Archive | June, 2010

Protein’n it Up

21 Jun

Hmmm so I had a pretty interesting week of meal-making. My days consisted of me scrambling to cook all of this meat that I found myself with. I hadn’t meant for things to go that way, but I guess that’s what happens when you don’t plan ahead. I bought ground beef last week because I thought it would be nice to have tacos/hamburgers/spaghetti, but the only thing I made then was tacos. Then when I went shopping this week I bought a pack of chicken because I wanted to try my hand at baking rather than frying it. So at the beginning of the week I realised I should probably cook the rest of the beef and I ended up just dumping it all in a pot and making a huge thing of spaghetti bolognaise. Well not huge for a family…but definitely for lil ole me! It came out pretty well, but next time I don’t think I’ll use nearly as much water for the tomato paste, or maybe not any water at all, because I would have liked the sauce to be richer and thicker. I didn’t have much of a recipe, I just sautéed onions, garlic and celery, added ground beef, then put in tomato paste, water and a bit later some rough chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Finally I added some sliced mushrooms. Oh, and a sprinkling of thyme and rosemary. Isn’t the picture lovely? It had such a deep red colour – that let me know I had done something right! Haha.

Well I got rid of the beef, but then my landlord offered to give my apartment-mate and I a crate of veggies and meat on him, which we gladly accepted. The crate arrived a couple days later, just as I was on my way out for work, so I only glanced at the inventory. Imagine my surprise when I came back a few hours later and discovered what used to be frozen fish staring up at me? I hadn’t noticed them before. I wasn’t sure if I could refreeze them, so I called home…and also brought up the chicken I still had hanging out in my fridge. My mum was shocked! Well not about the fish, which she said I couldn’t refreeze, but about the fact that I had the chicken for so long without doing anything to it. What I ended up doing was staying up till 2am cleaning and cooking the fish, and seasoning the chicken in preparation for cooking the next day. The fish was trout…which I have no experience with, so I just got rid of a bunch of veggies by throwing them in the pan along with the fish. I haven’t tasted it yet so I don’t know how good it is. The chicken I made two things with. One batch I covered in corn flakes (gotta love em!) and baked, and the other I sat in a pan with orange juice, celery, onion and cayenne pepper and baked. Both came out pretty well, especially considering I was working with little time, a limited pantry and no recipes.

I’ve come a long way since the first week I moved here, when I was too nervous to buy meat because I wasn’t sure how I would cook it and didn’t really want to have to touch it. That was the old, self-conscious me. Who even knows why I was nervous? I was the only person who really used that kitchen anyway K And now I’m ready for my next projects -tackle filet mignon and rack of lamb! Haha I joke. On a college student’s budget? I think not. Maybe like 7 years from now when I’m married or something hahaha.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Bread, Bread and More Bread

17 Jun

I have so much bread! Since the weekend of my boss’ wedding, the number of loaves I have really hasn’t decreased. It’s partially my fault, since I’ve been seduced by bread deals at the foodstore. The week after the wedding I was in the foodstore and it was buy one loaf and get the second free, how could I pass that up? A chance to try out a loaf for free? And today, another brand was selling 2 for $5, which seems pretty good to me. Despite the fact that I had 3 loaves of bread in my pantry already, most of it was the kind I don’t eat, a cheapo brand I bought for the bread pudding I had intended to make. Which is why I had to buy more for me to eat…except for 2 weeks now I’ve bought 2 loaves instead of just one.

Anyway, in an attempt to use up the loaves, I’ve been trying to find recipes that help you get rid of leftover bread. The first and most obvious thing that I made was bread pudding, since it’s what I intended to do in the first place. I made this great big pan that I shared with my apartment-mate and one of the repairmen here at the house, but it was still a lot. Plus, I only used up one loaf and a tiny bit from a second! What in the world was I thinking?

Next, I discovered bread salad. It was delicious! And so easy. Tear up the bread, chop up tomatoes, onions and cucumber, and pour vinaigrette over it. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the flavours marry, and then serve it up! I made the vinaigrette too: garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, orange zest (since I didn’t have any lemon) and a few teaspoons of fresh squeezed orange juice, with salt and pepper to taste. Mmm! It was so yummy, and it looked so inviting with all the different colours.

Even after these two bread-intensive dishes, I still had a lot of bread. It helped that I ran out of milk and cereal, so I was toasting for breakfast and sandwiching for lunch…needless to say I was getting quite tired of all the bread. I wanted to make another bread pudding but I as I said, no milk. Last night I did have the brilliant idea of making grilled cheese sandwiches, which is yes still a sandwich but a little more exciting than just ham or turkey …although the first one didn’t come out the way I would have liked. As in, one side of the bread was completely black because I forgot about it :| So here I am with still a loaf of cheapo bread and the 2 new loaves I came back with. I’ll probably end up making another bread pudding, and eating more sandwiches. I’m really not into croutons. Making breadcrumbs is an option, then I could use them for hamburgers or something, but I’m not sure I have a grater. Well, we’ll see. Let me know if you have any ideas/suggestions!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Rice Series: Take #3 – Finally, A Sweet Success

12 Jun

A few evenings ago I was feeling restless. I had work to do, but I didn’t want to start just yet. So I did what I always seem to do in those situations…I looked for something to bake :) Now…what do I have in my cupboards? Sugar – *gasp* both white and brown! – butter, milk, vanilla extract, even eggs! (I’m not very fond of them) Wow, I might actually be able to whip something together. But wait…no flour. DARN! This really restricts my options :s I was searching the internet for recipes when I remembered, hey, I have rice, I can make rice pudding! Before this past semester, I only ever had it once, in grade 2, and I hated it. I don’t remember anything about the texture, taste or temeperature, just that I could only eat one spoonful. But then I had it served hot at an international dinner thing I went to and I liked it, despite the fact that it was terribly burnt :s A few weeks later a friend of mine shared some of hers with me, a delicious but plain version courtesy of her dad. This time, it was cold, straight out of the fridge. After these two encounters, I was confused – how is it supposed to be served? Does it depend on countries’ respective cultures?

Well anyway,  I looked up a couple recipes and decided on the simplest. You won’t even believe how easy it was. I think it’s going to be a staple in my house from now on! Ok so you cook the rice in a tiny bit of water, just long enough for the water to be absorbed and for the rice to get a little fluffy. Then you add sugar and a ton of milk and boil away until the mixture turns kind of porridge-y. Finally, you stir in vanilla extract and let it cool. I was eating it as soon as it was finished and it was so good!! Then I had some the next day cold, and that was good too. I don’t know which way I prefer. Oh, I also added cinnamon and  a tad bit of nutmeg to the milk, so mine wasn’t plain. It took a little over an hour to prepare, from getting the ingredients out of the cupboard straight to covering the pudding with saran wrap (because I didn’t want a skin). The pictures don’t make it look appetizing, but it definitely was delicious. I would proudly serve this to anyone, unlike my last rice attempt, which I would dish up with hesitation, and explanations about the ‘real’ Bahamian rice. Trust my first sincere accomplishment to be a sweet rather than a savoury dish! I’m not at all surprised.

This is after adding the milk and sugar

and this is after it's all done

The Rice Series: Prologue (aka The Debacle)

9 Jun

I am aware that the prologue is supposed to come before everything else, and although this event happened before the other two in the rice series, it worked out better to save the telling of it until now. I’m still calling it the prologue because this event was the reason for my idea of a rice series. I didn’t write about it then because I hadn’t created this blog yet – I didn’t believe my rice (and other) adventures would be so many!

*****
When I lived in my old apartment, I used the pots and pans that were brought by the other girls that lived with me. One was the perfect size for making rice, in which I experimented with the jasmine kind. It never came out the way I wanted, once too wet, a second time too dry…anyway, unfortunately the girl who the pot belonged to moved out and I had to find another way to make my rice. I had read on the bag that the rice could be microwaved, so hey! I thought I’d try that. I was a little concerned by the fact that I didn’t have a dish with a cover, but it probably wouldn’t matter that much, I could use a plate instead. While the rice was cooking, I was busy trying to create a gravy for my chicken breast. Ha! That’s another interesting happenin. I told my mum about wanting gravy and she said I could use flour and milk and gave me the measurements, so I did….but it just wasn’t thickening! So I added more flour…and more…and then it became gloopy. So I added more milk, and some water…then I needed salt! And goodness, it really doesn’t taste like anything, how about we throw some herbs in there too? Finally I got it a bit under control, and I could concentrate on that funny smell that had been bothering me. It reminded me of stale urine, but where could it be coming from? The bathroom is pretty far from here…I know there was an incident about pee dripping from the ceiling here before, oh no! could it be coming back? :| Ping! Yay for rice, this dinner is going to be sort-of-delish :) I peered through the window of the microwave and saw…all this water is over the sides?…I opened the door – oh no, that’s where the smell was coming from! – and looked down at the dish. My rice. Oh dear. It looked as though it had been re-dehydrated! The grains were even smaller than they were to start off with. And they looked kind of funny. There was no way I could eat that…I poked at it, and it all moved as one because the bottom grains glued everything together. Sadly, I scooped it all into the garbage. What a waste! Of time, energy, and rice. Now I had no more (I made more than I needed to save for later) and nothing to eat with my chicken and questionable gravy! Plus I was tired of cooking and didn’t want to experiment with any other rices (I bought a box of Zataran’s to try) Luckily, I remembered that I had spaghetti noodles from a previous dinner and I used those instead.

I think that was the strangest rice experience I’ve had yet. The kitchen really did smell funny, I hope I never have to go through that again while cooking…urine really isn’t anything you want in your kitchen :s

The Rice Series: Attempt #2

8 Jun

On Sunday I went to the foodstore and bought (among other things) the ingredients to make peas n rice. I came back and got right to washin, choppin and sautéein. Wasn’t that a bit soon after the events of Saturday? Perhaps, but I just couldn’t live much longer with the memory of that awful tasting rice. I had to try and redeem myself as soon as possible! And I’m happy to say that I did :) Somewhat. Again I made way too much. I was originally going to cook only 1 cup, but it looked so small – the poor grains wouldn’t have had many friends. Plus for all the extra work that goes in to peas n’ rice – onions, sweet pepper, bacon, pigeon peas, spices – why do such a small amount? So I did 2 cups instead….and hence produced enough to feed my family of 6 with leftovers. Ha!! I don’t know what I’m going to do with it all…I told my apartment-mate to help herself whenever she wants to, but it will still be around for a while. Oh well, ‘tis ok because at least this pot is edible! When it’s all finished and I try again there are some things I’m going to do differently. I think this pot needed more salt, more tomatoey-ness, more pepper and I think more of a hint of meat. The colour of this pot is really sad looking too, surprisingly, the rice from Saturday looked a bit more appetizing, hopefully adding more tomatoe-ness and meat will help the next time. Soon I’ll be cooking rice like it’s nobody’s business.

P.S. I’m happy to report that the bottom of this pot burned only a tiny bit.

The Rice Series: Fiasco #1

7 Jun

This is another one of those blog posts whose focus had to be redirected. It was originally supposed to be all about the AMAZING wedding I went to this past weekend. My boss got married in a lovely semi-traditional African ceremony to her Ghanaian fiancé. I was a part of the live ‘band’ that played different ensemble pieces for the pre-processional, the processional and then different times during the ceremony. It was outdoors, on the lawn in front of the church belonging to the officiating pastor. My boss (the bride) wore a Ghanaian outfit called a slit and kaba, and I recognised the fabric from when I was there last semester! The slit and kaba is what any Ghanaian woman can wear on a day-to-day basis, but the design accentuates the shape of the body, and this combined with the rich fabric designs make it a lot more dressed up than what any Westerner would wear on a daily basis. The bride was absolutely beautiful! I enjoyed the whole ceremony, especially their vows. They said the exact same thing as the traditional ones, but in plainer, simpler English. I found the wording beautiful and powerful; it made me believe in and hope for the couple’s future together. They didn’t write them themselves mind you, they were just from the pastor’s book, so maybe I can find them for myself! Haha. Something else I thought was really neat is that they exchanged necklaces instead of rings. This makes a lot of sense because as drummers, specifically djembe players, they can’t wear any jewellry on their wrists or fingers.

After the ceremony we all headed to the home of a musician friend of the couple’s, where a lot more people were invited to come for the reception. It was THE BEST RECEPTION I HAVE EVER BEEN TO and I think the weddings I go to after this one are going to have a hard time matching up. There were a bunch of drums and other instruments set up and for most of the time guests made up their own jams and danced to the music that was created. I played almost every instrument, all of the drums, the shakere, tambourine and bells. Oh! Plus, as little take homes, there were plastic shaker eggs with the names of the bride and groom on them, so people could just hold a couple eggs and use those to make music too. I played for hours! And I wasn’t the only one.

The food is where the title of this post comes from. The reception was potluck style. I decided that I would bring a giant pot of jollof, a popular West African rice dish, in honour of the groom. Now I’ve only just started making rice for myself, and I’ve never been 100% successful, but I thought, hey I’ll give it a go. So I bought a 5lb bag of rice and attempted to cook all of it. Everything went well until it was time for me to leave when I realised that it still wasn’t done. I was confused, it’s been cooking for an hour, how is it not done yet? Well I had to go so I just left the cover on and hoped that the steam would continue cooking it. When I got to the reception and took a look at the rice, I was dismayed. At first I thought it still wasn’t done, but I asked the host to take a look at it and after tasting that rather than being undercooked, I had overdone it! I was so sad. I worked so hard and all I had to show for my labour of love were sticky, mushy grains of rice. And I had already told the groom he should have some! He would surely expose my rice for a fraud. And everyone else at the party would wonder at who had brought such a terrible dish!

To my utter mortification and relief, people ate it :| Moreover, when a few of them found out (from the few guests who knew I had brought it) that I was the chef, they told me how much they enjoyed it! I tried to explain that it was a mistake, but they shushed me. Wow, wait until I get the rice right! Then lets hear ‘em! Haha. Anyway, I never ate more than a spoonful, and I avoided even looking at it. At the end of the night, when I went to get my pot, I saw that over half of it was gone! Wow. So when I finally got back to my apartment, I heated up a bowlful to see if it really was edible. I added ketchup just to be safe…and I took a bite. Yeck!! What is this? And how did those people eat it? I had to throw all of the rest of it away. And about half an inch of the bottom was burnt :| The pot is currently soaking, looking at me accusingly from the sink.

I’ve decided, I’m going to conquer rice making. I don’t care how much rice I have to make in the process, it’s not like it’s expensive. I’m Bahamian! And Jamaican! Rice is an important dish. Moreover, it’s not just plain white rice, it’s got all this other stuff in it. So, after I figure out how to make it without burning everything, I can work on making it my signature way! I’m excited.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

S…M…H…

6 Jun

Just for clarification, smh = shake my head. It’s used pretty intuitively, whenever you would shake your head at anything that has been said or done. I said it just the other day on the metro; I was sitting there thinking about whether or not I should break the law and start eating this brownie I had just bought, when something transpired that made me slowly say “s…m…h…”.

Hmm, why would I be breaking the law? Well that question was to be answered in my original purpose for this post. Earlier that day, I had gone to a vegan bakery, I wanted to see if it were possible to make anything that tastes good without eggs or dairy. My intention was to buy a cupcake, but the chocolatey call of a brownie with nuts (my favourite kind) begged to be answered instead. It was delicious! I ate as I walked towards the metro, but then had to put it away because it’s illegal to eat/drink on DC public transportation.

So, now the stage is set. I was sitting in the car, debating whether or not I should bring it out and resume munching (I’ve never even considered breaking the rules before) and wondering how I would explain this brownie trip to you all. I was distracted by what I sensed to be a hostile exchange between a young man (in his late 20s) and an old woman. The guy had his feet up on the seats of the car, and I assume the woman told him to take them down. When I looked up he had just asked why he should move his feet, and she explained to him that because people sit on the seats, their clothes would get dirty. Sounds like common sense right? Well, the guy’s response was “I hate to break it to you ma’am, but the majority of people’s asses on this train are dirtier than the bottom of my feet. So you need to fuck off”. WHAAAATTT?!!! I could not believe what I heard. One because his reaction was completely uncalled for and two because he was speaking to an old woman, someone who could have been his grandmother. It was so disrespectful!! Wow. I’m still not over it. I felt terrible for the old woman and I was really angry at the guy. His foolishness is the reason why many people are so frustrated with young people…punk. Hahaha that’s probably how the woman would have described him. “Arthur, you wouldn’t believe what this young punk said to me today…”

I thought about saying something, but I wasn’t sure if I should, plus I had no idea what would have been appropriate. I imagined someone saying that to my grandmother and that made me even more angry. How dare he? And honestly, his feet shouldn’t have been on the chairs. He’s a grown man. He knows that. Plus, dirtier than the bottom of his shoes? Really? He was in these ugly black boots that, although they weren’t badly worn, were far from being new. I think it’s safe to say my skirt-clad bottom was and will continue to be a lot cleaner than the soles of those shoes. And if he’s talking about STDs, I hope he knows that they don’t travel through clothing :| If he’s clearly wrong, why make a big deal out of it? Argh.

The fact that he cursed her out calls to mind something that happened to me just a few hours earlier that day. Again, I was underground. I was walking along the edge of the platform, right on top of the lights, and a seated lady called out to me and said “isn’t there enough room here?”. I was surprised when I realised she was talking to me and told her something lame like “I’m stepping on each light”; she scolded me about possibly falling. I kind of shrugged off what she was saying, why was she concerning herself with my wellbeing? It’s my own business if I want  to risk injury right? But I just said ok, moved in a little closer and kept walking; she yelled to my back, “thanks for not cursing me out”. I was surprised. Admittedly I was irritated, but not nearly enough to curse her out. That never even occurred to me. I wondered, is she used to things being that bad? Although I’ve been living in the ‘big city’ a month, I’d never witnessed any rudeness. Till that guy came along. Clearly, some people don’t have any broughtupcy. You never speak to elders that way. And he needs to get his priorities in order, even if he was upset, some things aren’t worth getting that angry over.