Trinidadian Food Adventures

Seriously, it has been a long time since I’ve had a cuisine that is brand new to me.  Today it was Trinidadian food!  I had roti and some yum oxtail stew.  It was all delicious, if not a little bit strong.  After that meal, I had major food coma, wasn’t even hungry for dinner!

Anyway, someday, I want to learn how to make roti, because it is yum.  After I learn a million of other things I have put in the “someday I want to learn” category.  You know.  How to skate, how to cook like Gordon Ramsey or maybe my mom, how to play piano like Tiffany Poon or maybe just improve, how to exercise like a personal trainer or maybe just exercise, how to clean like Marie Kondo or maybe just clean regularly, how to design and DIY like Grace Bonney and Joy Cho.. or maybe.. just..  the list goes on.  I don’t know what it is, this quest to be amazing, or even, just, good, at so many things.  I feel like when I was younger, it seemed there was more time to really dig into things, to actually be good at something.  And now, I feel pulled in so many directions, with information flying at me.  There is no shortage in the information, no shortage in pins to be pinned.  I see amazing things all the time, and I can pin them so fast.  But what I don’t see is the actual work that it takes to get there, where they started.

Yesterday, we had a new couple over, and we shared some of our experiences and they shared theirs.  Anyway, we didn’t know each other that well, and the wife commented to me that she heard I was a super foodie!  Oh my goodness.  I was a little shocked, because usually it’s people who actually can cook well who get that kind of name.  I guess my Yelp Elite badge has been spoken about.  I was actually kind of embarrassed.  Also, it has been awhile since I’ve tried anything really really new.  So when our new friend who has Trinidadian roots commented on how she missed the food from home, I was eager to find out what kind of food that might be, and whether we could find it.  Those are the perks of living in a place that is relatively ethnically diverse.

I also made this the other day, and it was pretty yum.  I’m digging these one-pan meals, oh yeah.

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Eat By Date

I have this weird thing where when I have leftover groceries from a recipe, I don’t use them up immediately because I don’t want to eat the same thing two days in a row.  What happens is that the grocery, in this case, asparagus, sits in the fridge.  It sits in the fridge for maybe a week before I realize, “OMG, I forgot about that.”  I immediately wonder, “Is it still good?”  and because I’m too scared to check, I LEAVE IT IN THERE to check later.  It’s the most illogical thing ever, but the fear prevails.  -_____-  I know, I know.

So days pass, and the asparagus is nagging me from the bottom of our fridge, but I can’t bring myself to look.  I’m afraid of what I might find.  Finally, when it’s time to clean out the fridge because we’re going on a trip, I take it out, and Google “How do you know if asparagus is bad?”  The asparagus doesn’t smell so good, but the texture isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  The appearance has definitely changed.  It’s definitely not firm anymore, and I even found one stalk that had what looked like mold!  (OK, it was definitely mold)  But some of the stalks seem like they’re firm enough to still eat?  Maybe?  Do I risk it?  So I go through the asparagus, and think to myself, well maybe if I cook it, it’ll be okay, because I hate throwing out food.  I rinse them, even snap them up into bite sized pieces.  But a twinge of doubt is there.

So then I do some more Googling and ask, “When is it okay to just cut off moldy parts and eat the rest?”  Apparently, according to USDA, hard veggies and hard cheese where mold is part of the process are O-K.  Everything else, nope.  The asparagus?  I think it’s hard but porous enough to be considered a soft veggie, which is what USDA considers cucumber.  Bah.  I guess I’m throwing my asparagus away.

So I guess this is my umpteenth lesson that I should just use up everything, but then I end up with oddly ratio’d meals.  What is a girl to do?  Have asparagus two days in a row?  Does it freeze well?  That’s a Google search for another time.

Meanwhile, I have some sirloin (I think?) defrosting.  What to do with it?

Ballet as an adult

Thanks to Groupon, I took my first adult ballet class today.  It was just me and this other middle-aged man, so that was interesting.  Both of us were beginners, so luckily I didn’t have to be too embarrassed by my flailing around.  It was somewhat fun, although towards the end, I got dizzy doing the turnarounds (can’t remember the vocab).  I noticed my knee hurt a bit afterwards, probably from the last jumps we did, or maybe from the deep pliés?  I know I overpronate in my right foot, and I did a little research and apparently I have what’s called a larger Q-angle, especially in my right leg which is prone to injury.  So I’ve been trying to do a tiny bit of research on what I can do to prevent more pain if I continue using the rest of the classes.  It’s interesting because there are those who support the barefoot movement and others who talk about motion control using orthotics.  I’m not sure what to believe at this point.  Overall, doing strengthening exercises seems like a good move either way.

Repeating recipes

There’s a problem with not following recipes to the tee, and it is this.  When I actually succeed at making something delicious, I can’t pinpoint what I did right, and often I can’t really remember at all what I did anyway.

Today I tried to roast a chicken again.  This time, a 5 lb Foster Farms chicken on sale for $5, stuffed with half a bulb of garlic diced up and two halves of a lemon.  I couldn’t find any original recipe, because what happens is I often look at a bunch of variations and then combine elements.  Rubbed the outside with kosher salt and pepper.  Put it in the oven at 450 for about 1 hour and 19 minutes.  The good thing was that this time, the fire alarm only went off once before my husband took it down (hoorah for tall people).  But when the chicken came out for us to eat, I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t quite as perfect as it was the other time.  Maybe I didn’t put enough garlic.  Maybe hubby shouldn’t have diced it.  Maybe I put too much salt, or not enough inside the cavity rather.  Or maybe my husband just happened to be starving the other time so I thought it was better.  Or maybe the chicken from Sprouts was better, or just smaller.  I don’t know.  There is no way to retrace my steps to solve the mystery.  There are only more chickens to roast before I find the perfect one.

Well, that’s annoying, innit?

 

Home, sweet home.

Again!  I’m back and trying to be a good homemaker.  Because when you’ve lived in glistening hotels for two weeks, you realize your own pod isn’t quite so glistening when you come home to it.  All of a sudden the dust that has collected since I won’t tell you when looks so obvious.  Like why didn’t I see that before?  And the baseboards!  I didn’t even know what baseboards were until college.  They’re these cute random ledges on the bottom of your walls that seem only to make themselves noticed when they need to be dusted.

Also, when you’ve eaten glorious New Zealand grass-fed cows and sheep (because that’s what normal cows and sheep eat, apparently, without trying to be fancy), served to you by resident Kiwis, your own semi-edible creations of who knows what seem much less appealing.  But I’ve been inspired to keep learning how to do this thing called cooking.  After all, just what is it that all those restaurant chefs have that I don’t have?  Hours of training?  Impeccable knife skills?  Good creative and artistic sense?  Whatever they have, I hope it’s communicable.  Just two days ago, I made myself black bean soup.  Not because I wanted to, but because I needed to survive.  And beans have protein, guys, protein.  Protein is to girls with ridiculously fast metabolism and quickly returning hunger, as, as, a good fly trap is to a fly.  Sticks to the insides.  Sorry.  So this black bean soup consisted of items that were still edible in my pantry after our trip (whoever invented canning, bless you).

Let me tell you what was in it:

  • Black beans (drained, rinsed.  Why we need to rinse and drain our beans, I’m not sure, but the recipes all say to do it, so I do)
  • Chicken broth (the use within 5-7 days kind, let’s hope I use it within 5-7 days!)
  • Lemon juice (because I found out that practically everything tastes better with a fresh lemon squeezed onto it, so why not my soup?  And acid might brighten up the beans)
  • A generous pinch of SALT (FINALLY, I learned, salt is not to be forgotten folks)

It was interesting, semi-edible as I expected, but not edible enough that I would feed the hubby with it.  So I bought him pho.

Anyway, today, I decided to make a salad, and since I’m tired of store-bought dressings with who knows what natural flavoring or color in there (rumor has it that Raspberry Nestea is flavored with the secretions of beavers but apparently that is “mostly false”), I decided it couldn’t be too hard to make a vinaigrette.  A friend on the phone suggested I add some sesame oil to that vinaigrette, and so I experimented with some rice vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, and salt, in artistic ratios meaning, arbitrary and according to my heart’s desire.

But this helped me, along with some finger licking!  Thanks to that website, I may have gotten the proportions right!

Oops, dumplings been in the pot for too long.. gotta go!

 

There are a couple sizzles

And they mean a few things to me.  Burning, cooking, and spraying oil.

Today in the oven we have two pyrexes of ratatouille.  They were adapted from the ratatouille recipe from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.  Apparently, adaptation is what you call it when you change a recipe and make it your own.  I use it loosely in this case to mean that I did not have all the ingredients on hand nor did I measure what I did have.

I figured I’d just pile veggies on in more or less even layers, because I’ve made ratatouille before.  So that’s what I did.  Who knows whether it will turn out.  Also, the recipe only calls for salt on every layer of five veggies, which seemed a little odd.  I just went with it.  I had no fresh herbs save basil, so I used the leftover basil and added some other dried herbs based on what I had.  Oregano, parsley.  Does oregano or parsley go in ratatouille?  Meh!

Right now I’m also adapting a Blue Apron recipe to make a butternut squash bean soup.  It’s sizzling like crazy over in the kitchen so I’m afraid it’s burning.

—- Recipe says two teaspoons of oil for one butternut squash, and to cook it for 6-8 minutes, until tender and slightly browned —–

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And it burned.  Nice toasty brown spots on the bottom.  Did I not put enough oil?  Was my heat too high?  Was my pre-cut butternut squash not quite equivalent to one butternut squash?

See the toasty bottoms of the butternut squash that I was not going for:

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It’s not too bad, so I’ll keep going.  Once I’ve reached the burning point in cooking, I kind of panic.  So I add the spices in, which right now is another haphazard mixture of cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, because I haven’t got Ras El Hanout.  However, a quick search on Wikipedia says it’s composed of “Commonly used ingredients include cardamomcuminclovecinnamonnutmegmaceallspice, dry gingerchili pepperscoriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprikafenugreek, and dry turmeric.”  So I throw in all of the stuff I have in my cupboard that fits the bill and figure I can do without the rest.  Next, in go the beans and the water.  I have some chicken broth leftover and I don’t want it to go to waste (Does anyone waste copious amounts of chicken broth or is it just me?  Why are the cartons so large and why must they be used within 7 days of opening?), so I substitute that for some water, and add some water for good measure and faithfulness to the original recipe.  Now I can breathe a sigh of relief, as I bring the soup to a boil, knowing that I won’t risk burning anything here.

Phew.  And then my oven sound goes off.  That means the ratatouille is done.  I wish I could just leave it there but I fear it might dry out.  And it’s beeping, again.  Hold on, need to check that.

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I’ve tasted the soup, and to my relief, it tastes pretty good. It tastes like butternut squash (Who would’ve thought!).

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Okay, okay, I’ll go get the oven.

I wonder if I dislike ovens beeping for the same reason I dislike phones ringing.  The sense of urgency sends me anxiously scrambling, except not scrambling, because I’m trying to finish my blog post, okay?  And neither ovens nor phones seem to bend to blog posting schedules.  They just beep, and beep, and beep.

Alright, before it burns now.

Here’s what the ratatouille looks like.  It doesn’t look like the ones I’ve made in the past. It looks shriveled and sad!  Did I not drizzle enough oil on the top?  Was it in the oven for too long?

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Oh yeah, I’m not vegetarian, by the way, and neither is my husband.  I just happen to dislike touching meat if I can help it.  Let’s just pretend that’s what we were going for.  Will this be a filling enough vegetarian meal?  Time will tell.  And this is what a blog post looks like when it’s done in the middle of cooking.