Tuesday, March 29, 2005

chinese sticky rice

This is a Chow family favourite, usually served at major holiday feasts, like Christmas and Easter. Last year Stirling's grandmother showed me how to do it so this year I decided to make some for Easter Sunday dinner. It seemed pretty easy, although I did use a slightly wrong type of rice and forgot one ingredient. Fortunately, Nanny came to dinner and brought a batch of sticky rice she made up, so I could taste the difference and get it right next time! (Mine wasn't bad though!)

Here, for posterity, is the definitive recipe:

3 cups cooked Chinese sweet (glutinous) rice, mixed with 1/2 cup regular long-grain rice.
1 small onion
2 chinese sausages
5 or so dried chinese mushrooms (shiitake-esque)
1/8 cup or so dried shrimp
couple tbsp cooking oil
1/4 cup or so oyster sauce (check label to make sure it contains actual oyster extract)

Rehydrade the shrimp and the mushrooms beforehand.

Finely dice onion, sausage, mushrooms and shrimp and stir-fry til everything is all nice and cooked and the onion is slightly coloured. Dump it in the cooked rice, add the oyster sauce and stir to combine. Add more oyster sauce if necessary.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

is it ok to not like turkey?

Last night was "dinner in a rush" night so the usual soba, veg and steamed something was on the menu. 4-ways was out of chicken stirfry so we got turkey instead. I keep forgetting I don't like turkey. I don' t like the smell of it, and I don't like the taste of it, and even marinated in soy sauce and mirin and served with my favourite soba noodles, it still tastes gross. I don't know what it is about the turkey flavour I don't like, but it's rapidly outstripping mushrooms as my second least-favourite food (olives being number 1. I keep trying them, but... yuck. The mushrooms I am getting much better about. I actually enjoyed some mushrooms (portobello?) that were on a pizza a few weeks ago.)

I used to hate liver. I'm still not keen on the idea of beef liver, but I can handle chicken liver just fine. And of course foie gras, which barely counts as liver, but whatever. I will eat and appreciate pretty much everything else though. So why do I dislike turkey, something most of North America just looooves? Weird.

Monday, March 21, 2005

product review, plus tasty roast chicken

On Friday, when I was all snorty and snuffly and feeling the viruses, we had PC Blue Chicken and Red Pepper (or something like that) pizza for lunch. It was pretty darn tasty. Just the right amount of cheese (for me, I'm not a gobs-of-cheese type person), spinach, chicken, peppers, and very tasty tomato sauce. Good work, PC Blue people. The only minor quibble I have is that ther serving size (1 pizza) is too large for one person but too small for two. So, I ate 3/4 of mine and Stirling ate all of his and the remaining 1/4 of mine, but he'd been working hard outside all morning. If they scaled it back by maybe 20% it would be good. (Because even with the limited cheese, thin crust and veg, one pizza is 500 calories - more than I need for lunch.)

After I regained some of my health on Saturday I was going to make my super-tasty chipotle chicken. But it was raining and nasty and I didn't feel like playing with the smoker, so I did the standard lemon-rosemary-garlic chicken instead. Taaasty.

Zest of 1 lemon
sprig or so fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
honey if you want it (about 1/2 tbsp)
1-2 tbsp olive oil (2 if you didn't use honey)

Mix all of the above in a small bowl and smear it all over a chicken (or bits of chicken) that you have wisely brined ahead of time. (this works better if the chicken is nice and dry.) Throw chicken/bits of chicken into a 325F oven and cook til done. Leftovers are fabulous in salads & sandwiches. Especially if those include bacon and avocado as well. Yum.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

homemade "shake-n-bake"

We were sad when we discovered that shake-n-bake (or some of them at least) contain trans-fats. But that's not stopping us from eating tasty crispy roasted chicken bits! Here's an easy way to make your own shake-n-bake:

2-3 large slices bread (multigrain/whole wheat gives you more flavour, but white will work)
2 tbsp Spike seasoning (the salted stuff. Yes, it has a bit of MSG. Deal.)

Toast the bread till it's dried out nicely in your oven. Break it into small bits and crumbify it along with the Spike, either in the food processor or a coffee grinder that has been repurposed to be a spice grinder. Oddly, the coffee grinder seems to work a whole lot better than a food processor for making bread crumbs. As long as you're only doing a small amount, it doesn't take significantly longer and the coffee grinder is much more tolerate of the odd not completely dry bit of bread.

Anyway, what you get out of this process is basically shake-n-bake without a significant portion of the extra crap, including the trans-fats. Use it the same way you would shake-n-bake.

Oh, and I just have to say - Liberty brand mediterranean-style yogurt, plum and walnut flavour, is my new favourite thing in the whole world.

Monday, March 14, 2005

product review: PC Blue Chicken Tikka Masala

Lunch today came out of a box (via the microwave) for the first time in a long time. This is my first try of the President's Choice "Blue" line of stuff, which has impressed me for its lack of trans-fats and lower sodium content. However, the latter is a bit of a problem.

Overall: 3/5

The chicken actually tasted and felt like chicken, and wasn't nasty and dry. The curry sauce could have been improved with a touch of sweetness, but that might be just my taste. Good level of spiciness and overall, good taste. The rice, though - not so good. First, if they're trying to increase the fibre content in these things why not use brown rice? It tastes better, and holds up better to the complete absence of salt in its preparation, which is obviously what happened here. However, if you're used to unsalted rice, you'll probably like this. I don't think it would have added too much extra sodium just to put a wee bit of salt (and therefore flavour) in the rice. Oh well. Once I mixed it up with the sauce (which had a very good salt level, not too much like normal frozen entrees) it was edible.

Was it better than curry I make myself? No, decidedly not. Was it worth the $2.50? Sure.

Green Apple Granita

I made this last night as a palate refresher between the first course and main course. It would also be an awesome light summer dessert.

If you have a fancy-schmancy ice cream maker like my sister, you could make more of a sorbet-like substance with this, but I only have a freezer so I made granita instead.


4 granny smith apples
3 handfuls of parsley (I think mint would be nice if you were making this as a dessert)

Put apples and parsley through a juicer. Pour juice into a large area baking dish to form a fairly shallow layer. Put in freezer. Every 30-60 minutes stir it up with a fork and mash up any ice chunks that form. This will take several hours so it is best to do it when you have a free afternoon and lots of other things to do around the house. The end product should be flaky/granular appley ice crystals.

This makes way too much for ten people as a between-course palate refresher (serving size of about a sherry glass full). Half this much would be sufficient. As a dessert this would probably do for about 6-8 people. If you made it in an ice cream maker the volume would be less and probably serve 4-6 (I'm just guessing here). This would also be a fun base to play with. Try adding lime juice, rum and mint and have a green apple-mojito sorbet. That would be uber-yummy.

a new menu

Oops, I left this a little late. Due to the incredibly nice weather this weekend, I kind of spent a lot of time outside and was too pooped to think about menu stuff by the time I got inside. My garden is all ready to be planted though!

Lunch: PC frozen dinner (one of the "blue menu" things - we'll see how it is)
Dinner: homemade pizza

Lunch: leftover pizza
Dinner: "shake-n-bake" chicken legs (homemade coating)

Lunch: more frozen food! (we went shopping at StupidStore on Sunday)
Dinner: japanese steak & greens, brown rice

Lunch: steak sandwich, or frozen food
Dinner: lamb chops, barley risotto & roasted veg

Lunch: leftover risotto & veg
Dinner: seafood curry

Lunch: leftovers/sandwiches
Dinner: chipotle chicken etc. (didn't get around to it this weekend)

Now for a shopping list...

Friday, March 11, 2005

salmon with lemon-basil cream sauce

First, there is NOTHING wrong with a small amount of cream sauce. Used appropriately, it is a great way to add flavour and texture to fish that can at times be dry. The key is to end up with a couple tablespoons, no more, for each serving, and to ensure that it is strongly flavoured enough to make a difference.

Ok, so the recipe:

salmon - 3-4oz per serving. Cut into serving size before cooking
about 1 cup of white wine
salt, pepper & sugar
1/3 cup chicken stock (or fish stock as long as it's not too strong)
1/3 cup cream (whipping cream. If you use 1/2 and 1/2, bad things will happen. There is no "lite" version of this recipe.)
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 sliced red bell pepper

Poach the salmon in the wine (covered) until it is not quite done. Remove the salmon to a warm, foil-covered plate and keep in a warm (not hot) oven. Add the chicken stock to the wine, bring to a simmer, and toss in the bell pepper. Cook til tender-crisp, then remove pepper slices to the same plate the salmon is on. Keep in oven. Reduce wine/stock mixture a bit, add cream, lemon zest and basil, and reduce until there is only a couple tablespoons left. Add basil, season to taste (you may not need the sugar - it depends on what kind of wine you used. But the salt and pepper you will definitely need). Put the peppers back in the sauce and toss around to coat. Serve salmon sprinkled with a bit of salt & pepper on a bed of brown rice, top with peppers and cream sauce.

(Note: this is a one-pot dish, too!)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

signs of spring

I love this time of year. Every day there are new signs of spring. Last week I started getting faint whiffs of the cottonwoods along my ride to work, and today I saw new growth on the blackberries and a brave, probably chilly little garter snake in Rithet's Bog. Yesterday at lunch it felt actually warm outside. My roses are growing new leaves like crazy, the garden definitely needs to be dealt with, and the ride home from my gym just smells like blossoms the whole way. Yay spring! It makes it a lot easier to go outside and get some exercise, even if it's grey and a bit rainy like today. I wasn't cold at all during my jog around the bog, and the little bit of rain felt lovely.

If you haven't yet (and you're in Victoria - sorry mum & Rachel) get outside and enjoy spring. It only happens once a year and it's a shame to miss it.

Monday, March 07, 2005

mmmm coooookies

Because I am occasionally a good wife, yesterday I partially invented new cookies for Stirling. I don't have a name for them yet. They could be "Black Forest Cookies" but that's not quite right.

1 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
splash of bittersweet booze (again with the sloe gin, but good amaretto would work)
1 cup chopped white chocolate
1/2 cup dried sour cherries

Cream butter & sugar, add egg (eggs work better in cookies when they're at room temp.), add booze. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & salt together. Add to butter mixture, mix well but not for too long. Add white chocolate chunks and cherries, stir to combine, bake at 350F for about 10 minutes.

Friday, March 04, 2005

next week's menu

Look at me being all organized! If I do this now, then I'll have my shopping list ready to go tomorrow!


Lunch: leftovers, salad
Dinner (house dinner): bean & vegetable soup (italian flavours) with homemade grain bread

Lunch: leftover soup and 1/2 salami sandwich
Dinner: Stirling stir-fry

Lunch: salad with chicken breast, other good stuff, yogurt dressing
Dinner: Thyme steak, baked potato, veg

Lunch: Steak sandwich
Dinner: Pork, greens & soba (you will notice a theme on Wednesday nights. I only have about 20 minutes to make dinner.)

Lunch: same as Tuesday
Dinner: Salmon with lemon-dill sauce, brown rice & green beans

Lunch: salmon sandwich
Dinner: burritos

Lunch: antipasto-type things (marinated veg, treats from Ottavio, fruits, etc.)
Dinner: chipotle roast chicken, rosemary polenta and chile-lime-cilantro salsaish salad (but I sooo wish it was August and I could do fresh corn salsa...)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sedentary is normal

Over the past week or so I've had a couple people comment about me exercising too much. While it's true that I do exercise more now than I used to, and theoretically it eats into my free time, the only thing I really notice is that I don't do as much tidying during the week (sorry Stirling) and I have less time to watch TV. Not really so much of a hardship. I'm also spending significantly less money on gas because I'm riding my bike to work, and I feel great. I still cook dinner most nights of the week (with Stirling's help), I work normal hours, and visit with friends a couple times a week. It's not like I've turned into some elite athlete, training for hours every day, eating weird food and stuff.

In fact, I'm averaging only slightly more than the amount of activity that Health Canada says you need every day - 60 minutes. Bike to work 3-4 times a week, a couple of pilates classes, lift some weights, the odd squash game, jog on Saturday morning. Really, it's not that much. But I won't argue that I currently exercise more than everyone I know. So in that sense, I am abnormal.

But think back to when you were a little kid. Didn't you play outside for at least 15 minutes for every recess (that's twice a day) then maybe for longer at lunch? Didn't you walk or ride your bike to school? Didn't you play outside until dinner, and after dinner in the summer? Didn't you have afterschool sports that lasted at least an hour? Doesn't that all add up to way more than what I currently do? Yup, it sure does. I miss recess. (And apparently, kids are now sedentary too.)

Somewhere along the line, most of us have kind of lost perspective on how active we need to be. We find ways to fill our days that allow us to say "I don't have time for exercise". But - reality check - those things that you do, that take up so much time that you don't have time to exercise - are they so important that they're worth sacrificing your health for? (These things often have names like "CSI", "Survivor","Worlds of Warcraft", etc. Home reno - for all my friends who are in reno hell - COUNTS as activity, even though it's not necessarily fun activity)

This is turning into a bit of a rambling rant and I didn't really mean it to. Anyone who cares to discuss - why is it so hard for people (especially tech/office workers) to work some activity into their days? Is TV really that much more fun than a game of squash or volleyball or a walk on a sunny day? If you're not getting enough exercise, why?

(Oh, and for future reference - if I ever fall off the exercise wagon again, please somebody call me on it. Remind me of how good I felt back in Spring '05, and guilt me back onto my bike/the squash court/the jogging trails/whatever.) And make me re-read this.

i got a new job, i got a new job.....

Yay me! I'm getting moved into a full-time PERMANENT position to do partner enablement (training & resource materials), which is all fun stuff that I'm good at, a little bit of travel (soooo unfortunate that our most active partner is in LA, gosh, that'll be awful) and they're paying me lots more yay yay yay!!!!

Ok, got that out of my system. I won't be moving over to the new job for another 6 weeks, during which time I will be churning out tests as fast as my little brain can handle it.

Anyway, last night was the chicken variation of salmon & soba, which I would link to if stupid blogspot would archive things properly. Maybe I should look at my prefs or something. Just substitute marinated chicken (soy, ginger, mirin, sesame oil) for the salmon and proceed as normal. Taaasty. And still, less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

kale and chorizo soup

This is a good winter staple.


1 largish cured spicy chorizo sausage (or 2-3 small fresh and add cayenne if necessary)
1/2 small onion or 1-2 shallots
tiny splash olive oil
1/3 cup white wine, sherry or lightish beer
1 large potato, grated or diced finely
1 litre chicken stock
1/2 bunch kale, stalks removed, chopped into large pieces

In a medium saucepan, sauté chorizo and onions until onions are translucent & chorizo is starting to render its fat. Add potato & sauté until everything starts to brown. Toss in booze, stir to get stickies off the bottom of the pan. Add chicken stock and simmer 20 minute to 1/2 hour until potatoes are pretty much dissolved, or at least really mushy and starting to thicken the soup. Add kale, cook for 5 minutes or so longer. Adjust seasoning, serve with multigrain bread.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

this week's menu

I'm just doing up to Saturday, which hopefully will force me to deal with this on the weekend when I can actually go grocery shopping.

Dinner: kale & chorizo soup, grain bread

Lunch: leftover soup & bread
Dinner: chicken, greens & soba

Lunch: parma ham, mozza, tomatoes & pesto on grain bread
Dinner: Moose lasagne and salad

Lunch: leftover lasagne
Dinner: lamb curry w/whole wheat naan

Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: prawn salad rolls with peanut sauce