Friday, April 20

Mediocre Food

Lunch today consisted of airport food. We had some Bratwurst and European sausages at a place called Pacific Grill. I was sorely disappointed with the meal. By the time we decided to eat, it was too late to look for a better place. But with a name like Pacific Grill, we thought we were in for yummy seafood. This was not the case.


Dinner was at a place in Oakland (we were too tired after our trip to travel to San Fran) called Pacific Coast Brewing Company. They brew their own beers and Ian tried their "Killer Whale" - a dark stout. He said it was sweet and licorice-like and he liked it. I had sparkling water with fresh lime. For dinner Ian had a swiss burger with onions on rye with fries and I had shrimp jambalaya (their special). The burger was good, but the fries were gross - definately of the frozen variety. The jambalaya itself was ok (good chicken and spicy sausage), but the shrimp was overcooked. I hate overcooked seafood.




Now that we got the gross food out of the way, hopefully we'll have good "food luck" for the remainder of our trip. I did take pics but am now too tired to include them. I'll go back and do it later. Edit: I added pics but they're nothing special.

Thursday, April 19

Carrot/Parsnip Soup

I made soup tonight as planned :)

Carrot/parsnip/potato soup with roasted garlic, served with roasted garlic crostini. The soup was a little too sweet for me, but that's just the nature of the carrots and parsnips, I guess. I froze two batches of it, so when it comes time for leftovers, I'll add some lemon to neutralize the sweetness a bit.

The "black box" that I was faced with on Sunday afternoon has now dwindled down to a bag of carrot sticks and cucumber slices and two cheese/egg/tomato sandwiches for our trip tomorrow (I guess I should admit that I ended up giving away three leftover potatoes to a neighbour). I look forward to updating the blog from San Francisco and coming back with inspiration for new flavours.

Caffe Sola

I had lunch today with a friend at Caffe Sola, which consisted of chamomile tea, a spicy black bean soup and a leek and spinach phyllo. The tea was delicious and served using a funky teapot, but I like my tea hot. After the suggested steeping time (7min), for which a timer was provided, the tea was just medium warm. Oh well.

The soup had an interesting flavour but wasn't spicy enough. It was advertised as spicy, so they could have been more bold with it. Also, it had coriander seed floating in it. I would have preferred their spice grinder to be at a finer setting - I don't like getting large-ish bits of spices in something like a soup. Maybe as an addition to bread or a topping for crackers, but not in soup. Herbs - yes; spices - finely ground.

My favourite part of the meal was the phyllo layered with leeks, spinach, mushrooms and cheese. The dish had a pleasant salty taste and the ingredients worked together - the filling didn't overpower the dough which was nice and flaky.

They change their menu daily so I'll definitely go back.

Hurried Curry

Yesterday dinner was a chickpea and eggplant curry. I used a pre-made paste (Patak's madras) and it turned out pretty well. To make it tastier, I added some black mustard seeds, cumin and garlic and didn't just rely on the paste. I find the pastes really acidic - like they add vinegar to contrast the spice, but I find it overdone. When I'm making my own curries, I do often add lemon juice for contrast but somehow it's not so overwhelming. Oh well, it was a quick dinner last night so the paste did the job.

The potatos would have taken too long to cook in the curry, so I didn't end up using them. Today I'll make the carrot/parsnip soup like captainorange suggested and I'll add potatos to that to make it more a vegetable soup. Likely I'll have some left-overs so I'm going to make carrot cookies and freeze the raw dough like ella suggested. Yeah, all this while I'm also cleaning up the yard, doing laundry, packing, going for a last-min lunch with a friend and submitting the taxes. It's going to be a long day...

Monday, April 16

Black Box Cooking

I usually cook via the "black box" cooking method. This is what I mean: I look in the fridge and make something up using the ingredients I have.

Sometimes when I'm at the grocery store I buy specific ingredients to make a particular dish (like when I had a hankering for potstickers, I had to buy the wrappers). Usually though, I just buy what's in season, which also happens the cheapest items! Then, using my well-stocked pantry and freezer I make something up.

We are travelling later this week, so it was time to take this black box thing to the extreme. We had lots left in our fridge and, being of a frugal nature, I can't let anything go to waste. On Sunday, I took out all the fresh veg and leftovers, put them on the counter and proceeded to plan. Here's what I had:

Carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, green onion, eggplant, rice, rosemary, horseradish, zucchini, cucumber, leeks, celery, cilantro and napa cabbage. Also, I had loads of onions and potatos, some eggs, cheese, left-over wonton wrappers, tofu and tomatos.

Here's what I've made so far: lentil, potato and ham stew, more vegetarian potstickers, two leek pies, and wonton crisps when I ran out of filling for the potstickers. Most of this can be frozen.


I'm still going to make an eggplant and potato curry, and then I have to think of something else for all the remaining leftovers. I'm pretty upset that our oven is broken since I wanted to make carrot cake and carrot/parsnip muffins for freezing - this would have used up a lot of food. I'll have to think of something else now. Any ideas?

Tonight we ate some of the lentil stew with garlic bread.

Sunday, April 15

Plain Jane

We had a plain Jane dinner today with a leek pie and chicken smokie that we got from Dad's. Our oven broke in the middle of baking the pie, so I had to use the broiler to finish it off - that's why it's a little burned on top. A fresh salad would have been nice with this dinner, but I didn't want to buy any extra groceries. We're travelling at the end of the week and we're trying to eat up all our food before we go so it doesn't go bad.

Ian also went out and bought a cake. Yummy chocolate :)

Saturday, April 14

Babysitting

The last two days and nights we've been babysitting for a friend. Breakfasts have consisted of cereal and fruit, lunches of salad and grilled cheese, and dinners were:

1st night: pasta with spinach, brocolli and cheese
2nd night: roasted potato and carrot, steamed peas and chicken fingers

Sorry, no pictures since I didn't have my camera.

Wednesday, April 11

Asparagus

Yesterday we ate out at...wait for it...Costco! Yes, that's right. COSTCO. We got our tires switched from the super-duper winter tires to our severely balding "all-season" ones. The wait was an estimated 2.5 hours, so we figured we could either scam lots and lots of teeny samples or actually dole out the $5 to get some greasy food. Even though option 1 would have been fun, we opted for option 2. We got Costco pizza (on the recommendation of Kevin Rose in one of the Diggnation podcasts) and split a calzone. Yummy greasy food.

So after Easter barszcz, Chinese stir-fry and greasy Costco food, I figured it was time for some vegetarian for tonight. I made an asparagus tart and some grilled zucchini and mushroom skewers. The tart turned out nice and crisp.

Monday, April 9

Laziness

Yesterday for dinner we were too lazy to cook anything so Ian picked up some takeaway. We hadn't tried Auntie Jane's yet, so it was a shot in the dark. The spring rolls were excellent as was the fish sauce they came with. The Szechuan beef was also pretty good, but I would have liked even more spice. The chicken dish was just medium, but at least we got lots of vegetables. We didn't order rice (I quickly steamed up a cup at home), but they included an order anyways which we thought was considerate. Yes, I know what you're thinking - traditional Polish sour bread soup for breakfast and Chinese takeaway for dinner...what can I say, sometimes I feel like making an effort and sometimes I just feel like eating junk food in front of the tv!

Sunday, April 8

Easter Barszcz

There's a fairly involved Easter tradition that my Polish family follows. This year was the second year that I undertook this process by myself since, living 3000km away, I can no longer visit my Parents every Easter. It begins about 1.5 weeks before Easter Sunday with the soaking of rye bread in water. This stimulates the growth of the yeast in the bread and a fermentation process occurs. It looks and smells gross, but just wait until the final product - it's all worth it!

The next step occurs on Holy Saturday. We prepare a basket of food that is blessed in the church. Depending on the region of Poland where you live and your specific family traditions, different items go in the basket. Our family includes the following: eggs, rye bread, kielbasa, beef, salt, farmer's cheese, and horseradish root.

Also on Good Friday or Holy Saturday, a beef broth is made that is eventually turned into the pièce de résistance.

Finally, both the soaking bread liquid and the beef broth are strained carefully and combined to make a clear sour soup called barszcz. This is served on Easter Sunday for breakfast. Individual bowls contain all the goodies from the Easter basket, topped off with grated spicy horseradish and the hot barszcz is poured over. Mmm, is it ever yummy!

Since I don't have many people to cook for, I just made the one Easter dessert - a Polish cheesecake. It's made with farmer's cheese which is sort of like a pressed cottage cheese. To finish it off, I slathered on the chocolate and served it with raspberry syrup. Happy Easter!

Friday, April 6

Dried-out Salmon

Tonight I made a Moroccan-inspired dinner with couscous, herb-crusted baked salmon and grilled zucchini. It was okay. The salmon was on the dry side and if there's one thing I hate, it's overcooked seafood. My favourite part was the couscous.

Thursday, April 5

Granola

On the weekend, I finally got around to making my granola cereal again. Today I had it for breakfast with some vanilla yogurt and kiwi. The cereal has all the good stuff: oats, wheat bran, flax, nuts, dried fruit and some honey.

Wednesday, April 4

My Try at Japanese

I made a sort-of Japanese meal for dinner tonight. It began with a miso soup with shrimp, tofu and spinach. I started off by making a Japanese broth called dashi using kelp and shrimp shells. I strained it, then added the miso paste and other ingredients. Oh yes, I fried the tofu ahead of time to give it some nice texture before I added it to the broth.

Next came the sushi. I made four different rolls and we have plenty of leftovers. We sampled the ones on the plate below. For the fillings I used various combinations of the following ingredients: cucumber, fried tofu, green onion, imitation crab, egg omelet, sesame seeds. Today I experimented with the size and shape of the rolls and with the ratios of rice to nori to filling.

Next up were shrimp and cabbage gyoza with a spicy dipping sauce. I put a little water and oil into a fry pan. The water boiled first and steamed the dumplings, then once it evaporated, the oil went to work and fried the bottom up nice and crispy.

Finally, I served soba noodles with vegetables. I was going to sprinkle on some kelp, but I couldn't find the kind I wanted at my neighbourhood Asian store. Next time I'll try the store downtown.

It was a pretty good meal and we have leftovers of everything but the gyoza, so dinner tomorrow night should be easy. I'll probably add some more vegetables to the soup and noodles to freshen them up a little.

Tuesday, April 3

Healthy Lunch

Today I made a homemade lunch for Ian and myself. A grilled sandwich with lean turkey, baby spinach and regular grocery-store cheddar on rye bread. I served it with some fresh veggies and a dill pickle. I miss the Polish dill pickles my Mom and Grandma used to make - the Polish brands in the grocery stores do not measure up. Maybe this summer I'll buy a bag of cukes at the market and make a few jars on my own.


The sandwich was good, although I used absolutely no fat while grilling it on the Hamilton-Beach grill. It would have been better had I lightly buttered the outside of the bread. I guess you pay a small price in taste for going the healthy route.

The drink in the background is what we lovingly refer to at our house as "fuzzy water with syrup." It's essentially a club soda with raspberry syrup and a slice of lemon. We drink this in lieu of pop. It's still yummy and you don't get that awful sick feeling from the high concentrations of acid and sugar found in pop.

Sunday, April 1

Welcome

I love eating and cooking and restaurant-going, so I thought I might as well start to chronicle some of my thoughts. The plan is to post every interesting (or not, as the case may be) meal I eat, be it at home or elsewhere. I'm hoping to use this blog as a way to track my changing tastes in food and my kitchen experiments.

If you have any ideas for restaurants or recipes I might try out, please let me know. For now, enjoy the beginnings of this blog, however amateurish they may be.