Monday, April 27, 2009

Carnitas, my way

What follows is actually 2 recipes; the first takes a bit of preparation, and the second can be thrown together easily for a quick and delicious week night meal.

Beef brisket

This dish takes a bit of planning, but once made can be the source of several delicious meals.


There are tons of recipes like this out on the internet, and they're all about the same. Cover the meat with some kind of sauce, season to taste and cook until the meat's ready to fall apart. Most briskets are really fatty--but most of the fat dissolves into the sauce while cooking.

This recipe produces a very beefy-flavored beef brisket. It has no kick for a reason -- namely that, as the ingredient for other recipes, I wanted something fairly mild in flavor.

As always, season to taste.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 hours
Serves: 6-10


  • Chopping board and knife.
  • Measuring cups and spoons.
  • Deep frying pan with cover.
  • Wooden spoon.
  • Crock pot


1 Onion, roughly diced
3 cups Chicken stock
1 Carrot, roughly diced
1 stalk Celery, roughly diced (leaves included)
2 cloves Garlic, skinned and chopped in half
1 Bay leaf
2 cups Ketchup
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black pepper, freshly ground
1 green bell pepper, seeded and rougly chopped


  1. Combine the ingredients in the crock pot.
  2. Set on low and cook for 8-10 hours.
  3. Remove the meat from the crock pot and pull it apart with 2 forks.
  4. Reserve the liquid separately.

Carnitas Tacos

A great way to use up pulled beef, this quick and easy meal can be served dozens of ways (covered in sauce, fried, etc); but this is the recipe that works best for me.


Caramelizing onions is a neat trick to add sweetness to a dish, but it's not always necessary. If you're in a rush, just cook the onions until they are translucent.

You can use flour tortillas (or any kind of flat bread) for this dish, but I prefer corn tortillas (the non-deep fried not from El Paso kind).

I like to add my heat at the table (thus I serve this with salsa). Feel free to add some kick with a blend of chili pepper, red pepper flakes and a few drops of choice chipotle peppers or hot sauce.

As always, season to taste.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 with leftovers


  • Chopping board and knife.
  • Measuring cups and spoons.
  • Deep frying pan with cover.
  • Wooden spoon.


1 Onion, finely diced
1/2 cup Chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Olive oil
2 cups Beef brisket, pulled
1/2 cup Beef brisket sauce
1 cup Cheese, finely grated
12 Corn tortillas
2 cups Salsa (optional)


  1. Put the olive oil in the bottom of a cold pan and bring it to temperature.
  2. Add the onions and stir to coat.
  3. Cook until the onions have caramalized, reducing the temperature as needed to make sure they don't stick or burn. Stir often.
  4. Add the garlic and herbs and cook until fraigrant.
  5. Add the beef brisket and sauce, stiring to incorporate.
  6. Add another teaspoon of olive oil in a second pan.
  7. Warm a corn tortilla, flipping when pockets begin to form.
  8. Fill the tortia with 3 teaspoons of the meat and sauce mixture.
  9. Add a pinch of cheese and roll.
  10. Place on a plate, seam side down.
  11. Cover to keep warm.
  12. Repeat until the beef mixture and/or the tortilla are gone.
  13. Serve immediately with salsa.

Menu plan for the week of April 26th, 2009

Another week of trying to buy as little as possible and eat meals derived primarily from my pantry. As much as I wish I could say this was brought about by the success of the Eat down the fridge attempt, it's really driven by a desire to save money.

My CSA box will arrive this week, and I suspect I shall have to do something with the accumulation of onions, beets, and potatoes. Onions and potatoes I can deal with as there's definitely soup to be made this weekend; but I rarely eat beets (other than pickled). So, I'm off to scour the internet for a good recipe. Ideally I'll find a crunchy pickled beet recipe that I can make en mass, and give away to friends and family as gifts. Oh, and eat some too. :)

As always, I shop on Saturday. What follows is a plan that (to date) never quite comes out. I suspect I'll be waylaid by at least one dinner invitation (possibly two, we'll see). But my grocery list was designed around this menu, so if I don't make it this week--I'll probably make it next.


Breakfast: Fried egg sandwich, all dressed & tea
Lunch: Gyro pita, diet coke.
Dinner: Hamburgers, all dressed

Breakfast: Cereal, skim milk, strawberries & 1/2 banana
Lunch: 3 carnitas enchiladas, cheese, spaghetti sauce, diet coke
Dinner: BBQ chicken with steamed green beans & baked potato/sweet potato
Snacks: 1 apple, 1 med zucchini, 3 stalks celery, hummus

Breakfast: Cereal, skim milk, 1/2 banana
Lunch: 3 carnitas enchiladas, cheese, spaghetti sauce, diet coke
Dinner: Lemon pepper salmon with basmati rice, green salad and red wine vinagrette
Snacks: 1 apple, crackers & cheese, cottage cheese

Breakfast: Toast, almond butter, 1 apple
Lunch: BBQ chicken, steamed rice, steamed vegetables
Dinner: Chicken shawarma with lemony couscous and steamed vegetables
Snacks: 1 med zucchini, 3 stalks celery, hummus, yogurt & flax seed

Breakfast: Toast, almond butter, 1 apple
Lunch: Lemon pepper salmon, steamed rice, broccoli
Dinner: Sesame beef with stir-fry vegetables & basmati rice
Snacks: 1c pineapple, crackers & cheese, yogurt & flax seed

Breakfast: Toast, almond butter, 1 apple
Lunch: Basmati rice, steamed vegetables & tinned lemony pepper tuna
Dinner: Chicken piccata with artichoke hearts, Spatzle
Snacks: 1c pineapple, crackers & cheese, yogurt & flax seed

One-pot lemony chicken and couscous

A quick and easy weeknight dinner of chicken, vegetables, and couscous. The lemon makes everything taste fresh and the spices provide an unexpected depth of flavour for this simple dish.


This is a combination of two recipes: Spiced chicken with couscous and Lemony chicken with couscous. I wanted a one-pot meal with chicken thighs and couscous; but I didn't have all the ingredients for one, and didn't really want large chunks of tomatoes in my meal from the other.

My chile powder was quite dead; so the recipe didn't have the same kick that it would normally. The chile powder could easily be replaced by smoked paprika (to provide the same color but not the heat), or omitted entirely.

The vegetables in this dish could easily be replaced by your vegetable of choice (fresh or frozen). Adjust the cooking time accordingly.

If using fresh thyme, use the leaves from 2 sprigs and add them when you add the vegetables.

This recipe would work just as well with any cut of chicken (without bones). If using leftover chicken, additional olive oil may be required.

I will be making this recipe again. The lemon is defintely the strongest flavour; I liberally sprinkled lemon juice over my plate at the table. but even without the juice the zest in the meal is very noticeable in the couscous.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 3


  • Chopping board and knife.
  • Measuring cups and spoons.
  • Deep frying pan with cover.
  • Wooden spoon.


1 cup Israeli couscous
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 teaspoons chilie powder, divided (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups chicken broth, fat-free, divided
1 lemon, zested and cut into segments
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup peas, thawed if frozen
1 cup corn, thawed if frozen


  1. Put the olive oil into a cold pan and bring it up to medium-high heat.
  2. Add the couscous and cook, stiring, for about a minute.
  3. Pour the couscous out into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Put the pan back on the heat and add the chicken. Sprinkle with 1/2 the chile powder. Brown well on both sides (3-5 minutes each side). Transfer to a plate and leave the drippings in the skillet.
  5. Lower the heat and add the onion. Stir frequently.
  6. When the onion becomes translucent, add the spices, garlic, and lemon zest (but not the salt). Stir for about 3 minutes.
  7. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of chicken broth, scraping the bottom of the pan well.
  8. Add the remaining chicken broth, salt, and couscous to the pan. Stir to incorporate.
  9. Add the chicken on top of the couscous. Do not stir.
  10. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm.
  12. Add the vegetables and stir to incorporate. Cover for 2-3 minutes, until the vegetables are warm.
  13. Serve with lemon segments.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The sweet 100

Inspired by the omnivore's 100 (found via ruth's kitchen experiments) , Cakespy has created the sweet 100!

  1. Copy this list into your site, including the instructions!
  2. Bold all of the sweets you've eaten--or make them a different type color.
  3. Cross out any of them that you'd never ever eat.
  4. Consider anything that is not bold or crossed out your "To Do" List.
  5. Optional: Post a comment here linking to your results--or just post a comment letting us know how many you've tried, or what you're going to try next!

55 out of 100. Amazing for a Diabetic, no?

  • Red Velvet Cake
  • Princess Torte
  • Whoopie Pie
  • Apple Pie with sharp cheddar
  • Beignet
  • Baklava
  • Black and white cookie
  • Seven Layer Bar (also known as the Magic Bar or Hello Dolly bars)
  • Fried Fruit pie (sometimes called hand pies)
  • Kringle
  • Just-fried (still hot) doughnut
  • Scone with clotted cream
  • Betty, Grunt, Slump, Buckle or Pandowdy (Brown betty, Bluebery Grunt, Blueberry Buckle)
  • Halvah
  • Macarons
  • Banana pudding with nilla wafers
  • Bubble tea (with tapioca "pearls")
  • Dixie Cup
  • Rice Krispie treats
  • Alfajores
  • Blondies
  • Croquembouche
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • Moon cake
  • Candy Apple
  • Baked Alaska
  • Brooklyn Egg Cream
  • Nanaimo bar
  • Baba au rhum
  • King Cake
  • Sachertorte
  • Pavlova
  • Tres Leches Cake
  • Trifle
  • Shoofly Pie
  • Key Lime Pie (made with real key lime)
  • Panna Cotta
  • New York Cheesecake
  • Napoleon / mille-fueille
  • Russian Tea Cake / Mexican Wedding Cake
  • Anzac biscuits
  • Pizzelle
  • Kolache
  • Buckeyes
  • Malasadas
  • Moon Pie
  • Dutch baby
  • Boston Cream Pie
  • Homemade chocolate chip cookies
  • Pralines
  • Gooey butter cake
  • Rusks
  • Daifuku
  • Green tea cake or cookies
  • Cupcakes from a cupcake shop
  • Crème brûlée
  • Some sort of deep fried fair food (twinkie, candy bar, cupcake)
  • Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
  • Jelly Roll
  • Pop Tarts
  • Charlotte Russe
  • An "upside down" dessert (Pineapple upside down cake or Tarte Tatin)
  • Hummingbird Cake
  • Jell-O from a mold
  • Black forest cake
  • Mock Apple Pie (Ritz Cracker Pie)
  • Kulfi
  • Linzer torte
  • Churro
  • Stollen
  • Angel Food Cake
  • Mincemeat pie
  • Concha
  • Opera Cake
  • Sfogliatelle / Lobster tail
  • Pain au chocolat
  • A piece of Gingerbread House
  • Cassata
  • Cannoli
  • Rainbow cookies
  • Religieuse
  • Petits fours
  • Chocolate Souffle
  • Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
  • Rugelach
  • Hamenstashen
  • Homemade marshmallows
  • Rigo Janci
  • Pie or cake made with candy bar flavors (Snickers pie, Reeses pie, etc)
  • Divinity
  • Coke or Cola cake
  • Gateau Basque
  • S'mores
  • Figgy Pudding
  • Bananas foster or other flaming dessert (Cherries Jubilee)
  • Joe Froggers
  • Sables
  • Millionaire's Shortbread
  • Animal crackers
  • Basbousa

Beef fajitas for 3, spanish rice and guacamole

Beef fajitas are one of those recipes that I tend to make when I don't really want to cook. Funny, because it still involves a lot of cutting, measuring, and the like. But I've made it so often that I can almost make it with my eyes closed (but then I'd probably cut myself and that would be bad).

So, with company coming, I set to work preparing the meal.

First I made spanish rice.

I diced up a red onion (I didn't have any others, so red it would be), and put half in a pot with a nob of butter. Once the foam subsided I added a cup a rice and stirred it. This toasts the rice and provides it some initial flavour. Then I added some chicken stock (freshly thawed in the microwave) and some pureed tomatoes (canned diced tomatoes pureed with an immersion blender). I then covered the pot and brought it to a boil. Once boiling, I lowered the heat, set the timer and promptly forgot about it.

By then, my guest had arrived and joined me in the kitchen. We chatted as I dug out my favourite frying pan. I coated the bottom with a teaspoon of olive oil, and tossed in strips of sandwich steak to fry. As the meat cooked I diced a clove of garlic, mixed it with 1 rounded tablespoon of cumin and half a tablespoon of chili pepper, and added that and the remaining half of red onion in with the meat. I cleaned, and cut a red bell pepper and a green bell pepper into strips and added that to the hot pan.I stirred the mixture to coat everything with the spices and meat juice equally. Then I added a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a cup of medium salsa to the mix. I stirred it again and let it cook until the rice was done.

I mixed another crushed and diced clove of garlic along with two tablespoons of crushed tomatos and two avocado's, adding another heaping teaspoon of cumin as I stirred. Once the lumps were mostly gone (or at least very small), I stopped and set it aside.

Taking out a second (and smaller) frying pan, I turned on the heat and cooked the corn tortillas until they were soft and pliable (8 seconds according to the package, less time in my experience). I then added a small amount of sour cream, an equal dollup of guacamole, a pinch of cheese and a ladel-ful of fajita mix. I then folded the hot tortilla around the mess and placed it seam side down onto the plate.

Three of these plus a third of the rice and another tablespoon of guacamole made the meal. It was delicious.

Beef fajitas

Serves 6.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 2 lbs sandwich steak (preferably lean)
  • 2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 green) cut into slices
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced (I used red)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  1. Coat the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil.
  2. Cut the sandwich steak into strips and add them to the hot pan.
  3. Mix the garlic, cumin and chili pepper together and add that to the pan, stir well to incorporate.
  4. Cut the bell peppers into strips and add them to the pan. Stir well.
  5. Mix the salsa and Worcestershire sauce together. Add them to the pan. Stir well.
  6. Cook until the meat is cooked, the onions are nearly transulcent, and the peppers still crunchy.
  7. Heat the tortillas slightly.
  8. Fill in the following order: sour cream, guacamole, cheddar cheese, fajita mix.
  9. Fold the tortilla and serve.

Spanish rice

Serves 3.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, optional.
  1. Put the butter in a hot pan. Add the onion and the rice and stir to mix.
  2. Once the onion starts to become translucent, add the tomato sauce and chicken stock.
  3. Stir well.
  4. Turn up the heat and wait for the liquid to boil.
  5. Once boiling, cover and cook for the duration recommended for your rice.
  6. Serve hot with a bit of cheese on top.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Baked potato soup

So, at one point in the past there was a potato soup that someone loved. It was served to him at a restaurant. It was thin with just the hint of potato and a ton of cheese. He doesn't remember any other flavorings and has been looking for me to make this recipe (of a food I've never eaten) for a while now. It is, sad to say, one of many such requests.

I found a nice potato soup and tried it out on Sunday night. It was fairly easy to make, and quite tasty but the milk got the better of me and I shan't make it again.

The original recipe is here: Baked Poato soup from Cooking light.

The first time I tried to make the molk and flour mixture, it burned. The pot sits still in the sink, scrubbed and waiting to be saved from the black scars that mar its shiny bottom.

New pot, second attempt. Now I was paranoid. I whisked the flour and the milk together over a low heat, keeping the milk in a rathful foam for the duration until it just barely started to shimmer. It magically thickened as I thrashed it mightly; refusing to let the flour settle and burn (again). I covered it only reluctantly, and even then only until I heard it pop a single bubble. Far less time I'm sure than the recipe called for. Then I wisked the cover off and thrashed it mightly again, even tipping the pot to make sure my over-used wisk got into the corners.

I added the roughly mashed potatoes (there were chunks, I'm not afraid to admit it), cheese, salt and pepper into the mix and stirred (a softer version of my previous thrashing, and with a wooden spoon instead of a whisk) until everything was hot and nearly bubbly. I turned off the heat and moved the pot to another burner.

There, I added the sour cream and green onions. I put it back on the cooled burner and turned the heat to low. I stired it slowly, watching the ripples form and spread across the surface and stood on guard against it ever boiling again. When it was shimmering anew, I called dinner. I dumped in two good handfuls of diced cheese, and garnished it with a tablespoon of diced bacon and cracked pepper.

The soup was delicious, but unbelievably creamy and rich. It would have been better, I think, if I'd added the bacon instead of the onions to cook with the sour cream and then topped with the onions; as the onions almost overpowered the dish.

The cooking time as a scant 30 minutes (I microwaved the potatoes rather than baking them); but it took all of my attention during that time.

It was, alas not the recipe we were looking for. In addition, despite pills that help me deal with milk and using lower fat milk than the recipe called for -- it was still too rich for me. So, as pleasant as it was; it shall not be mine again.


  • 4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces)
  • 6 cups 1% reduced-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 cup (6 ounces) reduced-fat Montaray Jack cheese, divided (1/2 shredded, 1/2 chunked)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup green onions, chopped & divided
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked & crumbled
  • Cracked black pepper (optional)


  1. Microwave potatoes according to your microwave's instructions. Mash coarsely and set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon until crisp and set aside to drain and cool before crumbling.
  3. Spoon flour into a dry measuring cup.
  4. Dump the flour in a large pot and gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk until blended.
  5. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes).
  6. Add the mashed potatoes, grated cup cheese, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, stirring until the cheese melts.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat.
  8. Stir in the sour cream and 1/2 cup of onions.
  9. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil).
  10. Add the remaining cheese to the pot.
  11. Ladle 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 8 bowls.
  12. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon bacon. Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

One frying pan pasta meal (sort of)

I bought a couple of Lean Cuisine's skillet sensations recently. They're quick and easy to prepare and are a great alternative for me on nights that I really don't want to cook (and the allure of take out beckons). From time to time I play with the concept of making such a meal from scratch. The skillet sensation is rather like pan hash, replacing the potatoes with pasta and gravy with whatever sauce you have on hand.

I grew up in a household where, if my father was cooking, it would either be something on the barbeque, a quickly opened can of Claude's Chicken Frico, eggs, or pan hash.

My father's recipe for pan hash is as follows:

Peel and dice cooked potatoes into freshly melted butter. Add diced chicken, or ham, or roast beef. Follow with a handful or two of frozen vegetables (whatever in the freezer is good), or leftover canned vegetables (do not drain). Add just enough water, or stock, or beer to keep the mess from sticking. Flavour with salt and pepper, cover with leftover gravy, and serve as soon as the potatoes have developed a crisp edge and everything is hot.

The recipe doesn't work well with fresh vegetables (I tried), but it works great with tinned meats or fish. My version's slightly different (and perhaps not surprisingly longer).

Drop a halved clove of garlic into almost foamless melted butter. Once the aroma rises, discard the clove. Add 1/2 a diced onion and cook until translucent. Peel and dice cooked potatoes and drop them into the pan. Add a cube of frozen chicken stock to the hot pan and stir well, making sure to coat the cold potatoes. Add a cup of frozen vegetables to the top of the mix. Cover for 5 minutes until the vegetables are thawed and starting to warm. Add diced protein or a full can of fish (drained and rinsed). Stir to incorporate. If it starts to stick, add another cube of frozen chicken stock. Crisp is good, sticking is not. Free with a spatula and stir. The potatoes will break up; that's OK. Season with fresh herbs (dill for fish, rosemary for chicken, tarragon for beef, oregano and thyme regardless). Dust with red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Cook until everything is hot. Serve at once.

Then I saw those pasta meals. I'm not a big fan of regular pasta (I shouldn't eat it anyways) but I've always loved pasta sauce. Its velvety textures, it's luscious smells; my mouth waters just thinking about it.

So, one Saturday night when I should have known better I tried an odd combination.

Spätzle (German egg noodles), broccoli, diced chicken, and brown sauce.

Make brown sauce. Cook pasta according to package instructions less 5 minutes. Add frozen broccoli in a steamer atop the pasta for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time. Drain (but do not rince) the pasta and add it to the pan. Set the broccoli aside to cool slightly. Season the pan with a cube of frozen chicken stock and a clove of diced garlic. Once the aroma begins to fill the kitchen, add the pasta, diced chicken, broccoli and brown sauce and stir to incorporate. Serve once everything's steamy.

Brown sauce is amazingly rich ...but bland. I'm not sure what I wanted with this. I ended up adding oregano, rosemary, hot chili flakes and pepper at the table to give it more flavour. It was good (especially with the herbs and spices) and I'll definitely try this again; only next time I'll try it using something like tomato arrabiata, or simple marinara as a sauce. Then again, maybe I should have tried making the sauce from paprika Huhn.

Once I get this recipe down, I'll go about seeing to amounts and actual instructions in some sort of structured manner. Right now, I'm playing with tastes.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Menu for 4-April-2009

Organized Junky Weekly Menu Plan Icon

So, this week my freezer's full of ingredients; and now I need to start working my way through them. I didn't succeed in making many lunches last week. The down-side of trying to cut back on what you eat is that you often don't have as much left over to work with. I'm sure I'll find a balance eventually.

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, fruit, 1 piece brown toast, peanut butter
Lunch: Shish-Taouk sandwich (take out)
Dinner: Spetzle with brown sauce, leftover chicken and broccoli

Breakfast: Fried egg sandwich
Lunch: An apple, cheese, 1/2 chicken breast (sliced), pickles
Dinner: Creamy baked potato soup

Breakfast: Whole wheat toast with macadamia nut butter, 1 apple
Lunch: Weight watchers simple ones frozen entree, diet coke
Dinner: Roast chicken breast, 8 meatballs, Mixed green salad with red wine vinagrette, hummus, whole wheat roll.
Snacks: 1 apple, 12 swiss cheese crackers

Breakfast: Multigrain cherios with skim milk & a 1/2 banana (209 calories)
Lunch: Layered green salad topped with roast chicken (305 calories), diet coke (5 calories), 1 100ml yogurt & flax seed (122 calories)
Dinner: Beef fajitas on home-fried corn tacos with guacamole, sour cream and low-fat cheese (426 calories)
Snacks: 1 apple (63 calories), mushrooms & hummos (246 calories)

Breakfast: Cranberry granola with skim milk. Blackberries. Tea.
Lunch: Beef fajitas on home-fried corn tacos with guacamole, sour cream and low-fat cheese (426 calories)
Dinner: McDonalds south-western sandwich, medium fries (3 ketchup packets), and diet coke (750 calories)
Snacks: None

Breakfast: Oatmeal with blackberries and skim milk
Lunch: Spiced chicken with couscous & stirfry vegetables, diet coke
Dinner: Pasta with vodka sauce, mixed green salad
Snacks: Banana smoothie, yogurt & flax seed

Breakfast: Cranberry granola with skim milk. Blackberries. Tea.
Lunch: Weight watcher's smart ones frozen entree
Dinner: Lemon-pepper pan-seared salmon with brown rice & steamed peas.
Snacks: crackers & cheese, Banana smoothie

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Vegetable Spring Rolls

I was flipping through old recipe books, looking for something interesting for lunches this week. I found an old hand-book that I bought ages ago; mostly because the pictures looked good and because I'd just been diagnosed as a Diabetic. The hand-book is "Better Homes and Gardens Diabetic Living Healthy Snacks". The handbook promises (and delivers) a photo of every recipe.

I really like crunchy food, and spring rolls (the non-fried variety) can be very crunchy, depending on what you put in them. I figured since I know how to roll burritos, how hard could rolling rice papper be?

I gathered the ingredients and measured everything out. The rice pappers seem to be made of plastic until you dip them in warm water. The process of making the rolls went surprisingly well, until I started to roll them. I couldn't make tight rolls. I either overstuffed them (causing them to rip), or understuffed them (causing them to be loose when I rolled them). I think I need to practice this some more. I made 6 (and ate the one that badly ripped). The taste is quite mild, but the result is very crunchy. Note that after marinating for a day the taste was a lot sharper. After two days the rolls were too wet to eat without many napkins and not as good as on day one.

Note that the rolls will keep for up to a day or so if wrapped tightly in saran wrap.


  • A pan of warm water.

  • A kitchen towel.

  • A cutting board & knife.

  • Two small bowls with covers (or saran wrap).

  • Measuring cups & spoons.

  • A fine mesh siv.

  • A plate.

Ingredients & Instructions


1/2 cup

radishes, shredded

1. In a small bowl, combine the radish, green nions, vinegar, jalapeno pepper, sugar, and sesame oil.

2. Mix well to coat.

3. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

1/4 cup

green onions, thinly sliced

2 teaspoonsrice vinegar

jalapeno chile pepper, seeded & finely chopped

1 teaspoonsugar

1/2 teaspoon

toasted sesame oil
1/2 cupcarrot, shredded

4. Combine carrot, cucumber, cilantro and soy sauce in a bowl.

5. Mix well to coat.

6. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

1/2 cupcucumber, cut into bite-sized strips
2 tablespoonscilantro, finely diced
1 cupwarm water

7. Poor the warm water into the pan.

8. Carefully dip the rice paper into the water until it becomes pliable.

9. Remove from the water and blot dry with a clean kitchen towl.

68.5" rice papers
1 1/2 cupsBoston lettuce, shredded

10. Add 1/4 cup shredded letttuce on each rice paper near the bottom edge.

11. Place 1 tablespoon of each vegetable mxiture on the lettuce.

12. Add beansprouts on top of the vegetable mixtures.

13. Add three or four shrimp atop the beansprouts.

14. Fold the bottom edge over the filling. Then fold in the sides and tightly roll up the rice paper.

15. Place the rolls, seam sides down, on a serving plate and cut in half before serving.

1 cupbean sprouts
1 cupshrimp, cooked (optional)

What kind of party can you have for $50.

The NY Times Diner's Journal posted this question as the title of an article where two coworkers put together dinner parties for six people. The title alone gave me pause.

Once a week I put together a dinner for $30.00 CDN for 5 people. At the cost of $5 a head I've served roasts, stews, fancy layered salads, curries, and all manner of dishes. So I'm use to thinking this way. Admittedly the dinners I prepare are not all about the food, but neither is a dinner party. Afterall -- the people make the party. Their conversations, their laughter, and even just their presence is what makes the party a special event. That I want to cook something special rarely means expensive; usually it just involves more time and effort on my part.

The NY Times Diner's Journal article itself does not give menus for the two different 50$ meals, and it doesn't go into the pricing (for example, does the 50$ count for all ingredients purchased, regardless of how much was used, including pantry items). It seems the cooks went for several small courses rather than the one big meal I typically provide (main, side, desert). The comments provide lots of interesting sounding meals, and also makes a valid point. The article is about dazzling the people for 8.50 a person with at least three courses. Still, many commenters complained that 8.50 a person in this economy is bunk. While the article itself is light and fun to read, the point seemed lost on many readers (myself included); assuming of course that there was a deeper point burried in there somewhere.

When I go overboard for a meal, it's either truely extravagant (like Tigers and Strawberries Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Chili Dressing) in the amount of preparation time, or ocasionally special ingredients (like expensive cheeses, well aged italian ham for Chicken piccata, or really good chocolate for a Flourless Chocolate Torte). And even then, keeping it under 8.50 a head isn't that hard if you have the time to shop around and are flexible.

When I'm truely broke I serve soup made with homemade stock or something featuring a lot of black beans. When I'm flush I get fancy, not expensive. Even Fayfood (one of my many favourite food blogs) has an article about cooking cheaply.

If you cook frugally every night, it shouldn't be so hard to cook frugally at a party. And if the foods you eat are soulful and filling every night -- why would a party change that?

Maybe I'm not looking at this right. I don't cook with truffle oil, nor do I eat caviar regularly. I try really hard to buy in-season produce (because it tastes better); and believe that simple cooking is usually the best. Granted, I buy expensive romano cheese, organic vegetables, and imported hams and sausages when I can; but even a big meal doesn't use much of the expensive ingredients I buy and I'm usually willing to do without rather than go over-budget.

I have gone over my self-imposed 5$ limit a few times (usually for some unique ingredient that I spend a month trying to figure out how to finish--some of which still linger in the back of my pantry), but I don't regretted it. I've also made Christmas dinner (Roast turkey stuffed with lemons & garlic, homemade cornbread stuffing with cranberries, green beans, peas, sauteed mushrooms in garlic and red wine, and mashed potatoes) for 5$ a head. The secret? Buy on sale, store stuff in the freezer and buy it frozen if it's not in season. The leftovers from the meal served we 2 for almost a week.

To most cooks though, these aren't secrets; they're guiding rules to planning and budgeting a meal.

This Saturday I'm making beef empanada's for six. With the leftover money, I'll probably buy a jar of salsa, some sour cream, and make guacamole.

Next Thursday I'm thinking of making Chicken piccata and serving it over polenta. Maybe I'll blow the budget and make something truely decadent for desert.