Monday, February 28, 2011

nice rice

left-over refrigerated rice is completely unsalvageable garbage, right? wrong-o!
if there are two things i can't help being, it's a little lazy and a lot resourceful.
if you need to eat and don't feel like doing anything too intense, like say, walking down the street to do some groceries, let me tell all you lazy, and not quite as resourceful people what you can do with that rice in your fridge from two nights ago, in 10 minutes.

step 1. heat canola oil in a pan. throw in some chopped garlic, then chopped carrot and celery, or you know what, whatever you got...peas, green beans, mushrooms, it don't matta! i added red pepper. some chili pepper too, if you like.
step 2. add a bit of sesame oil and some of your sad, cold, stuck together rice and let if fry in there too.
step 3. beat an egg and pour it into the pan, then mix it all up and let it cook. 
step 4. chop a green onion and some basil for flavour and throw 'em in the mix. 
step 5. serve, douse in soy sauce, eat.

it surely won't be the most mind-blowing meal you've ever touched tongue to, but you'll be sated, and you can give yourself a shiny gold star for having practiced the culinary learnings of the school of waste not, want not.
you can even add some tofu, shrimp, or chicken in step one to make the meal more substantial. goooo you!

veggie flied lice. if there are left-overs from's over. 
the cycle of use ends here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

no-frets, gaufrettes

it's been said that good waffles stick together; "that's just what good waffles do". 
unlike waffles, it seems that even relatively dysfunctional families manage to stay pretty closely knit. just a thought.

anyway. my mom, dad, brother, dog, and myself, all had the joyous opportunity of spending a full 24 hours under the same roof this weekend. a rare and special occasion marked by a legislated statutory holiday called "family day". uh-huh. 
if you don't celebrate family day in your province/state/republic/emirate, then you're missing out and should seriously consider lobbying your government for one such consecrated day a year. (this was our 3rd annual in ontari-ari-ari-o).

while family day breakfast traditions are still being established, i thought i'd get in there and make good use of the poor waffle-maker that is so seldom employed for its sole waffle-making ability. it has been downgraded from a kitchen appliance to a piece of clutter in the cleaning closet. plus, bagels are so 'everyday', mom! we want something festive!
buttermilk waffles with a touch of lemon zest are the beautifully crisp-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside blank canvas to your colourful palette of fruit, jams, syrups, and all sorts of creamy items. a palette for your palate. you can't argue with that.

waffles with: mom-made cherry, apple, and orange-peel compote / plain yogurt /
papaya slices with a drizzle of flower water / banana / and, of course, maple syzurrp.

a cappuccino too, like hova.

how could this NOT become a family day tradition!?

Friday, February 18, 2011

msg me

for many years i have claimed to experience adverse reactions to the food additive MSG.
headaches, physical numbness, depression, loss of mental acuity. back in high school, i was clever enough to refuse to drive after an msg-laden meal, and on several occasions there have been shameful, public, postprandial crying tantrums. 
it's not a good trip.
my bro, who is often my udon, pho, or chinese food dinner companion, has experienced me in this ridiculous state far too many times, and forwarded me an article the other day about monosodium glutamate that claimed all of my symptoms were scientifically unfounded and therefore probably psychosomatic. to that i say, bull$%*#!
why would i, who so loves far-eastern fare, pretend to feel like i'm on a 5-day coke bender every time i eat it!? 
obviously i would not.
anyway, the message is not the msg (you see what i did there?), because i could totally geek out and talk endlessly about its chemical structure and how it's produced, and my own intolerance to it, and yadi-yadi-yada, that's so effing uninteresting.
what i really want to discuss is the reason that msg is such a popular and widely used food additive, like, why does it make food taste so much better? 
still, i'm going to have to issue a nerd alert.
(if you're at all scared of possibly learning something new today, skip over 1-6 and go straight to the chicken noodle soup recipe below.)
1. msg is a salt of glutamate - in its acid form glutamate is glutamic acid, an amino acid we naturally produce in the body. 
2. msg is mass produced in this salt form for chemical stability and to make it easier to add to food, but free glutamate is what our taste buds are really after, and that's what is apparently responsible for the taste 'umami'. 
3. you may know umami as that elusive taste that is not quite as easy to define as salty, sweet, bitter, or sour (perhaps because it's a japanese name and literally translates to "delicious taste"). for all intents and purposes, umami is defined in english as 'savoury'.
4. the umami taste, and glutamate, were kind of discovered together when a japanese professor asked his wife why her soup broth was so damn good. she told him she prepared it using kelp, and he figured out that the kelp contained high levels of glutamate, and then became super rich by inventing msg. clever guy.
5. there are lots of foods that naturally contain glutamate; ripe tomatoes, kelp, parmesan cheese, shitake mushrooms and fermented and cured foods like soy sauce and meats.
6. another food that contains really high levels of glutamate....breast milk! thas riiight. the 2 flavours of breast milk are sweet and umami, hoping to appeal to the baby through either one. as if we don't all know that there are two types of people in this world: those who prefer savoury, and those who prefer sweets. nature designed it so that either way, mama's little baby is gonna eat up and grow!! (biology is so COOL!).

finally, let's talk about cooking!
because prepared chicken broth and bouillon cubes contain msg and make me thirsty for days, i make my chicken soup from scratch and i think it's way more tasty. add some kelp and tomatoes to the mix, and you're in umami heaven.
peel and cut in half: cooking onions (1 or 2), carrots (2 large), parsnip (1). 
wash and half: celery sticks (2-3), red pepper (1), tomato (1).
boil a large pot of water and throw all your veggies in. add a chicken neck/drumstick or two, some salt, pepper, a bay leaf, a bunch of flat-leaf parsley and a handful of kelp. then cover the pot. 
let that stuff cook on medium for an hour or so, then turn the heat off and let cool.

when it's not too hot, strain the fluids into another pot using a fine mesh strainer. remove some of the vegetables and chicken and cut them up small, adding them back into the clean broth. feed the remaining solid stuff to your dog or pet pig.
when you're ready to eat, throw some egg noodles into the soup and let it boil for 10 minutes. yumami!

chicken scratch

Sunday, February 13, 2011

desert dessert

is it tacky to say that egypt is so hot right now?
forgive me, but i'm kind of right.
all's i can hope is that area of the world (which i very much love), will figure their isht out and be able live in harmony and freedom, happily ever after.

now my story. on a vacation in the sinai desert (the northern part of egypt) about six years ago, i got to experience a tiny (read: touristy) bit of life in an arab country. 
there were camels on the road, a hot blazing sun, amazingly clear aqua-green sea, and beautiful mountains against the bluest sky. rather than chairs and tables, we reclined on comfy, albeit sandy pillows on the ground, and consumed the most freshly prepared and deliciously spiced grilled seafood, cooked beans, okra, teas, coffees, and sweets.
at one such meal i ordered a warm dessert called sahlab. (that's a strong 'h' like you're clearing your throat).
it's a liquid-y pudding that was apparently once a popular beverage all over the "old world". it was served to me warm, in a tall glass, with a long slice of banana in it, and cinnamon and pistachios sprinkled on top. i devoured it with a spoon. it's one of the tastiest things my brain can think of.
fast-forward a few years, and my brain had one of those taste flashbacks for sahlab, like i would explode if i didn't have it.
for reals.
after google-ing everything from arab restaurant menus to stores, i found a grocery store nearby that had the goods. a box of powder containing corn starch, sugar, and sahlab (roots of orchis mascula-a type of orchid).
this "instant" powder just needed to be added to milk and cooked in a pot until it thickened up. it is then super important to add a tablespoon or so of rose water (also available at your fine local arabic grocery store establishment), because i'm telling you, the rose water makes it. i served it up for some friends with banana, cinnamon, and roasted pistachios. 
just like it was in egypt.

a martini glass!? pshh.

hey. good luck guys!

the tasty bones


chicken sometimes icks me out, sometimes it's boring, sometimes i get a real craving for it-and then i'm down with those grocery store hot-meals chicken tenders with squeeze packets of plum sauce like it's nobody's business. 
and on very rare occasions-like ONE time ever, i have chicken at a restaurant and it kinda blows my mind.

we were having a big birthday dinner for my god-brother at a semi-skeezy indian restaurant (we ate on styrofoam plates). but i guess one should never judge a restaurant by it's table setting, the food was pretty decent.
why so much sharing? for one, sharing is caring. and also, i want to share with you the trick that is 'copying a recipe'.
when you like something at a restaurant, sniff it and suss out the main ingredients. then close your eyes when you're eating it and focus on the main flavours. figure out what those ingredients are and then you know how to make it at home, super simple! sure it takes a little know-how to identify and name spices and preparation techniques, but work on it, familiarize yourself. don't be scared, cooking is not rocket science or even elementary calculus. (sorry chefs, it's not).
another trick is to make note of the dish's name: afghani chicken, so you can google it later.

right on. so, here it is.
afghani chicken as per my olfactory senses and a little thing called
organic chicken thighs (skinned, bone-in. because seriously, crunching down on those brittle little marrow pretzels is the highlight of my chicken consumption-don't be a weeny, try it, it's chock-full of goodness).
mash cashew nuts, fresh ginger, garlic, and cardamom seeds in a food processor or coffee grinder. whatever gets the job done. then combine the paste with lime juice, chili flakes, salt, pepper, and a little canola oil. rub alllll over chicken thigh and then refrigerate for a few hours.
when you're ready for dinner, make some rice (i added parsley flakes, garlic and dried lime to the basmati for flava!), and an israeli salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, green onion and lemon juice, salt and pepper. the chicken would be well delish on the bbq, but the propane ran out, so i cooked mine in the oven with some chopped onion after searing the thighs in a pan.

add a bit of yogurt or raita, and you have a serious winner of a meal on you hands. literally. eat alone or with un-judgmental friends, at home, because your face will be covered in chicken fat and you'll be sucking the cartilage off the ends of the bone like a savage beast.
ya, you might eat this meat, but you'll sure like the bone.

Friday, February 11, 2011

p.p. part II

p.p. on a bun. that's pulled-pork you sickos.
(and you were thinking i'd never write another carnivorous post again).

ya ya, i already blogged about slow-cooker pulled pork. but can you really blame me for wanting to make it again? it's so tasty and juicy, smoky, sweet, and spicy...and i happened to be at the butcher, so hey, why not!?

in the 6 spare hours that i had at my disposal, i could have written that tween novella that's bound to make me a kajillionaire, but instead i made a coleslaw salad using purple cabbage, carrot, red onion, apple cider vinegar, light mayo, salt and pepper; went to the nearby bakery (read: nose-orgasm factory) to get a couple of straight-out-the-oven kaiser buns; met a friend for a beer; and then rushed off to teach a yoga class. 
it was just one beer, folks.
when i finally got home, the smell of steamy pork was more than i could handle, as evidenced in this photo.

sorry. couldn't wait.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

gangsta wrap's your attempt at veganism going?
oh, you need more ideas on how to eat entirely animal-free meals? no prob!
remember, i'm not preaching no meat/animal products forever. i'm advocating less meat, and openness to other options...see the difference? great! now let's move on.

here's a lunch idea. my mom used to make this salad for my bro back in his vegan days, but i was always a fan of it, and since i had some tofu, figured i'd make it myself.

*as a nutritionist, i often get asked about the effects of soy products on estrogen levels, breast cancer, etc. let me tell you with certainty that there is no conclusive evidence to show that soy products have any of these ill-effects, nor does the amount of soy that the average person consumes warrant any alarm (even if you drink soy milk instead of milk-every day). 
what i'm trying to say is, boys, you won't grow a pair of boobies. sorry.

that's a wrap. no seriously.
right. here we go again.
this no-egg, egg salad is deceivingly similar in looks to the real thing, but contains grated firm tofu, olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped red onion, and turmeric for the yellow colour.
i wrapped it up in a spinach wrap with some avocado and red pepper and had me one hell of a lunch.

Friday, February 4, 2011

ida baked a cake!

there needn't be a specific occasion to bake a cake, like, if you knew someone was coming!? that always sounded like a lame excuse, how can you always know when someone is planning to come over? you can't. people just show up at your door and demand cake. happens all the time.
so, you bake a cake and maybe no-one shows up, but you'll be prepared in case someone does. worse comes to worst you'll be sippin' on an earl gray tea and enjoying a slice of lemon-coconut cake while you merrily write your hilariously amusing blog. 
it ain't so bad. trust.

i actually baked this cake a few days ago and took it to a friend's house. he made dinner, (it was gooooorgeous!) and i brought dessert. at the end of the night he made me take some cake home with me (i didn't protest). a cake shared is calories halved. am i right or am i right?

it was my first time with this recipe and though the flavours of this cake were pretty good, the next time i make it (today) i'll be focusing on a fluffier texture.
i totally made up the in-between layer and outer frosting by dumping a can of condensed milk into a saucepan, heating it on low and adding lemon zest and half a lemon's juice, which made it thicken (curdle, really) but not in a nasty way. it was pure fluke, but it came out delish!
coconut milk in the batter and coconut flakes all!
in today's variation, i'm adding grated ginger and orange juice.

stay tuned!!

how'd you do? how'd you do? how'd you do?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


straight up? i've been in a bit of a food funk for the past week.
i was sort of waiting for something to get me out of my bagel and cream cheese coma, and then it did, just like that! can you believe it!? ok, i'll tell you the whole story and maybe then you'll believe it.

because i live right by chinatown, i have access to a world of lovely asian ingredients, late-night eateries, cheap gadgets, and once in a while, the stench of things decomposing. it's awesome.
i went out to get eggs, (and to avoid snowstorm stir-craziness), and wouldn't you know that right next to the eggs is where they keep the kimchi..yum! still perusing the isles at my local asian grocery store, i started to pick up my shopping pace and the veil of monotony began to lift!
dried shredded kelp! udon noodles! sesame oil! firm tofu! this shop is a dinner goldmine!

back to veguary. huh? anyway, you know how i'm always going on about eating better quality meat, and less of it? well a friend of mine has started a campaign to promote this type of meat eating awareness. the idea is to centre meals around veggies vs. meat. it's better for the environment, it's better for your health, and it's better for your taste buds. win, win, win. this lunch is a winner because it's super healthy, super yummy, and super doesn't lack any excitement although it has ZERO animal products! just sayin'.
shredded kelp (rinsed) and udon noodles fried in sesame oil and teryake sauce
with cubed firm tofu, chopped baby bok choy. kimchi on the side.
would have added more stuff, but it wasn't within arms length. (that was part of the challenge).
so,  here's where i start to wrap all my ideas together and produce for you a beautiful pearl of wisdom. the mother-of-pearl of wisdom.
if you're feeling a little bit bagel blasé like i was, just give yourself a challenge, like, making a completely vegan meal (even if you're a practicing carnivore-it won't hurt you to try, tarzan) or say, using only the 5 ingredients you have in your fridge...
whatever the case, a little restriction will force your creative juices to flow!
happy veguary!!