Week 4, take 2: Less Bark, More Bite.

It’s not love at first sight.

That moment when you lay your eyes on the perfect jewel. It’s ruby red and smooth underneath the pads of your fingers. Marvelous.

A simply marvelous greenhouse tomato, full and firm in the palm of your hands.

It’s not quite lust when you notice it. But you can’t tear your eyes away from the creamy whiteness of it, wrapped tight in its bindings, begging to be freed, to deliver to you the unadulterated taste of fresh mozzarella cheese. 

Yes, it’s fun to mess around with flavor profiles, have a fling here, toss around with this there. But when the chefs you see on television emphasize the sheer magic that is fresh, untampered ingredients, they’re definitely onto something.

 

A shame, though, that the industrialized world is making them hard to find. And yes, they do come at a premium. 

In spite of inconveniences, sometimes only they can do the job. If you set it up right and showcase the flavors of the ingredients, you get something even better than a dish with a name that is a whole sentence within itself, with half the words being unpronounceable. 

Image

 

D’you see that? That is some beautiful shit right there – plump greenhouse tomatoes and mozzarella, sprinkled with some salt and pepper and dried herbs, drizzled with olive oil, and finished with some basil. Great eaten just like that. 

ImageFor shits and giggles, I put them, along with some pesto, onto some paleo pizza crust made with cauliflower, almond meal, and an egg to bind it all together. Er, at least it was supposed to be shits and giggles, but Christ almighty was making it labor intensive, trying to squeeze out the water from the cauliflower.

Worth it? Debatable, knowing that sometimes the parts of the sum is better than the sum of the parts. 

Week 4: “Weakness, thy name is…”

…a two letter word that starts with an ‘m’ and ends with an ‘e’.

I think I’m in trouble because these lemon poppy seed muffins have gotten me hook, line, and sinker back into the world of baking like regular people do, with (whole, because we don’t do anything BUT in any household of mine) wheat flour, sugar, and butter. 

ImageI tried, honest I tried, I tried so hard to soften the fall: instead of sugar, I used organic coconut palm sugar (which costs just a nice a penny as it is a low-glycemic sugar substitute), cut the fat by subbing half of it out with applesauce, used vegan butter…!

Also, culinary firsts– my laziness to go to the store and pick up some eggs caused me to find egg alternatives. So, I gave the ole flax and water recipe a spin, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out!

But in the end, I was fated to be doomed, to be deathly in love with these muffins.

I’m not sure what about it makes my brain light up more– the carbs in it, or the sugar. I guess when it comes down it, they’re both pretty much the same. And they’re unavoidable, and so, so fucking delicious. 

In other news, I wish I had gotten a picture of breakfast, but took advantage of the fact that my circadian rhythm has now set itself to waking up about nine or so to go to the SFC Farmers’ Market in downtown Austin to grab some breakfast! Pretty excited to get my hands on some Tacodeli. Good lord the tastiness that they wrap up in a tortilla. Filled up on Buddha’s Brew kombucha, and made a stop at Cake and Spoon to see what their famous quiche is all about and picked up a treat or two. 

Blowing twenty dollars at the Farmers’ Market was actually quite tame. 

(First-world, I-love-food-a-little-too-much, I-think-I’m-getting-a-little-more-Austinite problems.)

Week 2 and 3: Cat(ch)sup

Two weekends of cooking have passed since my last post, but this will be a lightning post, partly because I can’t quite remember what I have to say about the pictures that I saved of what I made.

It goes without saying that I have long finished the food featured in these posts. At least, I think I did. I sure hope so. Surprise food is nice, but not the kind that has been sitting in the back of your fridge, and the only reason why it’s a surprise is because you forgot about it…

Without further ado:

Week 2:

Photo Jun 29, 7 54 59 PM          Photo Jul 07, 8 50 06 PM

I don’t recall a lot of cooking, but I do recall baking a lot of blueberry-related things, as apparent from the pictures. I think it had something to do with organic blueberries being on sale at Central Market, and they were the tastiest gems! I had made some blueberry tart-bars, I guess you could say, using a graham cracker recipe from here, which has yet to fail me in producing crunchy, scrumptious graham crackers that I spike with a little flax for added nutritional value. As for the blueberry jam-topping, it was just a little something I whipped by heating blueberries, honey, zest and juice of a lemon, and some orange juice I found in the fridge. The blueberry-citrus mixture was definitely better than the parts of the sum.

As for the cheesecake…After the “cheesecake” fiasco, I rolled up my sleeves and tackled it with a greek yogurt cheesecake recipe, mixed in with some fresh blueberries. A little disappointed I can’t find the recipe I used, but I remember taking a few liberties with it. The result was a rich, dense, extremely creamy greek yogurt cheesecake that I found to be quite tart, but not untasty. To mellow it down, I had it with blueberry and strawberry-rhubarb jam, and I think it’s safe to say that I would definitely do it again. In fact, I’d do both of these recipes again.

Week 3:

Photo Jul 07, 8 50 20 PM        Photo Jul 07, 8 52 21 PM

The theme of this week might have been “Getting My Veggies On.”

What originally was supposed to start out as Thai curry with green beans and chicken somehow escalated into something else that had fish sauce, black bean garlic sauce, and sweet potato noodles (granted, the noodles were part of the original plan). It was good, though– good enough to eat for two weeks straight. Note to self: I have got to stop cooking enough for a family of four.

When I first went to 24 Diner on what turned out to be the best July 4th I’ve had in, I don’t know, ever, I fell head over heels in love with the side of summer squash and zucchini that came with my burger. Which is kind of strange, to love the side a little more than the burger itself, which was, don’t get me wrong, capital-A amazing in its own right. But it was fresh (local and organic!), and beautifully seasoned, the perfect texture, not too mushy but still gives in to a light chew. I might have tried to make something like it, I sauteed some summer squash and zucchini with red bell pepper and grape tomato with some shallots I found in the fridge. Threw in some rosemary for some aroma (a good call, if I do say so myself), but it was a little lacking in taste. Still, a great way to incorporate some veg into my week.

(Non-food related) Revelations in Front of the Pantry: The Domino Effect

There’s something tragic in it, the way you can painstakingingly, meticulously, hold-your-breath-don’t-breathe-don’t-you-dare-even-unclench-your-jaw-ingly plan and set yourself up, piece by piece. Square by square. Dot by dot. And the moment– the moment you think you can retract your finger and pull your hand away, one little wobble and tip begins the fall. 

You watch your work fall, and fall, and fall. Piece by piece. Square by square.

It doesn’t take further than the fifth tile– maybe not even– for you to helplessly sink into that feeling of giving up. It’s futile to fight it. Just like how it’s futile to stop the blocks by falling. 

I’ll be honest, the Domino Effect can be applied to a great deal of aspects in my life right now. Take for one, this blog. Three weeks, no update. What, three entries in, and you’re about ready to throw in the towel, self? Let the blog rot in an abandoned little corner of the internet, along with countless others, sitting there and doing nothing but take up a URL name?

Not like that’s anything new.

You know what else, the Effect can sometimes accompany the Struggle Bus, spewing and chugging out of its exhaust pipes, a lovely little fanfare and a death knell for occupants of the Struggle Bus. To illustrate, I’ve got clothes everywhere in my room, I have yet to start packing to move out, I can’t be arsed enough to care about my Physics class and consequently am trailing a little behind (just a little!). Thumbing through my calendar, the weeks ahead only look like they’re going to get even worse.

The Struggle Bus is around the corner, and it doesn’t stop for anybody. Especially not lazy-asses like me.

On a food-related note, last Sunday, I fucking binged on the most unhealthy shit I have ever put into my body in a long while. I was torn between berating myself, rationalizing whatever the hell I was putting into my mouth (yoooo this barely even counts as food more than chemically altered salt, sugar, and the worst kinds of fats ever), and trying to decide if it was worth ever doing it. Motherfucking pizza, and ice cream, and cookies, and popcorn chicken, and ranch, and Christ Almighty, things I don’t even want to remember. For some reason, it was hard to stop. Even worse, it wasn’t even that great! And even though the worst of it was on Sunday, that whole weekend was full of me wrecking my body. With a morbid, sardonic scoff, I even thought I was going to keep myself on the straight-line in order to get myself for Hawaii, where then I could really seek out the good stuff, stuff that I wouldn’t be able to get, or would only be able to get of mediocre quality, here in Texas.

I felt so awful about it, I ran that night, and fasted for a whole twenty-four hours later. I feel better now, but I thought it was kind of curious how I felt gross not only because I was browbeating myself, but physically, my body felt something nasty. Lethargy, sleepiness, a slight headache…the Itis? Maybe, but calling it that seems almost affectionate with a touch of humor, and there’s really nothing funny about stuff you shove down your piehole literally jacking you up. 

So here I am, staring at the pieces, the shambolic remains of what I had built up.

But you know sometimes, when you rewind video tapes (back when they existed), things just seemed so different backwards? New paradigms and perspectives arise. Or remember how creepy it was to sometimes play a song backwards and hear an entirely different message? 

(Okay, now scratch out creepy, and replace it with inspiring. That’s what I’m trying to aim for, here.)

Life isn’t as easy to rewind, in fact it’s downright impossible. But that’s not the point; the point is to get the hell off those laurels, off the whole crying over things spilled spiel, and instead, I’m going to look upon the hope that I had as I was starting, and start picking up the pieces now before it’s too late. And who knows what I may find– a new, fresher idea, a better plan– and it’s only going to happen if I start up again.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Starting with this here food-blog pet project of mine.

Week #1.2: Lack and Compensation

One of the things I am constantly kicking myself for is the fact that I don’t know how to cook the food my parents make. Y’know, food of the Motherland. Honest-to-goodness, no-lie, the traditional Vietnamese and Chinese dishes (and I’ll be honest, sometimes their lines are too blurred for me to tell where one ends and one begins, but maybe that doesn’t matter because it’s the influences of one upon the other that makes it great) that I took for granted when I’m at home. I’m talking the sweet and pungent and aromatic and light and subtle and exotic flavors of fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic-chili pepper paste, ginger, sesame…and that’s not even a fraction of it.

I think it explains the reason why I don’t cook Asian myself very often– I can’t do it like momma. So I don’t even try, and I just dance and flit around every other cuisine that would never be seen at home.

But this week, I think miss some of those flavors. It’s a far cry from the traditional foods, but maybe I’m just looking for something that will get me through until the next time. So this week, with some tofu left in the fridge, I made a stir fry of this, but instead of wrapping it up in lettuce, I opted for some kale. And then I found raw kale to be a little intense, so I wilted it for a little bit before adding it to the stir fry. Oh, and since I had some old leftover ground beef (previously purposed to fill dumplings), I added that in, too.

Because I am impatient and an idiot, it turned out a little more watery than expected, but that’s okay. The taste was still great (smelled great as it cooked, too), and there’s nothing a little Sriracha can’t save.

Photo Jun 22, 3 22 08 PM

 

Along with the theme, I also tried to make curried beef dumplings from here, but the flavors just weren’t there– kind of muted, actually. I think it might be because I subbed out the soy for tamari sauce, and it being by first time with it, I wasn’t sure exactly how it’d taste. In any case, I only made a few, and froze the rest of the filling to play with for another day.

And of course, for dessert/breakfast, paleo banana bread. I’ve been most impressed with this recipe. I haven’t really done much paleo baking, but out of what I have tried, I liked this one enough to try again.

Photo Jun 22, 3 21 57 PM

We’ll see how long this food lasts me– I still even have leftover zucchini lasagna from last week(!).

Week #1 – I don’t miss you.

You know what, cheesecake?

I don’t miss you. Because really, fuck how grossly decadent you are. When I used to eat you, the only thing I felt afterwards was guilt and the desire to curl up into a ball and die. Signs of a healthy, well-balanced relationship for sure.

The fact that I made a raw almond “cheesecake” (recipe modified from here) says nothing about anything.

Did I get a little worried that my blender wouldn’t be able to mash the almonds that I had soaked for a night into the right consistency? Maybe. Was it laborious to do? A little. When I had sampled the mixture before freezing, I had a few reservations. It had a slight by unmistakable grit of almonds, but at the same time, it had the richness of the cheesecake without even needing cream cheese, and at that, I was a little impressed. Impressed enough to not totally stamp and pass it off as “healthy shit I don’t think I can get used to”.

I even tried to properly make layers– on top of the crust, which was made from ground up paleo chocolate chip cookies that well, turned out less than ideal, with some coconut oil, a layer of plain vanilla, the second being a layer blended with raspberries and blueberry, and finally, the top being blueberry and mango.

It’s freezing in the fridge now, but I got impatient after two hours and cut off a portion.

Photo Jun 23, 11 11 33 AM

Interessante. Too soon to say if I would try again, but for now, I can still say that I don’t miss cheesecake.

Edit (23Jun2013): I…don’t think I like this. Maybe it’s because it hadn’t blended it enough, but even though it initially feels like biting into cheesecake, I can’t get past the fact that I am essentially eating really, really ground up almonds. The flavors aren’t really there, and the crust only tastes like coconut oil– my bad. I’ll think of this as more of a failure on my part. But for now, no more raw vegan “cheesecakes” will be seen from me.

I’ll uh, find a way to dispose of it. I might even have to enlist the help of the Mob…

For now, I think if I really ever do want cheesecake, I’d either a) pretend I didn’t care about my health or calories that day– and it’d have to be a very special day, b) share it with five other people, or c) maybe try a greek yogurt one. I think this option seems the most feasible.

Until then, I still don’t miss you, cheesecake. You, nor your abhorrent Factory.

I am going to follow my gut!

I, and a few others close to me know that I spend entirely too much time in front of the pantry.

Besides the fact that it oftentimes harbor tasty morsels and a plethora of ingredients that can be made into tasty morsels, I really think that what people choose to put in their pantry says a lot about who they are. On that note, let me try to recount what’s in my section of the pantry: dried sweet potato noodles, some oatmeal. Dried shiitake mushrooms, raisins, canned tuna, and granola. Three kinds of peanut butter, and too many types of tea and coffee for a single person.

They each have their own story, a phase with myself that went through, or still am in. The oatmeal? Untouched for several months, because apparently, being full of “heart-healthy seeds and oats and nuts!” left little room for much else (I imagine it’s the embodiment of Mother Earth in a little cardboard container– tastes and feels like wet soil in your mouth). Tea and coffee, because I like class and sophistication. A lot of goods in there are organic, because I’ve got only one body, and I think it deserves fuel of the little-less-shitty kind. I like to think of it as an investment on my health.

Oh– and also, chocolate chips. Because who isn’t down for a little instant gratification? And even then, it’s dairy, soy, and nut-free.

So, at the end of the day, I eat with taste and health on the mind. And that’s going to mean that I keep an open palate, and cook and try new things. And inevitably, that’s going to mean what I make will have their own story, their own ups and downs.

I am going to chronicle them all here. I am going to try a new recipe every week (as I have been doing), and I am going to do it pans flying, knives slicing, ovens firing. Blood will be spilled (though hopefully not too much, they don’t impart much a flavor in addition to being quite painful to get, I hear), and frustration will mount.

But at the end of the day, I’ll admit it– it is what I look forward to doing every week.