult.
  19. Be a regular at a local bar – There’s nothing better than going into a bar and knowing the bartenders.
  20. Quality over quantity – 4 times out of 5, I’d buy the more expensive Belgian beer to enjoy myself. Plus, the higher alcohol content usually evens out.
  21. Try not to drink in multiple gulps – drinking is marathon, not a sprint (and no one is keeping track)
  22. Save the money and the calories – I know some people who won’t drink soda, but would gladly drink 4 beers and mixed drinks (I’m one of these people). If you’re watching your weight and take 5 drinks to get tipsy, you might as well save it for once or twice a week instead of every night.
  23. Avoid weekday day drinking (but embrace brunch) – I remember when I first started drinking when studying abroad in Germany. People will literally order a beer during lunch and sip on it as part of their meal. I think since then, I’ve been desensitized from the stigma of day drinking. The problem with that is day drinking never ends with night hard working. It usually ends up with taking a nap and sleeping for 3 hours in the middle of the day.
  24. There are events where it’s always okay to drink – these can include (but are not limited to) fishing, sports games, concerts, brunch, beaches, and open bars.
  25. There’s no such thing as a girly drink – I love ordering cocktails that take some skill to make or some special ingredients I would never buy.
  26. Buy a round for your friends – If you have a regular group of drinking buddies or someone buys you a drink, order them a round every once in a while. It’s the right thing to do when you’re having a good time.
  27. If your bartender comps you a drink, tip generously – sometimes a bartender will get the 4th or 5th drink with an upside down shot glass. In NYC, that would come up close to $25, so I usually leave around $35
  28. Avoid well shots (tequila) – I don’t remember a good time after taking one of those and mostly because there are cheap substitutes. I think shots are okay if you specify the brand (like Jameson) because you know what you’ll be getting. Also know when this is appropriate (not at brunch with your in-laws).
  29. Don’t assume something that’s more expensive is good. Don’t assume something that’s less expensive is bad.
  30. Everything in moderation – Including moderation. Have a good time and be safe! Don’t throw up in an uber because you’ll get a bad rating.

~See Lemons Drink like a Pro

(Many Thanks to my beautiful wife, @vnessawithaneye, who came up with all the clever ones while anything distasteful was totally my idea)

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30 Days of MealPass

seelemonsonline : June 17, 2016 8:00 am : 30 Day challenges, Foodie, Just Life

Random Observation/Comment #552: I miss the simplicity of cafeterias at school. Who am I kidding – my mom packed lunch for me. Can I get on that meal plan again?

pacman food

At the end of April 2016, my colleague introduced me to Mealpass. Naturally, I signed up immediately and decided to make a 30 day challenge out of it and see how much money I saved (and at what hidden cost).

What is it?

The best way to describe it is “Classpass for food” with a few small details:

  • Only a limited number of restaurants in Midtown and Flatiron offer daily selections
  • Each participating restaurant can choose whichever dish they’d like to offer
  • You must choose/reserve your meal between 7pm and 9:30am the day before
  • Mealpass only works on weekdays for exactly 30 days (not month date to month date)

Experimental Setup

If I were to use this mealpass for what it’s worth, I needed to be regiment on booking meals and commit to eating what I booked for all weekdays. Of course, I had to collect data on this. First things first: create a Google Form that I could fill out every time I had a meal. This captured:



I used the google sheets output to help me run a few interesting statistics:

  • Initial Cost per month: $120
  • Number of Meals: 17
  • Average Price per Meal: $7.06
  • Normal Price of Meals (Sum): $161.50
  • Average Normal Price per Meal: $9.50
  • Total Savings: $41.50
  • Discount savings per Meal: 25.70%
  • Average size of Food: Medium-Big
  • Order again percentage: 58.82%
  • “Awesome” percentage: 47.06%

Does it work? Would you Recommend it?

Here’s what I liked:

  • It was pretty convenient skipping the line and picking up food
  • There were some pretty awesome deals of lunch that are normally $12+ (e.g. Reichenbach Hall and Japas 38)
  • Selection is actually pretty decent for working on 37th and Broadway (but pretty crap everywhere else)
  • Great conversation starter. I don’t mind talking about mealpass and its benefits.

Here’s what I didn’t:

  • Weekly repetitive meals. I got used to the menu and didn’t want to have anything that was too far of a walk away.
  • Ordering the day before. I lost a lot of my spontaneity, but at the same time I didn’t have to think about lunch because I already made the decision. Some good and some bad there.
  • Eating at my desk. Because it’s all food to-go, I did a lot more eating at my desk than I wanted to. Luckily, I had someone else who was getting mealpass so we went to pick up our food together.
  • Guilt of not using mealpass. This was a big one. it’s that “gym phenomenon” of getting my moneys worth and then winding up missing out anyway. I felt more guilty buying food on top of the cost I’ve paid because technically I’m already paying a flat fee per weekday I don’t use the service.
  • Less money saved from leftovers. As a person that likes to cook a lot, I think I saved the same amount of money just bringing leftovers from dinner. In fact, I may have wasted food for not bringing those leftovers to work.
  • Crappy credit card and money management. In the whole payment transaction process, I was not told how much I would be charged for this service to my credit card and I was not able to cancel without a lengthy email with the title “CANCEL MY SUBSCRIPTION” and a phone call. It was then that I realized that it’s only 30 days instead of month-to-month distinctions, so I needed to pay a separate make-up fee for the meals that went over (I did not include these meals or extra fee in this 30 day analysis)



It was worth the 30 day challenge to save a few bucks, but I did not renew (plus I do not intend to in the future). I really love eating with coworkers and choosing my food destiny with spontaneity, but I also think this might be a fun experiment for some people who live in the area.

~See Lemons Back to Regular Lunch

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Perfect Post-Workout Smoothie

seelemonsonline : September 13, 2014 9:45 pm : Foodie, Just Life

Random Observation/Comment #444: A healthy diet is more important than an exercise routine. You can lose weight just by eating less…

Earlier this year, I got this amazing present from my gf’s mom – I call it the Emulsifier. I was hesitant to use it at first, but since that first smoothie, it’s changed my health and meal selection. I’ve started drinking these amazing post workout morning smoothies for breakfast and a lot more soups after using it to make real tomato and peas soup bases.



My smoothie has 4 components entered in this order:

  • Frozen fruit – this is necessary for me because a post work out deserves a cold drink and there’s no way I’m adding ice.
    • pineapples
    • strawberries
    • grapes
    • mixed berries
    • peaches
  • Fresh fruit – I add this for the taste and because I usually have fruit lying around
    • banana
    • pineapple
    • orange
    • kiwis
  • Almond soy milk – the hint of vanilla and nutty taste really brings it all together. I choose soy milk because I’m lactose intolerant, but I think it’s less thick.
    • Almond vanilla – my favorite and go-to base bought in packs from amazon
    • Almond chocolate – tried it a few times and found it too sweet
  • Misc additions – there’s always some extra stuff to throw in
    • Chia seeds – great source of protein and gets ground up finely
    • Flavored yogurt – makes it thicker and adds more good stuff for replenishment


Taste combinations:
I’ve found fresh banana makes everything taste better and thickens the whole mixture. The frozen fruit is a definite need or else it’s just a warm smoothie or watered-down ice one doesn’t work at all. Chia seeds makes the whole thing crunchier (like kiwi seeds). IMHO, I don’t particularly like liquified apples or oranges as much as bananas and pineapples. I also think it’s more economical to buy the fruit fresh, cut it up into portions, and then put some of it in the freezer.

A word of warning: Using a blender at 7am isn’t the quietest thing I’m the world. I think it’s slightly better with hand blenders because you can hold the cup instead of having it vibrate the whole table. Luckily, the emulsifier is diesel and doesn’t take that much time. It does, however, dull a bit. After 3 months, I’m seeing it take slightly longer to liquefy those frozen fruits.


Some of my tasty concoctions:

  • Old faithful. Frozen pineapple, ripe banana, and Chia seeds with almond soy milk. It’s simple, tastes great, and filled with nutrients.
  • Blue steel. Frozen berries, banana, and chia seeds with almond soy milk. I love how it’s blue…
  • Peaches No Cream. Frozen peaches, pineapple, and chia seeds with almond soy milk.

~See Lemons Love Smoothies

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[Travel Advice] My Top 10 NYC Regulars

seelemonsonline : August 19, 2014 10:26 pm : Foodie, Just Life, Travel

Random Observation/Comment #441: There’s something about going to a restaurant and ordering ‘the usual’ or walking into a bar and getting greeted on a first name basis that makes me smile. I think we all just want to be accepted as a regular.

i heart ny

Recently, friends and old travel buddies have been visiting NYC and asking me where to go eat and what to see. It made me wonder if I ever gave the advice I’d want to hear. I pointed out amazing places, but they were never my regulars – my real suggestions that I would miss if I left NYC.

Here are my top picks & why:

1) SPiN New York – 23rd & Park, New York, USA: I come here daily because I love the community, atmosphere, and most of all: table tennis. It’s an amazing mix of underground matches and half price happy hour alcohol. It’s also a great place to bring a date.
crispy pig ears
2) Duck’s Eatery – St Mark’s Area, New York, USA: The food is unbelievable. Crispy pig ears and goat’s neck that just falls off the bone. Brisket Tuesdays are also a must. Come here if you’re looking for something different and very flavorful.
3) Cafe Katja – LES, New York, USA: If you’re German and you miss home, come here and get your full liter steins and Rueben sandwiches. Servings are huge and food is delicious.
sura tanmen
4) Restaurant Riki – By Grand Central, New York, USA: This is one of my regulars because only Japanese people come here after work with other Japanese business people from out of town. It has that extracted directly from Tokyo vibe and I love it. For izakaya, get the beef tongue.
better creme espresso
5) Eataly – Flatiron, New York, USA: First and foremost, drop by the coffee shop and get creme espresso. In Italy, it’s called Crema di Cafe, but it tastes just the same here. It’s a caffeinated dense coffee slush that almost tastes like coffee ice cream. I try to get this once a week because it makes me so happy. Pasta is also very fresh and made the proper way.
flying puck
6) Flying Puck, MSG, New York, USA: Truly the place where I’d go after SPiN if there is a hockey game playing. Dave, Bobby, and Mickey are the best bartenders to date and I just love being a local here.
sundae steak
7) American Cut – Tribeca, New York, USA: There are a lot of amazing steakhouses in NYC, but I personally love American Cut for the atmosphere, service, and amazing bone marrow over NY strip. I highly recommend the cracker jack ice cream sundae dessert as well.
8) Brandy Library – Tribeca, New York, USA: If you want classy bourbon or single malt whisky, come here. Not only are the librarians extremely knowledgeable, but the entire place just oozes baller. Don’t skimp because the truth is that the expensive stuff is closer to a good deal.
llama party
9) Smorgasburg – DUMBO Brooklyn, New York, USA: This isn’t really a particular stand, but rather the whole idea of having a bunch of food trucks come together and let me try everything. I usually come here with a friend or two and just get small portions of everything and spend around $10-15 per person ordering different delights and sharing them. Great way to wander and spend an afternoon.
shanghai cafe
10) Shanghai Cafe – Chinatown, New York, USA: There’s a better soup dumpling place in Flushing, but it’s so far. I love Shanghai cafe because it’s gritty and pretty much only serves great dumplings. I can probably order 2 racks for myself and call it a day. For $5 a rack, that’s a pretty damn awesome deal.
There are at least 20 more places I’ve thought about going since even making this list, but I must say that these are my long-time regulars that would make me truly miss NYC food and company.
~See Lemons as a NY Regular
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[Food Review] Something Stewed

seelemonsonline : January 26, 2014 11:07 am : 30 Day challenges, Foodie

Random Observation/Comment #406: Anything with Guinness is delicious.

see lemons love stew

Recipe: Something stewed – Beef and Guinness Stew

IMG_20140125_113141Just like the good old days (2 months ago), I’ve decided to complete those left-out items from my cooking challenge. This one was rather simple. In short, I browned the beef, sweat the onions, and used the tomato paste to scrape all that goodness from the bottom of the pan. Everything else was just throwing it into a slow cooker, adding beef broth, Guinness, chopped potatoes, turnips, and carrots, and then waiting for 5 hours.

Lessons Learned:

  • When browning the beef, make sure not to crowd the pan. Cook the side with fat first so you can render it into the butter.
  • Don’t clean the pan in between any of the steps. The onions will absorb the beef flavor and the tomato paste will scrape up the rest of the bits.
  • Make sure your slow cooker can hold all of the food by adding the liquid to the slow cooker last.
  • Buy extra Guinness because Guinness is delicious and you’ll probably have one while eating it
  • Buy Guinness from Trader Joe’s because it’s $8 for a 4-pack instead of $15 everywhere else (damn NYC prices)

Final Thoughts:

IMG_20140125_163314This stew reminds me of Ireland and good times. I would recommend making it for a small party of 4-5 (or even just yourself and you can eat it with rice or pasta for the rest of the week).  The 20-minute prep time is always a plus and if you have a good slow cooker, you can cook this over night.

~See Lemons Eat Guinness Stew

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Cooking Advice for Beginners

seelemonsonline : December 6, 2013 8:38 am : Foodie, Just Life

Random Observation/Comment #393: If you don’t know how to cook, you will need one of the following: 1) a loving significant other that knows how to, 2) deep pockets from eating at restaurants nightly, or 3) a fine taste for microwaved/processed meals.


I think everyone CAN learn how to cook and everyone SHOULD pick up at least 5 recipes.  Yes, it takes some time to learn and some initial spending on supplies, but you can’t just rely on canned soups and take-out Chinese food every night, right? Plus, cooking greatly increases your “dating stock value” and we all know that investors are starting to have higher requirements.

Look no further, here are some basic tips that should help you get your feet wet.

  • Planning
    • A meal usually has: 1) protein, 2) greens, 3) carb, 4) sauces
    • Note your mandatory equipment: 1) sharp knife, 2) cutting board, 3) boiling pot, 4) shallower sauce pan, 5) salt & pepper, 6) Olive oil
    • Pick an easy recipe. I personally use Try something that doesn’t require too much prep, fits the equipment you have, and doesn’t have too many ingredients. I also watched a lot of Gordon Ramsay [] and picked easy ones from there. I think he just adds lemon zest to everything.
    • Always ask for dietary restrictions. This is just good practice and makes it sound like you’ve done this many times.
    • Create a list of ingredients. After you picked your meal, check your fridge and make sure you have all the ingredients. Check expiration dates if you haven’t cooked in a while.
  • Shopping
    • Order does count when shopping for groceries: 1) Non-perishables (e.g. pasta, sauces, cans, etc), 2) Vegetables, 3) Dairy, 4) Protein. I do this because you don’t want to crush your items in the cart and you don’t want meats/dairy to stay unrefrigerated too long.
    • Pick fresh fruits/vegetables. Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables by season:
    • Always look at the expiration dates. I remember buying sour milk once. They tend to put stuff that’s about to go bad in the front, so I usually dig in the back for packaging dates on meats/dairy.
    • Invest in your kitchen. There are certain given things that you always use. For me, this includes:
      • Salt & Pepper. Get the ones you manually crush
      • Olive oil. A little bit of oil can go a long way.
      • Garlic. Everything can use garlic.
      • Tupperware. If you’re cooking, you should have a place to save the leftovers.
      • Aluminum foil. You never know when you’ll need this. For baking, it’s better to lay down a sheet instead of washing off the oil or bits from baking.
  • Preparation
    • Learn how to hold a knife and how to cut with one:
    • Safety first! It’s better to cut slow and in even pieces than fast.
    • Beat your meat. Tenderize that meat!
    • Marinate ahead of time. You want that flavor to sink in.
    • Season heavily. It’s better to be more flavorful than bland for me.  You should save salt for last, but everything else is fair game.
  • Cooking
    • For cooking most proteins, the pan should be very hot to sear the meat. Lower heats for simmering after the initial heat.
    • For boiling water for pasta, always add salt and a little bit of olive oil to the water to get a higher boiling point, prevent sticking, and some extra flavor.
    • Never leave your cooking station unattended! It’s important to keep track of what you’re cooking so you don’t burn anything. Covering the pan cooks much faster than you think.
    • Baking your meals have tendencies to dry it out. Make sure you have enough moisture from the initial searing and extra juices on top. Like a turkey, you can baste it to keep it moist.
    • Sauces are difficult, but it’s usually made from the juices and sticking pieces from the pan. Scrape that off and add a bit of butter, thyme, wine, and salt/pepper to pull the whole thing together. Remember, sauce compliment the food instead of drowning it.
  • Cleaning – I put this in a separate item because it’s just as important as cooking. Try to keep your kitchen clean from the very beginning by rinsing bowls that are holding prepped vegetables.

In the advanced method, the Planning and Shopping molds together because you’re making up recipes based on what’s fresh or available in the grocery.  Also, the Preparation and Cooking steps are combined because you get better at timing and ordering things so you have an efficient kitchen (e.g. you’re not waiting for the water to boil because you already timed it, or things aren’t getting cold because you start them in the right order).

I think the best way to learn is to cook with someone who already knows what they’re doing. There are many little tips and tricks that I can’t think of now, but come up while I’m in the kitchen (A.K.A. the Zone).  This is bound to happen for many other cooks out there.  If you have a mentor, the best advice I have for you is to Ask Questions. Cooks who are really into cooking will probably forget to tell you why certain things are done the way they’re done and asking them basic steps will help you formulate your own.

~See Lemons Help Others Cook

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[30 Day Challenge] Cooking Challenge Impressions

seelemonsonline : December 4, 2013 7:54 am : 30 Day challenges, Foodie

Random Observation/Comment #391: Start your cooking challenge with the full realization that you will probably gain weight.



The purpose of this cooking challenge was to simply cook more things and host more parties. I wanted to take my cooking hobby to the next level, and I think I successfully did just that. Challenge completed! I didn’t cook every night, but when I did, I had leftovers that fed me for lunch. It was lovely.


  • Weekly spending for groceries was approximately $80, which on average, cooked 6 dishes. This fed at least 8 meals for the week (1-2 lunch servings of leftovers for the next day).
  • The whole challenge cost around $325 with groceries.
  • Only went out to lunch 10 times the entire month (which is better than my normal 20 times (I never bring my own lunch)).
  • Only went out to dinner 5 times the entire month (which is much better than my usual 15 times with weekends).
  • Overall decreased spending by $30/day. I still spent a consistent amount on table tennis and happy hour beers.
  • Saved approximately $800 on food in the month of November (even including the $100 for Thanksgiving). My normal dinner dates for 2-3 nights a week were around $80/night since I usually pay the full bill.
  • Contributed food to 6 dinner parties in the month, which only evened out on normal spending because of alcohol purchases (but fed more people)

Lessons Learned:

  • When planning the challenge, account for cooking dishes for larger groups. I needed to move around a lot of challenge orders to accommodate parties.
  • Plan cooking meals with more variety of appetizers, main courses, alcohol, and brunches.
  • The initial costs are high if you don’t have the right fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary) and basics. I recommend cooking dishes with similar herbs closer together so you don’t waste these herbs. They dry out quickly. You can also invest in your own potted plants.
  • Only pick dishes that you’re really jazzed to cook. Don’t bother with any fill-ins for health reasons because those are the ones that you’ll just push aside. I pushed 6 dishes aside and replaced them because they just seemed way too difficult at the time. Most of these included hand-made ravioli, making my own sushi, baking na’an, or buying Ahi tuna.
  • Make your cooking challenge a series of parties instead of individual meals. Cook 3-4 dishes for 8 dinner parties and you’re basically there! It’s also much more fun when you feed more people. I’d host these parties on Tuesday and Thursday nights if possible.
  • Cook with someone – it’s a real bonding experience. I loved cooking with my gf because she got the chance to learn how to photograph food. It was something I looked forward to each day because we could dance and have mini food fights.


This was an immensely fun challenge and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I think my next one will have a larger community involved. I mentioned this to my coworkers and they all said “Why don’t you ever bring in leftovers?”  You know what? Challenge accepted. Sometime next year, I’ll cook a series of bite-sized things for my co-workers.

What I’ve truly learned from cooking is that challenges are much more fun when shared. This is the main reason why I took the last week to focus on the 3 dinner parties around Thanksgiving. It doesn’t make sense to do things without a community. Your actions seem almost selfish if you’re not in someway including someone else.

Moving forward, I plan to have my challenges be more social in its roots.  It’s not just sharing the results of these goals, but rather setting community goals and working towards them as a team.

~See Lemons Love Eating and Cooking

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[30 Day Challenge] Something on the Spot

seelemonsonline : December 3, 2013 8:20 pm : 30 Day challenges, Foodie

Random Observation/Comment #390: The best meals I’ve ever made have been invented on the spot with the different ingredients I had available. Yay, backpacking!


Recipe: Something on the spot – zucchini and sweet corn stuffing

DSC_0860What do you do when you A) ran out of casserole dishes for making the planned zucchini and corn meal and B) have the last casserole dish filled with extra stuffing? Clearly, the right answer is to add stuffing into the existing recipe.

This is exactly what I did in every sense without any regard for adjusting proportions. I chopped up the zucchini and bacon, and then poured a whole can of cream of corn into the leftover stuffing.  From there, a bit of salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper was added by guestimation, and I just hoped or the best as it baked for 35 minutes right after the turkey came out.

Lessons Learned:

  • Cook the bacon before baking, or bake at a higher temperature for longer than 35 minutes. I think adding crispy bacon on top first would have worked well.
  • Make sure to keep the moisture of stuffing the same or else you get a mushy soup. This means adding less cream of corn.
  • Combining a sweet cream of corn with salty bacon is not always bad. Embrace the clash by adding a sweet/bitter alcohol like burbon.
  • Not all recipes can be combined, but don’t be afraid to keep experimenting. Good things will come of it!

Final Thoughts:

DSC_0931I wouldn’t say this was a huge success, but I felt I really grew from this experience. This taught me that it’s important to think through your recipes a little bit more before making it. There are certainly ways to turn the whole thing around especially if it’s savory. Maybe I’ll just add mashed potatoes to it next time thicken the texture.

Everything tastes better with mashed potatoes.

~See Lemons Eat Zucchini and Corn Stuffing

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[30 Day Challenge] Something Ridiculous

seelemonsonline : December 2, 2013 7:45 am : 30 Day challenges, Foodie

Random Observation/Comment #389: Sometimes the creativity and bizarre combinations going into food will make it more appealing for people to try. Other times, you’re just freaking weird.


Recipe: Something ridiculous – Ramen burger

DSC_0919Luckily, the ramen burger was one of those things that everyone saw and had to try.  I totally made up most of the recipe. The only thing I learned from the advice in the recipe was that I needed to cook the ramen first and add some egg to make it stick together into a bun. After that, I just used whatever I had with the meal to make it work.  For example, because I had extra stuffing, I mixed some stuffing into the cooked ramen. Then, I added egg and separated into little mini bowls. These mini bowls were stacked on top of each other as to flatten the amount of ramen into a bun shape.

The hamburger meat recipe I followed used some of the lemon garlic parsley butter, a bit of pepper jack diced cheese (that I learned from making meatballs), and some cayenne pepper.  When cooking, I cooked the two “buns” first with lots of oil to keep the outside crispy. After the first flip, I added the meat patty . Once the noodle buns were done, I flipped the burger and covered for a minute. The noodles took around 3 minutes on each side to brown and become crispy.  I just added a bit of cheese and ketchup to complete the whole thing.

Lessons Learned:

  • Mix the ramen, stuffing, and egg separately. I imagine putting it all together first will give an uneven number of eggs in each bun. 1 ramen packet was used for every 3 buns.
  • Definitely have bowls to flatten the ramen while it’s in the fridge, but don’t press too hard or else it will break it up into pieces. Add saran wrap to make sure this doesn’t happen.
  • Flatten the ramen so you have a thin crispy layer. Sometimes a ramen bun that’s too thick will have some inconsistent textures in the middle.
  • When cooking the burger, make sure to give it a concave shape (so it doesn’t look like a contact lens). The center will naturally bulge up during the cooking process and make the whole thing flat, rather than having a smaller center surface area being cooked and edges neglected.
  • I consider the thinner burgers and buns easier to cook. In fact, I would be interested in making a large ramen burger the size of a pancake. This would probably help with serving it since making 4 separate burgers and cutting them into quarters for everyone to try as an appetizer was a little annoying.

Final Thoughts:

DSC_0998My Mom watched me make this for the first time and she kept asking me “What are you doing?” I had to answer with “It’s a secret”, even though I really had no idea what I was doing.  Alas, it turned out rather edible and a great story for all those who tried it. I think having one of these whole by myself would certainly be a meal and a half, but as an appetizer – it was pretty interesting. I’d be curious to see how to make them more bite sized without adding too much more work to the whole process.

~See Lemons Eat Ramen Burger

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