Monday, September 26, 2011

10 min Caprese pasta

There’s course packs that need to be read, lectures that need to be listened to and I will scoff at you if the gym is mentioned…or at least mumble something nondiscript like “I can’t go right now I'm um... laundry”. And despite a false early start yesterday morning at 8:00 am (to place some cereal within arms reach), I was quickly back in bed and substituting lectures on embryological development with more episodes of The Real Housewives.

3:00pm: Realizes that I have not had lunch yet.
3:05pm: Realizes that it is not like me to just forget to have lunch. Worried that I might be severely sick.
3:10pm: Feeling hungry. Phew.
3:12pm: Realizes in order for this to happen, must first get out of bed and into a place with more food. Like the kitchen. (The McGill education has really not gone to waste)

Anyways I think everyone should have a fall back meal for days you want to put minimal effort into making a fast and tasty meal. (No, Subway's not the answer!). For me it was cereal. Large handfuls, funnelled from box into mouth. Or it was, until I made this pasta with my friend Molly. It’s her mom’s recipe and a) can be ready in about 10 minutes b) only the pasta requires cooking c) it will make you really happy.

(Serves 2 really hungry people)
Extra virgin olive oil
4 Roma tomatoes (or about 1 cup of cherry tomatoes)
1 clove of garlic
1 container of bocconcini cheese pearls
Handful of mint or basil sprigs (or both)
Bow tie/penne pasta (or a pasta that can hold onto sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Start by boiling the desired amount of pasta. While the pasta is boiling, pour around 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a large bowl.
  2. Mince the garlic really finely and add it in the bowl so it can start to flavour the oil.
  3. Dice up the tomatoes and herbs. Add the tomatoes, herbs, bocconcini pearls and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper to the olive oil.
  4. Drain the pasta when it is el dente, making sure to get rid of all the pasta water and add pasta to bowl.
  5. Immediately mix everything together so the heat from the pasta can slightly melt the bocconcini and warm the sauce. Add more salt and pepper to taste. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bruschetta egg scramble

Did I ever tell you about my pesky morning classes?

We met the first day of first year and were instantly inseparable. We would see each other every Monday to Friday and had a pretty good thing going. But pretty soon, I was showing up for our dates late and in sweatpants or stained t-shirts. The conversation was boring and I really needed the caffeine to get me through. Also, moving too fast too soon led to a panic attack sometime in October. I don't remember committing myself to do midterms, labs and assignments!

Not wanting to grow apart, we spent even more time together outside of the classes in tutorial sessions and office hours. We decided to call it quits after the end of the semester and I even got rid of their textbooks and study manuals. But this semester, we have started seeing each other on a regular basis again, much to the warning words of my friends who just don’t think we are right for each other. I hope it works out this time!

So on weekends when I have the leisure of sleeping in, I'll make this bruschetta egg scramble and bacon for breakfast. And on weekday mornings, when I'm scrambling out the door with five minutes to make it to class, I'll make this for lunch. Basically eggs are good whenever.

1 medium sized tomato, chopped finely
2 eggs, beaten
Sprinkle each of garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried basil, thyme (optional), sage (optional)
Oil for cooking

Heat up a small pan (on medium) with a little oil and add in the tomatoes and spices. Cook the tomatoes until tender (1-2 min) and add the beaten eggs. Using a spatula, move the egg mixture around the pan until the eggs are cooked.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chicken stew

Highlights from this weekend include: a house party turned 90s-music dance party, a three tiered chocolate peppermint cake, witnessing a lot of beer induced man love, sleeping until noon followed by a breakfast in the park of greasy Madonas pizza and fries, a collective food coma after an intense Greek themed potluck, watching six McGill students struggle at a child’s version of Cranium, and waking up to buttery Greek kourambiedes cookies for breakfast. Weekend win: 10000. Homework win: 0.

Also from this weekend came the curious observation of the significance of the time 11:15 pm. Have you noticed that regardless of the event start time, around eleven fifteen is when a low key house party can turn into a dance party on the dining table and grown men start serenading each other to Brittany Spears. When a nice classy potluck complete with cocktail dresses and real glass wine glasses turns into an abandonment of utensils not to mention body parts being formed with the purple Cranium clay. Eleven Fifteen starts the creation of those moments that aren’t quite remembered (or are denied being remembered) when asked the next day. And leads you to decide maaaaybe the “limited access” option on facebook is not such a bad idea.  (No, just me?)

Anyways, it brings me to this chicken stew that was made for a Greek themed potluck this weekend but doubles to nurse a hangover. This stew was inspired from the avgolemono soup that was served at the Greek restaurant I worked at last summer and to this day still cannot pronounce. It lemony and hearty and has the ability to reverse some of the damage done the night before.  

This makes a BIG pot.

2 large chicken breasts with bones attached (optional: remove skin and fatty bits for a lighter broth)
2 chopped onions
4 chopped carrots
4 chopped stalks of celery
1/2 cup uncooked barley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs
2 lemons

1. Place the chicken in a large pot and turn the heat on high to brown the chicken on all sides. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the chicken by about 2 inches. (You can also add a couple coarsely chopped onions and carrots now to flavour the broth but this is optional.) When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to simmer for about an hour.
2. Skim the fat off the top of the broth. (What I find works well is placing Seran wrap on the top of the broth so that the fat easily transfers from the broth onto the Seran wrap.)
3. Take the chicken out of the pot and once cool, strip off the meat. Discard any vegetables that were added to flavour the broth.
4. Add the uncooked barley and chopped vegetables to the remaining broth and season the broth with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for another hour until everything is tender.
5. Whisk the eggs with the lemon juice in a seperate bowl. To prevent the eggs from curdling, slowly whisk in a ladle of the hot broth into the egg mixture. Gradually whisk in more broth until the egg mixture is heated and then pour all the egg mixture back into the pot, whisking briskly.
6. Add the chicken strips back into the pot and add additional seasoning or water as desired. The end result should be a creamy stew.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pineapple chow

My vocabulary has expanded immeasurably since meeting my two closest friends from Trinidad and Tobago at McGill in first year. “Girl, want to hang out tonight?” pales in comparison to “Hoss, want to lime tonight?” 

And “steups”, which describes the sound made when sucking in your teeth, has found use in a wide variety of situations.
“The student services lady is referring to a 500 page manual to instruct her on how to help each student in line.” Steups.
“Megavideo, what do you mean I have to wait 52 minutes before I can finish watching my show.” Steups.
“A person at Subway is holding up the line because she wants completely different things on each half of her sandwich.” Steups.
“That textbook costs HOW much?” Steups.
“I’m not allowed to use the gym because I don’t have a towel? But I ate a whole pie today.” Steups.

From my friends, I have also been introduced to more dishes to add to an already extensive vocabulary of “foods I want to eat”. Like “pilao” or “pastels” or anything with the herb “shadow beni”.
And just when I thought my amazement could not exceed the knowledge that the traditional pizza topping of pineapple and ham is pineapple and BACON in Trinidad and Tabago, I learned about Carnival. Carnival is an annual celebration in Trinidad and Tobago where a) people take to the streets in bejewelled sequined and feathered costumes, b) drink in hand, c) “wining” down the streets until the wee hours.

Good food, good parties, good weather; I should start packing my bags now. Until then though I’ve made some pineapple chow! It’s like a pineapple salsa/salad and the pineapple can be substituted with mango to make mango chow. It’s rel bess.

Recipe as recited by friend:
1 pineapple (cubed)
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 crushed garlic clove
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper/ jalapeno pepper (or use half a red pepper finely chopped for some crunch, without the heat)
1/2 small cucumber finely chopped (optional)

Crush all ingredients except pineapple cubes together. Add mixture to pineapple cubes. Adjust to taste and leave for 15 min or more so all the flavours can mix.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wine-melon shooters

Right now, the school looks just like the pictures in the brochures trying to convince students to come to McGill. There are students sprawled out on the grass, happy chatter on the building steps, and promises of a good time Friday night. (Okay maybe I read between the lines with that last one.) If someone were to say that not very far from now, a thick layer of snow would cover all of campus, they would probably get the same look as someone saying they enjoyed getting up for 8:30 calculus classes. I sure didn’t believe it. I REFUSED to believe it. I think last year I caved sometime in  mid-December equipped with only a rain jacket to face the -20C weather and finally accepted those sleeping bags being sold as “winter jackets” to be my attire for the next 3 months. But until then, I’m happy believing that BBQs and sun tanning on lower field are the reason I’m paying thousands in tuition and travelled cross country to be here. The mid-semester crisis can come later.

So this weekend, during a refusal to believe that homework existed as well, I busied myself creating these jello shooters to bring to a birthday party. Watermelon. Good. Winemelon? Better. I used a base of honeydew partly because it’s low in calories and high in Vitamin C and can help keep you hydrated on those late nights. More importantly it is a very good vessel to hold alcohol.

1 small honeydew melon
2 tablespoons of gelatine (2 packets)
1/4 cup water
1 3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup sugar (optional)

1. Cut a honeydew melon in half and scoop out the seeds in each half with a spoon.
2. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup wine, gelatine packets and sugar. To this, add 1/4 cup boiling water and stir until everything is dissolved. Add the rest (1 1/2 cups) of the wine.
3. Set each honeydew half in a bowl to steady it and pat inside dry with paper towel. Divide gelatine mixture between the two honeydew halves and top with more wine if needed to fill liquid to brim.
4. Leave in fridge for about 4 hours for it to solidify and then cut melon into slices like with a regular melon. (Cut off a bit of the jelly top if too top heavy)
5. Divide each melon slice into halves or thirds.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Salmon patties

Introduction: The start of the school year is comparible to New Years Eve, with resolutions being set in anticipation for a new start. Like THIS year is going to be the year of the 4.0 GPA. Maybe THIS year that school club will be attended beyond the first meeting with the free pizza and THIS year, the school gym will see more than just the special guest appearances. However, I hypothesize that starting the school year in a collective environment of such hefty aspirations and organized chaos actually has a negative impact on the overall success of the student’s semester. This will be tested by having subjects (boyfriend and I) take the first week of school to go to the cottage to relax instead of attend classes. Our performance will be evaluated and compared to our performance in previous school years to determine if the prolonged relaxation time has a positive effect on our school performance.

Materials and Methods: Students from McGill University (me and boyfriend) were obtained. Boyfriend’s family cottage was obtained by generous invitation. Healthy dose of sun was provided by donation (although supply was limited).

Subjects were sent to Miramichi Island during a week otherwise spent at school stressing about buying textbooks and in student service line-ups. Subjects were subject to swimming, kayaking, eating good food, card games and other obligatory experimental procedures. 

Figure 1.

Results: To be observed at the end of the semester (December) to see if a correlation between prolonged relaxation and overall performance can be detected. 

Discussion: In future experiments, the trip back from the vacation (totalling 10+ hours of travel via boat, car, bus, and foot) could be adjusted. The trip home from a vacation is always chaotic and with an early morning class the next day, it may mean coming home to no food and only stale cereal to pack for a school lunch. Luckily, ever since that huge Costco trip a year ago, canned salmon has been a pantry staple for me. Salmon is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids which are essential for brain function and are the key ingredient in these salmon patties.

1 (16 ounce) can salmon, drained and flaked
1 finely chopped small onion
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped (loosely packed) fresh parsley
1 generous pinch each of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
1 pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
4 spoonfuls yogurt
2 slices bread
Oil for cooking

1. Place the bread in a mixing bowl and spread the yogurt on top of the bread to soak until soft enough to break apart.
2. Add the salmon, onion, eggs, parsley, seasonings and tablespoon oil to the bowl. Combine everything.
3. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large pan. Use hands to form salmon mixture into balls and stagger balls in the pan.
4. Press balls flat (about ½ thick) with spatula and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until nicely browned. Make sure to wait until the mixture sets to flip otherwise it could be hard to flip. (Depending on the size of the frying pan, you may have to cook the salmon patties in multiple batches.)
These patties store well and are good cold on top of some salad greens.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stir fry 101

Everyone goes through countless interviews, first dates, and recently for me “first week of schools”. And yet given all these opportunities at repetition, I wonder if we really do learn from our experiences and improve upon them the second time around.

I remember in my first year of university three years ago, I went to class equipped with highlighters, notebooks (sorted by colour), pens, pencils, and the class course pack. This past week, I went to my first class with a few pages of a notebook left over from the previous year.

During class in my first year of university, I remember writing down the notes from most of the class slides, including the fact that Canola oil is actually rapeseed oil but its name was changed for marketing reasons. First Year Me thought this could be testable. On the other hand, Forth Year Me left my first class with a single sheet of paper jotted on it, “ANAT 381: Midterm is 20% of grade”.

Going into first year, I had some basic knowledge of history, literature, calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics. Now three years later, if pressed, I can probably identify where the closest washroom is to most of my classes.

So while there might not be the tried and true recipe for life success, a recipe for stir fry is a little easier to come by. Stir frys are my go-to for a quick healthy meal and can be adapted to almost whatever vegetables are in the fridge.

Stir fry 101

1. First you start with the aromatics. In a heated pan with a thin layer of oil, place one or two of:
Sliced onion, minced garlic, pepper flakes, or sliced ginger

2. Then brown up your protein. Pick one of:
Chicken/beef strips, tofu, chickpeas, shrimp

3. Once your protein is almost cooked, you can get in some veggies. Some good combinations are:
Broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots
Zucchini, eggplant, and spinach (put in last minute) 

4. Simmer everything with some seasonings: 
For the seasoning, use equal parts soy sauce and ketchup with a little curry powder and water. (Also optional hot sauce.) Serve with rice, noodles, or couscous.

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