As I wrote on a previous post, I have been working on my novel, it was an unexpected project and going very well. And at first, I really didn't eat well, just my earthquake kit and general bad food, but in the last few weeks, I have improved so much, but haven't been blogging about it.
Mostly I have been eating noodles, ramen, soba, udon, with Shabu Shabu meat, pork usually, but occasionally beef, and different vegetables. If I am using Shabu Shabu meat, I always have Ponzo sauce to dip the meat in, and sometimes add to the noodle soup. I scroll through different things, all the time, daikon radish being the best base, if I remember I always put that in, nappa cabbage being another staple, but otherwise I will have fresh shitaki mushroom, brocoli, corn, lotus, eggs, roast pork, fried chicken, onions, dumplings.
Each one adds another flavor to the food. Sadly, I hadn't taken any photos, I really should have as they were different every day.
Today, I did make curry, which you can see below and of course made cookies for Christmas.
The month of November has an esoteric call to authors and wannabe authors everywhere called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50 000 words of a brand new novel within the 30 days. I heeded it, I signed up for it, and achieved it. By the end of November, on the last day, I had written 88,081 words (300 printed pages) all together, and 52411 words (168 pages) actually in use for the novel I am currently working on.
There are so much more writing and editing to do. It's daunting and I am really tempted to just spend all my free time working on this, especially since I have set the goal of submitting the first chapters to publishers by March 2016.
And thus this is the test for me, whether I will simply subsist on premade food, restaurant food, and take out, as I have done for the last few weeks in order to achieve my word goal, or I will be able to work out a balance between working on a project that is personally long due, and feeding myself and my son well, along with keeping up with this blog.
But even though I made the commitment to finish the novel this time and take it to the end point which is sending it to publishers, I also made two other commitments. One is the write this blog for six months, and take stock, and if it's working well, make it a project that lasts one whole year. The other commitment is cooking for myself as much as possible. As I always say, it's a lie to say cooking for yourself is easy and simple because it's not. It takes time and work, to have a healthy life for you and your children if you have any.
These few weeks I have had a never ending stream of Coca-Cola, (including accepting refills), restaurant food, skipping lunches, eating processed food for subsistence, mainly a general bad diet, and have to live with the consequences. My hair is stringy, in need of washing more frequently, it's ends have dried up, at the same time the oil and chemicals I have been ingesting are filling my pores, giving me bad skin, breaking out so badly that I have a pimple on my lip that from a distance looks like a sexuallty transmitted disease. I feel bloated and am sure I am a little fatter. I definitely no longer sleep well.
This is not how I want to live. For a while I had been so good at being healthy that I wanted to write about it.
It's going to take a while to get this right again.
So this is my test, instead of being home, concentrating on recipes and daily life only, I now work everyday. Just like most people, making this blog more honest.
The first meal I made in ages, was Chicken Adobo, a Filipino dish, Except instead of it taking 40 minutes, I made a cheat version that took 10. I won't write about it right now, as my phone is so full of things that I can't even take a photo, but I will.
So a new phone, a second draft and reseting my habits.
Part of this blog is about the commitment to eating well. Making the extra effort for yourself and your children, being able to foresee the future instead of the convenience of the present.
But currently, I am on survival mode. Around the same time I started this blog, I made another commitment, to writing a novel in a month.
I need to get 50 000 words down, in 30 days as part of the National Novel Writing Month. So the last week or so, while my son was with me, I made simple meals. Pasta with sauce in a jar, sausages, and some fresh bread where I just put jam and peanut butter (ergh) for snack.
However my son is with his father this weekend, and I am using this time to catch up on the 16000 words, as I am behind the schedule. I am just eating crap. I forgo fruit in my table, instead of eating chocolate chips for making cookies, straight out of the bag. Although last night I made a chocolate chip, pecan, walnuts and banana chip batch for dinner. I also made the last of my Fresh and Easy pre-made pasta I had put in the freezer and heated up, plastic and all for three minutes in the microwave.
Since it's thanksgiving week, and I always open my earthquake kit to check for food that's nearly expired. I have subsisting on protein bars, instant noodles, some snap peas chips, and coca cola.
All I want is to catch up on my words, and make it to the goal. NANOWRIMO is like a triathlon for writers. You write a little here and there, and then you make a commitment to see if you can make this really difficult journey.
I haven't cooked for a few days, and I don't really plan to either.
But I know once this is over, I will stop, look into my fridge and start again, because just like this book, it's one thing I have committed to for life. As I say, I think it's a lie to tell people that cooking is simple, eating well is easy. It's not in this day and age, when not eating healthy is the default.
But like writing a novel, sometimes even when there are things you rather be doing, once you've made your commitment, it's something to follow through.
My son and I were invited over to a friend's last minute. While there, we decided to have dinner together. Despite there were many reasonably priced and healthier options (Mexican, Italian, and Japanese)
I said, "Well... I don't really want to spend any money, how about KFC?"
I held my breath, I didn't know if the other person even ate fast food and when she answered in the affirmative, I spontaneously erupted with a joyful, "YES!"
I don't remember, but I am sure she looked at me strange.
On the way to her place, I had already drove past the red and white logo. The light box with the letters "KFC" wasn't flashing, but mentally, in my mind, it was a giant balloon engulfing me.
'I am having this for dinner,' I said to myself.
While we walked there, I repeatedly said, "I am so excited, I never eat there, I love KFC," and probably did a little dance. No, seriously, I did.
When we arrived and I ordered, I chose the 12 piece fried chicken option that the menu said fed six people, when there were only 5 of us and three were children. I couldn't bear to think there wouldn't be enough.
When that giant tub arrived, I didn't pay that much attention to the kids and took the first piece. I tore off the chicken skin first, putting it in my mouth, crunching down. When I finished, I slowly peeled the chicken flesh off eating with my fingers, and sporadically wiping the oil off my hands and mouth then balling the napkins up afterwards.
I ate two chicken legs, 3 sides, and a small container of coleslaw and corn.
I was happy, bloated, and a little sick.
I think I felt that way for a few hours.
Scientifically, if there were about 10% fat added to food, it was likely people would consume 10% more food than they would usually do.* This is something fastfood companies found out and started to add hidden fat in all its food.
Unless it's something as obvious as KFC, we don't even know it, and even if we know it, and know it's bad for us, like having pooling fat on our hands, we don't always care.
I once saw a documentary on the fattest man on earth, and watched him and his wife consume an 18 piece tub of KFC between the two of them. That was really disgusting and I couldn't stand what they were doing to their health, and yet, there I was, a few months later, ripping the skin off the chicken.
Meeting someone now and having a conversations about food, he or she might think I don't like junk food or fast food.
It's not the case, I love both, and could easily eat that stuff for days on end. Knowing me, I would feel sick afterwards, but it tastes so great, it is so cheap, and so easy to get, that I would just negate the consequences. Sporadically I lived like that and when that was going on, I just didn't step on a scale, or when I did, felt terrible about it, and did nothing.
So it's disingenuous for me to say, that we should eat healthy, and act if I am above eating crap. I am so very suspicious of health "gurus" who say they always eat healthy and how easy it is once you do it.
Maybe after years of training, and maybe by some quirk of biology, they actually don't like to eat food that is manufactured to not only taste good, but give you physical pleasure.*
Eating healthy, avoiding junk food, processed food or fast food, is not easy, it's hard.
There are days when I want that gross fat in my body, and I want to experience of the pleasure of the extra fat in whatever packaged food, that makes me eat more than I should.
That stuff is manufactured purposely by chemists and experiments so it's really difficult to eat in moderation.
Therefore I just try and avoid it as much as possible. I make calculations when I have a craving, whether I can stay away and do something else.
I make the first choice alternative from fast food, to cooking myself. I make myself think about the time it will take me to get out of my apartment, strap my son into the car seat then get into my car, and wait in the drive through or line, and drive home. Then off set that to the simplicity of making a quick meal.
If I am out, I think how much I rather be home soon, how much my son would rather be playing with his toys, and how wonderful it would be to have a shower, and how much quicker I can do that if I went straight home, instead of hanging out in some badly lit, concrete environment.
At other times, I think of the health issues, imagining my blocked arteries. I access my vanity, and tell myself I don't want to be fat again, and even remind myself there is no need for me to give more money to organizations that doesn't pay taxes.
It works a lot of times. In fact most times.
For some people, that might seem a lot of thoughts just to prevent myself from eating Taco Bell's Crunchy Taco Supreme, or a Fillet o' Fish.
But then I only eat at KFC three times a year, and probably at a fastfood place, once a month. Not because I don't want to more, but I found a strategy to stop myself from doing so.
When I lived on Venice Beach in the 90s, there was a health food store that made tofu sandwiches with avocado and lettuce and tomato. After I moved away, I tried different ways to marinate tofu for eating cold, and this is what I came up with.
A tasty salad, that takes 5 minutes to make.
To marinate Tofu.
Cut a grid into the tofu
Pour one table spoon of soy sauce, one table spoon of mirin, and one table spoon of sesame oil over the sliced tofu.
Let it sit for a a few minutes while you make the salad and move the box so the oils mix. You will see the tofu will soak in the colors of the oils.
Taste, see if you like the tofu tasting strong of the marinade or not.
If you like it light, take it out quicker. For a stronger taste leave it in for longer.
Australian Rissoles are another great way to finish up all the ingredients that hasn't been used up .
There are recipes out there that dictate what amount of ingredients to put in, but I originally learned it to use up the leftovers of roasts. So you can use beef, lamb or chicken, and the vegetables that are leftover.
I do like to add fresh onions in it, which generally is easy if you cook a lot, as there seems to be always a half used one. If not, cut up one.
When I made a roasted chicken, I already knew I was going to make this recipe. I even made a little extra potatoes.
So how do you know how much ingredients of each to put in?
Mainly, it works as long as the meat is your main ingredient, and there is more of that than each of the ingredients. You can put any kind of herbs and seasoning you prefer in your food.
For the easy recipe, I just put the meat, the extras and an egg into the blender, and just lightly blend it. If you don't have a blender just cut the food up. You can have chunky vegetables. It actually taste better.
Put meat, 1 egg, vegetables in a blender. If you don't have a blender just cut it up and put it in a bowl.
You should be able to put them all together like a patty with your hands.
put some bread crumbs on a plate.
put the patty on the breadcrumbs and then turn it over.
When it's covered, put it in a frying pan.
Cook it on one side for about 7 minutes, and then flip it, and do it again.
The sides should look like the photo.
Make sure it's cooked by putting a toothpick (use the bamboo shoot ones!) and have nothing stick on it, and when you touch it, it's hot. (I will write another post about that soon.)
Serve it with ketchup, ready made gravy, or just salt and pepper.
The leftover of this meal, will be the main ingredients of the next meal.
New ingredient: Chicken
TIP: No need to tie the legs together
TIP: Salt and Pepper is fine if you use gravy or ketchup or just like your food simple.
I couldn't use all the potatoes from the bag with the potato salad, so I needed to think of something else to use with it. I love roast potatoes, so I decided to make that. To compliment it, I chose chicken. It was the cheapest of the roast meat, and easiest to make. So the new ingredient is chicken, which I bought.
To me this is actually one of the simplest dishes to make as I don't put herbs, or stuffing in it. There is no need to tie the chicken legs together unless you have stuffing.
Take out the plastic bag in the cavity of the chicken
Rinse the chicken
Pat it dry
Set oven to 220 celsius or 425 degrees fahrenheit,
Line pan with aluminium foil
Salt and pepper the chicken... I just make sure it's covered all around
Make sure the temperature is now 220/425
Put in oven for 1 and a half hours. Remember it's on the middle rack.
If you remember, take it out in half and hour and douse the chicken with the oil and juice in the pain. That is called basing. If you forget that's fine. The skin just won't be crispy
Take it out, and put a knife from the top in about 10cm/3inches into the chicken to see if there is and blood leaks out.
Take a look at the meat and see that it's white. If it looks a little transparent, that's not cooked either.
It it's cooked, turn off heat
REST THE MEAT for ten minutes. You have to leave meat to rest for a while before you eat it.
If not, the chicken should be done. If there is any red closer to the middle after you have carved the meat, put it in the oven again. The leftover heat should keep cooking the chicken. If that doesn't work, just put the heat back up to 425f/220c and cook for ten minutes and see again.
I used to think carving a chicken had a special skill to it, there might be, but I just cut what I see, the best I can. Sometimes it looks a little silly.
(The photo on the right shows a chicken that still needs about ten minutes. You can see a little red in the middle)
Cut SMALL potatoes, in halves or thirds. (Not the kind you make baked potato with.)
Put it in a pan lined with aluminium foil
Cover with oil, salt, and rosemary or dill if you want.
After the chicken is in for an hour, put the potato in the bottom rack of the over with the chicken.
I used black bell peppers, baby carrots, cauliflower that needed cooking.
*You can use any hard vegetables in your kitchen or frozen mix vegetables.
New ingredient: two eggs
Serves: 2 (If you have it as the only dish)
Sauce: Seafood Sauce, if want to eat it the traditional way. I am sure whatever your favorite chilli sauce would be great as well.
As I try to impart, one has to devise meals around the ingredients you already have from other main meals and use up all the leftovers to make what I call a "secondary meal".
Today I finally figured out how to use up the frozen pork leftover from making dumplings.
The dumpling recipe had asked for mince/ground beef and pork. The beef I had already used for spaghetti, at least two weeks ago, but the pork stayed in the freezer.
This was a difficult dish to come up with. I just did not know what to do with pork. It had been in the freezer long enough that I knew I needed lot of different ingredients to mix with it for the taste. I looked up a bunch of recipes, none of which I wanted to eat.
Then my son, asked to go to Phoenix Cafe, and get some lettuce wraps. I knew I could use pork with it (chicken is also good), and I had lettuce which I seldom have. I told him I was going to make some.
He wasn't very happy, because Phoenix Cafe came with Mango Mochi.
The finished product (3 seconds)
Here is the way I made it.
Marinate the Pork:
*Mince/ground chicken can be used instead
*Use what I call the Chinese Food Magic Mix, which is pretty much the basis of all sauces for meats and vegetables.
Put in a bowl:
2 tbs of soy sauce
1 tbs of sesame oil
1 tbs of Chinese Wine (Use Japanese Marin as substitute. You can buy it in a lot of supermarkets)
1/2 tbs of sugar (If you use marin, use 1/2 a tbs)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of corn starch if you have any.
Salt and Pepper
*You can always mix the sauce a little differently for your liking.
Pour on Pork and mix again.
Leave until you finish the egg and vegetables so the marinade can soak in.
*Quick Tip: You can throw the vegetables and meat in at the same time, and then wait until it's all cooked through. It takes longer over all for the mixture to warm up and cook, but it is less steps for you. It's not as good, but if you're not picky, you probably can't tell. The egg however will simply be mixed in, and not in separate little pieces.
Making the Egg.
Mix two eggs in a bowl.
Put in 2 teaspoon of soy sauce
Heat up the pan.
Put oil in the pan.
Pour the eggs in the pan.
Swirl the eggs around so it covers the pan.
Let it cook through. Flip it when one side is brown. Use a slotted spade. If it breaks don't worry about it. You're going to cut it up.
When it's cooked, take it out, cut it into whatever size pieces you want, and put it aside.
Cooking the Vegetables
Cut the vegetables up, if you don't have any -use frozen ones. If it's frozen, I would put two handfuls in.
If you happen to have ginger and garlic, put in two slices of ginger and a clove or garlic chopped
Put the vegetables in the pan
After a minute or two, add a 3 cm/1 inch of water from a normal cup
Mix the mixture every minute or two until the vegetables are the way you like eating them.
Cook the meat.
Same same, oil, ginger and garlic, wait until the pan is heated, put in pork, mix it every minute or two. Wait until it's cooked (video below to show you what that looks like.)
Once the meat is cooked, put in the vegetables and the egg.
Wait until everything is hot
Serve on a plate along with another plate of lettuce, and let people make their own.