You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2010.

There seems to be a lull going on right now. I can’t really put my finger on it. Things are calm right now, slow and mild but I can feel that it is temporary. Something is on the horizon, life just seems like its on the cusp of inaction and action. I wouldn’t say I feel anxious but there is this creeping sense of anticipation nagging at me. It may be the seasons changing, the anticipation of fall. We’re having some pretty warm weather for this time of year and I am ready for the cooler days and big bowl of soup weather to come.  Maybe that’s what’s nagging me. Hopefully I can exhale once the leaves turn. I’m not necessarily excited to see summer go, its just time for scarves, sweaters, boots and that crisp morning smell of autumn leaves, wet grass and dew. Okay, maybe I am a little excited.

One thing that was great about this summer was the massive garden project that developed in my boyfriend’s backyard and in his family’s backyard. The yards were a stones throw away from each other so you could say it was just one big garden compound. My boyfriend’s sister and brother-in-law were the green thumb geniuses. They planted several tomato varieties, squash of all kinds, beans, herbs, gourds, greens – we pretty much had our own produce section this summer. I did a lot of cooking but didn’t take a lot of pictures. I’ve mentioned a certain distraction that I’ve had over the last few months, it applies here as well.

I’ve been meaning to post recipes for weeks now. I’ll cook something and midway through eating it, I remember the little red camera sitting unused on the desk in the office. I have resorted to leaving the camera in the kitchen to remind myself to take photos for recipe posts. I talked about restarting the engine and – by George, I am going to do it!

I found a recipe online for a roasted zucchini. I love roasting vegetables, it makes them so sweet, tender and delicious! I added squash to the recipe, made some modifications and used fresh herbs from the compound garden. You can use dried herbs as well but just remember that dried herbs are more concentrated so, use sparingly. There are still plenty of zucchini and squash in the garden still so, this may be a side for dinner again soon.

Roasted & Herbed Zucchini & Squash

2 medium zucchini

2 medium crookneck, summer or yellow squash

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 sprig fresh rosemay (1/8 tsp dried rosemary)

2 sprigs fresh thyme (1/4 tsp dried thyme)

2 sprigs fresh marjoram (1/8 tsp dried marjoram)

Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F

Slice zucchinis and squash in half length wise, remove seeds. Cut up into 2 inch pieces. Strip herb leaves off stems and finely chop. In a large bowl toss zucchini, sqaush, herbs, garlic and olive oil together. Pour mixture on to a large baking sheet or baking pan. You don’t want to crowd the veggies or they will steam instead of roast. Place baking sheet on top rack of oven and let roast for 5 to 7 mins. Check to see if edges are browning. If they are not, add 2 or 3 mins. and check again. Remove once edges have browned and crisped and place in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

I had planned to post new entries with recipes on Thursday night but my stomach had other plans. On Wednesday night I had some of my favorite girls over for dinner and a movie. It had been such a long time since we had a girls night together and it was very much needed. I made a famous 3 ingredient tomato pasta sauce, we had ‘the best broccoli of your life’ (from the Amateur Gourmet), an amazing spinach and berry salad that my friend Jessica brought, baguette with olive oil and balsamic, crispy baked kale chips (from steamykitchen.com) and for dessert, a peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream (courtesy of Maureen). (I will be making the pasta sauce and posting the pictures and recipe later on, so watch out for that.) It was an awesome meal and it was so good to have them come over. We ate until we were near drowsy and then watched Sense and Sensibility. (‘Does she care for olives?’)

I wrapped up the night and still went to bed at a reasonable hour. I got up at 5:30 the next morning to get ready for work. I felt exhausted but just chalked that up to so much activity the night before and dismissed it. I got to work and 10 mins. into my second conference call it hit like wave crashing against me. I doubled over my keyboard and fought back the surge of saliva and bile that began to creep up my throat. I finished the call, acting my ass off to make sure that the other participants didn’t know I was ill. As soon as the receiver hit the cradle, I threw off my headset and lunged for my garbage can. I didn’t actually throw up but it was such a painful wave of nausea, I couldn’t sit straight up for fear of wretching all over my keyboard. And I had four more calls scheduled. Not good.

I fought my way through another call and went in to see a superior, maybe she had something for nausea. She took one look at me and told me to go home. I fought it for a bit but she finally convinced me to reschedule my calls and go home for the day. I packed up and as soon as I got down to my car, I called my girls. I thought, ‘dear god, I’ve doomed them to food poisoning.’ They both seemed fine and thus, I determined it wasn’t the dinner from the night before. My significant other seemed to be unaffected as well. So what the hell was going on? (And no, not preggers here!)

I went home and sat on the couch for a bit, dazed and weak. I finally got up and went to bed around 10 or 11 am. I woke up from a completely black sleep and looked at the clock. It was just after 4 in the afternoon.

I lay on the couch until Tennis Mike (roommate) came home and saw me, “Are you okay?” The sweetest look of concern on his face. I told him about my day and he was sympathetic. On his way out to play tennis (go figure), he offered to bring me food. I had eaten breakfast at 6 am and that was it. I really needed to eat something but there is only a short list of things that I want to eat when I feel this way. Most of those things are made by my mother, only 2 or 3 are not. Since my mother was nowhere nearby I had a smaller list to choose from. I squeaked out my request in a pitiful tone, “They have the most amazing, real Japanese ramen noodle soup at Koko Kitchen, would you get that for me?” Puppy dog eyes are inevitable in these situations. He went bounding down the stairs and said he would also bring me a 7-Up for my upset stomach.

Awesome roommate.

He came back a little while later with the steaming gingery, garlicy broth and springy egg noodles that was my ramen. He also had a bowl of curry udon noodle soup for himself. This ain’t your poor student version of ramen. Real Japanese ramen is an art and this was no exception. Their broth is a rich, velvety, savory, steaming bowl of comfort in it’s purest form. This is one of the few things that I will eat when I’m sick that isn’t made by mom. Moms generally have the market on feel good comfort food. I sat at the dinner table, wobbly and slightly sweaty from the nap earlier and slowly slurped my noodles. Yeah, I slurp my noodles when I’m sick. What of it? The soup and the Sprite (they didn’t have 7-Up) made me feel so much better. I snapped a few photos after I felt like myself again.

As the days get cooler, a huge bowl of steaming noodle soup is the perfect food for the season. If you have the opportunity I would definitely head over to Koko Kitchen and order a bowl of their ramen. Unless you have a Japanese mother that has her own amazing recipe for ramen, your eyes will be opened.

If you’re adventurous enough to make your own steaming bowl of noodle soup, check out these recipes on steamykitchen and momofukufor2.

Mmmmm…. a big bowl of happy.

I just had to post this article about Thomas Keller’s restaurant, French Laundry. I have mentioned before my admiration for Thomas Keller and his amazing work. You’ve probably observed his work if you’ve seen the Disney animated movie Ratatouille. You know the ratatouille that was served to the food critic at the end of the film? The little bundle of food heaven that transported the food critic back to his mother’s kitchen and left him reveling in flavor? Yeah, that was Keller’s work. He advised on the movie and helped them get a real feel for how a kitchen works and provided the visual example for the headlining dish.

His food looks and sounds amazing and he is an advocate of sustainable, local and organic food. His recipes can range from simple and delicious to complex, deconstructed and delicious. What’s great about this article is that it takes you inside the workings of his tightly run kitchen. The standards at this establishment is a commentary on the level that his food is on. We’re talking stratosphere here.

Definitely take a look, it’s impressive to say the least. Here is that article again: Inside French Laundry

Disappointment is never a fun feeling to talk about. Because it is actually a multi-step process to get to a feeling of disappointment. There is anticipation, excitement, analysis and finally, whether you like it or not, the disappointment creeps in. The shadow of it starts at you brow and works it’s way down your face where a grimace at the mouth is the end result. This was my first experience with dragonfruit. Now granted, I may have had a hand in my own disappointment and because of this I am not of dragonfruit for good, but this is not the way to start a relationship with a new food.

What is dragonfruit you ask? It is a rather alien looking pod-like food that grows in warmer, temperate climates like Mexico, South East Asian and even San Diego. It is a bright magenta fruit that grows at the end of a cactus plant. It is popular in Asia and has worked its way in to specialty food shops and Asian markets in more urban areas. When you slice it open, it takes on an even more peculiar appearance. The edible part of the fruit is white, with a grainy feel to it. It feels like when you bite into a pear or a pithy apple. It is also dotted with little black seeds. The first time I saw a dragonfruit cut open, it looked like it was animated or something that was fictional, like what unicorns would eat. It has a very slight, sweet scent and it’s not very juicy.

Isn’t this thing crazy looking?! I had read about dragonfruit on another food blog called whiteonricecouple, they grew them in their backyard and even provided a recipe for the fruit.  After that I began noticing more and more articles and pictures of this freakish looking fruit. It is touted as a superfood, dense with antioxidants, vitamin C and such. A new exotic miracle food like Acai or Gogi berries. I happened to see them for sale at my local Asian market shortly after reading about them. After turning it over in my hands several times and marveling at the site of the thing, I decided it was worth a try. Since I live in an area where it’s not ideal to grow dragonfruit, the cost of the thing was a little steep. I figured it was a rare experience and my curiosity won over my pocketbook.

I brought the thing home and immediately showed it to my boyfriend. He was just as surprised and slightly horrified by its appearance as I was. We had plans for that evening so we had to forgo exploring it until later. This may be where I foiled my experience with dragonfruit. The days got away from me, work and study soon took over my thoughts and I forgot about the alien fruit in the fridge. I forgot! How horrible for me to admit! Such excitement and fascination put on hold for mundane life. Such a waste.

I found it in the fridge a few days later and although it had aged a bit, it seemed like it was still edible. I took it out, set it on the counter, marveled a bit more at it and reach for the knife.

Even though I had seen pictures of the fruit, it was still a shocking sight. I cut it into wedges, sniffed a piece for a bit and took a bite. This is where the disappointment began to creep up into my brow. It was grainy, and wet but overall, it was pretty flavorless. There was a slight citrus, melon-like taste to it but it was very faint. I put down the piece and reached for another, thinking ‘maybe I just got a bad piece’. Nope. The next wedge had the same wet, indistinctly sweet hint of flavor. The websites had suggested that they were ‘mild’ in flavor but this was near blankness. Did I leave it for too long before I chose to eat it? Did I not pick a good one? Was it still not ripe? I felt like I had been slighted. The look of the fruit was far too flamboyant and exciting for such an absence of flavor and the cost of the fruit made it even worse.

I cubed up the remaining fruit and stored it in the fridge. I shared it with my boyfriend and his roommate and they shared my reaction. How could such a crazy, colorful exotic fruit be such a tease?

I nibbled on the remaining fruit for the next few days but ended up throwing away about a 1/3 of it. I guess I now have the distinction of saying I’ve tried dragonfruit, but I can’t say it without a pang of disappointment. Perhaps I will try it again later and love it. Perhaps I did do something wrong with this one. Either way this is just another example of an important life lesson: Don’t judge a book by it cover. Or, in this case: Don’t be a sucker for packaging.

I have so much to write about, but this is the 4th attempt to form an update on the last 9 months and I still can’t get it right. A lot of things have changed, but most importantly, my perspective on food and cooking have changed. Hopefully, they have evolved. Food has become more than just something to consume and create with. It is a political topic, an issue of public safety and a path to health or health problems.

It all started with a doctor’s visit back in January. It had been a while since I had been to the doctor, and it was time to have blood drawn and tests taken to evaluate my overall health. I wasn’t in the worst health but I could definitely stand an improvement. The next day I opened an email from my doctor with my blood test results. It was a fair shock to my system. My cholesterol levels were pretty high and were a concern to my doctor. I thought I was too young to have to be concerned about something as out of sight as high cholesterol, but I knew I had it coming. My tiny mother, who ate mostly rice and vegetables everyday, had always struggled with her cholesterol. She made changes to her diet, took vitamins and supplements and then was later put on a medication. The feeling of panic began to creep up on me. Was that to be my fate as well, a pill everyday to keep everything in check? I made a decision that week. Things had to change.

I began to study about food, not just drool and fantasize about it but really study it. My years as a student and all around poorer individual have helped me to become frugal with food. I’ve learned how to seek out bargains, cook with whatever scraps I had in the fridge and the pantry and shop economically but frugality can sometimes be more about gain and less about benefit. Food was meant to nourish and if I really understood and researched food, it might be able to help me avoid the health issue that was beginning to plague me. Don’t get me wrong – I still drool and fantasize about plenty of food creations and anything delicious, but now it was getting personal.

As I began to study about food, I began to learn more about how food had a darker, dirtier and scarier side to it. Sure, I had heard of Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock’s documentary on America’s addiction to low-quality fast food and how it was slowly killing us. Yes, I had seen video clips of Jamie Oliver’s crusade to improve school lunches for children in England and how his campaign was becoming international. But with food recalls of everything from eggs to spinach and ground beef to jalapeno peppers, is was becoming apparent that food was now a political issue. Government had always had a role in making food safe for people and establishing dietary guidelines but now it there was so much more to regulate, monitor and enforce. Despite many political issues, food was something that effected everyone, worldwide, despite any other external factors. If you are human, you eat. A new kind of hero was added to my list of admired chefs, food bloggers and foodie celebrities: Food activist.

As I attempt to continue this journey with my foodblog, there will be a few more things added to the mix. I’ll still be frugal as hell, that has been ingrained in me since childhood. Good, healthy food can be made on a meager budget but no amount of monetary savings will ever shield you from poor health and the damage that can come from misinformation or absence of information. Thus, in addition to keeping with the original theme of this food blog: healthy food on a budget, I want to add more nutrient-rich recipes and pass along food news that will effect your pantry as well as your well-being.

Here’s to your health, may you never have to take a pill to keep things in check.