Friday, January 2, 2009

Dduk bok-ki!

My first day of Christmas vacation from work, I made a quick trip to Knoxville to take some of my daughter's gifts to her, before she left to spend the holiday in Virginia. I thought it would be a good time for Jenny, a friend of mine from work, to ride along...I had been promising to take her to a really good Korean restaurant, and she could try the type of food her son ate while he was stationed in Korea for 15 months.

My daughter ordered dduk bok-kee, which are little firm sticks made out of rice flour, and cooked in a very spicy sauce. Jenny & I both tried one--interesting! I hated to try more, and get too carried away with someone else's appetizer. But over the next week, with just ordinary local food, man, I was wanting something spicy and exotic, and kept thinking I'd REALLY like some of that "Korean comfort food".

I found the links my daughter had sent, read several different recipes, watchd a video, then on my next trip to a large internation market, I picked up the "Rice Sticks", and to get the fermented chili paste that I needed. For Bi-bim-bop, I have a chili paste in a glass jar, but was told it was different, and I needed one in a plastic tub. Luckily, while in the Korean isle at K&S Market, there was a Korean lady there, and I asked her which of the brands/types I should get, and she was very friendly, showed me which one, and then gave me cooking tips!

For my first attempt, I used the recipe that was on the video, EXCEPT I did NOT use the dried fish that she used for her broth. I had some dried seaweed in my cabinet, that I use for miso soup, and simmered that. Of course, you could just skip that, because unless you are a real expert, you are not going to notice. it does not seem to warm up as well, the rice sticks are not as tender, so next time I will make smaller batches. Also, this basic sauce, once cooked down, would be very good over rice, with some very firm tofu and vegetables in it. But be prepared, it IS hot, and we both agreed that the more you ate, the hotter it got. Very good winter warming food!

This is the recipe that I followed:

They give a range of 4 to 6 tablespoons of the paste...I used 4, and a small sprinkling of the red pepper flakes. That is PLENTY! Try that before you get brave and use more! Let me know if you try it!
P.S. For some reason, all my photos made the red pepper sauce looked like it was glowing nuclear waste! But really wasn't quite that "bright". Another thing I would do different is add more green onions to the dish, maybe garnish with a few more at the end of cooking.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Invention

I had three different black-eyed pea recipes printed out to pick from for today; I just had to decide which one to prepare! But the last two days I had been helping my husband work at our building site until dark, and did not make it to the store (which is probably a good thing, I'd be afraid to be seen out in public after being out in the cold all day, and wood shavings in my hair).

But gosh...I had no canned black eyed peas to just warm up, and I have NEVER, that I can remember, missed having the traditional Southern black-eyed pea meal for January 1st. I brought a pound of them to a boil, and let sit an hour or so. I had some vegetarian ham seasoning, and put in the pot--I thought I'd just have them plain, and do something with the rest of them later.

But I kept coming up with ideas, which were ingredients I had purchased for the other recipes I was *going* to make.....2 tbsp. veggie ham seasoning...1/2 onion, diced.....a sprinkling of Chipotle chili powder, with it's wonderful smokey scent....1 fresh jalapeno, finely diced....2 cloves of garlic, minced....then 2 small stalks of celery, thinly sliced, a regular sized can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, and freshly ground black pepper. I had to REALLY watch it the last little bit, when it became thick...the beans needed to simmer a bit more, but I was reluctant to add more liquid, so I stirred frequently so that I didn't have a repeat of my last black-eyed pea cooking attempt!

I served this with Jasmine rice to my husband, and warned him it was an experiment (and assuring him that the celery leaf for garnish was NOT cilantro!) ...he said, "That was really, really good!" So, I decided I had better write this one down, since he liked it so well. (I did, too). Next time, hopefully I can put it in the crockpot, I think it does a better job of cooking beans thoroughly (which only works if you plan ahead of time, like I failed to do yesterday!).

I think it will be even better tomorrow. I think it would also be good to throw some okra in there.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blog, Interrupted

I have only cooked ONE TIME since the Burnt Black-Eyed Pea fiasco...I made an enormous pot of potato soup to take to work, for a little at-work celebration for a co-worker's birthday. Soup, for me, is the easiest way to feed a large group of people a healthy meal. It was a WW recipe, but I had to make adjustments to it to fill my giant 7-quart crock pot. I like to take as much as I can--that way I am free to invite as many people that I want, and tell them to spread the word. I rarely have leftovers! I enjoy seeing people coming over and enjoying the is such a small way to make people happy, and I know that it breaks up the monotony that is Factory Life. It was also a way to share with the many temporary workers we've had for months...whose last day was Friday, due to cut-backs.

My cooking and blog experiments have been temporarily interrupted by a dental emergency...soft, soup like foods are the Rx (along with some antibiotics and pain pills), but this writer has NOT been cooking them! Hopefully it will be resolved soon, because Life in Limbo is not fun. The positive side: I lost 2 pounds at my WW meeting Saturday morning!

Saturday morning was also the day I received the 1st of the new Momentum® materials. It makes sense, and I am looking forward to a fresh new start. Sometimes just a small change like that is enough to give you boost of enthusiasm.

Saturday was spent in Knoxville with my daughter, where she had managed to find a Chinese restaurant that served Pho! (Yay, more soup!). Then after shopping, our late night light meal was some sushi & seaweed salad at Wasabi. Sunday, Husband & I went to Nashville, and I was able to have MORE Pho, and witness my normally mild-mannered spouse rant about Cilantro. It is just a bit disturbing to see someone who is easy-going, rarely complains, to get so....EXTREME, in his opinion on a simple green herb. They had garnished his meal with fresh cilantro...I quickly lifted it off after the waitress walked away. But he still had a look of disgust when he bit into where the food had just touched. I have seen my daughter ask for EXTRA cilantro when we have soup at Taste of Thai in Knoxville. I guess it is true what I have read: Cilantro is an either love-or-hate herb.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Watched Pot....

You know the old saying, "A watched pot never boils?" Last night I found out what happens to an UNwatched pot.

After work last night, I washed dishes, then began to put together the ingredients for SusanV's Spicy Collards and Black-eyed Pea Soup. I was going to make it Saturday, oops, no green pepper. Hubby picked a couple up for me Sunday, but I postponed making it until Monday night. I chopped veggies, put the peas on to simmer, assembled my spices for finishing up the soup before work today. Ooh, I thought I was so organized! A couple of things I was going to have to make a substitute for, the chipotle and the hot sauce, which I was going to use Sriracha in it's place.

I was timing the black-eyed peas, waiting to go to bed..when I began to smell them. Hmmm. It was time for them to be done, so I went into the kitchen to find a bone-dry pot...oh, please, nooooo. I dumped some water in, heard much sizzling...stirred just a bit. It wasn't just dry, the bottom was BURNT. Black. The addition of the water made the odor spread through every room in the house. Well. At least my dishes got washed, I guess.

This morning, after me gloomily reporting what happened to our lunch for tonight at work, Hubby laughed and remembered dreaming I had concocted some kind of herbal cure for snoring, and remembered thinking, "This smells awful, I think I would rather SNORE!" (I must remember to NOT let him watch herbal shows with me before he goes to sleep).

Guess we need to leave early for work, to get something to eat! (smile)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Butterbean & Corn Chowder

Okay, let's get this show on the road! This weekend I tried a recipe that Pat from the Dr. McDougall Forums posted about--she originally found it at SusanV's blog, The Fatfree Vegan, who I believe credits the Vegan Handbook for the original recipe. (The many strands of the Vegan webs are definitely connected!).

My husband was given instructions for feedback: 3 Stars, Great! 2 Stars, it's okay, I'd eat it again. And 1 Star, I don't ever want to eat this again! No bashful, suffering in silence if he didn't like it. Luckily, this received 3 Stars, so it passed the test. I knew I was pretty safe, since it didn't have the Dreaded Cilantro in it. (I learned my lesson last year with that ingredient+husband).

Gearing up for Getting Real

I've started two blogs before, that never made it past the first post. Why? I'm not really trying to be perfect, I procrastinated myself into not doing ANYTHING. So, here goes attempt #3! It may not be perfect, I may make mistakes, but maybe I will learn along the way.

I've been on the Weight Watchers program several times...the last time, in particular, I did very well. But I don't really agree with some of the trends I was seeing during my meetings, and the recipes that I would get each week. When I got into the car, where my husband waited for me to exit the weekly meeting, he said, "Boy, they have a lot of dessert recipes!" I had not noticed it, but sure enough, there were several weeks in a row, the recipes were all desserts. Now, I see the point in showing people, see? You can have an occasional treat, and still stay On Program. You don't have to sacrifice and do without the things you enjoy. But all the calorie saving was with what I call "fake foods", ala Splenda and packaged chemical concoctions that I try to stay away from. A couple of years ago, I found myself reacting to Splenda, in particular. I read ingredient labels to avoid Splenda/sucralose for both myself, and my husband, who has severe food allergies. There are just too many uncertainties about these foods to eat them on a regular basis, if at all, in my opinion.

Then there is the Vegetarian/Vegan thing. I've had vegetarian leanings since I was a teenager...but not strong enough to stand up to people who put fears in my head about not getting enough protein, and being "different", and the constant criticism & teasing that I received by some (not all) people. In 1984 I subscribed to Vegetarian Times, and read a column by Dr. John McDougall, who had written a book called, The McDougall Plan. And over the years, and different changes in my life, I somehow always come back to Dr. McDougall's teachings. They just make sense! And Weight Watchers seems to have meat and fat-free dairy in everything, even their vegetarian dishes. I do applaud them for the whole foods style of their Core plan. Whole foods, recognizable in their natural state, the way they were originally meant to be nourish us. But I would like the accountability of WW...since crossing the Big 4-0 threshold, my metabolism has slowed a bit, and I need to really pay attention to what I am eating...and not get lazy about it.

It's my goal to combine the best of these two programs...the plant-based (vegan), low-fat diet that Dr. McDougall recommends, but the accountability of Weight Watchers. I need to eat out less, saving that for weekends/travel, at least, and cook more during the week, where I can be in control of ingredients and my pocketbook.

I have a great collection of vegan cookbooks that need to be McDougallized, and there has been an explosion of vegan food blogs in the last few years that I'll explore...I tend to cook from those more than I do my cookbooks, because a recipe you may have passed up becomes irresistible when you see a photo of it! Plus there is the whole feel that this is a "real" person cooking this, which makes it way more attractive to try. I *gifted* myself the Living Cookbook recipe software, and would like to begin using that. It has a feature that will calculate the WW Points for you. This is something that I would like to work on during our Christmas vacation in a couple of weeks.

Let's get healthy...AND have fun!