Thursday, February 19, 2009

Eggplant Stew

I really enjoyed this. Really. Oddly, I don't actually have anything else to say, except that this was super easy to make and is absolutely delicious. If you make this, serve it with a loaf of rustic bread. Enjoy!


4 cups diced Indian eggplant ($1.50)
large handful brown rice ($0.10)
5-6 cloves garlic, sliced ($0.10)
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes ($0.50)
1 chopped medium onion($0.25)
1 cup celery, sliced somewhat thickly ($0.20
1 14-ounce can stewed tomatoes ($0.50)
2 whole omani (whole dried lemon; if anyone knows of a good substitution, let me know) ($0.05)
1 large slice dried galangal (sub: ginger) ($0.02)
1 bay leaf (penny)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil ($0.15-$0.30)
1/2 preserved lemon, minced ($0.12)
3 cups water (penny)

Combine all in a 4-quart saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Serves 2 hungry people or 4 polite ones.

total cost: $3.51 - $3.66
per serving: 2 servings: $1.76 - $1.83; 4 servings: $0.88 - $0.92

Monday, February 16, 2009

Turkey Chili

Well, hello. Sorry it's been so long since I last posted a recipe. This semester has just been exhausting. Plus, I've been doing a lot of bread lately, using other people's recipes. I've been two seconds short of bread obsession. Coupled with the bread thing, I finally tugged a turkey out of the freezer, as part of my mission to use up a considerable amount of the frozen food storage I've got. So of course we ate roasted turkey, after which I intended to make turkey pho but never got around to it... well, in truth, I intended to make a lot of things that I never got around to with the leftovers. I did make a turkey pizza (this was awesome, by the way. Just get/make pizza crust, do a quick sauce, cheese, sliced shallot, sliced garlic, diced bell pepper and 1/2" chunks of dark turkey meat. Then bake), and I did make turkey chili.



Although I believe I actually prefer the more traditional beef chili, this is a great substitute if you're looking to reduce the fat in your diet, or just don't eat red meat. Additionally, this is ideal for the crock pot. It took me longer to get the rich chili earthiness from this batch than beef normally does, so if the earthy flavour is really important to you, cook it up to three days in the crock pot. I hope you enjoy!

2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper
2 large yellow onions, diced
1 1/2 green bell peppers, diced
2 large tomatillos, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped celery
juice of one lime

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 14-ounce can corn kernels
6-8 cups turkey stock
2 pounds roasted turkey, preferably dark meat (though I used both, I found the dark held up better), cut into 1/2"-1" cubes (alternately, use raw meat and sear it before cooking the veggies)
2 cups cooked black beans

1/2-1 cup chili powder
large pinch sugar (optional)
1-2 tablespoons honey (I used apricot honey)
1 anaheim pepper
1 jalepeno
other chiles (optional)

Heat oil in pan, then add onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomatillo, celery, salt, pepper and juice of the lime. Cook down over low heat until the onions are translucent and the greens are less bright coloured. Pour all of this into your crock pot, stirring in all the remaining ingredients except the chili powder, sugar and chiles. Let it all cook for a half hour, then add in enough chili powder to give it a deep, rich red colour. Cook another half hour and taste. If it's bitter, use the sugar and/or the honey. If it's not, feel free to leave it be, or to sweeten it, depending on your preferences. Cook another half hour to an hour.

While the base is cooking, cut up all your chiles, arranging them in ascending order of heat. Each time you add a chile, cook the chili for 30 minutes to an hour before adding the next chile. Once you've added the last chile, cook at least another hour, or up to another couple days.

Variations:

- Replace some of the turkey stock with beer. I really like Chimay Cinq Cents or Pacifico for chili.
- Add in a little extra cumin, coriander, and/or some seasoned salt. Feel free to experiment with the seasonings. This is the simplest chili (in terms of number of ingredients) I can ever recall having made, but you should feel free to indulge in experimentation to find the spice blend that you enjoy best.
- Add in a little more honey to sweeten it more (somewhat like a northern style chili) without it tasting sugary.
- If it's not thickening up well, even after you've cooked the chili without its lid, mix some water and corn flour together into a barely pour-able paste, then stir that into the chili. After a little while, it will nicely thicken it up and give it an extra bit of flavour.
- Add in fresh tomatoes.
- A little extra lime never really hurt anyone.
- Suggestion from D: blend a can of chipotle in adobo sauce and add it in a bit at a time to the chili to enhance the flavour.

Monday, February 09, 2009

An introduction

This is Francis, the new member of our family. He's finally decided to let us get a little sleep.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Wanchai Ferry Winners, and another Review

Thanks to everyone who participated in this giveaway! The winners, via random integer generator are:

Here are your random numbers:

10 10 5 11 3

Timestamp: 2009-02-07 15:22:36 UTC

So, that's Tim, seticat, dakotawitch and Joe! And then of course there's the repeated number, so we'll do another integer:

Here are your random numbers:

2

Timestamp: 2009-02-07 15:25:38 UTC

Which is FlavoDave!


Congratulations! Please email me your names and addresses, and these'll be out to you ASAP! I hope you enjoy the meal packages!

And now, the Spicy Garlic Chicken review. Some of the things that applied in the last review still apply here, so I won't bore you with the repetition. I'll just go straight to the important stuff!

Ease of preparation:

This was almost the same as the last one, except I had two extra steps. The first step was cutting the chicken (oh noes!), and the second was tossing it in the cornstarch mixture. Nothing too complicated, so I stand by my previous determination of its ease of cooking.

Flavour:

This was slightly sweeter than the Kung Pao. Not unpleasantly so, though it was on the edge of the sweetness levels I feel comfortable with. Kind of like a well-balanced beer that almost leans over to malt-y-ness. It was really good though, and had the same thickness as the one before. This one has a bit of spice and acidity to balance the sweetness, but it's not quite as spicy as the Kung Pao. It's also got the spice right in the flavour sauce packet instead of off in another packet. It was really good though, and P said to me, "This is really good!" several times while he was eating. He and I both agreed that one of the best parts of it were the unbelievable crunchiness of the bamboo and water chestnut. Now, I'll give that water chestnut typically stays crunchy no matter how you torture it, but bamboo doesn't always have that luck. It provided a nice contrast to the soft innards of crispy skinned chicken.

Again, the only thing I was really missing was more vegetation. I think it'd be impractical to package this stuff with vegetable cans in there (wrong texture for the veggies), but these could easily be added by the home cook with a minimum of effort. I don't know for sure that the absence of extra veggies would even by noticed by most, but we generally eat meat light and veggie heavy, so I'm missing them a bit. That being said, it'd require almost no effort for me to add these. So my recommendation is that you cube up a little carrot, zucchini and celery and toss it in with it.

Calories: This is supposed to feed 6 polite people, or 2-3 hungry people. Split in half, it worked out to 810 calories a person. Plenty to fuel you through your exercise regimen or busy day (for us, busy day, as we ate it for lunch and I had a lot going on, exercise-wise that evening).

So, in summation, I liked this one too. P seemed to enjoy this more than the Kung Pao, and I preferred the Kung Pao over the Spicy Garlic Chicken. For people who prefer more balance between spicy, sweet and acidic, I think you'll prefer this flavour over the KP.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wanchai Ferry Kung Pao Review and Product Giveaway

I'm still having troubles with my camera (meaning that in reality, I can't figure out where I put the memory card), so still no pictures. Sad, right? I have some good news, however! Today will be my first product giveaway.

The nice people at Wanchai Ferry have sent a product sample package to me, and have offered 5 product sample packages for winners. I received a package including one each: Sweet and Sour Chicken, Spicy Garlic Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken and Cashew Chicken. I believe these retail for $4.97 per package (so 20 dollar value, roughly). I'm going to randomly select 5 readers to receive a similar package. All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me how you make your favourite Asian dish (or just what it is, if you don't cook). The giveaway contest closes at 10 PM EST on Friday. Winners will be selected via random integer selector so it's fair for everyone. Good luck!

Now, on the to review portion. Today I did the Kung Pao Chicken box, though I'd originally intended to do the Spicy Garlic Chicken. Silly me, I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer so that didn't pan out. However, the grocery store had shrimp on sale for $2.99/lb, and I really like kung pao shrimp, so that's what we went with.

Cost:

I think you all know I'm a pretty frugal person, so it takes a lot for me to be willing to buy a box product of any sort. Because of this, I wanted to look at the cost first. If I assume that like most families, I don't have any of the stuff to make a dish like this (and therefore have to buy it all new, which is actually mostly true in this case, despite my normal food hording), the contents would be more than $5. I'd have to spend $4.95 just to buy the Kung Pao sauce. The rice would be another dollar or so for a new bag, and the peanuts would cost $2-3, and then 50 cents to a dollar for the chile pods. Plus meat. So walking out the door to creating this on my own, I'd be looking at roughly $9.50 before meat. This does actually make this an economical buy, unlike most packaged meals. Given that I used sale-priced shrimp (or I would've used another sale protein if shrimp hadn't been so cheap), the total cost on this package meal would run me approximately $8 for 5 servings as opposed to $12.50 for 5 servings. That makes the per serving cost $1.60 (as opposed to $2.50 done on one's own). Pretty frugal, really, when you break it down like that.

One caveat to this: while the package says it's a 5 serving meal (1 cup servings), it's really more like two unless you're using appetisers or sides. Even so, it's still $4 per meal which is frugal by most people's standards. I think this is kind of like how the Bertoli freezer meals say a certain number of servings, but most people just eat more in one sitting than a recommended serving might be.

Oh, and the website has a $1 coupon, as well as a satisfaction guarantee.

Ease of preparation:

I'm not certain that this could have been simpler. For ease of preparation purposes, I mostly rely on what I think P would if presented with the task of cooking this. He avoids the kitchen at all costs unless it's just to grab a snack or make a sandwich (and even sometimes then). Packaged meals were his thing before we got together.

The package directions call for the two times you need water as two separate ingredients rather than saying "x water, divided." The ingredients that don't come with the box are listed under a bold header "You Will Need:" which is good for people who might normally think it's all-inclusive. Additionally, they provide extra directions for people who don't have the type of pan specified, or need to make other changes. For example, it calls for a non-stick pan, but I use stainless. The directions are amended to tell you how much oil to increase to if you're not using non-stick. There are pictures to go with each step of the directions.

Each step is carefully written out for maximum clarity, and the main words of each step are either written in bold font or in another colour and bold. Other tips and possible amendments (including high altitude) are included.

P said that if he was of the mindset to cook a meal that didn't come with meat already (which he generally isn't), he would cook this. He said the pictures next to the directions provide some relief and that more importantly, the kit inclusion picture (Kit includes...) was ideal because it shows him what everything is, in case he didn't know what something looked like (in this instance, kung pao sauce itself).

And it only took twenty minutes to make, which is win. Oh, and they have extra tips and ideas if you want to mix it up a little from the normal directions.

Flavour:

Okay, so I have to admit. I was a little worried. Most pre-packaged food items (especially those with sauces) are viscous, overly sweet and not very flavourful. This was a surprising change from what we normally might expect from a package.

The sauce was not especially viscous, but still provided a good coat to the shrimp and rice. The sauce had a bit of finishing sweetness, but not cloyingly so (I am very sensitive to the sweetness of packaged meals, and I found this pleasant instead of vomit-inducing like I normally do). It had enough salt that I didn't pour more on, but not so much that P complained about the saltiness (which he normally will do). It had a pleasant amount of spicy kick to it. If you are abnormally into spice, it gives directions (that I did not use, thankfully) to make it spicier. Despite the spiciness, the sauce still had a readily discernible and pleasing flavour.

It was a surprisingly good kung pao. There were a good amount of peanuts - enough that I wasn't thinking, "Man, I wish I'd added more peanuts." I got some in each bite. The only thing I was missing in the meal was the extra vegetables that normally come with kung pao when you're at a restaurant. I didn't miss them enough for it to be a disappointment, but rather something I realised long after I finished eating.

Calories:

Per person, this worked out to about 800 calories each (we split it in half). That's a little higher than I might normally like to see, but significantly lower than it would've been if we'd eaten out.

All in all, I think I would be willing to keep these stocked on my shelf for days I don't really feel like cooking but don't want to spend the money going out to eat. Although the calories were a little higher than I prefer, it definitely had good flavour, was cost-efficient and was so easy to make I can't really express how easy it was. I recommend this product for those who want to give it a try.

I am really, really, really thankful that my first review worked out to be on a product I actually enjoyed.

My internet kung-fu apparently is crap, but I've finally managed to get the picture of the product from the site (woo!). So this is what the box looks like:

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Ranger Cookies (i.e., Fibre Cookies)

Astra at Food for Laughter reminded me of these cookies when she posted some very similar ones. My mother used to make these a lot for us (maybe she still makes them, I'm not sure because I've heard nothing about them recently) and we would just eat them up. They're pretty healthy and they taste delicious. They're also chock full of fibre, which is good since most of us don't get enough anyway. The only real change I've made to these cookies is that I put 3/4 cup dried fruits in them. I am somewhat consumed by dried fruits and P and I eat exorbitant quantities of them. Sometimes I put cherries, sometimes dates, sometimes apricots, or currants, or craisins, or raisins, or dried figs, or even dried mulberry. You really never know what fruit will be in there when I make them, and often I put more than one. They're delicious though, with or without the fruit. Hope you enjoy them!

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup hard-packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup bran
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 1/2 cup crushed shredded wheat OR 1 cup any wheat flake cereal
3/4 cup dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together shortening, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, oats, bran, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix into creamed mixture. Stir in coconut, shredded wheat and dried fruit (if you use it). Drop by rounded teaspoon (and flatten out a bit) onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Variations: this is also nice w/ a sprinkle of ginger and/or cinnamon in the dough. The cookie dough is also yummy raw. And they're about 100 calories a cookie.

(No picture today)