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67. CookOrDie: Danger, Will Robinson!: 15:59 (2006.08.04#3)

Uh oh.

I now know how to bake brownies from scratch, and I can make them as moist and chocolatey as I want.

I have vanilla ice cream in the freezer.

I am so dead.

...

Hmm.

IF I promised a tray of chocolatey desserts for a potluck dinner at 7:00, AND I have enough ingredients to bake a second batch of brownies...

Don't even think about it, Sacha. That way lies danger.

They won't mind if I try a bit of it first.

Maybe a bit more.

Hmm.

More cooking misadventures

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66. CookOrDie: Bacon, eggs and toast: 08:40 (2006.08.03#2)

I think I've figured out a neat way to store bacon. If you roll slices up individually and loosely pack them into a plastic container, they're easy to break off even when frozen. I think it's because you minimize the contact points between each slice, whereas freezing it as an entire slab requires you to hack parts off. To unroll, microwave the bacon until soft (30 seconds?), unwind, and cook as normal.

This means that I can have bacon and eggs for breakfast practically any time I want, which *might* not be a good thing. <laugh>

In other news, lunch today will be some kind of cold chickpea salad. I soaked the chickpeas yesterday and then boiled them in my rice cooker while having breakfast. They turned out nicely cooked, and I didn't even have to pay attention to them. Neat.

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65. CookOrDie: Vegetarian virtues: 22:15 (2006.07.10#4)

After quite a hiatus from CookOrDie blogging because I'd either been eating out or cooking simple things, I decided to experiment a bit today. I had leftover vegetables from Saturday's barbecue, so I broiled them. The mushrooms got special treatment, courtesy of a recipe suggestion from the Joy of Cooking: I tossed them with garlic and olive oil, and _then_ I broiled them. Wonderful stuff. Zucchini, green pepper, red pepper, and portobello mushrooms. I rounded off dinner with corn on the cob. Yum yum!

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the eggplant...

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Random Japanese sentence: 犬が1匹、猫が1匹、カナリヤが3羽います。 We have a dog, a cat and three canaries.

64. Breakfast: 01:07 (2006.05.24#1)

When Steve called me up on my cellphone at around 8:00 and said only "Help!", I panicked and nearly fell off my bed. I slipped into my kimono and went to the second floor only to find that he had conned me out of bed in order to surprise me with pancakes for breakfast. How nice!

When I learned that he was actually still okay and in one piece, my non-morning-ness reasserted itself. He was so cheerful, though, that I couldn't help but wake up - and the honey-lemon tea certainly helped restore my voice. He wanted help cooking the rest of the pancakes so that they didn't turn out like crepes, though, so I added more mix to the batter and poured out neat little silver-dollar pancakes. I'm getting better at them - I burned only two this time!

Hooray for instant pancake mix. Yes, I know, pancakes are so easy to make from scratch, yada yada, but the recipe requires a whole egg, and that's hard to divide. =)

It was very nice of Steve to surprise me with breakfast. I usually try to wake him up and cook breakfast. He doesn't have an alarm clock right now and he doesn't wake up to his cellphone, so a human without a snooze button can be pretty effective. Besides, it's a good way to force myself out of bed. <grin>

Ay, friends... what would life be without them?

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Random Japanese sentence: ここの家何匹猫がいる? How many cats are there in this house?

63. Chicken breasts marinated in red wine vinegar: 23:37 (2006.04.30#3)

I invited myself over to Quinn Fung's place for dinner. <laugh> She had a mac and cheese casserole, so I prepared chicken breasts marinated in red wine vinegar. I didn't get to marinade them for long enough, I think, but I could taste a bit of the tartness of vinegar. It worked out pretty well. I wonder how white wine vinegar would work with it?

I splurged on the Joy of Cooking book yesterday, and this was the first time I used it. The basic recipe for sauteed chicken breast called for the chicken breasts to be lightly salted, peppered, and floured. I added rosemary, too. I browned some butter and mixed in some olive oil on a skillet, then added the chicken breasts and cooked them for four minutes on one side at medium-high heat. Then I flipped them and cooked them for another three minutes. I was worried that I might've burnt the chicken because it was a bit black, but it turned out nice, juicy, and cooked through.

Level up!

Quinn's place is pretty nice. I like high ceilings. We had a lot of fun chatting after dinner, too, and she gave me several ideas for a few parties I'd like to hold sometime.

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62. Comfort food: SPAM: 22:45 (2006.04.19#2)

Here's incongruity for you: jasmine rice and SPAM. Yes, rice is rice, but jasmine rice is soft and fluffy and sticky and wonderful, and SPAM is SPAM. But SPAM is one of my comfort foods, and today I just didn't have the energy to cook anything fancier. Ah, SPAM. SPAM reminds me of breakfast at home - fried rice, fried eggs and SPAM, SPAM, SPAM...

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Random Japanese sentence: テーブルに猫の足跡が付いている。 There are footprints of a cat on the table.

61. Backlog: Grilled again: 01:35 (2006.04.06#1)

I was planning to meet Calum for dinner, but I figured it would be a good day to try out the grill again, so I headed to the supermarket to stock up on meat. I ran into James, Mike and Mike on my way out, so I invited them to a barbecue at 7. I met Keynyn on the way back from the supermarket, so I invited her too.

It turned out to be a terrific potluck. I prepared vegetable kebabs and Caesar salad (store-bought dressing, but I made the bacon bits and croutons myself!). Keynyn brought mashed potatoes and cookies. James brought lots and lots of chicken legs. Mike and Calum helped with cooking and washing up. (Don't worry, they'll host some other time...)

The chicken legs were slightly dodgy as parts weren't completely cooked, so I think we'll do beef next time. At least, until we get the hang of this. Note to self: figure out how to properly grill vegetables so that they're nice and juicy. Also, buy a basting brush. Hmm, next Wednesday or Thursday seems like a good time to have another potluck party. (Psst! Kathy! I need tips!)

_And_ we even got to study afterwards! I much prefer studying with other people around. Today proved an interesting point. I'm a fraud of a computer person, really. I'm definitely not as geeky as Calum and Mike are. I find myself less into writing code than I'm into explaining things to other people, and sometimes I really do have to explain things to either people, stuffed toys, or my blog in order to get things straight in my head. Aiyah. How embarrassing.

(I say that now, sure, but when I'm in coding mode I can't pry my fingers off the keyboard...)

Anyway, it was a very good day.

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Random Japanese sentence: 彼女はネコをこわがる。 She is afraid of cats. Kanojo wa neko o kowagaru.

60. Grill time!: 00:51 (2006.04.05#2)

Toastmasters from 6 to 8 means I usually can't meet anyone for dinner on Tuesdays, which is why I was surprised to get a call from Trevor at 8:30 or so. He invited me to a barbecue with Brian. The Kensington market I usually go to for meat had closed already and I didn't feel like chancing Chinatown. I also didn't want to walk to Dominion and being even _more_ late. Fortunately, I had some hamburger patties in the freezer. Hooray for the well-stocked pantry!

Although the weather was a bit cold (it snowed a little bit today! argh!), standing around in a coat and chatting with friends was worth it. I defrosted the patties in a microwave, put one away, and grilled the other patty under the guidance of Brian and Trevor. The potatoes I wrapped in foil and started grilling were nowhere near done by the time the burgers, porkchop and steak were done, so I took the potatoes off the grill. Brian thoughtfully anticipated that and included me in his calculations for rice. Awwww. =) (The man cooks rice with a pot! _Proper_ rice, too, not instant rice! Coolness. =) )

Keynan dropped by with a platter of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. She found the cookie recipe on the Net. I wonder if I can share Kathy's Top Secret Cookie Recipe with her - but then it wouldn't be Top Secret, would it?

I washed a number of their dishes to thank them for hosting me and teaching me how to grill, following the strange rules of my dinner-party etiquette. Also, it's kinda fun. Eventually Trevor took the sponge away from me and put it on the other side of the room. Spoilsport.

Keynan brought a DVD of Terminator. I finally got to watch the thing. =)

After the movie, Brian pulled a scary face to stop me from finishing the rest of their dishes. I couldn't help but laugh, which made him laugh, and then no amount of coaxing could get him to do the scary face again.

It's nice to have friends.

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Random Japanese sentence: ネコが車の下から出てきた。 A cat got out from under the car.

59. Salmon and mashed potatoes with Steve and Mike: 00:03 (2006.04.01#1)

Steve's out on a weekend pass, so we celebrated with an impromptu cooking party. I defrosted and panfried some salmon steak. I microwaved and mashed potatoes with a bit of butter, sprinkling rosemary on top. It wasn't a perfect combination, but it wasn't bad for something I just threw together. =) CookOrDie to the rescue!

Mike brought some of the stuff from his Good Food Box, so we used up half the cabbage in that soy sauce and onion cabbage thing. We also used totally random vegetables in soup, which turned out quite well.

We had tons of fun cooking and catching up with each other. =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 猫がネズミを追いかけた。 A cat ran after a mouse. Neko ga nezumi o oikaketa.

58. Level up: Salmon!: 23:56 (2006.03.24#4)

I cooked salmon for the first time today. =D I followed the recipe for salmon with avocado with lots of liberal changes: green bellpepper instead of orange, plum tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes, and salmon steak instead of salmon fillet. Despite all these changes, it turned out quite well.

I prepared aglio et olio penne (hah! garlic and olive oil!) with sauteed mushrooms. The penne was a bit undercooked, but I'll fix that next time. I took it out slightly before 9 minutes because I like my pasta a little firm, but next time I'll let it get a little softer.

Props go to Calum for scrubbing the broiler pan until it gleamed. =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 猫は捕らえたネズミを引き裂き始めた。 The cat began to tear at the mouse it caught. Neko wa toraeta nezumi o hikisakihajimeta.

57. Level up! Steak and potatoes: 02:13 (2006.03.24#3)

After giving that cook-or-die speech, I felt like treating myself to something special. So for today: pepper steak and mashed potatoes! This turned out to be surprisingly easy to prepare. Sure, it wasn't melt-in-my-mouth tender, but it was fine.

Level up! Also, have discovered the joys of rosemary.

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Random Japanese sentence: 私は雌猫を飼っている。 I keep a female cat.

56. CookOrDie: Domestic goddesshood: 01:08 (2006.03.09#1)

I hosted a small party to thank some of my friends for truly extraordinary acts of kindness. =) Calum, James, Steve and Yeow-Tong have been absolutely amazing, and I wanted to do something special for them, having invited myself over to their homes, roused them out of bed, dragged them out on adventures, and raided their larders (respectively).

So: my first real party.

I splurged on flowers, buying pink-and-white carnations and a small African violet. The guys probably didn't notice it, but it made me feel wonderful. =)

For appetizers, I arranged prosciutto ham on a large plate and drizzled olive oil over it. I then surrounded it with insalata tricolore (halved cherry tomatoes interleaved with soft mozzarella and sprinkled with fresh basil). I also served bacon and cheese potato soup.

For the main course, I baked an extra-cheesy lasagna. Minor whoops: I boiled the entire lasagna package in my excitement, not realizing that I was supposed to boil only twelve noodles. Duh. That's okay, I can have mini-lasagna rolls tomorrow, although I've run out of ground beef so that might take a little magic.

For dessert, I served the apple pie that Calum taught me how to bake. Calum was surprised at how flaky it turned out. Apparently, flakiness is a good thing.

I also wrote them thank-you notes on monogrammed Crane cards. =)

Everything was very well-received, and James' parting compliment was: "Sacha, you're a domestic goddess." =) I had a lot of fun preparing everything for them, and I greatly enjoyed the conversation afterwards. I'm thrilled to see that they get along, although some are still a little nervous in company.

James remembered the deal I made two dinner parties ago, and insisted on doing the dishes this time. Aww! =)

How to make things better: ditch store-bought garlic bread and make my own. Also, improve timing of bread so that bread and pasta are out of the oven at the same time.

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Random Japanese sentence:

イヌとは対照的に、ネコはごく最近になって飼い慣らされたものである。 In contrast to the dog, the cat has become domesticated only in recent times.

55. Vegetable fritatta: 00:09 (2006.03.01#1)

New things: beets, fritatta. Level up!

Today I had my first beet. It reminded me of baby corn, which I also like eating. It might go well with the purple sweet potatoes... Hmm. =) One of the good things about the Good Food Box is that you're forced to experiment! Whee!

Today I made a fresh vegetable fritatta. I started with the basic idea of a fritatta, which is really just scrambled eggs with stuff on it, or an omelette that hasn't been folded. Here's what I did:

  1. Chop half a carrot, half a potato, and half a beet into half-inch cubes. (There's a pattern here somewhere...)
  2. Layer the carrots, potatoes, and beets in a microwaveable dish. Add a little bit of water.
  3. Add some clusters of broccoli, if you want.
  4. Cover and microwave for three minutes.
  5. Heat a pan to medium. Add oil.
  6. Beat the eggs lightly.
  7. Drain vegetables and add to pan. Spread out so that they're evenly distributed.
  8. Pour egg over vegetables. Cover and cook until golden,

Not bad at all... =)

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54. Sweet potato and chicken vinaigrette salad: 13:33 (2006.02.28#2)

Level up!

  • Purple sweet potato, cubed (1 inch)
  • Chicken breast, cubed: can be leftovers
  • Lettuce
  • Vinaigrette, or balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper
  1. Put potato cubes in microwaveable container with a little bit of water.
  2. Cover and microwave the potato for 3 minutes, or until soft.
  3. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
  4. Brown the chicken cubes in the pan.
  5. Make vinaigrette by mixing balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  6. Tear the lettuce into bits.
  7. Drain the potato cubes and add them to the lettuce.
  8. Add the chicken cubes to the lettuce.
  9. Drizzle dressing. Delicious!

I know, I know, I said I'd never buy a whole chicken again, but Dominion had a two-for-one chicken sale! I froze one and stuffed the other with apples and onions before roasting it. That's why I had plenty of cooked chicken on hand. I needed to find interesting ways to use the fruits and vegetables from the Good Food Box. In particular, I had a head of quickly-wilting romaine lettuce, and I wanted to use the sweet potatoes (kamote! yay!).

I Googled up a recipe for chicken sweet potato salad and threw everything together quickly. It was a nice meal, and I liked the way the sweet potato contrasted with the balsamic vinegar. =)

Happy girl. Level up!

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53. CookOrDie: Minestrone: 01:57 (2006.02.09#1)

Level up!

Steve helped me prepare minestrone today, and I'm reasonably happy with it. =) See, I picked up the Good Food Box I ordered two weeks ago, and it had _way_ more stuff than I expected. It's a good deal. Almost too good a deal, considering my limited fridge space and the fact that I'm still not used to eating celery, lettuce, and broccoli in large quantities. And I still had carrots and onions from a previous shopping trip!

So we prepared minestrone, using up some of the potatoes and onions and carrots. =) I have around six portions in my freezer.

I think I'll stick with the Good Food Box. The box comes every two weeks and I'm supposed to figure out how to make it stretch that long. I think I'll split the next box with Steve or whoever else wants to halve it. That way, I get the convenience of fresh fruits and vegetables and the challenge of new stuff.

I still have to turn the rest of the vegetables into cream of * soup. Cream of celery, cream of broccoli, cream of mushroom (again, previously bought), cream of...

=)

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52. CookOrDie: Meatball mishaps: 00:22 (2006.02.06#1)

Today I discovered what meatballs taste like if I use too much bread to extend the ground beef. I'm definitely going to do mostly-meat meatballs next time. Also, cheddar isn't the best cheese for Kathy's recipe for Secret Happiness. I should use a soft, melty cheese like mozzarella.

You live, you learn. =) The meatballs were edible, though, and properly cooked all the way through. They were just not as crunchy or juicy as I remembered. I cooked some spaghetti, threw six meatballs into the bowl, and tossed the spaghetti with tomato sauce. I then microwaved everything for a minute to get the sauce nice and hot. It was an acceptable dinner. And yes, Mom, I took my vitamins. =)

I scrimped on the ground beef because I also wanted to cook ground beef with garlic and onions for the pita pocket lunch I intend to have tomorrow. Let's see how that turns out.

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51. CookOrDie: Champorado cheating and arroz-caldo antics: 23:22 (2006.01.20#2)

I prepared champorado and arroz-caldo today, from the mixes. Arroz-caldo is probably too light for a packed lunch unless I pack three or so regular servings, but it's good for merienda. The dried ginger used in the instant arroz caldo was pretty strong!

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50. Cook or Die: 23:34 (2006.01.08#1)

Today was Cook or Die dinner with Dominique and Marcelle. I found a packet of pepper beef stir-fry seasoning mix and a recipe for bean sprouts with Chinese egg strips. I was supposed to cook it for lunch, but my family decided to go out then, so I ended up cooking it for dinner.

Pepper Beef Stir-fry

  • 500g beef fillet, sliced - I used the beef stroganoff cut
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 stalks spring onions, cut to 3 cm
  • Maggi seasoning mix
  1. Combine 1.5 tbsp seasoning mix with 2 tbsp water. (Probably just pepper and MSG. ;) )
  2. Heat oil and stirfry beef for 3 minutes.
  3. Add mix and onions. Stirfry until beef is done. (What do they mean by done?!)
  4. Add spring onions and stirfry for 1 minute.

I chopped the spring onions a bit more finely than I should. I completely forgot about the 3 cm description! Oh well. It didn't turn out too bad, although the spring onions practically disappeared.

Bean sprouts with Chinese egg strips

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 medium onion, skinned and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, skinned and crushed
  • 1 medium red or green pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 4 celery sticks, washed and chopped
  • 175g (6 oz) button mushrooms, wiped and sliced
  • 225g (8 oz) bean sprouts, washed
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) soy sauce
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in frying pan. Add beaten eggs and cook over gentle heat. Remove from pan, cut into thin strips, then cut each strip into three or four pieces.
  2. Heat rest of oil in pan. Add onion, garlic, pepper and celery, and cook for around 10 minutes until soft. Increase heat, add mushrooms, cook until golden brown.
  3. Stir in bean sprouts, soy suce, seasoning, egg strips. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring, until heated through. Serve immediately.

Not a bad meal. Again, I was a bit overzealous with the knife, chopping the green pepper instead of slicing it. Oops. That's okay, it was still edible.

It wasn't a particularly impressive meal, but it wasn't a bad way of using beansprouts.

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49. Cook or Die: 21:58 (2005.11.23#1)

The dearth of recent CookOrDie posts doesn't mean I've figured out how to cook consistently well. Rather, it means that I just haven't been blogging much. <sheepish grin> Diane reminded me that some people find my narrow escapes from food poisoning actually _amusing._ Sickos. ;b Well, that's not what she said, but I'll take the hind.

I have so far managed to survive my cooking. I consider that one of my major accomplishments. This is what I've survived this week:

Bean soup--no, bean heap

I _meant_ to prepare bean soup last Friday: a nice, warm, nutritious meal before we headed off to Pride and Prejudice. Soup mix, lots of water, a bit of chicken stock powder for flavor. I left it simmering, covered, and set the stove alarm to go off after the time indicated on the soup mix packet. I then went to my room to talk to my research supervisor over Skype. By the time I checked on it again, all the water had evaporated. Oops! I quickly threw in more water, pushed it around a bit, then turned off the heat.

Verdict: Still palatable. Pleasantly crunchy and textured, even. Needs a bit more flavor. Probably better in small portions.

Almost-lemon dill chicken

One of the suitemates bought too much dill, so I searched the Net for recipes involving dill and I settled on lemon dill chicken. I remembered to buy the chicken, but I forgot to buy lemons. Oops. So I reached for the nearest liquids: olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (What was I thinking about? French bread?!) I mixed the oil and vinegar with garlic and dill along the lines of the original recipe. I dunked the chicken in the mixture and broiled the chicken again according to the recipe. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chicken actually got cooked, although I wish I had seasoned it with something slightly more flavorful (salt and pepper?) or marinated it or something like that.

Verdict: Edible. A bit bland.

Too-dry rice

Oops. I put in too little water when I cooked rice.

Verdict: So far I've come up with several ways to use very dry rice. =) Butter helps a bit. Heat helps a bit. Mixing it in with everything else helps a bit.

Garlic fried rice

Doesn't quite work yet. I probably should've added the rice before the garlic browned. Maybe even at the same time?

Tomato, onion and cheese omelette

I'm getting better at these omelettes. =) This one was okay, too. I sauteed the onions before making the omelette because I didn't feel like biting into crunchy raw onion at the time. Might be fun making a salsa omelette, though.

Leftover stirfry

Chopped up remnants of that weird chicken thing + green beans I'd nearly forgotten about + carrots I'd forgotten about + too-dry rice + a generous pinch of ginisa mix + a couple of splashes of soy sauce = some kind of leftover stirfry which will do in a pinch.

Rabbit-impersonation day

I bought a bag of Caesar salad mix reasoning that a head of lettuce is intimidatingly large and that the ridiculous markup they have on convenience mixes like that was worth it just to see if I could happily eat veggies. I think it was meant for two servings as a main dish. I ended up finishing the entire thing. I guess that's a good thing. Oh, Mom and Kathy will be pleased to know that I now eat Caesar salad with dressing.

Life continues. If nothing else, I'm cultivating better resistance to bad cooking. ;)

48. Midterms and mushrooms (2005.10.26:6)

My midterms were actually pretty fun. I missed a number of points--made a mistake in one formula, forgot to mention something in my answer to another question--but I think I did reasonably well.

To celebrate (or to console myself if the midterms had been worse), I decided to have mushroom soup today.

Mushroom soup is one of my age-old comfort foods. Whenever I was sick, either Auntie Nica or Yaya tore open a Knorr packet of instant cream of mushroom soup and prepared a deliciously unhealthy snack. It was bland enough to soothe an upset stomach and yet tasty enough to cheer me up, laden with sodium and other savory unsavories. I was five and I didn't care about sodium. Even when I was fifteen and making myself soup, I still didn't care. After all, mushroom soup was mushroom soup was mushroom soup. It was yummy.

One packet made five or six servings of mushroom soup, mind you, so mushroom soup was something I ended up either inflicting on other people or consuming all by myself. I always made it with less water than indicated, preferring a thick, creamy soup bordering on salty. Ah, mushroom soup.

So I decided to give mushroom soup a try. No Knorr packets around, so I had to figure out how to do it from scratch. I'd seen my sister prepare real mushroom soup before, but that was a major production--as my sister's cooking tends to be. She had bowls, blenders, and more kinds of mushrooms than I'd even seen. I couldn't even scrounge up enough milk or cream to follow the recipes I found on the Net.

I threw my hands up and decided to wing it. Here's how you can do that too.

  • 1. Melt a chunk of butter in a pot.
  • 2. Peel and chop garlic. Throw garlic in.
  • 3. Chop mushrooms. Throw them in too.
  • 4. Wait until mushrooms have had time to soak up buttery goodness.
  • 5. Add water to barely cover mushrooms.
  • 6. Remember that most recipes call for chicken stock. Shake a lot of instant chicken powder

    into pot, stir.

  • 7. Wonder what the flour in most recipes does. Throw a couple of pinches of that in, too.
  • 8. Boil until you feel confident that things are mostly cooked, and the water kinda tastes like mushrooms.
  • 9. Be pleasantly surprised that it tastes somewhat familiar.

See? That's why cooking is always so exciting. You never know what you're going to get. And yes, I _so_ need to learn a lot about technical writing...

I paired the mushroom soup with another impromptu dish: chicken nuggets salad. Lettuce, chicken nuggets (from the huge frozen bag I bought late August; nearly done!), and finely chopped tomatoes, onions, carrots, and green peppers, dressed with some barbecue sauce.

It turned out pretty well, even considering that this is Day 3 of having the tomato-onion-carrots-green-pepper thing. I made the mix for pitas and I've been using it all over the place, thrilled that I've finally found a way to sneak veggies into my diet.

I'm getting somewhere. My desperation food used to be scrambled eggs and rice. I didn't know how to cook an omelette; it always ended up getting scrambled. Now I can whip up something that looks reasonably familiar _and_ makes me happy I didn't go out to eat... =)

Whee! I _might_ just manage to finish the head of lettuce before it goes bad. On the other hand, though, I've resolved never to buy cheap bananas again. They ripen very quickly and all at the same time. You know what I _really_ need? A bunch of bananas whene one banana ripens per day. I think I'll stick to mandarins for my fruit choices, or try out some of the other stuff. What's good in November?

Ooh. Must figure out what to do with this cute little minipumpkin I bought...

47. Chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies (2005.10.09:4)

From cooks.com:

CHOCO - CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES

- 1 1/4 c. butter, softened - 3/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed - 1/2 c. granulated sugar - 1 egg - 1 tsp. vanilla - 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour - 1 tsp. baking soda - 1 tsp. salt - 3 c. Quick or Old Fashioned Quaker Oats, uncooked - 1 (12 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces - 3/4 c. nuts, chopped

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add combined flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until thoroughly blended. Stir in oats; chocolate pieces and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9 to 11 minutes. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet. Remove to wire rack.

Not quite Kathy's recipe, but it'll do in a pinch.

Worked out quite well. Made two batches.

46. Garlic (2005.10.09:1)

My garlic comes from Manila, Philippines. Couldn't help but smile a little. =)

(Would you believe the cost of butter here?! Sheesh.)

45. Lapping up lentils (2005.09.27:2)

The past few days have been repeats of previous CookOrDie successes, so I figured today I'd cook something in the true spirit of CookOrDie: throw things together and see if it works.

I felt like having lentil soup today. I poured lentils into a pot, covered them with lots of water, added chicken stock powder, and set that boiling. Then I went "Hmm." Chopped up two medium-sized onions and threw them in, too. For good measure, I threw in a chopped tomato and a couple of bay leaves at some point.

Good stuff. I originally planned to have some today and some tomorrow, but at the rate I'm going, I'll have it all today...

Ahhhh.

Needs slightly more liquid, but is otherwise great.

You know, I just might be able to survive on my cooking after all...

44. Progress at cooking!: 19:40 (2005.09.01:1)

I had microwaved the chicken and slathered on barbecue sauce when I realized something important: I was out of cooked-and-frozen rice. I was out of potatoes, too, and I didn't think the chicken would go well with hurriedly-thrown together spaghetti.

Then I discovered the wonders of couscous. Once you get the water boiling, it takes 5 minutes to get nice, fluffy couscous. Instant carbohydrates! Yes! Another staple for my diet!

Feeling emboldened by my couscous success two days ago, I tried doing something equally fancy for breakfast today. Besides, I had run out of oatmeal, and I needed to work on finishing the tomato sauce I opened for last night's 6-bean mock chili (can of 6 types of beans + tomato sauce = quick meal).

I took two hamburger buns out of the freezer, opened them up, and popped them into the oven. When I eventually remembered them (accompanied by requisite panicking and reflections on whether or not burnt food was really as carcinogenic as my sister said), I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were... umm... only slightly burned. I spread copious amounts of tomato sauce onto each half-bun, topped it with sliced cheese, put a little more tomato sauce, and added pineapple chunks. Then I spread some foil to catch any spilled cheese, popped the buns back into the oven and set the oven to cook for 2 minutes, watching the buns vigilantly. When the oven beeped, my very own pizza buns were wonderfully warm and yummy. Whee!

The Great Tomato Adventure continued at dinner. My roommate bequeathed to me half a bag of fusilli, and I knew spiral pasta would be just fantastic with tomato sauce. The question was, what should I put on it? Adobo? Err, maybe not. Roast chicken? Maybe if I covered it in cheese, but not really...

AHA! I had bought fresh mushrooms on a whim two weeks ago, and they were starting to make me wonder whether or not mushrooms get moldy (err, well, moldier). I fetched a saucepan, cut off a generous portion of butter, melted the butter, washed and sauteed the mushrooms (by which I mean I hovered about the pan wondering whether or not I was burning the mushrooms already), and had six nice, big mushrooms nicely browned just as the pasta finished cooking. I drained the pasta and added it to a large bowl together with the mushrooms. Because this was an exercise to get rid of the tomato sauce, I poured a lot more sauce than I thought I needed. Turned out to be just perfect: the noodles picked up the taste of the sauce and the mushrooms provided delicious, buttery contrast.

I arranged the other mushrooms on a plate, added more butter to them, and put them in the oven with the timer set to 10 minutes. I still need to figure out how to properly grill vegetables, though, as they came out tasting cooked but a bit bland. Hmmm...

Progress! I feel like a sliiiiightly better cook. Yay!

43. Too chicken to try anything new: 20:17 (2005.08.18:2)

I bought four whole chickens at the recent Price Chopper sale, trying to get into once-a-month or freezer cooking. I've been very happy with my lasagna and adobo leftovers so far, so I decided to scale up a bit and do my next few weeks' meals in one go. It was a toss-up between trying new recipes all the time and trying once-a-month cooking, and I decided that experimentation can wait until I've got a stock of leftovers for lazy lunches and dinners.

Chopping the chicken was harder than I thought. Fortunately, Cooking for Engineers has an illustrated guide to cutting up chicken. The first chicken ended up as a mangled tangle of unrecognizable parts, but the second chicken separated cleanly into somewhat recognizable wings, breast, and quarters (drumsticks + thighs). The ordeal was enough to make me consider roasting the other two chickens, though, and now I'm going to have to find a way to deal with roast chicken in the freezer.

Not knowing how to make chicken soup means I can't make the most of the bones and other parts. Pff. I have come to the conclusion that ten cents or so per pound is a small price to pay for the convenience of having my chicken all cut up and ready for me. I should look into exactly how much the chicken parts I like are, anyway.

I can only hope that I have enough freezer space for all the adobo and roast chicken I've got planned. Meep. I can do this! I can do this! I can do this!

42. Lasagna in the freezer: 21:02 (2005.08.13:3)

Having discovered the joys of being able to pull chicken adobo out of the freezer any time I want to eat, I baked an entire casserole of lasagna this afternoon. Lasagna is another one of those recipes that freeze well.

It never occured to me that cooking and freezing large quantities might be a popular trick, but fortunately Lifehack.org flagged it as a useful tip. Turns out that About.com just posted an article on Once a Month Cooking with loads of useful links, including a recipe selector that puts together a shopping list for you.

Way cool!

41. Chicken adobo and rice: 23:12 (2005.08.02:6)

The clinking and clanking of plates and bric-a-brac could be heard clear across the room as I rummaged through the cupboards.

"Are you looking for anything?" asked Ye, my roommate of a few weeks.

"Would we happen to have any measuring cups?"

"You can use the mugs in the drawer. What are you cooking this time?"

"Rice. Let's see... Gah, this rice cooker is too big. And it doesn't come with instructions."

"Use a pot."

"Okay... Hmm. "Step 1: Add rice. Step 2: Add water. How much rice?"

"It doesn't really matter, as long as the water level is 1 centimeter above the rice."

What did one centimeter look like again? I knew other Filipinos have this magic trick involving the joints of one's fingers, but I never quite figured it out and I didn't know if the rule was valid given my small hands. Resisting the temptation to fetch the ruler from my cute pink stationery set, I decided to eyeball the measurements. There, just about right. Oh, wait... "Should I wash the rice first?"

"I usually do."

Swished, swished. Poured. Swished. Poured. Swished. Poured. Gave up and refilled pot to former level. "Mmkay. Then...?"

"Boil it, and then turn the heat way down until it absorbs all the water."

So I did.

I thought it would be a good idea to try out chicken adobo while waiting, and I had recently splurged on a pack of chicken breast fillets. I rummaged some more for vinegar (this strange Chinese thing that smelled nothing like the vinegar I remembered seeing back home) and soy sauce. I had the foresight to grab bay leaves and garlic on my last grocery trip, so it was easy to throw everything together.

- 2 pieces chicken - 4 cloves garlic, crushed - 2 tablespoons vinegar - 2 teaspoons soy sauce - 1 bay leaf - 1/4 teaspoon pepper - 1/2 cup water

I boiled that, too, and then simmered it until I felt confident about the chicken being more-or-less cooked (erring on the side of more, I hope) and the sauce was reduced to a fraction. By simmered, I mean that I alternated between accidentally reboiling it and getting some satisfyingly mild bubbling action.

I didn't get to try the adobo, so I don't know if it's really adobo or some weird thing. I did get to try the rice, though, so I feel pretty good about that. Of course, as I started cooking at around 9, I got _pretty_ hungry by the time the rice was done. The chicken didn't inspire confidence at that point, so I did what any sane, starving student would do: I raided the refrigerator for something to eat with the rice. Pastrami may be a strange companion to rice, but I thought it tasted like a rather expensive version of vienna sausages.

We'll see how the adobo turns out tomorrow evening. If I survive, I'll have joined the ranks of adobo-cooking Filipinos around the world!

40. Breakfast: Twice-baked potatoes (2005.07.18:1)

Two potatoes is _far_ too much for breakfast. I feel stuffed. I feel more than stuffed. I feel like skipping lunch, which might not be a bad idea considering I've got another two potatoes slated for dinner. (It's a good thing I don't easily tire of eating the same kind of food...)

The cause of my current not-quite-distress is something called the twice-baked potato. I have a particular fondness for it because it graced the breakfast tables of my childhood (clearly before the household settled into the corned-beef-and-eggs routine). I remember seeing the crisp, slightly browned grated cheese topping the potato and knowing there would be more pockets of cheesy goodness beneath it.

How do you prepare twice-baked potatoes for breakfast?

Take the potatoes you microwaved last night out of the refrigerator. Baking the potatoes the night before makes them nice and cool by the time you need to hollow them out. Slice open the top and carefully scoop out most of the potato using a spoon, making a small bowl. Mash it together with cheese, salt and pepper and spoon it back into potato. You may need to pack it in tightly if you use as much cheese as I do. Then pop it into the microwave for another minute and a half to make it nice and warm.

As originally prepared:

2 potatoes 0.46
A bit of cheese 0.41
Total: 0.87

Again, two potatoes is far too much. Heck, I started feeling full halfway through the first potato. By the time I finished it, I was wondering if I could put it back into the refrigerator. To err on the safe side, though, I decided to finish it all up. That explains why I'm currently... quite... full...

Next time:

1 potato 0.23
A bit of cheese 0.20
Total: 0.43

このコンピュータは強力で効率がよく使いやすい。 This computer is powerful, efficient, and easy to use.

39. Dinner: Mild Italian sausage and baked potato (2005.07.17:2)

We're back to CookOrDie, folks! For those of you just tuning in, CookOrDie is my (so far non-fatal) attempt to learn how to cook by, well, forcing myself to eat the results of my experiments. Not a bad way to learn how to cook, mind you, and it certainly makes evenings interesting.

Today I went back to one of my CookOrDie staples. Sausages tend to be cheaper and easier to split into small portions than other sources of meat, and potatoes are a staple for cheap, easy-to-prepare carbohydrates. You can't beat the ease of microwaving a potato, and potatoes are hard to overcook!

I pricked two potatoes with a fork, smeared them with oil and microwaved them for four minutes, then turned them and microwaved them for another three.

Kathy usually boils her sausages, so I gave that a whirl. I took it out prematurely, though. Fortunately I sliced it open before popping it into my mouth--the core was still red! Silly me had already poured the previous contents of the pot down the drain, so I slipped the sausages into a fresh pot of water and set them boiling.

I then followed the package directions (panfry for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally) for another two sausages for tomorrow's lunch. I carefully resisted the temptation to slice them open. =) They looked pretty good (or at least cooked, which is _very_ important). I munched on one piece to check for done-ness and taste.

Here's how dinner was originally prepared:

2 pieces Italian sausage 1.10
2 potatoes 0.46

Total: CAD 1.56

I might be able to make do with one sausage and one potato next time, which gives me a total cost of CAD 0.78.

38. Smooth lasagna workflow: 22:14 (2004.07.15#1)

My workflow for preparing lasagna is pretty smooth now. No changes to the recipe, just minor tweaks to the process. I didn't waste too much time.

1. Put the ground beef in the microwave and start defrosting it in the large container you'll use for the sauce.

2. While the beef is defrosting, use the water heater and a saucepan to boil water for the lasagna.

3. While the water heats, peel and chop the onion.

4. By the time you finish chopping the onion, the meat should be done defrosting. Throw the onions in and set the timer for 3 minutes.

5. The water should be boiling at this point. Pour a little salt and (butter? oil?) into the water. Break the lasagna noodles in half and dump them into the water. You can reduce the heat to medium.

6. Give the meat a quick stir.

7. While the meat is browning and the lasagna is boiling, open the can of sliced mushrooms. Cut open the foil packs of spaghetti sauce. Every so often, check if the lasagna is done.

8. Drain the lasagna. Dump it onto a plate.

9. Drain the meat. Put it back into the container with the sliced mushrooms and spaghetti sauce. Add lots of Italian seasoning and a bit of salt. Microwave for 5 minutes.

10. Separate the lasagna into individual pieces. If the pieces stick together, you can use water to ease them apart. If you can't, put the pretty sheets aside for the top layer.

11. While the sauce is being microwaved, prepare the cheese mix by dumping everything into a large bowl and mixing it with a spatula or spoon. Make sure the serving dishes are handy. You should be done with the cheese at about the same time the sauce finishes.

12. Prepare one dish. Pop it into the microwave. While that's cooking, prepare the next, etc. Pipelining!

The sauce was just the right volume, too. Using 400g spaghetti sauce instead of 200g gave me more flexibility. I have a little extra sauce, but that's okay.

37. Spam!: 22:22 (2004.07.08#5)

The Monty Python article on Slashdot must've started me on a SPAM kick. Bought myself a tin of SPAM and had fried SPAM and rice today. Not very challenging CookOrDie-wise but still fun. Tomorrow I'll have a SPAM omelette. On Monday, maybe I'll have a SPAM sandwich. Or angel hair with SPAM. Or SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM... Mwahahaha!

36. Lessons learned: 20:43 (2004.07.05#3)

  • Argentina Beef Loaf tastes more like vienna sausages than like SPAM. Eww. Doesn't get nice and crisp, either. Vienna sausages are nice, but the beef loaf was just... strange.
  • Haven't quite figured out how to freeze vegetables well. Must find sustainable way to eat green vegetables.
  • Three-cheese lasagna ingredients seem frightfully expensive. Must check if I actually use up all the cheese in one or two servings. (Probably not.)

Today: Unremarkable rice, beef loaf, egg.

Tomorrow: Make up for today by treating myself to a nice three-cheese lasagna using the mini-sheets Mom got.

35. Used up the meatballs: 22:41 (2004.06.29#2)

I used up the meatballs by having my mom over for lunch and Marcelle over for a late dinner, so I can try out other recipes on Thursday. Lunch was close to perfect. I used the can of spaghetti sauce in the pantry and one packet of meatballs. Dinner simmered for too long and was a bit dry. Meatballs were well-cooked, though. Must keep extra sauce around for emergencies. Have enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Also prepared pancake mix for breakfast tomorrow.

Marcelle likes pasta, so I think I'll prepare angel hair pasta with garlic and olive oil sauce next Tuesday. I wonder what other people like...

34. Angel hair pasta with meatballs in tomato sauce: 22:18 (2004.06.28#1)

My mom bought me a package of angel hair pasta on her grocery run yesterday, so I thought it would be nice to give it a try. I remembered meatballs in tomato sauce usually accompanied angel hair pasta, but I had no idea how to make meatballs. A few hurried Google queries turned up many variations, most serving way too many people. Fortunately, my sister Kathy (visit her website and sign her guestbook!) was online. She gave me a basic list of ingredients and told me everything was to taste.

See, "to taste" is Rather Difficult for people like me. I was certain she doesn't mean taste the raw meat, but the average cooking time I saw in the various recipes was fifteen minutes, and that kind of turnaround doesn't make it easy to experiment. I resigned myself to getting the proportions all wrong. Binary search _so_ doesn't work with cooking.

I managed to pull through, though.

Meatballs in tomato sauce (way too much; around four times what I actually needed): Serves 2, with leftover meat mix

  • 1/2 kg ground beef
  • 1 diced/minced/mangled onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup crushed crackers because I couldn't find bread
  • Lots of Italian seasoning
  • A few dashes of salt and pepper
  • 500g tomato sauce (I tried the three-cheese sauce; very nice)

Mix everything. Roll into small balls. Put around 8 balls in a saucepan with a little oil. I think this makes the texture a little crunchy, which is a good thing. Pour tomato sauce into saucepan and cook on medium (although it was a bit high, actually) for 15 minutes.

I had extra tomato sauce. Maybe I just need 400g. I don't think 250g will cut it, though. Meat made enough for 26 meatballs, and 4 are perfectly all right for 1 serving (with angel hair). I should probably cut down to, say, 1/8 kg. That means figuring out what to do with the egg and the tomato sauce.

Angel hair pasta: follow instructions on package. Basically: 1" or so diameter bundle, boiling water with a little salt, two minutes.

After the initial paranoia about meatball poisoning, I found myself actually liking it. The three-cheese flavor really helped raise this from a boring tomato sauce meal to something pretty funky, and the sauce wasn't expensive. I should probably mix in more spices so that the meatballs are more flavorful.

Realization: This combination of smooth sauce + chunky meat nicely complements angel hair pasta. The sauce sticks to the pasta and flavors each strand, while the chunky meatballs provide contrasting texture.

I think I should concentrate on finishing the rest of the meatballs and the pasta before starting on a new dish. Have to clean out my freezer, you know. It looks like this will be pasta and meatballs week!

33. Beef with Oyster Sauce: 20:43 (2004.06.24#3)

(You gain a level!)

I was planning to cook the beef mexicana described on page 97 of "The Starving Students' Cookbook", but the supermarket was inexplicably out of canned whole kernel corn. So I decided to experiment!

Beef stroganoff was on sale at PHP 185 / 100 g, so I got 180g of that. I couldn't remember the ingredients for stroganoff, though, but I remembered that this cut could be used for stir-fry as well. I picked up a few vegetables, too. One imported carrot, one green capsicum, and a bundle of organically grown Baguio beans. Then I spent some ten minutes on a futile search for that straight-to-wok sauce I saw on my way into the supermarket. I settled for the small package of oyster sauce instead.

Couldn't find a guide recipe anywhere, so I made things up as I went along, basing it somewhat on the recipe on the oyster sauce package.

Microwave rice, sorta (serves 2; just keep the rest for tomorrow)

  • 1 cup uncooked rice (duh)
  • 1 1/2 cup water

1. Pour the rice and water into a large microwaveable container. Try to remember to let it stand for five minutes. I keep forgetting, which is why the rice is somewhat dry.

2. Cover the container lightly (not sure if I should cover it tightly; must experiment) and microwave on HIGH for 9 minutes.

3. Fluff with fork and let stand. I think. Well, I left it alone because I was cooking the next dish...

Beef with Oyster Sauce (serves 1)

  • 90g beef stroganoff, cut into small strips (smaller than the butcher's cut, if you want)
  • 22.5g oyster sauce (half of the 0.45g package)
  • 1/2 green pepper (the large capsicum), chopped into small bits, seeds removed
  • a bundle of Baguio beans chopped into small segments--a handful or two should be nice (I think these are string beans, not really sure)
  • carrot slices, which I forgot to actually include
  • 1 minced onion (or whatever's left from last time)
  • 1 or 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of butter or some oil

1. Cook the onion and garlic in butter or oil until golden. Hah! I've finally gotten the hang of that! It's easier when there's a lot of butter, maybe because the butter makes it look yellow. (Duh.) No, seriously, I think the heat gets spread more evenly.

2. Add the beef. Stir-fry, or make a reasonable imitation of stir-frying by constantly mixing the food with a spatula that won't scratch your pan. Do this until the meat looks brown and reasonably cooked.

3. Add everything else. Mix it to make sure everything gets coated with the oyster sauce. The beef will darken in a rather satisfying manner.

4. Continue stir-frying until you don't feel nervous about the vegetables any more. A minute or two should do the trick. Just make sure everything is heated through, and hope that Baguio beans don't belong to one of those vegetable families that have to be cooked for ten minutes in order to destroy their poison. (Red beans are like that. Pfft.)

I actually bought enough ingredients for two sets, but did half first in order to get one serving. Seemed okay. Still alive. Anyway, cooked another serving and will have it for lunch tomorrow.

To people reading this blog: I'd really, really, really appreciate getting warned if I'm undercooking or overcooking stuff, as I'm really just making things up as I go along... ;)

In other news, I finally got a microwave egg dish and a water pitcher. Whee! I _still_ don't have a decent wok. The one at Rustan's is somewhat expensive. I'm thinking about asking for a wok for my 21st birthday, but (a) I can just spring for one myself, and (b) that's kinda sad, don't you think? Kathy (my middle sister) got a rather intimidating set of professional knives when she turned 21, but that's because she really, really wanted them. She's into cooking. _Really_ into cooking. I just dabble, really. Survival cooking. Experiments.

I need to fix my pan set. Some of my pans are too small and should probably be taken home. I still want that large wok. I think I can budget it in. I only need one wok, anyway. (Perils of having just one electric stove...)

I also want more shelf space. I don't think I can do anything about that, though. Hey, wait! There's that corner near the door. If I get a cabinet, I can store stuff in it. Hmm. Not that I need to store much. I know! I can store books and canned goods.

Hmm. I hardly use the toaster. Would it be a good idea to move the microwave from the kitchen counter to the space the toaster currently occupies? It'd be pretty convenient on top of the ref, and the move would free up counter space for an additional electric stove. Not that I need another one at this point, come to think of it. I'm fine mixing microwave and stove. It's kinda fun, even. It forces me to practice my microwave skillz.

I wonder if this beef recipe can be turned into a microwave thing.

Oh, nearly forgot to say this: I love Baguio beans. And oyster sauce. Not necessarily together, but they're cool.

Must make an inventory of the stuff I have in the pantry so that I can plan better...

32. Potato surprise: 22:21 (2004.06.22#3)

The potato surprise mentioned yesterday was actually pretty okay, although I think I should've left it in the micro for a minute or two more so that the egg cooked completely. Next time, I can omit the rice and just eat the potato+egg+corned.beef mix as is. Slightly larger potatoes might be nice.

Potato Surprise

  • 2 hollowed-out potato shells from last night's potato soup
  • 1 small can of corned beef (the smallest you can find; I'll look up the exact measurement soon)
  • 1 egg
  • Handful of minced onions

1. Fry corned beef with onions on high heat until it's nice and crunchy. (Essentially, we are satisfying ourselves that the corned beef is more or less edible...)

2. Crack egg into bowl.

3. Mix corned beef into egg. Add salt if you want.

4. Pour mixture into potato shells.

5. Microwave potatoes for 2.5 minutes or until it seems safe. I microwaved them in one of my ultra-wonderful rigid-plastic containers (not the cheap ones that deform; this is heavy stuff!) with an airhole, which kept the potatoes nice and moist.

Okay lunch.

31. More experiments with sausages and potato soup: 21:34 (2004.06.21#2)

I think I'm getting hooked. I found myself wandering the aisles of Rustan's supermarket earlier, looking for cookware. I put two rolls of kitchen towels, a pitcher, a microwave egg cooker and a set of tiny food containers in my basket. I very, very nearly got a flat-bottomed wok. (I'm still strongly tempted to spring for one.) 'Course, I had to put all of those things away and slink off sheepishly upon discovering I'd left my purse at the department. Whoops.

Fortunately, I had all the food I needed at the dorm. (Aha! Finally, a well-stocked pantry.) I wanted to give potato soup another shot, with minor twists. Here's what I did:

Sausage and potato soup (sorta)

  • 130g sausage (I tried it with Hungarian)
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk

1. Wash and scrub the potatoes. Prick them with a fork, rub them with oil, and pop them into the microwave for 9 minutes on high. (Actually, just cheat and use the "Potatoes" setting on your microwave.)

2. While the potatoes are cooking, mince the onion and throw it into a saucepan with the butter. Brown the onion on medium-high heat. (Or whatever. Just try not to burn them.)

3. Slice the sausage thinly. Cook the sausages (in the saucepan also, or elsewhere) until you're satisfied they're edible.

4. Cool the potatoes by running water over them or sticking them into the refrigerator or freezer. Scoop out the insides carefully, putting the potato bases aside for tomorrow's breakfast.

5. Mash the potato insides in a bowl. Add water. Mix thoroughly.

6. Put mixture in saucepan and boil until potato mixture looks thick.

7. Add milk until consistency looks almost like the creamy soups you remember.

8. Dump assorted seasonings into soup. Experiment with sage, rosemary, salt, pepper, and anything that says "Use with potatoes" on it.

It was acceptable, although the Hungarian sausages weren't as spicy as I had hoped they'd be.

Hmm. I didn't really taste the onions. Maybe I should try more onions or cut them out entirely.

I plan to use the potato shells for Egg and Corned Beef Potato Surprise tomorrow. It's another experiment. I haven't quite figured out if I'm going to

  • scramble the egg
  • keep the egg whole
  • microwave the whole thing
  • cook the mixture before putting it into the potato

I think I'll go for frying the corned beef, mixing cooked corned beef with one egg, then pouring the mixture into the potatoes and cooking for 1.5 ~ 2 min.

30. Potato soup and fried schueblig slices: 22:59 (2004.06.17#2)

Two medium potatoes, half a cup of water and a cup of milk resulted in twice as much soup as I needed and was thinner than I remembered potato soup to be, although the second bowl of potato soup was much better as it had time to cool down. On the other hand, one potato just isn't worth boiling for ten to fifteen minutes. Perhaps I should look into freezing some of the soup. Maybe when my ref freezer door gets fixed. Broke the plastic hinges when I pried my freezer compartment open back when it was frosted over like heck (or unlike heck, as the case may be).

Fried slices of schueblig sausage because I didn't dare trust the toaster. Had just scrubbed lots of mold out of it. Eww, eww, eww. Microwave grill function also no good. However, reasoned that Holland Sausages cooks its stuff on a hot surface with some grease, so frying pan with butter can't be too far off. Did job. Nice, flavorful, textured, and heated all the way through. (Last time I had sausage, I bit into a cold part and hurriedly stuck it back into the toaster.)

Definitely want to set up some kind of kitchen coop. Hang out with other lone culinary hackers, countercultural rebels who refuse to eat out or buy into the modern myth of convenience, cooking not because we have to cook for other people but because it's scary-fun wondering if you're going to poison yourself (among other nasty things). Trying to figure out the stuff not written down in cookbooks, like how on earth do you use the strange ceramic steamer/casserole/pressure cooker contraption that's supposed to fit into your microwave. Reading package backs to figure out how to cook rice and other stuff you're embarrassed to admit you don't know yet. Struggling with large portions of food. (Can't they sell individual English muffins? Chicken fillets? Pita pockets?) Wondering how on earth you're supposed to meet the veggie requirements for a balanced diet. Who knows? Maybe even doing some kind of beginners' Iron Chef challenge spread out over a week.

Hah. Most people will probably just tell me to eat instant food or canned stuff. I've stocked up on cans. Pretty handy stuff, but a bit on the boring side. No, wait, this is Ateneo. They'll tell me to eat out. But see, I _know_ instant food and eating out Just Works. I want something to hack. I _like_ walking into a supermarket and trying to think of what to eat. I like following the procedure in a cookbook and getting annoyed at the primitives I haven't acquired yet. I like waking up the next day _still_ _alive._ CookOrDie. w00t.

Incidentally, I did push through with a weird mushroom and cheese omelet the other day. Or tried to. The non-stick pan was too small for a three-egg omelet, so the egg mixture stuck to the sides. I had rather nice mushroom-and-cheese scrambled eggs, although they were a bit salty. (Note to self: if using cheese, skip salt.) Forgot to bring the pasta, though, so had to throw it away.

Skipping breakfast. Too lazy. Or may possibly have two scrambled eggs, if I feel like washing up. Assuming I wake up in time, of course. If at all.

CookOrDie. Making each day a little more meaningful. ;)

29. Carne Norte and scrambled egg for lunch: 23:26 (2004.06.15#4)

Woke up too late (or lazy) to make pancakes this morning, so I prepared lunch instead. There were strange insects in the rice. I think I'll have to throw it out. I decided to buy rice at the canteen instead, so I packed viands. I fried the contents of a small can of carne norte and one scrambled egg this morning. Brought it to school in one of those handy airtight containers. Pretty good lunch. My first foray into canned meat. Not bad for someone who'd never eaten corned beef.

Forgot the container in school. Should remember to pick it up.

Cooked pasta for dinner. Funghi, aglio et olio. Fancy name for mushrooms, garlic and olive oil. Should probably try button instead of oyster, as oyster's still a little slimy even when cooked.

Minced two extra heads of garlic and stored them in olive oil. The next pasta dish will be easy to throw together as I have all the ingredients necessary--even pre-sliced mushrooms.

Rustans sells microwave egg containers. I think I'll get one on Thursday. Must come up with a plan to finish the eggs. I think I'll have mushroom and cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow, as I still have half a can of oyster mushrooms.

Must remember to make significant inroads on eggs and potatoes.

Menu plan:

Wed breakfast Mushroom and cheese omelet
Wed lunch Rest of pasta and olive oil sauce, left-over mushroom and cheese omelet (if any)
Wed dinner At home
Thu breakfast At home
Thu lunch Luncheon meat and canteen rice
Thu dinner Potato soup and sausages (whoops, should probably cancel meeting if I'm trying a new dish. Can probably do lasagna rolls instead, as that was very nice last time)
Fri breakfast Twice-baked cheesy potato
Fri lunch Potato omelet (two birds with one stone!)
Fri dinner At home

28. Pasta carbonara out of a package: 21:49 (2004.06.14#2)

Finally got around to trying out the packaged carbonara mix. It was okay, although a bit on the salty side. It tasted, well, like carbonara. One package can be used for 4 servings as a side dish, but since I was too lazy to cook a separate dish and store the left-over carbonara, I had it as the main dish. Some more variety would probably make it less like classy instant noodles.

Tomorrow I'm going to try pancakes, if I wake up early enough. I should find a sari-sari store that lets me buy one egg at a time. I had to buy a dozen, and I have no plans of finishing them all during the week. That'd be unhealthy.

I wonder if we can set up some kind of coop...

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I still had a fair amount of time after getting home, cooking dinner, cleaning our mold-encrusted toaster (eeeeeeeewwww!), and fixing my clothes and my bed. I feel more or less at ease. =)

26. Chicken and mushroom on fettuccini or rice: 23:33 (2004.03.01#7)

Today's CookOrDie experiment - the first with chicken - was a success!

I had the foresight to put the individual chicken fillets into easily-separable plastic bags. This is neatly tucked into yet another plastic bag which is stored in a clear, air-tight Ziplock bag. I also remembered to bring the can of sliced mushrooms I bought at the supermarket. I correctly remembered that I already had a can of mushroom soup at the dorm. Whee. =)

Preparing the sauce
  1. Turn the heat on medium.
  2. Open the can of sliced mushrooms. Put the mushroom water aside. Throw the mushrooms into the pan.
  3. Slice the chicken into small strips or chunks, adding them to the pan as you chop.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium or low. Add mushroom soup and mushroom water to the pan.
  5. Wait until the chicken bits look white on both sides, and pulling them apart shows white in the middle too.

Meanwhile...

Preparing the rice
  1. Measure half a cup of rice and dump it into the microwave contraption.
  2. Measure two cups of water and dump it into the microwave contraption.
  3. Invert the inner lid and tightly close the outer lid.
  4. Microwave for 12 minutes.
  5. Fluff and let stand.
Preparing the pasta

Same old, same old.

Notes

Rice was okay! =)

Sauce worked well on rice and pasta.

Next time, prepare sauce first. Prepare noodles only as guests arrive, or shortly before. Resist temptation to toss before guests arrive. If you postpone mixing pasta and sauce, you can still throw the pasta into boiling water to make it softer or prevent it from drying out.

You can leave pasta in a covered saucepan after draining it. Don't leave it outside - it will become stiff and dry.

Make more sauce than you think you'll need. You'll need it.

25. Backlog: twice-baked potatoes

  • Mashed potatoes easily thanks to addition of some milk.
  • Spam bits not tasted; omit next time.
  • Cheese is very good.
  • The toaster oven browns the top of the twice-baked potato wonderfully.
  • It survived microwave reheating.

24. Backlog: chili con carne y spam bits

  • Added potatoes. This was a good idea, although they need to be cooked a bit more.
  • Added spam bits. Yum!

23. Mock chili: 22:09 (2004.02.03#2)

I stuffed myself silly on baked+fried beans and ground beef. It was a pretty good meal, although a little heavy on the protein side.

Ingredients for one serving:

  • 1 whole onion (adjust)
  • 4 cloves garlic (adjust)
  • 1/8 kg ground beef
  • 200g can of pork and beans, somewhat drained
  • salt and pepper

To prepare:

  1. Chop the onions. Crush and chop the garlic. Open the can of beans.
  2. Prepare the pan over medium heat. Put a pat of butter in it. When the butter melts and starts sizzling, drop in the onions and the garlic. Stir so that it doesn't burn. The butter will help the heat distribute evenly.
  3. After the onions and garlic change color (you can wait for them to be slightly brown, if you want), put in the beef. Add lots of salt and pepper.
  4. Brown the beef, breaking up the chunks and stirring briskly.
  5. (optional) After the beef has browned, you can drain it to get rid of some fat. (If you're using an electric stove, you can turn the heat off.)
  6. Pour the beans into the pan. Stir until you're happy.

I seem to have gotten the hang of onions and garlic. Whee! That is: I get a significant color change that's not just caused by the butter, and the onion bits become soft and sweet.

Tomorrow lunch: toasted pita bread with beef, onions and garlic.

21. Four variations on sukiyaki beef: 20:25 (2003.12.30#8)

Impressions:

  • Sweetly brown sukiyaki broth
  • Soft, bland, a childhood memory: tofu
  • A faint buzzing in my head: the sake in the soups and sauces
  • Tangy rawness: partially caramelized onions

Martin helped me experiment with 500g of sukiyaki-style beef. In retrospect, this was a bit too much beef - no choice as it was frozen solid when we began, so had to defrost the whole thing.

Mostly variations on sauteing beef with onions and adding different kinds of sauce.

Okay, although suspect too much sake was used as feel vague buzzing in head.

20. Recipe from [[bbdb://Aadisht][Aadisht Khanna]] : 09:32 (2003.12.16#2)

1. Set Capsicum, Minced Meat, Sweet Corn, Cheese
2. Slice off capsicum tops.
3. Scoop out capsicum innards.
4. Stuff Capsicum with (Cheese&&(Minced Meat or Sweet Corn))
5. Microwave.

E-Mail from Aadisht Khanna

19. Backlog: Fish - 2003.12.15 : 09:29 (2003.12.16#1)

  • Find small sections of fish. I haven't gotten around to eating fish bellies yet, although many people swear by them. I prefer the part that browns and gets all salty when you cook it.
  • Put fish into frying pan with a bit of oil.
  • Wait.

This CookOrDie episode was hard because I couldn't see what I was cooking! It was early morning, so I hadn't put my contacts on yet, and I used chopsticks (yes, while cooking fish - darn difficult to hang on to the pieces sometimes) to test if the fish felt crunchy. I also peeked every so often to see if it was browning properly. The sputtering oil from the fish made me loath to look closer, though.

Still, I think it was worth it. I'm particularly fond of daing na bangus (milkfish that's marinated and then fried), and my dad and I usually fight over who gets to eat the brown parts. Actually, no, we just try to be first at the fish. I haven't actually tasted the results yet due to a bit of a mix-up yesterday. I was supposed to bring it for lunch but the car couldn't take me to school. They sent the containers along later, but now that it's been out a few hours at room temperature, I'm a bit wary. All that rice will also be wasted unless I think of something to do later - and I'll have to eat it for lunch, as I'll be going home today!

Hmmm. Which means I'm in a bit of a spot, as I have a couple of potatoes earmarked for potato soup (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). I am a little hesitant about rice and fish as they'd been out for a while. I think I will have cream of mushroom + potato soup later... The rice is such a waste, but I guess I can treat it as an experiment.

CookOrDie

18. Rice : 00:41 (2003.12.15#4)

Parents very supportive of CookOrDie project. Suspect they find it funny as youngest daughter makes far-out attempts to become "independent girl" while still remaining v. close to parents. To wit: have told them about double-entry accounting (but have been slipping these days due to rush-rush CookOrDie grocery shopping), CookOrDie project, and even contemplated SewOrDie project as cannot easily find clothes to wear - teacher clothes somewhat boring, but most clothes my size too casual. (That said, find The Black Shop a nice place to window shop.)

As result of parental support, have now acquired full complement of pots, pans, and knives. Parents have thankfully kept space and cooking limitations of CookOrDie project in mind - no huge woks or for-several-thousand-people pans.

Parents unbelievably keen on youngest daughter learning how to cook. Parents enlisted help of company cook in teaching how to make rice, although as had been very busy this weekend, had not actually had time. However, performed rice experiment earlier with mom with great success.

Cooked 1/2 cup rice traditional way and 1/2 cup rice microwave way. Did not actually know correct microwave procedure, so guessed. Microwave finished first, but had problems with boiling over - suspect must use deeper casserole. Traditional way documented on rice package resulted in good rice after 20 minutes, although also resulted in crunchy part which most Filipinos like but personally am not particularly fond of.

Also, prepared very first cup of tsokolate. May need strainer, but is v. nice - although a bit rich. Perhaps water instead of milk is advisable.

17. Backlog: Potatoes, beef, bacon - real this time - and cheese - 2003.12.12 : 00:33 (2003.12.15#3)

  • Microwave second pink potato for 5 minutes.
  • Cook half of second slice of bacon. (Still unable to figure out how to get nice, crispy bacon, and am about to give up and always chuck it into the microwave.)
  • Brown ground beef. Add plenty of salt and pepper. (This is starting to sound very familiar.)
  • Flip potato and microwave for another 2 minutes.
  • Mash potato, beef, and bacon together.
  • Add diced cheese to amalgam and mix thoroughly.
  • Pop into microwave and set for a few minutes under "Grill" in attempt to brown potato mixture nicely..

16. Backlog: Mashed potatoes, beef, and bacon bits - 2003.12.11 : 00:29 (2003.12.15#2)

Another quickie meal as had class in less than 30 minutes.

  • Grab large pink potatoes from supermarket, as convenience justifies expense.
  • Also buy 1/8 kg. ground beef.
  • Ensure that salt, pepper, and bacon bits containers were firmly closed. Throw them into school bag for very quick lunch in school.
  • Hastily wash large plastic container in school.
  • Pop washed, pricked, pink potato into container and microwave for 5 minutes.
  • Flip pink potato.
  • Pack ground beef into small plastic container and place it into microwave along with flipped potato.
  • Microwave potato and beef for 2 minutes.
  • Pour some bacon bits onto plastic lid. Microwave for 20 seconds to make bacon bits crunchy.
  • Pick up ground beef with fork, as fat had rendered in the plastic container. Place ground beef in large container with well-cooked potato.
  • Dump bacon bits into large container.
  • Tear potato apart with fork and spoon, effectively mashing potato with beef and bacon bits. Sprinkle with lots of pepper and mix thoroughly.
  • Look at the clock and start panicking.

15. Backlog: Beef, beans, and bacon in buns - 2003.12.10 : 00:16 (2003.12.15#1)

Whoops, hadn't been writing. Have, however, faithfully adhered to constraints of CookOrDie. Last Wednesday, threw together quickie lunch of ground beef, pork and beans, and bacon (real bacon!) in hamburger buns. Decent meal - reminded me a bit of some meal I'd eaten before but forgotten.

Preparation was fairly simple.

  • Attempted to cook bacon.
  • Became disturbed as bacon does not brown after a few minutes of cooking.
  • Suspected that constant flipping to check doneness did not contribute to quick cooking of bacon.
  • Consoled self by browning 1/8 kg. of ground beef in same pan.
  • Opened can of pork and beans impulsively bought day before and dumped contents in aforementioned pan.
  • Stirred for a few minutes and poured results into hastily cleaned plastic container.
  • Stuffed extra hamburger buns into storage bags and into ref.
  • Grabbed remaining hamburger buns and container with meat and beans mixture and headed off to school.

14. Breakfast steak, potatoes : 23:46 (2003.12.09#7)

Have potatoes down pat - halved marble potatoes in covered container with pat of butter, cook for three minutes, stir, then cook for two more minutes. Nice and soft.

Breakfast steak cooked for 1:30 minutes on plate, covered with microwave wrap. A bit too tough. Seasoning with salt and pepper good, but feel more taste is needed. May consider marinade - soy sauce?

Have figured out way to revitalize artificial bacon bits - put into container and microwave for ~ 20 seconds to make them nice and crunchy again.

13. Burrito attempt flop. : 11:51 (2003.12.08#4)

Writing off attempt to make burritos, as lettuce makes burrito soggy. Must figure out how to do it properly. In meantime, will probably start exploring egg-based dishes.

Resolve to never prepare more than a day's worth of food at time, as had to throw away stocked-up burrito stuff upon discovering was not partial to the taste and texture. Toasting did not improve it.

12. Day 11: 2003.12.04 (late entry) : 00:37 (2003.12.05#1)

Grabbed flour tortillas and made little burritos. Think have gotten hang of it, but can never be quite sure until burritos are reheated tomorrow. Had to plan ahead because will be out at conference until dinner. Abiding by CookOrDie constraints means packing either lunch or dinner, and lunch seems more hackable.

Have surplus tortillas and lettuce. Ended up making vegetable burritos. Put many into freezer. Almost done with head of lettuce.

Must find better way to split food. Not looking forward to eating tortillas every day for next few CookOrDie sessions. Besides, makes for boring story.

11. w00t! Hacked the ground beef! : 18:32

Thanks to Dominique's advice, have figured out how to get nicely spiced ground beef. Had absolutely wonderful bite-sized tacos for lunch. Let Eric and Andrei taste it; they were much impressed.

Finished three tomatoes, a fourth of a head of lettuce, and 1/8th kilo of ground beef. (Actually, 1/10th looks like it'll suffice.) Hadn't touched onions at all.

Having hacked the taco / taco salad, must now find other things to do with ingredients in ref. Perhaps can begin with egg?

CookOrDie Xref: 2003.12.02#6

10. Day 10: More ground beef salad : 20:31

Was pressed for time this morning, so just quickly cooked ground beef. Onions still incomprehensible. Heated them on low, but that was too low (even butter was not heating up nicely). Browned them again on medium. Will probably try really slow cooking over low, but not when class time looms.

Chopped around 6 tomatoes and put them in Ziplock bag. Brought other head of lettuce to school. Had hurried ground beef and warm pita for lunch. Apparently, pita bread warms nicely in microwave. One pita left in freezer.

Washed and crisped some leaves of lettuce for dinner. (Two CookOrDie meals in a day! Wow.) Swapped some lettuce + tomatoes + ground beef with Eric for half a bowl of instant noodles. (He insisted as he felt very guilty about eating my food. Had not eaten instant noodles in ages. Had not missed much.) Eric agrees beef could use more flavor, but thinks it's a pretty good try nonetheless. Will experiment with salt and pepper tomorrow. Perhaps should go grocery-shopping now; maybe with Dominique, as he has more experience with cooking. <grin>

Tomorrow: perhaps try ground beef omelet, or mix ground beef with corn, or finally figure out secret of caramelized onions?

CookOrDie Xref: 2003.12.01#1

9. 2003.11.27: Day 9: Graduated to saucepan : 22:44

Obtained a small pan from home thanks to the good graces of my sister. Attempted my first Real Cooking - something, anything to do with ground beef.

Lettuce on sale - buy one, take one. A head of lettuce costs PHP 15 and expands into quite a number of nice, crisp leaves. In fact, now have too much lettuce. Still have half a bowl after a filling meal. Hesitate to think of the other head still in plastic. Leafy-green problem solved, as crisped lettuce wonderful. Wonder if large proportion of lettuce in diet acceptable, as cannot figure out how to fit potatoes into meal. Wonder if lettuce will survive weekend.

Nearly forgot to buy water. Went back to supermarket (love being short walk away) and picked up bottle of water, pepper, and taco shells. Still no iodized salt, but at least can now season food. Pepper more important anyway.

Must find efficient way of getting water. Note to self: 1.5L does not fit neatly into ref. Should get big water dispenser (have no more table space), but must find way of transporting big water containers. Not confident about lifting power. Small water canisters (2 x 1L?) may suffice. Refill in the morning at convenient water station. Perhaps get containers when paying bill tomorrow. (MUST PAY BILL.)

No clue how to make onions nicely translucent. Used to know how to do it as attended cooking classes before. Tried heating onions and garlic over low-medium heat. Even tried asking onions nicely. Inconsiderate onions turned brown around edges instead. Quickly put in meat, which browned quickly. Hope meat browning is good thing; anyway, it tasted cooked. Did not taste charred meat, onions or garlic, so guess am doing fine.

Have figured out why cooks advise guiding knives with knuckles, and am getting hang of cutting technique. Still no major injuries - yay! Sliced onions and garlic. Put extra chopped stuff into Ziplock bag for next time.

Tomatoes v. good idea as texture makes dish more fun to eat. Taco salad messy, though. Cannot pretend to any dignity when eating taco salad; suspect such is impossible. Smartly ate taco shells over plate so crumbs would fall into meat mixture and add more texture. Toward end, gave up on making neat tacos. Instead, spooned some meat, munched on lettuce, and ate bit of toasted pita. Warm bread terrific. Meat cooled quickly, though. Must fix.

1/8 kilo of ground beef 16.00
1/2 head of lettuce 3.75
2 native tomatoes 2.70
1/2 white onion 1.20
12 bite-size taco shells 13.00
1 pita bread 6.67
the rest of the garlic unknown
Total (+ 16 3.75 2.70 1.20 13 6.67) = 43.32

CookOrDie Xref: 2003.11.27#5

8. 2003.11.25: Day 8

The potato misadventures

Eric accompanied me shopping today. He was thinking about living on his own, so he was quite curious about my CookOrDie project. He seemed particularly flabbergasted by the fact that I'm not working from any cookbook or website. I haven't run across a site that dealt with my particular constraints:

- Microwave and oven toaster - Cooking for one - Can't have too many left-overs because I might forget to eat them

We checked out the meat shop I'd noticed on the way to school. It's a small meat shop across the street. Quiet place. Unfortunately, they don't sell meat in quantities of less than half a kilo, and I don't trust my cooking or planning skills enough to get that much food at any point in time. So I guess I'll have to get all my protein from the supermarket.

On my way to the supermarket, I remarked that this quandary would have me become a vegetarian out of necessity. Then again, sausages aren't all that bad.

Eric carried my basket as I described my experiments. I read about a pita recipe involving lettuce recently and I'd always liked the nice, crisp lettuce in salads, which I eat on its own or with a bit of bacon and cheese, as I don't like salad dressing. I picked a few leaves of yummy-looking lettuce and had it weighed. At 22.75 for three leaves, it was kinda pricey, but I figured I'm supposed to have leafy vegetables in my diet.

I peered at the marble potatoes rack and found that they were significantly cheaper than the regular potatoes I had been buying before. Although they came in rather large bags, the store personnel kindly opened a bag for me and allowed me to measure and weigh an equivalent portion of marble potatoes. The extra time spent washing the potatoes was time I could spend thinking about my class the next day, I reasoned, and the small savings would nonetheless contribute to my monthly bottom line. I was rather pleased to see this come to a total of P 3.00 for a decent number of potatoes.

At the meat counter, I described to Eric the sausages I'd tried - how Hungarian sausages pleasantly offset tomatoes and cheese in my first pita experiment but are lost when mixed with reheated fried rice, how the delicate taste of veal bratwurst went well with potatoes (although the potatoes might need a bit more seasoning).

Having sampled almost all the sausages and seeking more variety, I found myself drawn to the ground beef and ground round sections. Some inquiry revealed that I could get portions as small as 1/8th of a pound; for someone cooking for 1 with scant freezer space, this was very good news. I asked if I could cook this meat in the microwave or oven toaster, though, and the supermarket people thought it was not advisable - so back to sausages it was. I selected a Schu:blig sausage as I had not yet tried that variant.

I returned to the dorm and flipped through the microwave instructions, which informed me about the grill function of the microwave and cautioned that this must be used at least once a month to reduce the risk of fire. As part of the routine maintenance of my microwave oven (and to try out the grill capabilities which may prove useful in the future), I decided to try to cook the sausage in the microwave, heating it under the grill for around 10 minutes. While the sausage cooked, I washed the marble potatoes and pricked the skins with a fork.

Testing the sausage revealed that it was not as warm as it should have been, although parts of it were nicely browned. I popped it into the toaster for some quick and sure cooking, setting the timer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I added a knob of butter to the potatoes and microwaved the whole for 4 minutes, reasoning that the whole marble potatoes would take somewhat longer than the thinly sliced potatoes cooked in a small container last time.

Small popping and fizzing sounds from the microwave alarmed me and I paused the microwave to check on the potatoes. Apparently, pricking the skins with a fork was not enough to prepare the potatoes for microwaving, and the expanding air popped out of the potatoes. Slicing the potatoes in half revealed a rather strange pattern of compressed potatoes, so I sliced all the other potatoes in half and returned them to the microwave for a few more minutes of uneventful cooking.

After the sausage was cooked to my satisfaction, I took one of the pitas from the freezer and toasted it. The bottom part of the pita was crisp while the top part was soft, which made a very interesting play of texture. I suspect this would be very nice with some kind of filling or dip.

The potatoes were acceptable, although not awe-inspiring. The sausage was pleasantly flavored, reminding one vaguely of hotdogs and frankfurters. It was a pretty filling meal for approximately PHP 55.

I nearly forgot the lettuce, but I realized I hadn't used it while writing this blog entry. I washed the lettuce leaves carefully (there were a few bugs), and for lack of ideas for preparing lettuce, just ate it as is. In retrospect this was probably a bad idea, as the leaves tasted unacceptably (and quite logically) like plants. I suppose I'm used to lettuce being crunchy and tasting like, well, water; this was neither, and it left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I diligently chomped and swallowed one mouthful, but my gag reflex kept trying to trigger on the second, and I gave up on the lettuce. (Update: Martin suggested returning it to the ref for a few moments in order to let it crisp.)

Conclusion: Sausages and potatoes can form a basic, inexpensive meal - just adjust proportions of potatoes and sausages to meet carbohydrate/protein ratios and budget constraints. However, I need to experiment with other kinds of food soon, and I suspect that I'll need a pan for that. A simple skillet or other kind of pan that would fit on my electric stove would be very much appreciated; I suppose I can obtain one of these from home. I've added sausages and potatoes to my basic repertoire; I know that as long as I have an oven toaster and/or a microwave, I should be able to prepare myself an acceptable dinner. I would like to experiment more, though. I think I'll try more vegetables next.

Potatoes P 3.00
Schu:blig sausage 52.45
Green coral lettuce 22.75

7. 2003.11.19: Day 7

Leftover rice plus Hungarian sausages. Okay, but not as fun as bread or potatoes. Tomorrow, will check out meat shop.

Yang chow rice from Red Panda reheated very nicely - still moist. Extra rice left over from The Barn (eeew, two days!) was too dry. Should try to reheat it in separate container with more water.

Hungarian cocktail sausage slices not best for mixing with rice. Perhaps whole sausages or somewhat larger slices so that it can be tasted.

6. 2003.11.18: Day 6

Brought leftovers from The Barn. Reason that as needed to use microwave in order to reheat (pesto+chicken pasta and mixed kebabs), food still qualifies under CookOrDie project. Besides, have dinner plans later, so must plan to CookOrDie for lunch.

5. 2003.11.17: Day 5

Had to throw away remaining pitas as they had gotten moldy. Have discovered use of Ziplock sandwich bags - put pitas into separate ziplock bags and placed them in freezer. No longer need to worry about mold, but should still use the pitas soon.

Still living off Hungarian sausages and mushrooms. Must find ways to be more creative. Packed lunch in sandwich bags - sausages and mushrooms, as was too lazy to dice cheese. Pita was nice and crisp, though - removed pan from oven toaster and toasted the pita on the grill.

4. 2003.11.14: Day 4

Still living off Hungarian sausages and mushrooms. Must find ways to be more creative.

Brought a pita for Kuya Ed.

3. 2003.11.13: Day 3

Plan for dinner:

  • Sausage slices in pita bread with mushrooms

Realized that I could slice the sausage slices and put them in an airtight container (top shelf), chop up the mushrooms and put them in another container (ref), and prepare stuff quickly by just grabbing ingredients from said airtight containers, heating them at the same time in the oven toaster or micro, stuffing them into pitas, and toasting the pitas.

2. 2003.11.12: Day 2

Plan for dinner:

  • One of those large sausages
  • Two baked regular potatoes (possibly with cheese)
  • Toasted buttered pita bread

I can just hear it now.

Welcome to Day 2 of CookOrDie: Adventures of a Desperate Cook! I'm Sacha Chua and I'll be your host for today's segment, "Veal sausage and potatoes".

It has all the makings of a bad survival show... Hey, now there's an idea - grab a bunch of geeks who have no idea how to cook, turn them loose in a supermarket with a budget of PHP 100 (~ USD 2) a day, and see how long they can survive without repeating recipes and using only a microwave and a toaster oven!

This meal was a bit more expensive than it should have been, but I know how to fix it now. It came to a total of (+ 44 9.25), or 53.25. I can improve this by using more potatoes, thus ensuring that I can keep half of the bratwurst for breakfast the next day. If I doubled my portion of potatoes and added some herbs and spices - would you believe that I have neither salt nor pepper? - then I could have a good meal for (+ 22 (* 2 9.25)), or 40.50.

Microwave chopped potatoes (1/4 ~ 1/2 inch) for 2.5 minutes.

Must find correct way to use butter to flavor these things. Trying to put garlic in butter didn't really do anything either.

You know what? I should learn how to toast garlic, or however they prepare the garlic that goes on top of arrozcaldo...

Realization #1: Pita pockets are named pita pockets for a _reason_. I should try Hungarian-sausage+tomato+cheese stuffed pita pockets. Maybe tomorrow; I can bring neat little sandwich bags to the UPSA rehearsal.

Realization #2: If I slice the sausages before putting them in the oven toaster, then they have nice texture.

Tomorrow: Pita pockets of slice-toasted Hungarian sausages, mushrooms and cheese.

1. 2003.11.11: Day 1: Pita

Survived my experiment. (I think; I feel a little bit bloated, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.)

Passed by the supermarket before going to the dorm. Still no large potatoes.

6 pita pockets 39.99
5 native tomatoes 7.65
4 Hungarian cocktail sausages 36.40
Cheese lying around ref have no idea, but I know I must have bought it before

Best result today:

  • Put cocktail sausage into toaster and set for four minutes.
  • While the sausage is cooking, wash and chop a tomato.
  • Slice some cheese into thin strips, too.
  • Slice sausage.
  • Distribute tomato, cheese and sausage over the surface of one pita, concentrating on an axis.
  • Heat the pita for a minute or two in the toaster.

Couldn't buy just one sausage - minimum is 100g, which is approximately 4 cocktail sausages. This may have been a good thing, though. Hungarian sausage made concoction pleasantly spicy.

Experimented with leaving the cocktail sausage whole. Less work, but sausage taste overwhelming and somewhat monotonous because you know where it is.

Cost:

Approximate cost of one pita: (+ (/ 39.99 6) (/ 7.65 5) (/ 36.40 4)) ~ PHP 17.25 Two pitas made me somewhat full. Actually, I had three pitas and two sausages, so that's ~ 42.75. If I had only two pitas, (* 2 (+ (/ 39.99 6) (/ 7.65 5) (/ 36.40 4))) ~ 34.50 isn't too bad. KFC's original-recipe 1-pc chicken is 49, though, and it comes with water. Still, KFC's original-recipe 1-pc chicken is _not_ going to help me Learn How To Cook, and it won't satisfy my CookOrDie constraint.

Possible next step:

  • Bacon, mushroom and cheese pita

Future recommendations:

  • Match the number of ingredients. Then again, this could be the coding practice of leaving something broken, as mismatched ingredients + CookOrDie constraint spurs creativity.
  • Heat pita while slicing sausage? This requires too much back-and-forth, though, so it might not be worth it.
  • Move chopping board to kitchen table.
  • Should experiment with non-pita bread to see if it is worth the difference.

Inventory

  • 500g ziti, cooks in 9 minutes
  • 1 can Skyflakes
  • 1 large package of Lay's Classic Lightly Salted potato chips, have no idea when we got that but the package is dusty
  • Glad zip-lock sandwich bags
  • Glad zip-lock freezer bags, somewhat larger
  • aluminum foil
  • microwave plastic wrap
  • open package of approximately 200g fettuccini, cooks in 6 minutes
  • 1 cup instant yakisoba (spicy chicken, of course), for emergencies
  • 100g Carne Norte
  • 85g liver spread, probably not mine as I don't recall ever buying liver spread--or ever being tempted to, after that enterokinase lab experiment in biology class
  • 1 loaf of white bread, mysteriously not yet moldy (consume before 2004.06.30), don't remember buying this one either
  • 85g salmon spread, definitely something I didn't get
  • 130g vienna tidbits (not mine, but probably borrowable)
  • 2 boxes Nescafe 3-in-1 coffee mix, definitely not mine as I don't drink coffee
  • half a package of dried red kidney beans, the remnants of discarded chili experiments
  • half a package of taco seasoning mix waiting for the next time I try tacos again, which probably won't be anytime soon as (a) lettuce is darn difficult to keep (I want one of those funky lettuce keepers!), (b) I already figured out tacos, and (c) I lost the instructions.
  • 1 can garbanzos / chickpeas waiting for me to remember to buy a lemon and try making hummus; this was related to the pita experiments, I think
  • 1 box Swiss Miss rich chocolate, for emergencies
  • 1 package instant spaghetti carbonara, for kicks
  • 1 serving of fusilli, funky spiral pasta
  • 100g corned beef guisado (carne norte pre-sauteed with garlic and onion bits)
  • 115g mushrooms (sliced stems and pieces), because oyster mushrooms feel weird
  • another can of 115g mushrooms, sliced stems and pieces, probably because I forgot I already had them
  • 1 package instant yakisoba, spicy chicken, but not in a cup
  • 165g chicken chunks in vegetable oil, just in case I ever feel the need to try chicken in my diet
  • 220g pork and beans
  • 315g spaghetti sauce; why do I have a can of spaghetti sauce? Usually I just get the foil packs. Hmm, I think I couldn't find classic Italian seasoning in foil packs that day...
  • 1 package instant carbonara (San Remo)
  • Ricoa chocolate powder (wheeeeee!), for emergencies
  • 100g beef loaf
  • brown, unpolished rice
  • four tablets of chocolate, not that I've ever figured out how to prepare Spanish chocolate nicely
  • 1 small can of pineapple chunks
  • 1 package instant pancake mix, not that I ever wake up early enough or energetic enough to make pancakes
  • my own set of measuring cups, at long last!
  • assorted plastic containers, some slightly deformed because I used them for cooking. I really like the set we got at Rustan's Makati; I can cook with them, and they have built-in air holes...

Spice rack:

  • Italian seasoning, of course
  • Minced garlic, dry
  • Rubbed sage
  • Kikkoman soy sauce
  • Olive oil, mild
  • Iodized salt
  • Black peper, ground
  • Lumpiang shanghai seasoning mix, probably for next week's experiments
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Page: Cook Or Die
Updated: 2006-08-0416:13:2416:13:24-0400
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