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

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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: 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.