Category Archives: cooking

On this page:
  • Cooking: Warm lentil salad with sausages
  • Stocking up on chicken stock stock stock
  • International cooking
  • 524 wontons
  • Using Emacs Org for grocery lists and batch cooking
  • Making polvoron

Cooking: Warm lentil salad with sausages

“Eat more healthily” is a popular New Year’s resolution. It’s on our list too – a push towards eating more vegetables and less meat, exploring more variety, and developing kitchen skills.

Last Monday’s new recipe: warm lentil salad with sausages, which I found while looking for warm salads to enjoy this winter. Lentils have become one of our kitchen staples. W- makes rice and lentils in the rice cooker for a simple, filling weekday or post-gym meal. I wanted to find other ways we could prepare lentils so that we could play around with different tastes. I looked for a non-dairy salad that I could put together mostly with ingredients we usually have around, and the warm lentil salad with sausages on Epicurious fit the bill.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups French green lentils (13 oz), picked over and rinsed – replaced with 1 cup brown lentils and 1 cup green lentils, since that’s what we had
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 California bay leaf or 2 Turkish – 2 bay leaves of unknown provenance
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup) – turned out to be more than a cup of carrots, but no big deal
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic – Yeah, right. I put in five cloves of garlic.
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled – Didn’t want to get fresh thyme (it’s buried under snow), so I sprinkled some of the Italian seasoning we’re trying to use up
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil – didn’t measure, just drizzled into the dressing
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar – substituted apple cider vinegar, because that’s what we had
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard – substituted regular mustard
  • 3/4 lb smoked kielbasa or other smoked sausage (not low-fat), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices – substituted mild Italian sausages roasted at 400F, not sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

How I did it (although you should probably check out the real instructions if you want to try this):

  1. In a medium saucepan (after having gone through several options from the cabinet), combine the water, lentils, and bay leaves, bring the water to a boil, and lower the heat to a simmer. Chop the other ingredients, checking the saucepan occasionally.
  2. In a 12” skillet, drizzle some oil and sauté the onions and garlic for about a minute. Add the carrots and celery. Cook until slightly softened. Realize you’ve forgotten to add Italian seasoning / thyme, salt, and pepper; season the vegetables, mix them up, and cook them until softer.
  3. Check on the lentils and salt them too.
  4. After a few more minutes, the lentils should be tender. Worry about overcooking the lentils. Drain them and pick out the bay leaves as you see them. Mix the lentils and vegetables in the saucepan.
  5. Contemplate whether to make this a vegetarian dish or to put in the sausages as well. Decide to go with the sausages. Look up how to roast sausages; put them in a 400F oven, turning them when you remember.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar, if you have it), mustard (or Dijon mustard, if you have it), and salt and pepper. Add olive oil, whisking constantly, until it looks about right.
  7. Pour the dressing into the saucepan. Mix it in and taste it. Realize that it doesn’t quite taste sharp enough, so make up another batch of dressing and put that in too.
  8. Keep the lentils on low heat while waiting for the sausages to finish. Try it out before announcing the availability of dinner to others in the household.

I’m getting better at trying new recipes out. I can decide: I don’t have that, so let’s use this instead; hmm, this needs a little more bite; okay, this needs to be put on hold while I finish this. (Hooray for the Internet, though!)

My next steps in lentil awesomeness: buy lentils in bulk from Kensington Market or a good bulk food store, and experiment with growing them in our backyard. (Did you know that Canada is the world’s largest export producer of lentils, according to Wikipedia?) Buying lentils in bulk should work out cheaper than the fancy 500g organic lentil packages we get from The Sweet Potato. We’ve had fun growing peas and beans, so lentils might work out well in our garden too. Exciting!

Epicurious: Warm lentil salad with sausage

Stocking up on chicken stock stock stock

We save the bones from chicken quarters, turkey drumsticks, and other pieces of poultry that pass through our kitchen. They get tossed into the freezer, and when two freezer bags or so get full, it’s time to make a pot of chicken stock.

I joke about renaming winter to “baking season.” It’s soup season, too. Chicken soup to ward off the cold, leek and potato soup for variety, split pea soup with its pork cracklings… Chicken stock goes into stir fries and sauces too. Very useful to have around.

Since we’re trying to eat more vegetables and less meat, we don’t have that many bones to cook with—not as many as we would want if we’re having soup weekly. Fortunately, a large bag of chicken bones costs $1. The largest stock pot we have can fit two bags of bones initially, with a third squeezed in once the chicken bones settle.

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This is what all that stock looks like: three layers of containers, probably around 40 cups. There’s no room in the fridge (there’s a turkey defrosting) and the stock has to cool before we can freeze it, so W- took the containers to the shed, where they’ll cool (and most likely freeze, too). Side benefit of winter: free cold storage. Not quite a walk-in freezer (at least until it hits -18C), but decent at chilling things quickly.

I want to learn how to make vegetable stock as well. That’ll give me another use for all these vegetable odds and ends, and it might lead to other interesting soups along the way.

International cooking

I was thinking about going to the Canadian National Exhibition to watch the airshow with friends and check out the international showcase. Then again, aside from the indulgence of halo-halo from the food court and perhaps something from Bacon Nation… Was that enough for the admission fee and a long time in sun and crowd?

Afternoon at the fair, or a day of cooking? With a fridge full of fresh ingredients, new recipes to try, a stack of videos to watch during the marathon wonton-making session we had planned, and a husband who had already gotten a head start making a large pot of chicken stock – it was an easy decision.

I made cold spring rolls for the first time: shrimp, vermicelli, carrots, basil, cilantro, lettuce, and rice wrappers. I mixed up the peanut sauce using the last of our peanut butter and some other seasonings from the fridge. It was messy, but we’ll probably get better at the technique over time.

Then we made 236 wontons, whee! We had some of the wontons along with the leftover shrimp on top of the vermicelli, along with a reasonable attempt at a nuoc cham dipping sauce made without fish sauce (we’re all out).

I like days like this, getting the house ready for another good week. I’ll be away for two weeks, so I’ll miss these routines. =)

http://www.chow.com/recipes/10641-vietnamese-style-summer-rolls-with-peanut-sauce

524 wontons

We spent the afternoon making a quadruple batch of Jamie Oliver’s shrimp wonton recipe with way more garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Six and a half packages of wonton wrappers, two club packs of pork, three bunches of green onions, and four packages of shrimp make 524 wontons, although not all of them found their way into the freezer (we take quality control seriously!). We also cooked two packages of chicken as adobo and five packs of lamb as korma, so there’ll be plenty of home-made frozen lunches throughout the next few weeks. The freezer is full, the laundry is folded, and the computers are backed up. It’s been a good weekend.

We go on these cooking sprints from time to time. It’s so nice to be able to grab a container from the freezer and tuck it into my lunch bag so that I can savour it at work. It takes a fair bit of effort to prepare – we spend much of a day buying groceries and cooking food – but it’s well worth it, and the korma makes the house smell wonderful.

Life is good.

Using Emacs Org for grocery lists and batch cooking

We like preparing our meals in bulk. Buying groceries and cooking up a storm on the weekends means that we can grab quick and healthy lunches from the fridge or freezer, enjoy a variety of dinners during the week, and focus on other things that we want to do in the evenings.

I was looking for a menu planner and grocery list maker to help us plan and execute these batch cooking sessions more efficiently. In particular, I wanted something that could sort the ingredients for preparation, too. I like preparing ingredients for all the different recipes before I start cooking. If several recipes call for garlic, I might as well chop a lot of garlic in one session instead of breaking out the chopping board for each recipe.

I tried several menu planning and grocery list apps, but I wasn’t happy with any of the ones I came across. I like using Emacs for as much as possible, so I figured that I should give it a try. Here’s what I did and how it worked out.

I created an Org file for my recipes. In this plain-text outline, I created sections for my plan, shopping list, preparation tasks, and recipes. Under recipes, I created TODO items and scheduled them. Here’s an example entry:

** TODO Colorful bulgur salad
   SCHEDULED: <2012-06-19 Tue>

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/colorful-bulgur-salad/

| 1/2 cup        | bulgur wheat     |                    | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1/2 cup        | chicken broth    |                    | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1 small        | cucumber         | seeded and chopped | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1              | tomato           | chopped            | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1              | carrot           | shredded           | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 3              | green onions     | thinly sliced      | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 3 tablespoons  | fresh lime juice |                    | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 3/4 tablespoon | chili powder     |                    | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1 pinch        | garlic powder    |                    | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |

I reformatted each recipe to fit this format, with columns for quantity, type, preparation, and recipe link. After I chose several recipes, I copied the ingredient lists into my preparation section and my shopping section. In the shopping section, I deleted the lines for ingredients I already had or could skip. I used org-table-sort-lines to sort the table by the second column, which gave me this list:

| 1 bag              | chicken legs and thighs |                                                        | [[Arroz caldo]] |
| 2 small or 1 large | cucumber                | chopped                                                | [[Gazpacho]] |
| 1 small            | cucumber                | seeded and chopped                                     | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 3                  | green onions            | thinly sliced                                          | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1                  | red onion               | cut into 1" pieces                                     | [[Shrimp kebabs]] |
| 1 pound            | shrimp                  | peeled and deveined                                    | [[Shrimp kebabs]] |
| 6 - 8              | tomatoes                | chopped (Roma or plum are best; Don't lose the juice!) | [[Gazpacho]] |
| 1                  | zucchini                | seeded and cut into 1" pieces                          | [[Shrimp kebabs]] |

It wasn’t sorted by aisle, but that was easy to do when I copied the list onto a recycled envelope. If I find myself using this a lot, I might write an Emacs Lisp function to gather the tables and sort the rows by aisle.

Anyway, shopping list in hand, we picked up our groceries in about ten minutes last Saturday. The next day, I looked at my prep list:

|                    | basil                                  | chopped                                                | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| 1/2 cup            | bulgur wheat                           |                                                        | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1 tbsp             | butter                                 |                                                        | [[Bubble and squeak]]     |
| 2 tbsp             | canola or peanut oil                   |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 1                  | carrot                                 | shredded                                               | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1/2 cup            | chicken broth                          |                                                        | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1 bag              | chicken legs and thighs                | separated                                              | [[Arroz caldo]]           |
| 3/4 tablespoon     | chili powder                           |                                                        | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 1/4 cup            | cider vinegar                          |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 1 can              | corned beef                            |                                                        | [[Bubble and squeak]]     |
| 3 tbsp             | cornstarch                             |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 1 tbsp             | cornstarch                             |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 1 small            | cucumber                               | seeded and chopped                                     | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 2 small or 1 large | cucumber                               | chopped                                                | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| 1 lb               | firm tofu                              | drained                                                | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
|                    | fresh ground black pepper              |                                                        | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| 3 tablespoons      | fresh lime juice                       |                                                        | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 3 cloves           | garlic                                 | chopped                                                | [[Arroz caldo]]           |
| 1 clove            | garlic                                 | minced                                                 | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 2 cloves           | garlic                                 | diced                                                  | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| 1 tablespoon       | garlic                                 | minced                                                 | [[Shrimp kebabs]]         |
| 1 pinch            | garlic powder                          |                                                        | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
|                    | glutinous rice                         |                                                        | [[Arroz caldo]]           |
| 1 tsp ginger       | grated or minced                       |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
|                    | green onions                           | chopped                                                | [[Arroz caldo]]           |
| 3                  | green onions                           | thinly sliced                                          | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
|                    | leftover vegetables (cabbage, carrots) |                                                        | [[Bubble and squeak]]     |
| 1                  | lemon                                  | juice of                                               | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| 2 teaspoons        | lemon juice                            |                                                        | [[Shrimp kebabs]]         |
| 1/4 cup            | olive oil                              |                                                        | [[Shrimp kebabs]]         |
| 1                  | onion                                  | thinly sliced                                          | [[Bubble and squeak]]     |
| 1/2 large          | onion                                  | chopped finely       (red is a nice alternative)       | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| 1/2 large          | onion                                  | chopped in 1/4 inch chunks                             | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| pinch              | parsley                                | finely chopped                                         | [[Shrimp kebabs]]         |
| 1/4 tsp            | pepper                                 |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 1/4 teaspoon       | pepper                                 |                                                        | [[Shrimp kebabs]]         |
| 3 cups             | potatoes                               | mashed                                                 | [[Bubble and squeak]]     |
| 1                  | red onion                              | cut into 1" pieces                                     | [[Shrimp kebabs]]         |
|                    | salt (preferably sea salt)             |                                                        | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| 1 tsp              | sesame oil                             |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 1 pound            | shrimp                                 | peeled and deveined                                    | [[Shrimp kebabs]]         |
|                    | soy sauce                              |                                                        | [[Arroz caldo]]           |
| 1/2 cup            | soy sauce                              |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 1                  | tomato                                 | chopped                                                | [[Colorful bulgur salad]] |
| 6 - 8              | tomatoes                               | chopped (Roma or plum are best; Don't lose the juice!) | [[Gazpacho]]              |
|                    | virgin olive oil                       |                                                        | [[Gazpacho]]              |
| 1/2 cup            | white sugar                            |                                                        | [[Teriyaki tofu]]         |
| 1                  | zucchini                               | seeded and cut into 1" pieces                          | [[Shrimp kebabs]]         |

Sorting the list by ingredient made it easy to go through the groups of ingredients and prepare them all, and the links to the recipes made it easy to look up next steps. I planned the order of doing them. First, I prepared the bulgur wheat because that needed an hour to soak. I saved the chicken legs for the end because they were messy, and I saved the onions for later as well because they always make me cry. I cut and chopped and food-processed my way through stacks of vegetables, covering the kitchen table with bowls.

With all the ingredients prepared, I washed the utensils and put things away. That freed up counter space for cooking. I reordered the recipes so that it was easy to see what to work on next, and I started cooking.

The entire cooking sprint took me 5 hours and 42 minutes, which was a lot of cooking but well worth it. With that and the meals we’d prepared over the past few weeks, our freezer’s stuffed to capacity. Four tidy stacks of identical food containers, then odds and ends crammed into the spaces! By golly.

I really liked planning this batch cooking session in Emacs. Org tables made things easy to sort, and the hyperlinks let me look up recipes and notes quickly.

I could probably make this even better by:

  • rigging up my foot pedal to scroll up and down through food.org
  • copying in the recipe steps so that I can take advantage of that scrolling
  • figuring out how to use Org Babel to automatically compile the ingredient tables for the named recipes

Now if only someone would write M-x wash-dishes

Making polvoron

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Yesterday, I tried making polvoron for the first time. =) J- and her friends had devoured most of the stash that my mom sent us. I followed a simple recipe, but once we get through the… umm… 139 pieces (although we lost quite a few to breakage, see above), I’ll try other recipes with more cooling time. I’ll also try dividing the recipe by four, as that recipe resulted in a lot of polvoron. Mmm!

W- and I cook a lot. There’s enough room in the kitchen for both of us to work, and it’s fun making and enjoying good food. I’m really lucky that he enjoys cooking as well, and that he’s up for eating my experiments!