Category Archives: cooking

Eating more vegetables

It looks like all I really needed in order to nudge myself to eat more vegetables was to keep a large variety of salad-able vegetables in the fridge. It’s still pretty cold out, so I prefer to eat warm foods. Roast vegetables, then.

2016-02-07c Eating more vegetables -- index card #cooking #vegetables

2016-02-07c Eating more vegetables – index card #cooking #vegetables

I spent part of my afternoon processing a stream of various vegetables cut into half-inch-ish dice, tossed in olive oil, and roasted at 400’F for however long it took to make them tender, generally shaking them and checking them every ten minutes or so. It’s a good pipeline: one bowl for scraps, one bowl for tossing in olive oil, one large chopping board and a chef’s knife, a roasting pan lined with foil, and each batch of vegetables is generally chopped up by the time the previous batch is done roasting, with liberal breaks for hanging out in #emacs, browsing the Web, or playing games.

Today’s haul: parsnips, carrots, fennel, broccoli, and beets, joining the sweet potatoes and butternut squash in the fridge. I also have chickpeas (both boiled and roasted) and couscous. Mwahaha. My very own salad bar. Meals feel like more of an indulgent production when I haul out almost a dozen containers so that I can take a couple of spoons from each. It’s like when I spend a weekend making a banchan extravaganza, lining up a slew of Korean side dishes, but with less work since the vegetables pretty much use the same cooking methods and I don’t have to juggle different pans, oils, and spices.

Might be a good opportunity to revisit this sketch from last year:

2015-01-28 Winter vegetables to explore -- index card #cooking

2015-01-28 Winter vegetables to explore – index card #cooking

Still haven’t played around with endives, kohlrabi, broccoli raabe, chicory, escarole, rutabagas, or turnips. There’s still time, though!

I imagine that stocking this kind of salad bar would be much the same in warmer weather, except maybe with less cooking and more greens/fruits. Should be fun.

Thinking about grocery stores and recipe variety

The Asian grocery store near us has closed, so we’ll need to find a different source for things that our neighbourhood No Frills supermarket doesn’t carry: pork bellies for lechon liempo, bitter melons and salted black beans for stir-fries, tapioca pearls for bubble tea.

It’s mostly W-‘s thing, actually. I tend to make meals based on whatever I can easily get from No Frills instead of craving particular tastes enough to pick up special ingredients. I think it’s because I’m already satisfied with the variety we have. It’s a little easier that way, too, since I tend to pick up groceries on foot. If I want to make something that requires a trip to a different grocery store, that usually involves a sunk cost of $2.90 or $5.80, or some coordination with W-. I could probably benefit from doing a more detailed price comparison, possibly shifting some of our regular purchases instead of going to Chinatown or PAT Mart only for the kinds of things that No Frills doesn’t stock. I tend to make frequent, small trips to the grocery store as part of getting some exercise and in order to minimize wasted food. Even if soy milk and some vegetables are cheaper in Chinatown, in a small batch, the difference probably doesn’t warrant the transit fare, time, and the effort of lugging those groceries home. Maybe if I feel like long walks in better weather, or if I get one of those grocery carts again… Well, the additional cost of transit isn’t that much, but I guess I tend not to see much marginal value considering the extra time and effort.

Still, the lovely, crispy roast pork belly that W- makes (along the lines of this salt crust roast pork belly, I think) is a nice treat. He’s discerning about the particular cut of meat (even thickness = easier to roast), so he prefers to pick it out personally. We eat it in small quantities since it’s so rich. It’s a good excuse to have lots of vegetables on the side, too. It loses a bit of the crunchiness after microwaving, but it’s good to keep in the freezer or fridge.

There are lots of posts on Chowhound and other forums about where to get a slab of pork belly and comparisons among different sources and types. Hooray for the Internet! W- called around a bunch of places to check if they stocked pork bellies without pre-ordering, and what the prices are like. We checked out T&T Supermarket last weekend. T&T is large, well-stocked, and well-organized, and it’s nice to not deal with downtown traffic or parking. T&T’s prices are bit higher than the ones we’ve seen before (Chinatown or the Asian grocery store that has now closed), but their pork belly prices aren’t as high as the prices at specialty butchers. We might try pork bellies from a few other places before we settle on a new favourite source. Maybe a monthly pork belly roast? Yum.

As for the other things we used to get on a fairly regular basis: PAT Mart and other Asian grocery stores usually have bitter melons. We stock up on cans of salted black beans and packages of tapioca pearls when the opportunity comes up, since they’re shelf-stable. I can make tapioca pearls in a pinch, since the Bulk Barn sells tapioca starch.

It’s nice to live in an international city where I can get these ingredients. If I tweak my grocery shopping or I get better at taking advantage of the times when I’m out, I might enjoy a wider variety of recipes. On the other hand, it might be okay to be generally satisfied with a smaller set of recipes, and focus instead on adding more vegetables. Hmm…

Bubble tea and tapioca pearls

We’ve been on a bubble tea kick at home, inspired by Peaceful Cuisine’s video.

Well, W- and J- have been having bubble tea. I’ve been enjoying my allotment of tapioca pearls in ginataan along with some bilo bilo (glutinous rice flour dumplings). Yum.

The only supermarket that carries tapioca pearls near us is a short drive or a 40-minute walk away. While browsing through the bulk food store that’s closer to us, W- discovered that they carry tapioca starch. It turns out that all you need to do is add 1/3 cup of boiling water to 1 cup of tapioca starch, knead it until it’s a smooth dough, and make whatever shapes you like. Here’s the video I picked up the instructions from:

A package of tapioca pearls is $2.39 for 250g, or $9.56/kg. The store-bought pearls contain food colouring and other additives. Tapioca starch was on sale today at $2.78/kg, and the regular price is $3.27/kg. Kneading the tapioca dough and rolling it into small spheres was fun and relaxing, so even the labour is worth it. Besides, it’s nice to know that even if I’m not near an Asian supermarket, I can make these little treats.

2015-09-26 19.09.29 2015-09-26 19.08.58

The bulk food store also carries soy milk powder, so we were joking about stocking up. That way, in an emergency situation, we can still have bubble tea. Bwahaha!

Hmm. Now I’m tempted to experiment with making soy milk from soybeans – these instructions look pretty straightforward…

Various cooking-related notes

Posting them since I want to be able to find them again someday, and because it’s good to bring scattered ideas together once in a while.

2015-03-08c Getting better at cooking -- index card #cooking

2015-03-08c Getting better at cooking – index card #cooking

In terms of organization: we now have an index-cards-and-magnets kanban on the fridge door, tracking three states: “Get groceries for”, “Cook”, and “Eat”. Seems okay so far, but time will tell if we stick with it. =) Still have to work through more of the raw ingredients in the freezer. Lots of new recipes and food types, though!

2015-05-27c Getting better at cooking -- index card #kaizen #cooking #learning

2015-05-27c Getting better at cooking – index card #kaizen #cooking #learning

It’s fun to break skills down into smaller aspects I can work on. I’m working on knowing what kinds of tastes I like, which involves both trying out new recipes and tweaking the ones that we have.

2015-05-05d Flexible cooking -- index card #cooking

2015-05-05d Flexible cooking – index card #cooking

Speaking of waste reduction and flexibility, it’s nice to slowly accumulate a stock of recipes that can accommodate odds and ends. =)

2015-05-04d Chicken chicken chicken -- index card #cooking

2015-05-04d Chicken chicken chicken – index card #cooking

Our rotisserie is getting lots of use. Yum!

2015-04-28d Japanese curry combination -- index card #variety #meal-planning #cooking #japanese

2015-04-28d Japanese curry combination – index card #variety #meal-planning #cooking #japanese

I sometimes plan using the five-colours, five-ways method from Japanese cooking. Curry is surprisingly colourful (brown beef, green peas, yellow potatoes, red carrots, white rice). Omu-rice is colourful too. Nice to have these dishes!

2015-01-26 Shepherd's pie -- index card #cooking

2015-01-26 Shepherd’s pie – index card #cooking

Also nice and colourful.

2015-02-05 Biscotti -- index card #cooking #baking

2015-02-05 Biscotti – index card #cooking #baking

I’m pretty comfortable making biscotti now. Eventually I’ll work my way through the supermarket snacks aisle. ;)

2015-05-25b Japanese cheesecake -- index card #cooking

2015-05-25b Japanese cheesecake – index card #cooking

Yummy! So nice and fluffy. Uses much less cream cheese compared to the classic Philadelphia cheesecake recipe on the box of cream cheese. I like both types.

2015-03-16e Decision - Slow cooker -- index card #decision #cooking

2015-03-16e Decision – Slow cooker – index card #decision #cooking

Still no slow cooker, since simmering things on the stove works out fine for us and we don’t need its timing capabilities.

It’s starting to feel like summer, so it’s a good time to eat fruits, leafy vegetables, and salads. Looking forward to exploring more tastes and recipes!

Tech and the kitchen

I think I spend most of my time in the kitchen: cooking, tidying up, or simply hanging out. It’s the room with the most light in the house, so it’s easy to just pull up a chair and write or draw at the kitchen table.

There’s been decades of buzz around smarter kitchens – fridges that track and reorder groceries, gadgets that enable new cooking methods. Still, it’s been a little easier for me to imagine tech’s application to sewing than to cooking (at least in our household. I think it’s because we deliberately try to avoid cluttering our kitchen with the endless stream of gadgets sold in stores, on television, and now the Internet: from the “It slices! It dices! It even juliennes!” mandoline, to spiral slicers, to even workhorses like the slow cooker.

2015-04-28c Gadget trade-offs in the kitchen -- index card #tech-and-home #technodomesticity #tradeoffs #gadgets #kitchen #cooking #decision

2015-04-28c Gadget trade-offs in the kitchen – index card #tech-and-home #technodomesticity #tradeoffs #gadgets #kitchen #cooking #decision

It seems that innovations in tech and the home tend to cluster around:

  • the kitchen: cooking, eating, organizing, stocking
  • entertainment
  • automation, sensing, and control: thermostats, lights, energy consumption
  • sleep, health, exercise
  • working from home

Mmm. In terms of the kitchen, where do I want to explore? This might not overlap with where most of the startups are focusing on. Divergence can be quite interesting.

2015-04-28b Tech and the kitchen -- index card #tech-and-home #technodomesticity #kitchen #cooking

2015-04-28b Tech and the kitchen – index card #tech-and-home #technodomesticity #kitchen #cooking

Hmm… There’s a lot of interest around meal planning, but maybe I can play with the specifics of it. I’ve been working on building more variety by focusing on five colours and five ways, following a thread I found in a few Japanese cookbooks. (And five tastes – that’s another level I want to figure out =) ) It might be interesting to graph several of our favourite combinations, and then cycle through them as I add more variety.

2015-04-27e Imagining meal planning -- index card #cooking #planning #variety

2015-04-27e Imagining meal planning – index card #cooking #planning #variety

I wonder how I can build a tool to help me visualize and plan these things… I could probably get Emacs to display an Org Mode table with the current selections, previous meals, and possibilities, or I could do something more graphical with a web page and SVGs or Javascript. First I need to think of how I want to see it…

Japanese curry at Hacklab, curry udon at home

We were planning to make roasted cauliflower for the Hacklab open house dinner, but the cauliflowers were CAD 4.50+ each. Instead, we made vegan Japanese curry (roux recipe), which has become one of my favourite recipes. It’s a great way to cook carrots, potatoes, green beans, daikon, bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, peas, and other vegetables you might have.

At home, I made another huge pot of Japanese curry, but with chicken instead of tofu, and with a non-vegan roux recipe. We tried it with udon instead of rice. Udon gives it a chewier texture and it works well too. I also made quickly-pickled cucumber-daikon-carrot salad, which balanced the taste nicely. Not counting the rice, I think the cost per portion worked out to be around $1. (Wow!)

2015-01-24 Curry udon -- index card #cooking

2015-01-24 Curry udon – index card #cooking

J- loves Japanese food, so it’s great to be able to make things at home. Next time, I think I’ll try making udon from flour, water, and salt. It doesn’t require a pasta roller, just patience. On the other hand, frozen udon is around CAD 4 for a pack of five and it takes one minute to cook, so there’s something to be said for that.

2015-01-25 Planning how to level up in cooking -- index card #cooking #learning #plans

2015-01-25 Planning how to level up in cooking – index card #cooking #learning #plans

While I occasionally play with the idea of going on a cooking vacation so that I can try local markets and learn from cooking classes, there’s so much that I haven’t yet explored here. There are all these ingredients I haven’t yet looked up and tried. (Thank goodness for such a diverse city!) Maybe someday I might even try out cooking lessons or private instruction.

For now, I’m focusing on cooking with more vegetables. I liked the balance of meat to vegetables in that curry we made – about three chicken thighs of meat in one of our biggest pots. It would be great to increase vegetable volume and variety. Looking forward to exploring the rest of the produce section.

I also want to remember to cook different things. I have an Org Mode file with recipes, but I haven’t set up scheduled reminders or Org habits for them yet. In the meantime, I’ve put these index cards on our fridge door to remind me when I’m planning groceries:

2015-01-10 Favourite meals -- index card #cooking

2015.01.10 Favourite meals – index card #cooking

2015-01-11 Snacks we can make -- index card #cooking

2015.01.11 Snacks we can make – index card #cooking