Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
"How to Grow Basil
It's a lie. All lies, I say. So they magically grow big and tall and bushy, you claim. Lies! Look at this thing:
Is that not the sorriest looking thing you have ever seen? And this is the third one! The THIRD! I found the second one crawling across the counter towards the trash can, just creeping along, dragging its pot, like some kind of dismembered hand from a horror movie.
Ok, so that's a slight exaggeration.
So all you plant-o-philes out there, if anybody thinks this poor thing can be rescued, and have any advice, I would love to hear it. If you think I should put it out of its misery and try again, let me know. For now I am feeding and watering it and I moved it to a different spot. I am going to pluck its leaves.
I mean, all I want is a big plant so I can make pesto whenever I want. Is that too much to ask?
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Melt about 1/2 cup butter in a pan. add about 1/4 cup of flour and stir until dissolved and you have a liquidy paste. Add salt, pepper, and/or whatever seasonings you want (dry mustard, parsley, anything you like) Add about 2 cups of milk (honestly I didn't measure I just poured it in until it looked right. It's better to add less milk and then add more later if it's too thick than to add too much right off the bat) Add 1/2 cup cream cheese and mix until melted in and combined. Add about 2 cups grated old cheddar cheese and mix until melted in and combined.
Healthy options: Whole wheat noodles, whole wheat bread crumbs, low fat cheese and milk. I don't recommend replacing the butter with margarine, especially low fat margarine. Margarine tastes terrible to begin with, and low fat margarine is mostly just water. If you insist on avoiding butter, then use olive oil instead, although I have never tried that and so I can't speak as to how it would work.
You can use any cheeses you like. It doesn't have to be cheddar and cream cheese. And this meal is so flexible you can alter it any way you like and it will probably turn out. Here's an alternative:
Instead of using milk, use cream, and instead of using cheddar and cream cheese, use parmesan. Be careful with the salt, but add lots of black pepper. Pour over fettucine to make fettucine Alfredo! (Yep, it's not fancy, it's just Mac and Cheese!)
Sunday, February 18, 2007
We went for a fancy pants dinner last night and before you ask, yes, we were both wearing our fancy pants. It was really classy in there. It is right on the waterfront with a view of the harbour. We did not get a seat by the window. We had a seat by a column. It was very nice in there nonetheless, with real roses on the table. In one wall sconce was a few sprigs of cotton, which was very unique. The staff was really nice, and the waitress was very friendly and knowledgeable.
We decided to forgo the wine. We both really like wine but gift certificate or no, I can't bring myself to pay $40+ for a bottle or $9+ for a glass of wine so we just had water to drink. The bread was amazing. I am not sure what the first piece had in it but I suspect it was Chipolte peppers and poppy seeds. There was also an Italian loaf with poppy seeds on top and the single most delicious piece of corn bread I have ever had. It was moist and crumbly, very muffin-like in texture, and with a faint hint of sweetness. It made me want to make corn bread all week until I can get it to come out like that.
We started our meal with High Spiced Pulled Pork and Manchego Roast Pepper Quesadilla, Habanero Spiked Guacamole...10.95 It was pretty spicy but good. The Guacamole wasn't that spicy (although I can't be sure, Trav hogged it all) but the pulled pork had a bit of a kick to it.
Trav's main course was: Grilled NY Striploin Cubano with Ropa Viejo Plantain Empanada, Chimichurri and Likkered Greens...32.95 He says the veggies were a little sweet, but very good, it had cherry tomatoes and some greens. The empanada was like a samosa actually, I had a bite of it. It didn't scream out "bananas", but I have never had plantains so I didn't know what to expect. The steak was good but not $32.95 good. We have made better steaks at home.
I had Roast Pheasant Breast "Oscar", Stuffed with Crab and Asparagus, Five Herb Aioli and Madiera Reduction...34.95. It was really good, although I believe I got a leg, not a breast. It was tender and tasty. The Madiera Reduction was awesome. I have been experimenting with wine reductions lately with moderate success. Now I know what it should taste like when I do it right. It definitely tasted like something I would make at home, just better. I guess that is what years of training and a Chef degree does. The Aioli was great too, it also tasted like something I would make, likely because I love using fresh herbs. It was all served with roasted baby potatoes and veggies. The veggies were great, baby carrots, broccoli, and brussells sprouts. I have not had a brussells sprout since I was about 8, and I remember I hated it, so I bit into the sprout with apprehension. However I really enjoyed these, as it was crisp and flavourful, and did not have the life cooked out of it. Like all veggies, it benefits from being steamed until hot but still crisp, not boiled until soft.
The only complaint I would make about my meal was that both the pheasant and the potatoes were crusted in salt to the point that if there was any potatoe or pheasant skin in the bite I had it was almost unbearably salty. I really appreciated my glass of water at that moment, let me tell you!
For dessert I had a cup of Desert Lime tea, which was good but tasted like it should be served iced with vodka. But good nonetheless. We had Bish Made Ice Creams and Sorbets...8.85 for dessert. We got a scoop each of rum raisin, pistachio, dark chocolate, and ginger ice cream. The rum raisin was fantastic, it actually tasted of rum. I didn't care for the pistachio much, but I don't like nuts in dessert at the best of times. The dark chocolate was extremely rich. It tasted like cocoa, not chocolate. Very dark. The ginger was the best. I have had ginger ice cream before, I wouldn't say this was better, but it definitely wasn't worse. The ginger was very subtle, you almost wouldn't notice it if you were not looking for it. It didn't leave so much of a heat in your mouth, rather than a warm aftertaste. Very good.
The whole bill came to $102, so we gave her the gift certificate and let her keep the tip. It was overall a very good meal, but not something I would do every day, and definitely not something I would pay for myself, as I could make very similar meals at home for a fraction of the price. We did, however, enjoy our meal. Thanks so much, Adrienne and Daryl!
Chicken Chow Mein
Heat wok, add about 3 tbsp of peanut oil (another vegetable oil is ok if you have peanut issues). Add some sesame oil too, about 1 tsp. It is strongly flavoured and a little goes a long way. Drop in 2 or 3 whole cloves of garlic and some slices of ginger. When the garlic turns brown, pick the garlic and ginger out of the oil and throw them out. Don't leave the garlic in there, it will burn. By cooking the garlic and ginger in the oil for a few minutes you infuse the oil with the flavour without having to bite into big chunks of it.
Put about a cup of chopped up or sliced chicken in the pan and stir fry until done. I used boneless skinless thighs for mine because they taste better. When the chicken is cooked, add some soy sauce and black bean sauce. Take the chicken out and set it aside.
Put some more oil in the pan, and saute some more garlic and ginger in it. When that is cooked (and picked out of course) begin stir frying vegetables. It is important to cook them in the order that they will take the longest to cook. I used, in this order: carrots, frozen broccoli, onions, celery, and bean sprouts. I put in the carrots and broccoli, gave it a stir to cover with the seasoned oil, and put the lid on for about 5 mins to let it steam. Then I added the onions and celery, and let it cook for about 5 more mins. Finally I added the bean sprouts.
In the mean time, cook some ramen noodles to al dente. (just looking at that sentence boggles the mind) Put the chicken in with the noodles and toss with some more soy sauce and black bean sauce. When the veggies are done, right after the bean sprouts are added, throw the chicken and noodles back in the wok with the veggies, add more soy and bean sauce if necessary, sprinkle with ground ginger, and toss the whole works together. Put the lid on for another couple of mins to make sure the veggies are cooked, and then enjoy!
That chow mein is a meal in and of itself. We had enough for all 3 of us for dinner and for my lunch the next day as well. It heats up well as leftovers. Ian really liked it, he discovered slurping noodles last week!
Tonight I made a 3 course Chinese meal.
I started with stir fried veggies. Pretty much the same as the chow mein except I left out the noodles and the meat. I used carrots, peppers, bok choy, and snow peas today.
I also made beef and broccoli. I cooked the beef in the same manner as the chicken above, except when it was cooked I added Hoisin sauce and frozen broccoli, and sliced onions. The dish was good exept for Hoisin has a hint of sweetness and would have better with chicken or pork. It was also kind of sucky because I bought beef stir fry strips which are basically mystery meat. You don't know what you are getting. I should have marinated them a bit, or bought a steak and sliced it up. But despite these drawbacks, it was still really tasty.
Finally tonight I made fried rice. I used some sticky rice because I like to eat with chopsticks when I eat Chinese food and sticky rice clumps together and is easier to pick up. But sticky rice is kind of glommy sometimes so I actually mixed 1 part sticky rice with 2 parts good old long grain white rice. I put some big chunks of ginger in the rice because it aromatized the rice with ginger.
People are intimidated by rice but it is really easy. You need to cook rice one part rice to 2 parts liquid. It doesn't have to be water, it can be stock or tomato juice or wine or whatever. But today I used water. Bring the rice to a boil, slap a lid on, and turn the heat to low. DON'T OPEN THE RICE! Set the timer for 20 mins and just leave it alone until it is done. If you open it before it's ready, it won't work. Unless you are making risotto. But that's a different blog entry.
I sauteed garlic and ginger in peanut and sesame oil as above, when it was done I took it out and chopped it up fine. I then put 2 eggs in the oil, and fried them up. You want the yolks to break. When the fried eggs are done, put some frozen peas, stir it up, and add the rice. You can add some soy sauce to it if you want, or any other asian seasoning. I like oyster sauce as well. When the rice is all mixed with the peas and oil and seasoning, add the chopped cooked garlic and onion back in. Mix it all up, serve, and enjoy.
All of these dishes benefit from chopped green onion, either mixed in or sprinkled on top as a garnish. I didn't have any this week. I just forgot when I went to the store I guess.
Well, that's it for Chinese Food. Hope you like it.