Thursday, November 12, 2015

How to Cook (and Enjoy) Broccoli Stems

Broccoli is my husband's favourite vegetable and we eat it incessantly. But I can't stand the little dark, curly leaves. And I think the stems taste like ick.

Thankfully a recipe from Ellie Krieger's cookbook Weeknight Wonders has come to my rescue. I have learned how to cook broccoli stems so that they are delicious. Yippee!

There are just two tricks:
1. cut away all but the sweet, inner portion of the stem, and
2. make sure the stems get the most heat while cooking.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Beer and Beef Skillet Stew

Thanks to Ellie Krieger, I have discovered how to make a quick dinner that resembles stew. Real stew, like the kind my Grammie makes, takes hours. I do not have that time on weeknights.... Let's be honest, I don't often have that time on weekends, either. To make a quick version, here are four easy steps.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Five Minute Mango, Papaya, and Basil Gelato

I think maybe the title of this recipe is slightly misleading, depending on your grocery store access and freezer habits. If you regularly buy frozen fruit or freeze your own, then this is a five minute recipe. If you only have fresh mangoes and papaya to hand right now, this is a twenty-four hour-plus-five minute recipe. So this gelato is the reason you should become the kind of person who always has frozen fruit to hand. Or it's the reward for already being that person.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Easy Ideas for How to Eat Grain-Free

Over the last two years I have transitioned from a pretty normal Western diet to eating grain-free. I discovered that my body functions better without grains. I did some two week elimination tests in order to come to this conclusion. For me, avoiding wheat is the most important, but I also don't eat oats, barley, rice, and corn. From time to time I eat a bit of rice or corn because they affect me the least.

Many people seem to be coming to the same conclusion as me. If this is you, or you are curious, here are some hints.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

There are two types of people in the world: those who love Brussels sprouts and those who hate them. Well, I've realised that roasting makes all vegetables better*, and Brussels sprouts are no exception. If you would like to switch to loving them, this is how. If you already love them, this will make them even better.

*except maybe lettuce? Roasted lettuce probably isn't any good.

Actually, let's explore this roasting idea further. Roast potatoes are wonderful, especially when the skins are crispy and glistening with some oil. Roasted sweet potatoes are enough to distract me from even an expensive steak. Roasting aubergines or red peppers transform them into silky, complex dips (see here and here).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Beans with Sausages, Bacon, and Poached Eggs

My husband loves sausages, bacon, and all other pork products. A few years ago I took this picture of him.

I knew that he would love this Donna Hay recipe:
  • simmered borlotti and kidney beans with soft onions, rosemary, and thyme;
  • sausages wrapped with bacon and then baked;
  • all topped with poached eggs.

This is a pork-lover's dream! It reminds me of an English breakfast, but much more posh.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Loaded Hummus Plate

It was my pick at Eating with Ellie this week and I selected a recipe from Ellie Krieger's cookbook for this loaded hummus plate. A good homemade hummus should be in every cook's repertoire; it's a revelation compared to supermarket hummus. Here's a classic hummus recipe of mine. I also like cauliflower hummus!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chicken with Lemon Potatoes

I recently made this simple dish for dinner. It's so easy because the chicken and potatoes are all cooked together in one large frying pan. The recipe is here on the Donna Hay website.

First the chicken is browned in some oil. Then wine, stock, and lemon juice are added, thinly sliced potatoes and sprigs of thyme are thrown in, and it simmers away until everything is cooked. See, simple.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Relish by Lucy Knisley [book review]

I just finished reading Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. It's the first graphic book I have read and it was so fun! It was a Kitchen Reader book--it's a memoir by a girl who was raised by a mother who was a catering chef and a father who was a gourmand. I found that it started off a bit self-aggrandizing (there's some name dropping of her mother's friends/clients), but after a couple of chapters I was charmed by Knisley's childhood.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Grain-Free Microwave Cinnamon Breakfast Cake

Cake for breakfast! Glee came over my face when this thought went through my mind. This is a recipe with its roots as a mug cake, but I cooked it in a little oval-shaped ramekin. It's grain free since it's made with coconut flour. The "icing" on the cake is whipped cottage cheese--a clever idea that was inspired by Fit Girls Guide.

If you're not a banana and cinnamon fan, try my apple mini cake instead.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tuna and Kidney Bean Patties

What to eat when the fridge is almost empty? I have discovered that these tuna and kidney bean patties can be made with pantry ingredients and one egg. You just need a can of tuna (or salmon) and a can of kidney beans (or chickpeas, or cannellini beans, or pinto beans). Mix them up!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl [book review]

In July each year our Kitchen Reader book club reads a food-related novel. This time it was Delicious! by Ruth Reichl. We have read two of Reichl's non-fiction books before: Tender at the Bone and Garlic and Sapphires (these links are to my reviews of them). They were both excellent so I felt that a novel by Reichl probably wouldn't disappoint us.

Billie is a young woman who is hired on as the assistant to the editor of a food magazine called Delicious!. The novel tells some hilarious stories about the people and food she encounters. As with Reichl's other books, the food descriptions are top notch and made me salivate quite regularly. In the novel, James Beard was a flashback character, and Billie discovers about his time at the magazine though a series of letters written to him by a young reader.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Salmon Burgers

When I saw this recipe in Weeknight Wonders by Ellie Krieger, I was quite excited. You see, my husband loves burgers and I love salmon. Ha! This would be the best of both--and it was.

I adapted Ellie's recipe a little, of course, to make it grain-free. In her version, she uses breadcrumbs and an egg white to help stick everything together. In my rendition, I use almond meal (also called almond flour) and a whole egg to provide binding. I served the burgers in lettuce cups with tahini-yogurt sauce, cucumber slices, basil leaves, and carrot curls. I think next time I would make them half the size for ease of eating in the lettuce cups. Salmon sliders!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pad Thai Salad

I like Thai food because of its fresh flavours. I love the zesty lime, crisp carrots and bean sprouts, and the crunchy peanuts.

As I was making this pad Thai salad I realised that it's actually quite similar to the coleslaw with which I grew up in Canada - the base is just shredded vegetables. Then there's a sauce and some add-ins. (And almost all of my cooking has a formula not unlike this.)

As I was slicing the mint and basil for the pad Thai, my mind was constructing this table. Suddenly the superiority of pad Thai salad over coleslaw became obvious!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cannellini, Green Bean, and Tomato Salad

At the local vegetable market, I buy these long beans. They are sold coiled up in a bunch and are usually about 40 cm long when laid out. Fortunately for me, they are easy to use: in all the same ways as Western green beans. So I usually cut them into bite-sized pieces and stir-fry them or blanch them for salad.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Carrot and Cashew Soup

I was intrigued by this soup recipe in which the cashews are blended into a carrot soup. It reminds me of things my vegan friends do. Cashews seem to do everything creamy in the vegan world. For example, my friend Michael blends it up to make cheese as the basis for cheesecake. Also, he blends up cashews with water and vanilla extract to make a cream for breakfast parfaits. Cashews can be made to make ranch dressing. So why not use cashews in soup? You don't have to be a vegan to enjoy new uses for an ingredient!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan [book review]

Our May book for the Kitchen Reader was Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan. It's hilarious. Here's a sampling of the delights.

Cheese and Gratitude

"There's an old Weight Watchers saying, 'Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.' I for one can think of a thousand things that taste better than thin feels. Many of them are two-word phrases that end with cheese (Cheddar cheese, blue cheese, grilled cheese)."

"In America we have gone way beyond sustenance. Eating is an activity. 'Why don't we get lunch, and then we'll grab some pizza.' Most Americans eat constantly. And when we're not eating, we're chewing gum. We are literally practicing eating. We chew gum with a swagger and purpose that says, 'Yeah, I got a big meal coming up. I'm training for Thanksgiving.'"

"My wife likes to pause before the meals with our [five] kids and say grace. While I think this is a great opportunity for our children to learn to appreciate the gifts God has given them, I view grace as kind of 'On your mark, get set...' and the 'Amen' and the 'Go!'. I am pretty sure that's the way God intended it."

Beef with Parley Pesto and Sauteed Vegetables

People are always asking me how I eat complete meals with no carbohydrates. First, I answer by pointing out that vegetables are carbohydrates, and actually I only avoid starchy carbs such as pasta, bread, and grains. Secondly, I make meals like this: full of veg and filling, too, thanks to the protein and fats.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Parsley and Walnut Pesto

Earlier this week I wrote about how hard I find it to use up those little packs of herbs when I buy them. I usually purchse them for one specific recipe and somehow forget to use the rest. One solution is to make herbs into a salad with goat's cheese.

Well, I realised something obvious. Another solution would be to use up the whole pack the first time I open it. I could use that parsley spring on the one specific recipe and at the same time, whizz up some parsley pesto.

Making pesto is as easy as throwing items into a food processor. It tastes incredible over meat, fish, (veggie) pasta, and as a dip for veggies. It's like spring in a jar!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ratio by MIchael Ruhlman [book review]

Our April Kitchen Reader book is Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman. In it, he explains how many classic dishes can be described using a simple ratio. For example, bread doughs for loaves, pasta, pies, biscuits, and cookies have similar ratios of flour, water, and eggs or fat. How much of each in the ratio determines what kind of item you are making.

Besides doughs, Rulhman describes the ratios for batters (which make different cakes, muffins, and fritters), stocks, roux, meat mixtures (sausages, for example), fat-based sauces (such as mayonnaise and hollandaise), and custards. I am a grain-free cook, so I skipped over all the baked goods, but for those who make breads and cakes, I imagine this is the most useful part of the book. It's also extensive and detailed. This is a little ironic, since Ruhlman is trying to champion the idea that once you know the basic ratios you are freed from recipes and complications.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Herb Salad with Goat's Cheese

I am terrible at using up the herbs that I buy in little plastic packets. And I am annoyed at myself for this. Often I will buy a pack of mint or parsley or coriander to use with a specific meal. Then I put the remaining herbs away thinking they will be just the things to sprinkle over a meal in a day or two. But then I forget. Later I realise I have a pack of leaves where half of them are already past using and the rest should maybe--no, definitely--be used right now.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David [book review]

Elizabeth David was an English food writer after the Second World War who revolutionized food writing in the UK. She was highly opinionated and very judgemental of the British food of her time. She spent a lot of time in Europe and praised the ingredients and preparation of regular restaurants there as being far superior to that of the UK. She lauded the "peasant" food of the Mediterranean, and paid vast sums to have fresh produce imported from Europe; this wasn't a luxury available to ordinary British families. David was not interested in reaching ordinary families, though; she was focused on middle-class and upper middle-class audiences and was content being considered a snob.

For the Kitchen Reader book club in March, we were tasked with reading any work by or about Elizabeth David and I chose a collection of her published essays called An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. I was prepared to be entertained and to learn a lot about good, fresh food.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Simple Kale Salad

Kale is a luxury good in Singapore. The only kind I can buy is organic kale imported from the USA, with a commensurate price tag. Because it is not very wallet- or earth-friendly, I buy it rarely. But the urge struck and so I wanted to make something that let the kale stand as the star of the dish.

This is a simple massaged kale salad. It's so simple you don't need a recipe for it. Chop up some kale leaves (ribs removed). Mix a vinaigrette with equal parts oil and vinegar. I used white whine vinegar this time. Then massage the kale with the dressing in a large bowl for about a minute by rubbing it in handfuls in your hands. Add some garnishes, like raisins plumped in hot water and toasted sunflower seeds. Voila, a simple kale salad that showcases the leafy green in all its glory.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Zucchini Noodles with Rocket, Lemon, and Capers

People are always asking me how I eat so many vegetables. Today I am going to share with you one of my tricks. I adapted this pasta recipe from a published Donna Hay recipe. Regular readers already know one trick that I used: I replaced the spaghetti with zucchini (courgette) noodles. But today I want to talk about another trick.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pork Banh Mi Lettuce Cups

Anthony and I spent a weekend in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam a couple of years ago. Today's Eating with Ellie recipe is Vietnamese Pork Banh Mi sandwiches, and it brought back memories of our trip.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Courgette, Corn, and Tomato Sautee

Fresh corn looses its sweet flavour soon after harvesting. I read (in The Vegetable Bible) that corn is past its best only a few hours after it is picked. I guess this explains why frozen corn often tastes so good. It is frozen immediately after harvest, thus preserving both nutrition and taste.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cauliflower Gratin

Roasted cauliflower is just so deep, delicious, and nutty. If you grew up with wet, limp, boiled cualiflower, then roasting cauliflower will feel like a whole new vegetable. And to make it even more revelatory, add some caramelised onion, cream, and Gruyere cheese for a gorgeous cauliflower gratin.

This is a recipe from a magazine which said to mix store-bought caramelised onion relish with cauliflower florets, then top it with a mixture of cream and cheese. Since I couldn't find any store-bought relish, so I just made some caramelised onions the day before I wanted to make the gratin.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Seaweed, Ginger, and Carrot Salad

After a recent knee injury, I have started taking swimming lessons. Until last October, I was a keen long-distance runner. Then I had quite a bad injury that put me on crutches for eight weeks. (I wrote about my first social outing with crutches here.) I'm still not able to run, though I have managed to cycle three times in the last few months.

On my physiotherapist's advice, I needed to take up a sport that has a lower impact on my knees. I never learned to swim as a child, so I have just started a series of lessons.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Breakfast Parfait with Grain-Free Muesli

Let’s talk about your first name. Do you like it? Have you ever fantasized about changing it? My parents have often told me that they couldn't agree on my first name. My mother wanted to call me Juliana and my dad wanted Elizabeth. In the end they called me Sarah.

Sometimes I have imagined myself with Juliana or Elizabeth as my name. I think as Juliana I might be more of a romantic--it has a fairy tale ring to it. Elizabeth, meanwhile, sounds regal. I think it might fit with my slightly stoic personality. I would never have been a Lizzie, though, that seems too casual for my sincere side.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Tandoori Chicken Wraps

Think about the sensory perception involved in eating tandoori chicken wraps. You smell the spices and the ripe tomatoes. You can see the many colours and the steam coming off the chicken. You hear the lettuce rustling when you put your fingers in for a handful. And you feel the filling inside the flexible wrap when you're eating it. You taste the many flavours one at a time as you munch your dinner.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Easy Grain-Free Blueberry Muffins

I have noticed that the food I make myself just seems to taste better. I know this is a very selfish thing to say. In fact, this kind of selfishness is quite common. We humans overvalue the things we make for ourselves. For example, that Ikea furniture that we put together. It's not the greatest furniture ever but assembling it adds to its value for us.

I was reading about this in Dan Ariely's book The Upside of Irrationality. "Pride of creation and ownership runs deep in human beings." Ariely says that creating food is a good example of this. Even semi-homemade items taste better to us: steps such as adding some herbs to a bottled pasta sauce, mixing curry paste with chicken pieces, or adding eggs to a cake mix. These at-home adjustments give us a feeling of agency over our food, and hence the food tastes better to us.

But often homemade really does taste better, right? It's not just psychology that fresh from the oven muffins taste better than store bought. Adding fresh chopped parsley to a bottled sauce does, indeed, make it taste more fresh. (Although there is a line beyond which I don't think this is true; adding eggs to a cake mix may not actually taste better than a not-at-all homemade factory cake.)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller [book review]

This month's Kitchen Reader book was Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller (chosen by Amanda of Omar Niode Foundation).

This is a wide-ranging book, both in place and time. Olive oil has been in use since ancient times as a food; over time it has also been used as a fuel for lighting, a perfume, cosmetic, for religious annointing, as a fabric softener, contraceptive, detergent, preservative, pesticide, medicine, and machine lubricant.

Featured in the book is an olive oil producing family who run Castillo de Canena in Spain. (I have discovered an importer of theirs in Singapore: Delicia, so I plan to try their oils soon.) The brother and sister team come from a family that has been making oil since 1780 and they currently have 280000 trees. They make a low-grade bulk oil, which accounts for 95% of their production, and a line of high-quality extra virgin oil that already (as of 2013) accounts for a quarter of their profits. Their joy is in bringing out the best flavours in their premium oils by experimenting with irrigation, harvesting, and making small batches.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pumpkin and Sage Pasta

I was at the Singapore National Museum last week and I saw these watches on display. They are designed by Hanson Ho and Matteo Colella. The placard said that the watches explore "the relationship between the quantitative and qualitative aspects of time." The hour, minute, and second hands are all the same length. This "allows for both the absolute and arbitrary reading of time, catering to the needs of the various contexts and situations."


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