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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Week 5, 2015

Jan 26 (Mon)

Horse trainer extraordinaire A offered to hold an unmounted riding workshop for riders who took her clinic. All we needed was a venue. I haven't used the function room at my condo at all since moving in, so I thought this would be a good time to try out the kitchen. Since it was to be held at 7:30pm, I made some finger food so that nobody would pass out from hunger.

Stuffed Italian Bread

I've wanted to make this ever since I first laid eyes on the photo on Pinterest, with cheese oozing out of all the crevices. The 1/2 c of butter stated in the recipe seemed a huge amount so I cut it down by 1/3, which still seemed a lot, but after it's baked I realized I should have used all the butter called for. As one guest said, 1/2 c of butter divided by ten people is nothing! It was still very yummy, but could've been better if I didn't skimp on the butter.

Horse Treats (AKA veggie sticks) with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dip
I substituted home made yogurt for the sour cream, used buttermilk powder from iHerb, and shallots instead of red onions. It was a huge hit and I had to cut more veggie sticks to keep up.

Dark Chocolate Brownie
I usually use a brownie recipe that contains melted milk chocolate in the batter and chunks of dark chocolate stirred in, with no coco powder. It is really decadent but sometimes I feel like having a brownie with only dark chocolate. Last week I tried a recipe using only coco powder with no chocolate. The resulting brownie was good, but I thought it lacked depth. So today I made one using both chocolate and coco powder (both Valrhona), with no flour. It turned out really well. Don't you just love a brownie with a beautifully cracked top? I'm going to put this on the menu of my bakery when it comes into operation.

I'm happy to report that after our workshop the only thing left of the food was about 1 tbsp of dipping sauce, and that was only because I ran out of veggie sticks. Nothing makes me happier than to have no leftover at the end of a gathering. The week is off to a great start!

Jan 27 (Tue)

Had carbs all day long, including two pieces of brownies for breakfast and half a slice of Lady M's decadent chocolate crepe cake for tea. This was my second visit to Lady M. I had a matcha crepe cake the first time, which was nice, but this chocolate version really wowed me. Both my friend W and I were impressed, and we're not the easily impressed type. So that's saying something =oP

Dinner is carb-free! J was happy.

Salmon Cake with Greens
I really like the capers inside the salmon patties. It's low fat, high protein, super healthy, without losing taste.

Chilled Thai Squash Soup 
I used yellow squash for this, but have also made it with butternut squash when I wanted it to be a more substantial soup. The curry paste gives it a nice kick without being too overpowering. I had this for lunch the next day, and it tasted even better.

Jan 28 (Wed)

Had another private jumping lesson at 7am on the horse that refuses to move. Thank goodness I had the foresight to drink an oatmeal smoothie on the way to the club, and wore spurs. When adding oatmeal to your smoothie you can either dry blend it to pulverize before adding the wet ingredients, or you can soak it in the liquid overnight. I soaked this time.
1/4 c oatmeal
1/2c fruit juice
1/2 frozen banana
1c butterheard lettuce
5 strawberries

After walking 4 dogs from 9:30am to noon under the hot sun, dinner needed to be an substantial affair, with lots of proteins and vitamins.

Roasted Chicken Sausage with Brussels Sprouts, Fennel & Potato

Chicken sausage is a healthier alternative to the pork variety and tastes just as good. This is my idea of comfort food, without the guilt.

Crunchy Fennel Salad with Dates, Olives & Almond
So sometimes people eat your dinner ingredients in the fridge but that's ok, pomegranate seeds are just as nice as grapes. I like salads with fruits in it, so this one is a favourite, but I think some people may find it strange. Try it and find out.

Jan 29 (Thur)

One of my favourite home cooked Japanese dishes is 豚の角煮or braised pork belly. There's a similar version in Chinese cuisine, but the Japanese version is less sweet, and seems less greasy. It usually contains daikon, Japanese radish. I saw arrowroot(茨菇)at the supermarket and I know it's used in some Chinese meat dishes so I decided to try adding that. The pork belly turns out soft and tender after the long cooking process, but the radish almost tastes better than the meat, and the bonus? They have all the meat flavors but none of the fat. That's why I wanted to add the arrowroot, to have another meat-tasting non-meat ingredient in this dish. The verdict? I loved it. The texture is almost like a yam, but firmer. This dish goes really well with white rice, with the soup poured onto the rice.

Japanese Braised Pork Belly

2 x 400g          pork belly strips
700g                Japanese radish
radish leaves, if available
4 hard boiled eggs
6cm piece of ginger, sliced, with skin on
1 dried red chili
1 leek, green parts only, do not cut
100ml sake
2 tbsp sugar
100ml Japanese soy sauce such as Kikoman

  1. Peel radish and cut into 2cm thick half-moon shaped slices
  2. Cut radish leaves into 4cm long and blanch in boiling water
  3. Heat up Teflon coated frying pan over med heat.  Place pork belly strips into pan and brown on all sides, wiping off oil with paper towel once in a while.
  4. Place radish pieces into pan with pork and stir fry briefly so that radish is covered in oil.  Remove radish and set aside.
  5. Place pork, ginger, chili and green part of leek into a heavy pan.  Add 600ml of water and heat over med-high heat.  Once boiled skim off foam and cover with lid.
  6. Let simmer for 1 hour, stop the fire and let sit with lid on for another hour
  7. Remove pork and sieve stock into a clean bowl.  Measure out 300ml and return to cleaned pot, along with sake and sugar.
  8. Cut each belly strip into 4 pieces and place into pot.
  9. Heat over med-high heat until boils.  Then cover and simmer for 10 min
  10. Add soy sauce, cover with parchment paper drop-lid and then pot lid and simmer for another 50 min.  Add radish and hard boiled egg to pot for the last 30 min.
  11. Add radish leaves to pot and stir before serving.
Jan 30 (Fri)

I met C very early on in my riding venture, back when we both rode at the Saddle Club. She was hosting a dinner for trainer extraordinaire A and invited us. We were late due to J's work and heavy traffic so I was famished by the time we arrived, but the first thing I noticed was a little bowl of dark sauce in front of me. C told me it was for dipping the jambu, or rose apple. I think I've only had jambu once, when I found it in one of the hotel's welcome fruit baskets. Although juicy, it didn't really have any distinctive taste, so I never bothered with it again. This little dish of dark sauce, called Kecap, however, transformed the tasteless jambu. I finished all the jambu and wished there were more!

C shared how she makes the Kecap, which also goes well with white rice: Chop shallots, add black soy sauce (she uses an organic black bean soy sauce) and some brown sugar. Add chopped coriander and chili padi to taste.

I wanted to tweak the Reeses Peanut butter cup cake so I made it for the dinner party. Everybody loved it, so the taste is there, but I need to refine the look.

Jan 31 (Sat)
I had brunch with a friend on Thursday at Wild Honey and ordered one of my favorite all day breakfast items, the Tunisian. This time however, the eggs were under cooked and the whole dish was too watery.
The unsatisfying experience was still on my mind when I woke up this morning, and I made a mental checklist of what ingredients I have in the fridge and decided to make my own. I turned on the oven when I got up, and went to brush my teeth and wash my face. When I was done with cleaning myself up I started on the tomatoes. While it's cooking I plucked the herbs from my balcony and chopped the avocado. By the time the tomatoes are ready the oven was hot so the whole thing took less than 20 minutes.

Breakfast Skillet (serves 2)
1 can of diced tomato (400g)
herbs of your choice (I used thyme and oregano)
ham or sausage
1 avocado, sliced
4 eggs

- Preheat oven to 200C/400F
- Lightly grease a 10" cast iron pan and heat over high heat. Pour tomato into pan, add herbs and ham. (you can also use canned tomato with herbs already added in) Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
-  Turn off heat. Make four holes in the tomato mixture and crack an egg into each hole. Arrange avocado slices between the eggs
- Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until egg whites are just set and yolks are still runny.

You could skip the ham and make it vegetarian, or omit the avocado if you don't want it to be too filling. I ate it with challah bread dipped in the yolks. It was very satisfying and lasted me all day.

I stayed home all day and shot jewelry photos for a friend's upcoming charity auction. Four hours later I was completely pooped. Now I remember why I had given it up years ago. My back and wrists just can't take it. It's definitely a sign of aging =o(
For dinner we had Indian.

Chicken Tikka Masala 
I think this is as healthy as you can get with decent Indian food. I use low fat yogurt and roast my own bell pepper, so it's not packed in oil. I can never find fenugeek leaves so sometimes I use fenugeek seeds, but today I omit it completely.

Instead of rice or naan we had cauliflower rice. When J was off carbs completely I tried all kinds of carb alternatives. Zucchini noodles are definitely not my thing, but cauliflower rice tastes so like rice it's unreal.

Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice

Some recipes are completely raw, but I find that cooking it a little bit makes it taste more like rice because you take the crunchiness out of the cauliflower. 

Tomorrow is a day of dressage competition. I am helping out in the morning and competing in the afternoon so there will be no cooking. Packing for the show stresses me out big time, and I have never managed to not forget something =o( Wish me luck!