Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tip #1: Salad Dressing

One of the biggest issues I've seen with diets is from people opting for a salad and then dumping a big pile of sludgy ranch dressing on it. You might as well have dumped Crisco on it. And really, there's just no excuse for ranch anyway.

I do keep a bottle of salad dressing in the fridge at work, but it's only just there for emergencies. Really, there is no excuse for not making your own, and it's really, really simple to do. If you're gonna go through the hassle of making a salad for yourself, I can promise you that you can make your own salad dressing with even less effort than it took you to make the salad.

And if you make it to order for the salad you are making, you aren't stuck with a whole bottle of salad dressing you may not touch for awhile.

To make your own vinaigrette, just remember that it is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid. So you can use whatever oils or acid you like to make it, but that is what you need. For oils, I use extra virgin olive oil. If you prefer canola or something else, knock yourself out.

The acid is where I will vary. Sometimes I will use balsalmic vinegar, sometimes, a white or red wine vinegar and sometimes a champagne vinegar depending on my mood. If I am eating a salad and topping it with seafood, like shrimp or salmon, I will use lemon or lime juice as my acid instead of a vinegar.

The other vinaigrette addition to consider are the herbs. garlic, onion, shallots all work, nto to mention dried or fresh herbs. Whatever you have on hand. Personally, I am a fan of tarragon, so you may want to give that a try, as I think it has a really unique flavor.

Really, just try to tailor the flavors of your oils, acid, and herbs to the salad you're making, but I can assure you this is one of the easiest corners to cut and one of the easiest things to learn to do (and learn to like).

Thai Cooking: What Do I Do With The Leftover Stuff?

So, let's say you saw yesterday's meal and went out and bought all the stuff to make the shrimp with green curry, but tonight you want to do something different. Here are a few ideas that I came up with recently.

First, there is the old standby of swapping out a few ingredients in a dish you normally make, and you can fancy it up by calling it Thai (insert dish here). I'm not above it. Besides, it makes people think you're smart and a really amazing chef.

For instance, I took some chayote and cilantro, added it so some tuna salad, and BAM! Thai Tuna Salad. There's no limit to what you can't bullshit and call Thai Something Or Other.

Another idea is you can take a bunch of those vegetables, dice them up, and stuff a porkchop with them.

Here, I used zucchini, carrots, eggplant, scallion, peanuts, onions, peppers, and cilantro for the stuffing.

As for the pork, I bought a thick cut pork chop and marinated it in hoisin, which is sort of like an Asian barbeque sauce.  Then I took a sharp knife, cut a pocket in the side of the chop and stuffed it. I put a few toothpicks in to secure the stuffing and then I brown the chop on both sides.

Once browned, I take a casserole dish and lay my chops in there. Then, I take whatever leftover stuffing there is and pile that into the dish (you can never have enough stuffing, in my opinion), and then cover it in foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350. After the first 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Last night, I was in the mood for something lighter, and didn't feel like witing a very long time after a long day of work. I had some basa to use up (basa is a mild whitefish). Feel free to use tilapia or another similar fish of your liking here.

For this dish, I heated up some green curry sauce and coated the bottom of a skillet with it. When it was heated up, I laid the fish in there and cooked it for 5 minutes on each side. Then I took some eggplant, zucchini, and baby bok choy and stir fried that in olive oil and crushed red chili flakes. Then, I served that up over some leftover rice and chopped cilantro, which I stirred together and reheated.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thai Cooking: Shrimp w/ Green Curry

I really love Thai food, and this is really where I got a lot of inspiration for changing my eating habits. If you've not had Thai food, it tends to  generally involve seafood or white meat (chicken or pork) with fresh vegetables, rice and a light but flavorful sauce.

I would also encourage you to check out an Asian market if you have them near you. Not only is it just great to try, but I found most ingredients cheaper there by a significant margin.

My first foray into cooking Thai was Shrimp With Green Curry, which is super easy to make, as long as you plan ahead. Here's what it looks like:

Here's what it consists of:

Meat: I used shrimp here, but feel free to use chicken or pork if you prefer. I just used some olive oil and a skillet, but feel free to play around with soy, ginger, garlic, or whatever you like.

Curry sauce: I use one can of coconut milk and 4 teaspoons of green curry paste.

Veggies/herbs: I used carrots, zucchini, onions, peppers, chinese eggplant, cilantro, baby bok choy, basil. Feel free to play around here as well so it suits your taste. (Eyeball the measurements, depending upon how many you are serving) I usually use 1 carrot, 1 zucchini, 1 Chinese eggplant (all thinly sliced), 1 head of baby bok choy chopped, one onion cut into sections lengthwise, and one bell pepper diced into about half nch squares.

Rice: I put jasmine rice in a rice cooker, but do what you like here.

Toppings: Chopped cilantro, chopped scallions, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, lime wedge.

The important thing here to remember is to get all of your prep work done early. Make sure your veggies are chopped. nce you start going, it will move quickly.

Curries are a bit of an acquired taste, but I would say that Indian Curry doesn't really work for me, as I find the smell overbearing, but with Thai curry, I think it is a different story. I'm not as well versed in all the differences between Thai curries (green, red, yellow, massaman, panang, etc.), but I found that I have liked green curry the best so far.

Before you start cooking:
* Make sure all your vegetables are cooked
* Decide what meat you are going to use. I'm using shrimp here, but if you want chicken or pork, you may want to start cooking that in the over before you start with the rest.
* Have a large skillet (or wok), a small skillet, and a pot ready.

Cooking Instructions
1. Heat coconut milk and green curry paste in a pot until mixed and simmering. While waiting for the sauce to heat, start preheating a large skillet. Reduce the heat on the sauce so that it simply stays warm, stirring occasionally.

2. Start a batch of rice in the rice cooker. I usually make about a cup and a half if serving myself.

3. Put the carrots and about a cup of the curry sauce into the preheated skillet. Add the rest of the vegetables to the skillet, making sure to stir pretty regularly so that all of the vegetables are heated.

4. Start preheating olive oil in a small skillet. You may also want to add garlic to the olive oil so that the oils from the garlic mix in with the olive oil. Once heated, add the shrimp for a couple minutes on each side until pink all the way through.

5. Put the shrimp on a plate covered with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Then add to the curried vegetables. Cook for a few more minutes.

Fill a bowl with rice from the rice cooker, top with the curried shrimp and vegetables, and then add the various toppings (cilantro, scallions bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, and lime wedge) as you like, depending on your taste.


So, sorry about the vulgar title. A lot of blog names were taken, this one wasn't. So it's mine, for better or worse.

Anyhow, I'm a guy that loves to cook. After quitting smoking a few months back, I gradually gained weight, felt like crap, and decided to get back on track through diet and exercise. I run a mile and a half every morning, spend some time doing crunches, and what not, but that's not why you're reading this, huh? You wanna know about the food.

I'm a big believer that you should cook your own meals, limit the amount of processed, prepackaged, instant, or whatever food you intake and eat fresh ingredients whenever and wherever possible. Save your fast food and pizza intake for the times when you just don't have a choice. Those days happen due tio circumstances beyond your control and you just need food in your system, but leave that food to those days only.

If you go food nazi and deny yourself everything you love and eat rice cakes and bean sprouts, you're not gonna enjoy it and you're not gonna stick to it. You can eat healthy without giving up flavor or taste. Just find the shortcuts you can live with, give up the things you know you can do without, splurge in moderation, and find new things to cook that you actually like. Hopefully, this is one way to find somethings you like to make. Otherwise, you're gonna binge on whatever you've been denying yourself once you hit the magic number and gain it all back. Just know yourself, know your habits, what you can improve, and what you can get rid of.

I'll post some recipes, some tips, and whatnot and hopefully, you'll find something you will like in the days ahead...