Posts tagged ‘food’

Improvisation; Travelling, Cooking, Dancing..

Improvisation is a wonderful word.  In Dictionary.com, its defined as 1) to compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation; extemporize.  2) to compose, play, recite, or sing (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment. 3) to make, provide, or arrange from whatever materials are readily available.

One needs to be flexible, quick thinking, and adaptable in order to achieve that.  These are the qualities I love as they also show strength; to deal with all situations, to react accordingly to circumstances and to go with how the wind and water flows.  Life is not that hard when you apply it to all aspects as there are always options.  Be spontaneous and life will always be exciting because you’ll never know what’s going to happen next. 

When it comes to travelling, I generally have a rough plan in terms of direction, transportation and accommodation.  As a lone female traveller, I am responsible for my own safety.  However, I’m always open to detours and road blocks which makes up the thrills of travelling because you dont know where it’ll lead you. 

When I was in Beijing China alone in 2008, I met 2 hostelmates; an Englishman who arrived just a day before and a Dutchman who had been travelling for years.  I wanted to travel to somewhere for 3 days and thought that it would be nice to have company.  Hence I mentioned it to the Dutchman and we spoked about travelling to Harbin to experience the harsh winter and to see the famous ice sculptures.  In our heads, it was a great idea but we were uncertain about travelling together since we only met a day ago.  Eventually, we asked the Englishman to join us and he agreed the next day.  All of us postponed our original travel plans and it all turned out to be a fantastic experience.  

Our only plan was to get to Harbin to see the sights and ice sculptures but in the end we went even travelled further to ski for 2 days!  That was my first ski experience! 

It was so amazing that we got along very well (we are all born in the year of the horse coincidentally!) and we were sad when we returned to Beijing and spoke about meeting at some point in our travels down south.  We stayed in touch and to date, the Englishman now lives and works in Beijing and the Dutchman is a proud father in Holland. 

 

Cooking on the road has its challenges; lack of necessary crockery, kitchen necessities (stove and oven) and appliances.  My ultimate goal is to try to eat healthily (minus too much cheese, oil, sugar and salt)  and to cut cost, hence I had to find ways to improvise with the limited resources.  Couscous (just add hot water) with broccoli and carrots (steamed) tastes great with Japanese rice seasoning, cooking soft and hard boiled eggs using the coffee maker, etc.  I also had plan how to make use of the only 2 plastic containers to prepare and eventually to serve the food in.  That can be quite tricky but I had a lot fun working around it.

I didnt really receive much formal training in Salsa dancing.  My best friend taught me the basic 1-2-3, 5-6-7-8 and that was it.  The rest, I owe it to all the guys I’ve danced with and a lot through observing others.  With my ‘unorthodox’ training, I did have to improvise along the way whenever I missed the hand or step or auto-piloted some moves (a big NO NO for ladies because we are supposed to follow).  I appreciated when guys improvised their moves to go with what I was doing at that time, get me back into place with them and continue the lead.  This shows their versatility and graciousness.  Occasionally, they too discover some new moves along the way.  Ultimately, social dancing is a form of relaxation and enjoyment so there’s no need to get all too technical and strict about it!

In short, IMPROVISATION is great and if you train yourself to do that, life will have less obstacles because you will always find a way out or around and thus make it a lot more fun and enjoyable!

February 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

Learning made easy

With internet, learning anything is so easy now!  We just need to remind ourselves to search it online and reference with a few other websites with similar topic then summarize and arrive into the best solution and methods.  THANK YOU! 🙂

Example, a sudden craving to make Eggs Benedict crept up this morning and since I don’t really know how to poach an egg and make Hollandaise sauce, I searched online for YouTube videos, spend 3-4 mins watching the 2 videos and discovered how EASY it is to make them!  Coming from Asia, we dont really make sauces like that so it seemed like a daunting task at first but it turned out otherwise!  Hahaha… much like how I go around telling my non-Asian friends how easy it is to make Chinese food. 

As a kid, most of the information came from parents, friends, relatives and school-teachers and textbooks.  I was an inquisitive child and often didn’t get my questions answered and it didn’t really hit me to go look things up in the library (Ok.  I’m a little slow in that area…durr… or maybe I was just plain lazy.  Hahaha…).

Hence, now that we have the world of information at our finger tips, I need to constantly remind myself that I’m in control of my own learning.  Learning is a continuous process in every aspect of our life.  We learn how to grow up, to be a teenager, to be an adult then maybe a parent, a grandparent and eventually learn how to deal with our own death.  To me, this is the beauty of life…

January 24, 2011 at 7:41 pm Leave a comment

Working with limitations – Making Sherbet

We’re in Cincinnati for 2 weeks and this time, we are in a hotel unit that comes with a kitchen!  Woohoo!  I was not able to contain my excitement the moment I walked into the room.  Its great!  I wanted to set up immediately except that my “food bag” was locked away in my work case and I wont be able to retrieve it till the next day. 

Since I have a kitchen now, I’m a bit more adventurous with what I want to make.  I browsed through recipes app in my ipod and found an interesting one… Lemon Basil Sherbet. 🙂  Hmmmm… Looking at the easy few ingredients listed and a quick glance through the method, I thought,”This should be easy.  I can make it work!”

The company very kindly organised a trip to the nearest supermarket for 25 of us and I got all I needed to make the sherbet:

  1. Half and half or light cream – 1 Cup
  2. Granulated  Sugar – 2/3 Cup
  3. Honey – 2 TBS
  4. Lemon Zest – 1 1/2 TBS
  5. Juice of 3 Lemons (Keep the squeezed lemon halves and use them as cups for serving!)
  6. Basil Leaves – 8 fresh divided
  7. Whole Milk – 2 Cups
  8. Sea Salt – Pinches

Method:

  1. Combine half and half, sugar, honey and lemon zest in saucepan. 
  2. Simmer and stir to dissolve sugar.
  3. Remove from heat add 4 basil leaves and bruise against bottom of pot.
  4. Cover and let steep 15mins.
  5. Remove Basil leaves discard and whisk in milk.
  6. Refrigerate till completely chilled.
  7. Whisk lemon juice into Sherbet base and add salt and sliced remaining 4 basil leaves.
  8. Taste for sweetness and add honey if required.
  9. Freeze mixture in ice cream maker or freeze and blend with food processor/blender till smooth.
  10. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and try to gently tap to release air bubbles from mixture.
  11. Freeze for a couple of hours before serving.

Obstacle 1:  I didnt find basil in the supermarket so I thought maybe i can make do with Parsley or just make Lemon Sherbet… 🙂 – DONE.

Obstacle 2: The recipe said to put the mixture into an ice cream maker.  Frankly I dont know why I didnt see that earlier because that would have detered me from making this.  Well, I googled,”How to make sherbet without an ice cream maker?”  and I found a youtube video teaching you how to do this! – DONE.

Obstacle 3: Lemon Zest… you usually need a grater and since I dont have one in the kitchen, I used the peeler to peel the lemon (just the yellow bits) and subsequently chop them up into thin strips and there you go… Lemon Zest! 🙂 – DONE.

Obstacle 4: I was supposed to use whole milk but I only have 2% fat milk so… we’ll see how it goes.. Low fat Sherbet anyone?! 🙂  – DONE.

Obstacle 5:  To get the smooth Sherbet consistency, it was recommended to at least put the frozen mixture into a blender.  One of our colleagues travel a mini blender so I’m borrowing it from her and hopefully it will all work! – DONE

I’m blending it tomorrow… Fingers crossed!

Obstacle 6: I didnt have any cling wrap so I used any plastic bag I can find, cut out a size, rinse it and cover the sherbet with it.  (Step 10 above)

This is the end product of my Lemon Vanilla Sherbert:

I added vanilla essence instead of basil and it tastes GREAT! 🙂  Nice vanila scent to it too!

January 22, 2011 at 7:17 am Leave a comment

Indulgence at Unbelievable prices… Is it a setup?

I saw this in a supermarket in a discount-store supermarket and I couldnt believe how cheap this is!  How is it ever possible?  I looked at the date of expiry and it was still a good time away.  This is scary because the cheaper affordable food available are unhealthy and the fresh food cost more than this. 

This is a 1 Gallon (4.73 ltr) of vanilla ice cream and its only $4.99.  This only encourages the overweight or yet to be overweight people to get heavier because most people can afford this… well its tastes great, cheap and comes in big quantity…. why not?  Beware, its a setup!

January 17, 2011 at 7:58 am Leave a comment

Just One step…

Food that are easy to keep, dont require much cooking and fills up a hungry stomach quickly!  Bear in mind that there’s not much in terms of nutritional value since they are instant and contains preservatives, etc.  Moderation is the key!

One Step:  JUST ADD HOT WATER

1)  Instant noodles:  Let the noodles sit in the hot water for 3 mins and you have a meal! 

The ones that come in a bowl or cup is more convenient.  If you already have a plastic container as like my starter kit, buy those in the packets because they are cheaper and more environmental friendly. 

I don’t really like the taste and texture of the commonly found brand Ramen in the US.  Go for Nissin or any other Thai/Chinese/Japanese/Korean brand.  Definitely yummier!  Trust me, I grow up eating instant noodles for a bit.

2)  Flavoured Couscous:  Add hot water and let it sit for 5minutes.  Fluff with a fork. 

The seasonings are included and they taste wonderful; Parmesan cheese, Mediterranean curry, Herbs, etc.  Yummy and low in fat content.

3)  Instant Miso soup mix:  Add hot water and done!  Much like making tea. 

For those of you who are accustomed to drinking clear soup, I find that these help loads especially as a complement to another dish.  The soup makes the quick fix meal a little more complete.

4)  Eggs:  Cook them with hot water  and WA LA!  A good source of protein.

Add soya sauce or any sauce you have!  The good thing about eggs is, you can boil them in advance, put them in the fridge and eat when you want to.  I recommend eating them within 3 days after cooking though. 

 

One Step:  JUST MIX THEM UP

1.)  Fruit and Nuts:  Cut and mix them up into a fruit bowl!  Healthy and full of natural sweetness and protein!

2.)   Tuna Sandwich:  I think this is pretty straight forward.  Bread + tuna sandwich. 

Whenever I go to a KFC or McDonalds or any eatery, if they give free ketchup and mustard or Mayo, I’ll always keep them if I didn’t use them.  Drain the water from the canned tuna and mix it up with any of the sauces that you have to add that extra taste to your tuna sandwich which may have cost you $6 if you buy them in a café.

3.)  Egg Sandwich:  With the remaining bread, you can boil some eggs, mix with mayo or any sauces that you have and make a sandwich!  Add salt and pepper for taste if you don’t have any other condiments.

I’ve learnt to improvise along the way with whatever ingredients I have and I believe you will discover more quick recipes based on your own culture and what’s readily available to you!  Have fun!

January 16, 2011 at 4:54 am Leave a comment

Simple and healthy quick fix

After moving from hotel to hotel in the first month, I’ve realised that I’m never ever going to see a kettle in the hotel room.  The little electri ones that you plug in for power.  That’s what you get usually in hotels in other countries but no, not in the US.  They supply you with a coffee maker, often good to make 1 cup of coffee at a time 2 for the more advanced ones and if you are lucky, you actually get a proper one with a little flask to make more than 2 cups. 

This just means more work for me because I’ll need to constantly refill the machine to make hot water cup by cup if I want to make anything more than a cup of tea. 

Hence, if you only have a coffee maker as in picture above, you can make the following in the hotel room:

Half/ Soft Boiled Eggs

This is a satisfying Singaporean/Malaysian breakfast where its usually paired with our local coffee or tea with Kaya toasts.  You may be able to buy Kaya which is a coconut+eggs+sugar kind of jam (trust me its yummy) from any Asian supermarket particularly those that carries Singaporean and Malaysian products.     

You’ll need:  1 small egg (small eggs cook faster), a cup and a coffee maker/kettle.

Steps: 

  1. Put 1 egg in a cup of hot water (made from the coffee maker/kettle) to sit for 3 mins.
  2. Repeat this step twice with the same egg in a fresh cup of hot water.
  3. Add soya sauce or salt with pepper to taste.   

Do not put 2 eggs in one cup at a time because the heat from a cup of water will not be sufficient to cook both eggs.  The egg white should be white and semi solid while the egg yolk’s consistency is a little more sticky and oozes out slowly when broken.  OooOoOoO…

If you want boiled eggs, you’ll need to repeat and make fresh hot water for a total of 6-7times.

Couscous with vegetables

I’ve never had couscous in my life till I went to Perth Australia to hang out with my best friend.  She made couscous one day and it was the easiest thing ever!

You’ll need: 

  1. 80 grams of dry couscous or the flavoured ones – Parmesan cheese couscous are my favourite!  For that you use half a pack of couscous with half the seasoning.
  2. A plastic container (see my starter kit)
  3. A fork or spoon.
  4. Broccoli and carrots; cut them into small pieces so that its easier to cook.
  5. Coffee maker/Kettle to make hot water.

Steps:

  • Put broccoli and carrots into plastic container with enough hot water to cover them.  Cover and leave it for 3 mins
  • Pour away the water, add the couscous and add about 150ml of hot water (estimated about 3/4 cup of water).  Add seasoning if provided.  Cover and let it sit for 5mins. 
  • Fluff the couscous with a fork. 
  • For plain couscous, add salt and pepper to taste.  Add Shichimi (a spicy Japanese condiment) for the extra Oomph!  

In case you are wondering, you can leave the vegetables in the same container when cooking the couscous or you can empty them into a cup temporary and cook the couscous in the plastic container separately. 

Happy cooking!

January 13, 2011 at 7:45 am Leave a comment

TASK Louisville: Find them, Try them and Share them…

Before getting into another city, I’ll try to read about it in Wikipedia, find out where the grocery stores, salsa clubs and any interesting sights are, relative to the location of our hotel.  From Wikipedia, I found a list of dishes that are unique to Louisville and I did managed to try 2 out of 17…

HOT BROWN – A layered dish of bread, bacon, and turkey, topped  with a Mornay sauce.

 “I ate this in Bluegrass Brewing Company place and actually felt really sinful eating it.  There was a lot of melted cheese… enough to make a cup of soup.”

DERBY PIE – Chocolate and pecan pie named for the Kentucky Derby.

“This sounds and looks really yummy in the pictures during my research.  I managed to have one in The Old Spaghetti Factory which I don’t think is authentic enough but it will do for now.” 

These are the rest on the list in Wikipedia… I’ll definitely keep a lookout for them in other cities.

ALE-8-ONE – A ginger-flavored soft drink bottled in Winchester.

BURGOO – A thick stew made from vegetables and mutton, or lamb, or other game meats.

MINT JULEP – Potable that is made with bourbon and crushed mint and is the ‘official’ drink of the Kentucky Derby

GOETTA – A Northern Kentucky delicacy composed primarily of ground meat, steel-cut oats and seasoned with bay leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper and thyme.

HENRY BAIN SAUCE – A potent sauce for serving with game.

BRAINS & EGGS – Known mostly as an English dish; this was served in Frankfort restaurants until BSE scares.

MOCK TURTLE SOUP – Welsh and English settlers brought this recipe with them when they settled in Clay County.  “Chinese and Asians has mock food too but usually a turtle soup is cooked with a real little turtle!” 

FROG LEGS – Often breaded and deep-fried.  “I thought that frog legs is an Asian thing!”

BENEDICTINE – A greenish cucumber and cream cheese spread made popular by Louisville’s Benedict’s restaurant.

STACK CAKE – An Appalachian layered cake with apple preserves spread between each layer.

JOHNNY CAKE – A corruption of “Shawnee” cake this is a flat corn bread cooked by direct heat.

BOURBON BALLS – Crushed cookies mixed with chocolate and bourbon, then coated in powdered sugar, first produced in Frankfort during Prohibition.

BEER CHEESE – Cheese dip made with beer, Cheddar cheese, and spices.

MODJESKAS – Gooey caramel candy with a marshmallow center. Named for a 19th century Polish actress that once visited Louisville.

SPOONBREAD – A sweet, moist cornmeal-based dish.

January 10, 2011 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

Cooking while on the road

At the start of the tour, I was tempted to travel a rice cooker so that I can make my own food.  The advantageous: 

  1. Low cost – eating out every meal can be an expensive activity.
  2. Healthier with the use of fresh ingredients.
  3. A solution to curb my Asian cravings.

With zero knowledge of what is available in each city, I decided to start small… first by acquiring the necessary cutlery:

  1. Chopsticks
  2. Soup spoon (the chinese type that is deep enough for you to hold soup and noodles in it.)
  3. A microwaveable plastic container about 6′ by 6′ and 2-3′ deep
  4. A Swiss Army Knife

After a month, I realised that the items above are a great start and especially useful when you can request for a  microwave to be sent to the hotel room.  That is the amazing thing about hotels in the US.  Microwaves has never been an option in all the hotels I’ve stayed in Asia.  Well… excluding rooms that comes with a kitchenette. 

As I venture into the world of ‘Cooking in hotel rooms’, my collection of condiments and cooking essentials inevitably started to grow.  I had to be innovative with what I make and need so that I dont end up travelling from city to city weekly with a larder.  Starter kit (preferably in plastic containers for weight concerns) includes:

  1. Sea salt
  2. Olive Oil
  3. Organic Soya Sauce
  4. Shichimi (Japanese condiment – mixture of sesame seeds, seaweed, chilli flakes and sometimes bonito flakes.)
  5. Spicy Sesame Oil 

Shichimi - Japanese Condiment

I was pretty excited about working with the limitations and managed to make up a bunch of simple dishes that are both easy and quick to make and healthy!  Stay tuned as I start to roll out the list so that it will be a no brainer should you decide to cook while on the road!

January 8, 2011 at 5:42 pm Leave a comment

The American Tour

I’m currently in the middle of a 9 months working contract in the US that requires a lot of travelling.  I’ve been checking in and out of hotels in a different city each week since 5 Sept 2010.  This will come up to 32 cities and hotels excluding the ones I visited during our week off from work.  This is my first  time  travelling in the USA and I’m really fortunate to be visiting so many cities at one go!  Below is the map indicating the states that I would have visited by the end of the tour.

The hotels booked by the company are usually situated in downtown near to the work place.  Some downtowns are great with loads of food selection at different times of the day but some are as quiet as a park at night.  Hence, finding restaurants and eateries with good affordable food and variety (other than the hotel) and places for me to go salsa in those cities can be a challenge. 

My plan for this tour other than to do well at work (of course!  that’s important! 🙂 ! ) is:

  1. See at least 1 interesting spot or attraction in each city.
  2. Try out the local dishes that are unique to each place or state.
  3. Go salsa dancing at least once in each city.

Since I’ve started this tour 4 months ago, I will backtrack and write about some of the interesting incidents and experiences I’ve had in the last few cities.  It will be based on my personal judgement and understanding at that point in time.  Comments and exchanges of ideas are always welcomed and who knows, you may become a part of my American experience!

January 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment


Calendar

September 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers