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DAG! I’m … Dining Across the Globe :)

28 Jul

I didn’t really cook much this past week or weekend because I went out a couple times with friends. The places were completely different from one another, but the food was all delicious! First, on Wednesday, I went to a Thai restaurant for dinner.

drunken noodles

I met up with a girl I know from my first apartment. She’s been such a blessing to me here! When I first arrived, she took me on a walk around our neighbourhood. For the month that we lived together, she helped me navigate the bus system (of which she is a big fan) take care of the apartment (since we seemed to be the only ones who cared about cleanliness) and just served as general company, which was nice since I didn’t know anyone. We both moved out of that apartment and into the area we’re in now, quite a coincidence. Anyway so we went to eat at this place called Thaitanic! Lol love the name. It was actually Thaitanic II, since the original is downtown. I got drunken noodles (which I’ve never had before), and she got chicken kra pow (which I’ve had there before).

chicken kra pow

My noodles were so delicious! Wow. Spicy and sweet and an interesting texture. I wasn’t sure about what I had chosen at first because I was torn between the noodles and red curry, but mmm! I’m going to order them again at some point I’m sure.

Walking back from the restaurant, my friend and I decided to go to Eastern Market for breakfast on Saturday morning since I’d never been there and it’s on my list “Things To Do in DC”. My friend raved about this particular place that serves blueberry buckwheat pancakes and so we made a date :) We met bright and early at the metro. It took about 30 minutes to get there, and then we had to stand on line for like 25 minutes before we could order. The place, called Market Lunch, serves breakfast and lunch and is very well known; “bluebucks” are their specialty. It’s got kind of a diner feel and was really cramped because of all the people; after getting our food we sat at the one long table in front of the cashier/kitchen with everyone else who ordered their breakfast ‘to stay’. The pancakes were pretty tasty and quite filling. I didn’t order any sides and they kept me full until dinner time – despite the fact that I couldn’t even finish them! After eating we walked around a bit. Eastern Market was built in 1873 and is DC’s oldest farmer’s market. I discovered that in addition to fresh food, there are flowers, crafts, jewellery and art on sale. It’s a pretty cool place and if every you’re in DC you should try and check it out.

Later that day I met up with another friend of mine who came down from Massachusetts for the weekend. Our original intention was to get Indian food. We wandered up and down U-Street with no success, but we saw about a thousand Ethiopian restaurants! We took it as a sign and went into one of those instead. We picked the perfect one, it was incredible! To quote a review in the Washington Post:

The low-ceilinged space is unlike its competitors. Here, patrons congregate on rustic wooden stools beneath what look like umbrellas made of twigs, each cluster of seats and tables separated by a see-through shade. A small gallery’s worth of imported arts and crafts practically warrants a guide.

The food was just as impressive as the décor. I had never had Ethiopian food before, and now I’m a believer!

mmmm!

I don’t remember the name of what I ate, but if I told you it probably wouldn’t mean much anyway. It was finely minced ground beef with onions, jalapeños and some special spices. My friend ordered beef ribs that were also very tasty. And the injera, the sour bread that the food is served on and eaten with, was really good too. I can’t wait for my next Ethiopian experience!

On Sunday I went up to the group house above my apartment because I couldn’t get onto the internet. I ended up staying there all afternoon and most of the evening too. We all hung out while different people came by to check out a couple of the rooms that are opening up over the next few weeks. There were about 6 of us in the front room chatting and joking; it was really nice, I haven’t had a hang out session like that…since before finals last semester. One of the guys’ had his girlfriend and their mutual friend over, and this friend, whose father is Jamaican, made a big pot of curry the night before and we all shared it for dinner!

So I had traditional Western (anyone know where pancakes originated?) Asian, African and West Indian food all in a matter of days! And I enjoyed it along with great company to boot. Oh the life I lead ;)

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Peas, Beans and Lentils

23 Jul

For whatever reason, that phrase plays like a refrain in my head whenever I think of lentils, or vegetarians for that matter haha. I think it’s because I learned in Food and Nutrition class in high school that vegetarians need to eat lots of peas, beans and lentils to make up for the protein they aren’t getting from meat. It just stuck with me, I don’t know, our brains latch onto strange things sometimes. Until last week though, I had never had lentils before. They seemed like such a foreign food to me. I was inspired to buy a bag of them near the beginning of my summer though, because a friend told me they were high in protein and really cheap. Almost every week I would scour the internet for a recipe that used lentils…most of them were for soup, and I’m not the kind of person that can enjoy soup when it’s hot.

Finally, I found a recipe that was simple and seemed like it could be delicious. I boiled the lentils for 20 minutes (they smelled really funny btw :s ) and I chopped up a ton of onions and browned them in butter; I also shook in some cayenne pepper and a little cinnamon.  Next I added a few of the onions to the pot of lentils, along with some rice, and let that cook

lentils and onions

until the rice was done, i.e. all the water was absorbed. Meanwhile, the rest of the onions were still going, because I was caramelising them. When the onions were finished, I added them to the pot of rice and lentils. To be honest, it looked really ugly, everything was all brown. I chopped up some tomatoes to add colour and freshness, sprinkled on some salt and pepper and I was good to go.

It tasted pretty good and I would make it again, but I don’t think it’s going to be a favourite comfort food or anything, the way some of the recipe reviewers described it. The next time I make it I’m going to add garlic and hopefully I’ll have sour cream because I think that’s supposed to help too. I’m happiest because I finally used some lentils! Now that I’ve cooked them once, I’m less intimidated by the idea of using them again, and being creative with them. Another tool for my cooking box ;)

look, it matches the bowl!

Another dish I made that I’m a lot more excited about is homemade hamburgers! (Clearly I’m not cut out to be a vegetarian.) I’d never made them before but I had ground beef and some eggs to get rid of, so I thought why not? It was really simple. I added onions, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and eggs to the beef (in stages) mixed it all together, and finished it off with squirts of ketchup since (sadly) I have no Worcestershire sauce! hahaha.

I left it overnight because I wasn’t ready to cook it when I prepared the meat, and I think that helped the flavours really get into the meat. Whether or not that’s true…I don’t know, I didn’t have a control and I’m not aware of people marinating ground beef…but when I made little patties and cooked them the next day they were delicious! Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the finished burgers, I forgot to take them. I served it with freshly mashed potatoes, that also had parsley in them. What’s with all the parsley you ask? I’ve got the hugest bunch you’ve ever seen in my fridge. It’s outrageous. I have it because of the rice I made for YWDEP. Anyway, so whatever I can possibly add parsley to, I do. I can’t believe it’s lasted this long! However, I still doubt I’ll be able to use it all before it goes off. But back to the burgers, they were good hot and cold :) I wish I had a picnic to have taken them on! That’s ok though, I know for next time :)

giant hamburger patty

A Little Veggies Go A Long Way

11 Jul

Remember a while back, when my landlord, aka sketchball/douchebag, gave my housemate and I a crate of market produce?  (Is douchebag necessary you ask? Don’t worry, all will be revealed) Well I had to figure out what to do with an eggplant, artichoke, corn and a couple of sweet potatoes. Here’s the breakdown:

Eggplant
By the time I got around to dealing with the eggplant, it was overripe. There were actually two to begin with, but I gave one to my boss because I knew there was no way I could eat both of them. Too late I discovered, making a dish with one small eggplant and not much else isn’t really possible :| Apart from the purple veg, I had half an onion, 4 mushrooms, a couple overripe tomatoes, and some old celery. Sadness, I know, but I hadn’t been grocery shopping! I also had a loaf of bread. The same loaf from ages ago. Still! I know. So I was looking up recipes and realised none of them would really work since I only had 1 of the ingredients, an eggplant :| Finally I found one for a casserole type thing. I used the basic idea of layering the browned eggplant with other veggies. I just threw everything I had into the pan. Then I threw on some salsa for good measure, and squeezed on some ketchup. I also toasted the bread and scraped it over the top, to make breadcrumbs. Lastly, I sprinkled the little bits of mozzarella, cheddar and provolone cheese that I had. Then I put it in the oven for about 30 minutes, and voila! It was pretty yummy if I do say so myself :) And a great way to get rid of basically everything I had left in my fridge hahaha. After that dish though, I really had to go to the foodstore.

Artichoke
This isn’t as happy a tale. I had to do a lot of research into artichoke preparation since we never ate them growing up and I had no idea what to do. Basically I read that you clip off the sharp ends of the leaves and then steam the whole artichoke till the leaves are tender. Then you peel it apart and eat it with a sauce of your choosing like mayo or olive oil. I didn’t try that snack type method right away because I wanted to see if I could find a way to incorporate it into a larger meal, but alas, even though I found some recipes they weren’t practical for my situation. So by the time I ended up cooking the artichoke it was really old and didn’t come out very well at all. I made a sauce with olive oil, salt and pepper to dip it in, but it was just not good. I took it apart just to see what the centre was like, but I didn’t really eat any of it and ended up throwing it away. No pictures of that sad snack. Sorry! Hahaha you’re not missing anything trust me.

Sweet Potatoes
These were delicious!! Ahhh just the memory of them makes me smile :) I boiled them and mashed them, then added butter, salt, a little brown sugar and cayenne. BAM! Hahaha they were so good. And so easy! Foolproof. Go make them now! You won’t regret it.

Corn
I cooked this the same time as the sweet potatoes. I just wrapped the husks in foil and put them in the oven, although the foil probably wasn’t necessary. I left them in there like 30 minutes then took them out and added salt and butter. I wish I could have grilled them, because I love that smokey, charred kind of flavour of grilled corn, but these were pretty good too.

Oh yea! I just remembered that a friend of mine here gave me a giant bunch of chard. Chard? Exactly, I had no idea what it was either. I had to look up what it was before I could even cook it haha. It’s a dark, leafy green veggie that’s kind of like a cross between romaine lettuce and spinach…but not really. Haha. Anyways, I had no idea what to do with it! I ended up chopping it up and sauteéing it with butter and onions. Then I remembered I had bacon left over from the peas n rice and so I threw that in for good measure. After sprinkling it with salt and pepper it was good to go! And it was pretty good too. Kind of bitter, I don’t know how I can fix that in the future, maybe include less of the stalk? Anyway, it shrank right down, the way spinach does, and so I ended up cooking all of it at once.

So that’s the end of my veggie tales. Hahaha!! You know the kids series? Anyway, except for the corn, I ate each of these dishes on their own as a meal for either lunch or dinner, so they served me all well. Errr, except for the artichoke, which was a fail.

the eggplant dish before cooking

and after cooking

The Rice Series: Effort #4 A Savoury Conclusion

9 Jul

I know it’s been ages and ages since my last post. Sorry about that. To be honest I wasn’t really motivated since I feel like no one really reads this thing. I have however been encouraged by my little brother and so the next couple of posts as I get you guys up-to-speed are dedicated to him :)

Well even though I haven’t been posting, I haven’t stopped cooking and having food adventures! I am pleased to announce that I have conquered the mystery of rice cooking! At least white rice. A couple weeks ago, to give myself another chance to try my hand at it, I offered to make peas n’ rice for that Saturday’s YWDEP workshop (we provide food for the girls to eat). It came out perfectly! I was so happy. I made two pots, one smaller one for me and one larger one to take to the workshop. Interestingly, even though I did exactly the same thing to both pots, they came out differently. The smaller one (which I preferred) cooked a little more dryly than the larger. I think. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. But the larger one had a consistency kind of like my disastrous wedding rice…but fixed haha. Since I cooked them in different pots I think that either the material of the pots contributed to the different outcomes, or there is some sort of tipping point for rice cooking which calls for a different kind of preparation/care past that marker. Either way, pot or tipping point, these musings bring science, more specifically chemistry, to life! I didn’t take any pictures of the bigger batch, but it was beautiful because I sprinkled parsley on top as a garnish. Sadly, the girls didn’t really eat it. The adults who did loved it though :)

And this brings us to the end of the rice series…probably. Unless I have to reopen them to write about other rice efforts haha.

look at that colour :)

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.

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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!

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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