Monday, March 25, 2013

Weird Eats

I mentioned that I'm on a health kick lately. I've been going to the gym, eating less fried food and sugary stuff.  On that note, I've also been eating a lot of vegetables.  Now I like fruits and vegetables.  As a kid mom used to tell me I'd make myself sick because I would eat a whole bag of cherries or three nectarines.  Somehow I never got sick. Maybe that was a foreshadowing of my steel stomach that got me through SE Asia. I didn't mind vegetables growing up but I'm not sure I had a particular fondness for them.  I can't recall.

I learned to cook by cooking with my mom.  I know how to make tomato pasta sauce, meatloaf, various chicken dishes, potatoes au gratin, among other dishes, because I helped her make them.  My sister and I were often allowed to help prep and cook food for dinner in addition to making cookies, brownies, cakes and the like.

I can't imagine why this liver wasn't appealing.
My folks both grew up having to eat liver and hating it. As a result, I've never had liver. Dad spent part of his childhood on a farm.  He'd had sweetbread (cow brain), liver, rabbit. All sort of things that are maybe less common now that they were in the Fifties and Sixties or on a farm. Neither of my parents were the hugest seafood fans, which is a bit of a pity given that we live in Seattle.  We had white fish or salmon fillets but that was about it.  Veggies were run of the mill - broccoli, salads, asparagus, corn and potatoes.

As a consequence, there are lots of things I don't know how to cook but I've begun adventuring.  Sometimes I start with a recipe. I made Thai chicken noodle soup from this article in an Outside magazine.  It was intimidating as I started the stock cooking.  The combination of soy, hoisin and fish sauces made it very black. The end result however, was fantastic and produced about six servings.  I'm going to attempt both beef jerky and kale chips from recipes this week.  My first ever batch of banana bread didn't go to badly either though I've got a few tweaks to the recipe to try. Oh, and don't forget the Sri Racha salt I've made but yet to try.

Other times I sort of make up dishes. I made was was deemed by someone other than myself, a very good dish that seems gumbo-esque. Jalapeno and cheese turkey sausages, brown rice, bell peppers, onion, spinach with a cohesive lemon/herb/teriyaki sauce. I've been pan warming (very lightly cooked) all kind of veggies - bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, squash, spinach - in varying combos with different seasoning every time.  I roasted a bell pepper stuffed with a mix of tofu, asparagus, spinach and topped with a slice of dill havarti cheese (a current favorite).

White turnip and sweet potatoes
I also am conducting tests to see what I like.  I bought a sweet potato, a yam, a turnip and a beet.  I cleaned and sliced them then baked them.  It was a great opportunity for me to see the difference in cooking time, taste and consistency.  It also prompted me to do some research.  Why, other than taste, would one eat a turnip instead of a potato? It turns out that turnips have fewer calories and more vitamin C.  Turnip greens are especially full of vitamins and anti-oxidants but so far I'm having trouble finding turnips with the greens left on.  Beets were definitely my least favorite, took the longest to cook and seem the least versatile.  I think some seafood will probably be next on the testing list, first fish then shellfish.

Dry rub, good for all sorts of meat
I've been using more tofu to bump up my protein in low fat ways.  I add ground flaxseed to lots of things because it doesn't have much taste and sort of cooks in to sauces. I've made some sauces and soups plus my first batch of from scratch chili, that end up being re-imagined in all sorts of ways.  Chili tacos were a good one.  I'd gotten some advice about using dry rubs on meats that has proven to be invaluable.  When using a dry rub on chicken/pork/beef, slather the meat first in yellow mustard.  Cheap, generic yellow mustard.  Then cover it in the rub and wrap tightly in plastic wrap for 18-24 hours ideally. When you are ready to cook, unwrap and roast/bake/grill.  There isn't even a trace of mustard taste but it keeps the meat really moist and juicy plus seems to allow the rub flavors to adhere to the meat better.  The chicken was fantastic and just as good left over.  We tried it with pork rib meat to the same result. It's been added to my cooking rotation.
The end result looks a bit like this.

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