Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Fight Food Waste -- Love Food Don’t Waste

Hi folks…you still there?  I hope so, because I've been a bit pensive lately, a bit meditative, and usually, when I surface from these states, I have a thing or two to share.  And where else would I share it but here…a space where no one can interrupt me and I can ramble to my heart’s content.  So apologies in advance in case I am a bore!

For those of you who are wondering, after this post, my father is a little better, although the general condition has not changed.  Right now, all we can do is make sure he is as comfortable as possible.  Emotionally I don’t (can’t) really delve too deeply into it all.  Not if I want to be able to look after his care efficiently and effectively.  I suppose am in a state of “automatic pilot”. 

I am lucky.  I have a family who is supporting each other through everything.  Although of course, it can’t be helped, every once in a while, driving home from the hospital at night, or hearing a familiar song, that you feel alone.  But I get home and am greeted by the noisy ruckus from my two wild things, and a warm solid hug from my steadfast and stalwart husband, and I am ok. 

I am beside my dad as I type, having fallen into the steady rhythm of being in a hospital.  I watch him in his sleep as maybe he once watched me.  Where did the time go?  I know it sounds corny and trite and overused, but really, cherish each moment you have and enjoy it to the fullest. 

Now…I've promised you some practical advice...

I wanted to share with you some things I have put together to make use of leftovers (and those odds and ends that lurk in most of our fridges).  All of this is part of an endeavor that is close to my heart and that is to fight food waste.  By no means am I an expert in this department…I would be a liar if I said I've never wasted food.  That being said, fighting food waste has been a little personal project of mine for a while, and it is one that I would like to share with you as well.  We could all benefit from learning tips and tricks on how to effectively use leftovers, avoid fruit and vegetables going bad, and using up the bits that we usually toss.

Healthy Options, a store I turn to for quinoa, steel-cut oats, and different varieties for flour (and Green & Blacks I confess!) has been running an advocacy campaign for food waste awareness for a year now.  It’s called Love Food Don’t Waste.  Which really, is something that could have easily come from my own mouth!  So when they reached out to me to help spread the word I was glad to pitch in.  They have put together some great informational videos on food waste and tips to avoid it.  To get started, take a peek on Why We Waste Food.  And before the food actually gets to us we should Shop Smart.

I've placed other videos below together with my own tips on avoiding food waste.

From the photos here, top left onwards:

This is one of my favorite things to do with leftover tomato-based pasta sauce (or any tomato based sauce…even a bit of leftover stew with the meat shredded).  You know that little smidge of sauce left in the fridge...too small an amount to make another bowl of pasta from, taunting you, challenging you.  Well, this is how to make short work of that last little bit.  Heat the sauce in a skillet.  I like to add a few extra drizzles of olive oil just to make it a bit rich.  When this is hot and bubbling crack an egg in the center.  Cook until the egg is done to your liking.  Eat straight out of the pan with a couple of thick slices of rustic-looking bread for an awesome breakfast.

** My favorite thing to do with leftover steak, which we all know is quite pathetic the next day and can never, short of wizardry, be restored to its former glory.  For this, I turn it into fried rice.  Leftover steak?  A bit tragic.  But steak fried rice?  Awesome.  I like this best started with some fried garlic before adding the steak…and ending with some shakes of Worcestershire sauce.  Goes without saying that this makes use of leftover rice as well.  If I have some leftover vegetables in the fridge I sometimes toss this in as well.  Top the whole mess with a fried egg and a squirt of hot sauce (sriracha is my favorite hot sauce for most kinds of fried rice) and you are more than good to go.

Something I do to avoid vegetables, particularly broccoli, from going bad is to cook them as soon as I buy them, so they are cooked fresh…and then set them aside to use at my leisure.  If you are going to consume it in the next couple of days just keep it in the fridge.  If it’ll be longer then tuck it into the freezer.  This keeps me from finding a tragic piece of broccoli in my crisper at the end of the week.  Now you have a nice supply of veggies without having to worry about them spoiling.  Use throughout the week in stir-fries, salads, mixed into your baby’s rice (heehee), or in my favorite preparation: tossed warm with your best olive oil and coarse salt…better than popcorn folks!

** What I like to do with the older veggies that I need to use up is to roast them.  Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in vegetables, rendering them soft and sweet and intense and a touch smoky.  I just chop up the veg (this works best for vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, capsicums, onions, zucchini, and, as pictured here, eggplant).  I then have effectively extended their life for a couple more days, during which I can decide what to do with them.  These are good in a salad, rolled or tucked into a pita with a dollop of garlic yogurt, in a rice bowl like this, or tossed with some pasta.  If you have roasted eggplant you can also turn this into a dip by processing with some yogurt, garlic, olive oil, and seasoning.

For more on fighting food waste you can check the “leftovers” tag on my sidebar.  You can also follow me on instagram and check the hashtags #fightfoodwaste and #500daysoffriedrice.  For more on Healthy Options Love Food Don’t Waste campaign you can check out their Facebook page or their website.

Thanks for sticking around friends!  I'll be back soon with more food and other forms of sustenance!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hi, Hello.

Hi there.  I know I’ve been away for a bit.  I know it’s been a little quiet over here.  I wish I could tell you (as I usually do) that work, Halloween planning, big school decisions, friends, life, and a million and one everyday things kept me too busy.  I wish.  I wish for the insistent demands of the many mundane things that usually vie for my attention.  Vie for all our attentions.  That steady, sometimes tedious, sometimes dull, sometimes frenetic, yet steady thrum of normalcy.  I wish.

My father is sick and has been in and out of the hospital for the past few months.  He was diagnosed in May and it’s been a locomotive out of control since then.  There have been bright spots…of hope, of fight, of a light seemingly just within reach.  But a lot of it has also been uphill, bleak, worry, dread.  Some days I don’t know which way is up.  I don’t know what I’m doing really, or where this is going.  I do know though to put on foot in front of the other and keep going.  One foot in front of the other.  One day at a time.  Get as much information from the doctors as possible.  Relay this to everyone concerned.  Get work done every free second I have.  Be happy in front of dad, even if right now he is mostly asleep.  Check that the kids don’t run out of food.  Call the laundry to get our clothes picked up.  And, most importantly, tell dad I love him every time I catch his eyes open.  Check, check, check…have I done everything?

Rinse, Repeat.

(Also: Why couldn’t I have been born one of those people who lose their appetites in times of anxiety?)

It goes without saying that not much cooking has been happening around these parts.  The yearning I feel to put my hands on food, to chop vegetables, to massage a marinade into meat, is so palpable it’s almost physical. Not for anything else but that cooking is one of my best therapies.  So, maybe (definitely) this will happen soon, but until then I’ll be sharing with you some ways to fight food waste and make the most of leftovers…a cause very dear to my heart.  And something I’ve had to do a lot these past weeks as I cooking has taken the backseat.  That will be up here soon – I hope you will find it as useful as I do.

In any case, I am back here simply to tell you that I’m still here.  That this isn’t just a food blog but a place where I go to for sanctuary.  My own personal space, since the day I put up that first hopeful post, and until now.  So I’ll be back, that is for certain.  Writing here, without rules or deadlines, cooking and sharing recipes, sharing ideas, sharing life…puts me right.  So this is just a little note to say “hi, hello” and “I hope you stick around because I need a virtual hug right about now”.

Wishing you a good weekend...hug as many people that you can!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Buttery Broiled Sole

I was flipping through a parenting magazine a couple of days ago, reading all the articles packed to the brim with how-to’s and good advice and words of wisdom…and I felt a familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Familiar because I realized, surprised, that I always feel this way when I read parenting magazines – like everything I’m doing is not exactly right and that grave consequences will surely follow.

I realized further, although fashion magazines get a lot of censure for giving girls negative body image, and impossible (and quite limited) standards of beauty, I have never, ever, in my whole life of reading fashion magazines, ever felt as insecure as I do when I read parenting magazines (and I am nowhere near svelte so I'm a prime target for fashion magazine victimization).  Which was quite a revelation really – one would think that the opposite would be the case.  But truth be told, not even a thousand skinny models with perfect skin and impossibly smooth hair could make me feel as, pardon the term, crappy, as a parenting magazine.

And it’s not the features on the immaculate “supermoms” who can manage to have their children eating with chopsticks by 5, reading Jane Austen at bedtime, with enough time for regular ballet classes and play dates…no, it’s not them.  It’s the articles.  The articles about the “5 things you should never say…” or the “10 things every parent should know…” or “how to get your toddler to have better manners/not throw tantrums/clean up their rooms/play the kazoo”.  It’s those articles that make me want to throw myself on the floor with my hand flung tragically to my temple and cry out, “no more!”.

Why?, I wondered.  I think it’s because parenting is so much more personal than dress size (well at least to me).  We are so much more emotionally invested (naturally) in our children than the fact that, say, we can’t wear a certain cut of jeans because, um, baby’s got back.  It’s our kids, our babies…we’ve only got this one shot (pulls hair out in dramatic gesture)!  And of course, that sneaky, horrible mantra that weasels its way into our brains despite our best efforts...Am I a good mom?

So, like those who have sworn off fashion magazines, I am swearing off parenting magazines.  I’ll focus on having fun with my little ones, trying to keep my finger of the pulse of their needs, making life a little brighter, giving them what I want them to remember when they’re older.  If I say the wrong thing, or use the wrong words, then we will just all have to live with that.  And if I find myself once again in that treacherous juncture between not knowing what to do and feeling totally unsure of myself, I’ll take a deep breath, looking into their eyes, and into my heart, and hope to find the answer there. 

So...I haven’t read a parenting magazine (or any parenting articles) for three whole days and I am feeling splendid!  Don’t you wish all life’s problems could be solved that easily?  In any case, if you need something that won’t make you feel the least bit inadequate, try this sole.  Five minutes under the broiler and dinner’s ready!  You will feel totally competent!  And it's delicious.

Buttery Broiled Sole
(adapted from the Broiled Rainbow Trout with Hush Puppies in Saveur magazine, Aug./Sept. 2013 issue)
  • 2 sole fillets (about 450-500 grams total weight)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened but not melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

- Pre-heat the broiler in your oven to high.  Mine doesn't have any temperature settings at all -- I just pre-heated it and it worked just fine.
- Pat the sole fillets dry and lay them flat on a baking tray.
- In a bowl, mix the butter, paprika, and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  You want the butter to be well seasoned.
- Brush the fillets with the butter mixture.
- Broil (top/middle rack) until golden and cooked through, with the butter bubbling temptingly at the edges, about 5 minutes or when the flesh flakes easily.
- Serve with lemon wedges.

When I saw the original recipe in Saveur I knew I had to try it right away.  Without the hush puppies, the dish was dead simple…something I knew would be a great standby for those days when it feels like you don’t even have two minutes to rub together.  Saveur calls for rainbow trout but as I didn’t have any, and don’t know where to procure it here, I settled for sole.  But really, all white flesh fish would do well in this.  Just adjust your cooking time accordingly to the size of your fillets.  Some smaller pieces could take just 3 minutes.  You can also play around with the seasoning in the butter…use your own favorite herbs and spices.  I am sure a spicy version with cayenne and cumin would be fantastic.

I know I have posted about easy dishes before, but this is almost criminally easy.  Just spread your seasoned butter, then mere moments under the broiler, and you are set.  When you pull out that tray of golden, buttery fish you will feel nothing short of accomplished.

I’d just like to say here, before I end, that I have nothing against parenting magazines at all!  I am sure they are a valuable resource.  How I feel is based purely on my own emotions.  It’s me, not them.  And so I’m breaking up with them for a little while.  I need to get some books finished anyway…

As far as parenting is concerned, I’ll be (happily) flying by the seat of my pants…and doing the very best I can.

P.S. I still read fashion magazines though :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Wagyu Bacon Giveaway...We Have a Winner!!

How is everyone doing this wet and windy Friday?  Another typhoon has hit our shores and, as I've seen report after report on the news, floods abound and power is already down in some areas.  Now is the time to stay home and hunker down with your family...or with a good book and a bowl of something extra yummy.  Others are not so lucky, so do check out relief operations nearby.  I know San Antonio Parish in Makati has already started accepting donations -- just look for this hashtag on twitter:

On other news, rain or shine, I promised one of you some Wagyu bacon today.  And I deliver on all my promises.  So without further chitchat the winner of the Wagyu bacon giveaway is...Cheekeegirl!!

Cheekeegirl I will be in touch with you through email to sort out the details of how we can get your bacon to you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!  For those of you who want to snag some for yourselves just check out Baba's Kitchen -- she has a lot of goodies, not the least being her chili garlic oil, which is dangerously addicting.  But that's for another post and another giveaway.

Meanwhile, the husband is cooking tonight...his special tuna pasta is almost ready.  Little C helped, choosing the noodles (tri-color farfalle that she picked out herself in the store).  Work was called off and so was school.  For the work-at-home work force though it is business as usual, so the rest of the family is preparing dinner for me tonight.  I have a lot to be thankful for, of that I am most aware.  So I am off to enjoy C's delicious pasta and all the simple things we sometimes take for granted.  I hope you are all safe and dry, and with people who make your life wonderful!