Friday, April 30, 2010

Why I hate Jello

I love some of the commercials... they are creative and funny and well done. And the tune sticks in my head. But, I still can not eat jello. It reminds me of grade school and cafeteria lunches and everything wrong with making good food, bad.

When I was in grade school, they would put stuff in the jello. Carrots, grapes, whatever random things they thought would be cool and fun for a child to eat -- it was the 70's, I know -- but eeeeeewwwww!! I would look at it and think that this cannot be real food. And, if any of you has seen carrots in jello -- you know it looks like worms. Tell me who in their right mind thought this would be a good thing? Although, I cannot recall now, perhaps the boys liked the jello with the carrots.

So, when I was watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution - I was thinking about my grade school. My whole goal with lunch was to figure out a way not to eat it and try to get out of the cafeteria with out the lunch lady seeing I still had a full meal. My sister's and I are, as far as I know, the only children in the history of American schools - to have to stay after lunch to eat lunch. I know, I know --- the lunch ladies meant well. They thought we were too skinny and we needed to eat. All I could think was that this was NOT food -- and when was school going to be over so I could go home and eat real food.

I realize that Jamie is attempting to bring "real" food into schools. But, from the few shows I watched, I couldn't get it out of my head that he was more concerned about how it shows on the telly than changing peoples perception and interaction with food.

My dad was able to connect me to food in such a positive way --- by making from scratch brilliant meals that I wanted to eat. And, the reason I hate jello and processed food so much is because of my dad. Because I knew what good food tasted like.

Remember, I said we were skinny little kids? It was because we hardly ever ate processed food. We did eat a lot of carbs and over time I have learned that it is not good for me (personally). But, if you can get a kid to choose a home cooked meal over McD's fries --- you know you are good.

Thanks Dad! :)

So - here is one of my dad's recipes for prawns (shrimp).

Fried Prawns

  • 200 grams shelled prawns
  • 2 tsp chilli powder (please note this is cayenne powder not "chili" powder)
  • 1/2 tsp haldi powder (aka: turmeric powder)
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste (see below for how to get tamarind paste)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 cm piece cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • salt to taste
  • oil for frying
Clean and wash the prawns with a little bit of salt. Grind all the masala (aka: spices) together except for the tamarind (unless you have a grinder that does well with liquids - then go for it. I do up most of my spices in a coffee grinder, that is NEVER used for coffee! which works well for me. Then, I add in the liquid stuff later. I get a much finer masala this way and I don't have to worry about mucking up the mixer or having uneven blending.)

Put the prawns and masala into a pan and cook with a little bit of water - until prawns are cooked through and there is no liquid in the pan. (note: a little bit of water is probably a tbsp or less. Since shrimp cook very quickly).

Heat oil in a khadai (pan --- ok I said it was his recipe didn't I? -- and you know I'd use butter or lard or some fat instead of oil.. but this is his recipe.) Once hot, toss in the prawns and fry until prawns are crisp.

Yummy! He really made the BEST prawns. ummm..... now I may have to make this for lunch tomorrow. Although we do have left over veal short ribs in the fridge from tonight's dinner. umm... I know tough life I lead.

hey sibs --- if you want a hard copy with Dad's writing of the recipe let my know.

and Gastrogora -- I'm catching up... slowly but surely. :) thankfully you have a move coming up and then I might even beat you! LOL.

Tamarind juice/paste

  • tamarind pulp (Asian stores will carry it. I like packages instead of the jars as they don't process the tamarind as much)
  • cut out a nice chunk - for this recipe I'd say a 1/2 inch piece or less
  • put it in a bowl and then add hot water (about 1/2 cup - depends on the size of the tamarind)
  • let sit for 10 min or so
  • once it's cooled off a bit - blend with your fingers the tamarind and water
  • strain and use
Anything left over you can either put in the fridge or freeze it for the next random time you need tamarind paste. An alternative is lemon juice, which I think most people have around. But, the tangy flavor of tamarind makes it dish. I'm sure the lemon would be good.... but I've never tried it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Quick Meals for those tough days

I was talking to my sister today. Badgering? Chatting? driving her crazy...about switching her food options to less processed food and lower carbohydrates. Her take was that I had heaps of time and therefore was able to keep and maintain the life-style we have chosen.

I was thinking about that... but the reality is that I don't.

However, I love to cook, it relaxes me and re-connects me to what I feel is important in life. And, I am lucky that we aren't tied to eating times and the BF is very flexible on when and what we are eating. I've had days where all of a sudden I've decided that I just don't want what I had planned for dinner and go out shopping. And, we've eaten at 10pm. I know this is not possible when one has children.

And, this particular posting isn't about those days where no one cares how long it is going to be before one ea. It is about the days where I come home and all I want to do is eat and sleep.

And, here is what we do on those days.

Hamburgers (sans bread) with a side salad (avocado and tomatoes)

Tuna with green goddess dressing on a salad

Scallops in cream sauce with salad

fish (grilled or pan fried) with a salad

...ummm.. .I think there is a theme here. ; )

Steaks with green beans (or salad, I'm sure that will work too. *grin*)

Chicken strips with veggies. I use chicken pieces so that it cooks fast but if you have time chicken cooked on the bone is much tastier. But, I've never cooked the chicken recipe below with chicken on the bone - as you may recall, this is my "OMG! I just wanta go to bed recipes." :)

As for veggies, we steam or stir fry in butter the following: broccoli, carrots, green beans, mushrooms. Other options that just don't make it into the house because of the BF (but I may find ways in the future to sneak them home!): eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy...etc. The list of veggies are endless - and most cook up fast. Unless, you are trying to be sneaky with the veg in question - in which case we are back to "work" :) Well, at least until you have found a recipe that may or may not be quick and easy. I'm just saying that while I may think that butter makes everything taste good, not every one agrees with me. *shocking* I know.

OK.. so here are some recipes.

Scallops - ok.. fine... this isn't the one from the picture because....well, that one isn't so quick. but it looked and tasted too yummy for me not to put it up. I'll put up the recipe in the future.

However, here is a quick scallop recipe which is very yummy as well.

Scallop Provencal

  • 1 lb. fresh bay or sea scallops
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • ½ cup chopped shallots (2 large)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 lemon, cut in 1/2
If you're using bay scallops, keep them whole. If you're using sea scallops, cut each 1 in half horizontally (or not). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a very large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat until sizzling and add the scallops in 1 layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on 1 side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take 3 to 4 minutes, total.
Melt the rest of the butter in the pan with the scallops, then add the shallots, garlic, and parsley and saute for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops. Add the wine (or not), cook for 1 minute, and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.


  • 1/2 pound or so strips of chicken (you can cut up a breast of chicken or buy chicken already cut up into strips)
  • 3 tbs butter, melted
  • 1 tbs basil and oregano (dried)
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl mix herbs, salt and butter. Toss in the chicken and mix to coat. In a skillet, add enough butter to coat the pan. Once hot, add chicken and cook through.

See how fast that is? you are done! I love to make this on a grill pan - which I was very lucky to get this past Christmas. If you are lucky enough to have one, heat it up while you are preparing the chicken.

This is also one of those recipes which you can add or remove ingredients on what you feel like or have on hand. I've tossed in some grated cheese. Used rosemary instead of or with the basil and oregano. You can add whatever flavors you like at the time and I think it will turn out good.

Green Goddess Dressing

  • ½ avocado
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional - we don't use it because I can't be bothered to make mayo and well, I don't like the stuff from the stores)
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (well, if you feel like chopping - I just toss it all in)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
In blender, combine avocado, mayonnaise, yogurt, water, scallions and garlic. puree until smooth. Add basil, parsley, tarragon, lemon, salt and pepper. blend until combined. Or, if you couldn't be bothered to chop the herbs (like me) just blend it for a bit longer so it's all nicely chopped up for you.

There are so many quick and easy options. It isn't a case of not having time because a lot of processed foods take as much or more time. And, if you are a planner - you could do so much better than I do about getting dinner done up in no time.

And, I love stews, roasts and soups - which take a lot of time but little work. So, if you can stick something in the oven or in a crock pot and do whatever else you need to do. Those are great options as well.

I think the most important thing is to break the cycle of processed fast food. Of thinking that real cooking takes time and more energy than a tossing of pasta with some sauce. Or a pizza in the oven. OK, perhaps a bit more energy than the pizza in the oven. ;)

But, honestly, I have gained so much more energy by removing processed food and high amounts of carbs from my life. I feel better about what I eat, knowing where it comes from and how it was treated/grown/cared. Versus, eating a box-o-meal, where I know nothing about the product. Where, I do not know all the ingredients or how it was made (aside from in a factory).

Do I eat carbs? yes, sometimes. Nothing like I use to do. Which, when I was a vegetarian was every day, multiple times a day. And, the highs and lows were so extreme. If I forgot to eat on a regular schedule, I would randomly tip over. I kid you not! The BF had gotten so use to me tipping over that he thought it was normal behavior for me. And, it didn't matter the type of shoes I wore or the terrain. It was my blood sugar levels - which were spiking and falling.

Do I eat out? yes, sometimes. And, while I will try to eat at sustainable restaurants. Or, choose better options at regular restaurants (however, not fast food restaurants - they are still plain nasty). Some days, a pizza is just too good to pass up. (like tonight! although I do stick the toppings from a few slices on to 1 pizza crust. The BF, just eats it sans crust --- which is yummy too).

The thing for me is not giving up everything - just not eating it often. I find that I don't want bread or cake or pizza (ok, maybe not pizza) as often as before. And, that by giving up changing the food I eat on a daily basis, I am in better health now than I have ever been.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Brisket! yummy and good for you

This has become the go-to recipe for me when we are going to have company and I want to make sure I have lots of food and very little left overs. And, while it isn't a bacon focused recipe - I think it counts as I have bacon fat for the browning. ;)

And for those of you who love bacon - but do not save off the fat. Shame! It works so lovely in so many dishes and it stores so well in both the fridge and freezer. (ok. Yes, I know I've been on a bacon feast when I've gotten to the point where I'm freezing bacon fat. but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.)

This recipe was originally from Bon Appétit

However, I just couldn't do all the covering and uncovering, adding more broth, and minding! for hours on end. I'm just way too lazy for something like that.

But, the recipe is very forgiving and you can do as you like to it. I have added the Dijon mustard a time or two, but haven't found it to make much of a difference. However, the addition of lemon at the very end - just brings a brightness to the sauce that is brilliant.

Brisket Braised In Porter

  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt 
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard (such as Colman's) 
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage 
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme 
  • 1 6-pound flat-cut brisket, trimmed but with some fat still attached 
  • 2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat or olive oil 
  • 4 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth 
  • 1 12-ounce bottle porter or stout 
  • 6 whole pitted prunes 
  • 4 bay leaves 
  • 2 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar 
  • 6 cups thinly sliced onions (2 1/2 pounds) - or however much you have the patience to cut 
  • 8 whole garlic cloves, peeled 
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced 
  • 1 lb. medium carrots, peeled, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch lengths 
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Mix first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Rub herb mixture all over brisket. Heat bacon fat in heavy extra-large wide ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add brisket to pot and cook until deep brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer brisket to platter or rimmed baking sheet.

Add broth to pot and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Stir in porter, prunes, bay leaves, and brown sugar; bring to boil.

Return brisket to pot, fat side down; scatter onion slices over to cover meat, then add garlic.

Cover pot; place in oven and braise brisket 6-7 hours. Turning meat every few hours to make sure it cooks evenly.

At about the 5 hr or 6 hr mark: Add the carrots, so that they wouldn't be too mushy. And saute mushrooms in a bit of butter. Let them rest a bit and then toss into the oven with the brisket.

Once brisket is completely done - pull it out to rest. Take the remaining liquids, add a bit of lemon juice and simmer down to nice sauce like consistency.

ok already.

Fine. I've broken down and created a blog, for the two people who will read this. And, you guys best comment at least once in a while! :)

So, that out of the way. I'm going to attempt to write down what we eat and some recipes. Over the last year, my boyfriend and I have been on a paleo/low carb eating plan. I don't want to say low carb exclusively, as we will eat fruits and chocolate. But, rarely will we eat refined sugars or processed frankenfoods - especially if we have a choice!

Over the last year we have both lost significant amount of weight. And, yes, people have noticed.

We are healthier....
I have my Tri's down to under 200, from 400+ a bit over a year ago, which being of Asian-Indian origin is huge! Apparently, Asian-Indians have a propensity for diabetes and hypertension. See
BBC and MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) articles. Both of which are indicated by high triglycerides, which of course forced us into a new eating plan.

And eating better than ever before...
Well, the BF is definitely eating better because I am a nutter for cooking something new every time.

Hence the blog. As my way of sharing some of the information and trying to keep track of all the wonderful blogs I've found, info we have gathered (anything techy/chemy is totally due to the BF), and just random thoughts on food.