Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fried Rice

Of all the cuisines I've attempted, I think I find Asian meals to be the hardest. The layering of flavors and dozens of ingredients and spices... I've made some okay curry and pad thai in the past, and I've experimented with faux-pho, tofu, and fried rice. The thing with experiments is that you may fail, but you'll always learn something. With the faux-pho, I learned that there is no substitution for real pho (seriously - just don't even try to play me). Tofu was... messy. I couldn't the sear on stir fry quite right. And my first attempt at fried rice? The carrots were at the awkward stage in between cooked and raw. The rice wasn't really "fried" as "turn brown from sauce" and the sauce just wasn't quite rice. It had too many ingredients - fish sauce and soy sauce and teriyaki and a lot of ginger. Just not good.

Fried Rice

It's not that I grew up with homemade Chinese food, or even particularly good Chinese food.  We had Chinese frequently growing up. And the problem with ordering it for two people is that then you have to eat for lunch and dinner for 3 days straight in order to get the dishes you like.

And to top it all off - there are peas everywhere. I don't mean the snap peas or pea pods... but peas. They're in egg drop soup, in fried rice, and under the one piece of chicken that you didn't compulsively inspect and got a surprise of the night. Yuck. I set out to make fried rice that I didn't need to pick at (hence Experiment and Failure #1). Let me tell you, though - sometimes you don't need three tries to get a success because #2 hit it out of the park for me. The chicken marinade gave enough seasoning to the dish without overpowering anything. I enjoyed exactly what I wanted, no peas, and no fighting over if we should get sweet and sour chicken or not.

Fried Rice
Fried Rice

1 lb. chicken breast (boneless, skinless, sliced thin)
1 tsp mince ginger
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
pinch red chili flakes (optional)
1 Tbl soy sauce
1/2 Tbl worchestire sauce
2 Tbl rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all of the above in a plastic bag or large bowl. Toss to coat. Marinate for about 30 min to 2 hours. **Because of the vinegar, this is not a great marinade for extended periods, like overnight**

Peanut Oil
1 small onion, minced
5 medium carrots, peeled and minced
1 cup edamame seeds, thawed if frozen
8 oz shitake mushroom, stems removed and diced (may substitute any mushroom of preference)
2 cups cooked rice (I used white, brown would also be good, or quinoa)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Soy sauce for serving

1. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add peanut oil, just a few turns of the pan. While the pan heats up, cut the marinated chicken into 1/2" pieces. Add the chicken (not the juice) to the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes before tossing around. Cook thoroughly (about 6-10 minutes total). Remove from pan and set aside.
2. If necessary, add another swirl of peanut oil, if necessary. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes before adding the carrots. Cook, stirring occassionally, for about 8 minutes, or until vegetables are starting to soften. Add the edamame and mushrooms. Continue to cook for a few more minutes.
3. Add the rice to the pan. Stir, and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Once the rice begins to crisp, make a well in the middle of the pan by pushing everything to the sides. Add the egg is to well. Stir constantly until egg is scrambled (as long as the pan is still hot, this will be quick). Then toss everything in the pan together, and add back the chicken. Stir until warmed through. Serve with a drizzle of soy sauce, and enjoy!

Monday, January 28, 2013

This post is a test... In FASHION.

Apparently, I've been living under a rock. I just figured out that I can post from my iPad. This must be a new app. Anyway, if this is weird, it's because I'm finger-tapping.

I'm thinking about starting to do a new type of post... An occasional Kvetchin Kloset post. As many of you know, I have Alopecia Universalis, which leaves me balder than a new born babe. I rarely wear wigs. I wear scarves less frequently now because as my eyelashes have recently fallen out, my contacts are difficult to wear all day, and glasses don't cooperate with scarves. Thanks to Country Cleaver for giving me the boost to do this, even if I'm technologically/bloggy inept.

I try to dress in a way that (I hope) compliments my condition. I do a bit on Instagram (@KvetchinKitchen), but I was thinking about sharing some of my favorites here on the blog.

So if this posts... This is what I wore today! I like the conservativeness of the dress with the "nakedness" of being bald. Also, it's cold in my office. The navy is more complimentary on me than black, and I am really warming up to belts. And for as blousey as the dress was, I still thought it was flattering (especially with the contrast of the belt).

Earrings from Forever 21 (Summer 2012)
Dress from Target (Dec 2012)
Belt from Kohls (sold with another dress)
Boots from Chinese Laundry at Nordstroms (from 2011)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fungus Among Us

Welcome to Soup Week! I have the honor of helping to close an awesomely delicious week, full of recipes and wonderful bloggers that want you to feel just a little warmer.
Egg hearts soup!

For my soup, let me just start by saying that I am a recent convert to the house of fungus. My parents can tell stories of stand-offs that began with mushrooms. Even my favorite Tuna Nuna Casserole would come under sudden scrutiny if I found a rogue piece of mushroom from the cream of mushroom soup. Stroganoff was a complete disaster - with visable mushrooms? Forget about it. And to be honest, it was rarely about the taste - and almost always about the gummy, chewy texture. When I went to a biology class and heard how mushrooms are part plant, part animal. They don't use chlorophyll like plants - they reach their roots out to seek food. That skeeved me out! I made a vow - no mushrooms.

The thing is... tastes change. And one day in college, a girlfriend made some stuffed mushrooms. The smell was intoxicating. I tried one. I loved them. And have not stopped. Mini bellas are my favorite - and I'm gradually branching out to more. This soup was a test in the varieties. If you like all sorts of mushrooms, this soup is a great way to experiment. If you want to play it safe, by all means edit the varieties. There's not much cream in this soup, so it's not so heavy. I served this with an egg, shredded chicken, sausage, or over orzo. You could use rice, diced potato, or quinoa. My favorite is a poached egg and a side of focaccia (not pictured). I also served it with just a dash of siracha to warm up my blood, and just a finish of our special Italian olive oil.

The bread (that we practically swallowed whole, hence no photo) is an easy bread that I've made before. I use my bread maker to combine and knead it, but then I let it rest, spread out, rise, and bake. It's spongey, and a great way to sop up this meaty tasting vegetarian soup. The original recipe calls for rosemary, which I omitted here because I thought it overpowered the soup.

When you're done here, be sure to check out the other Soup Week options!
Comfortably Domestic's Broccoli Cheddar Soup
The Girly Girl's Hearty Vegetable Mexican Soup
Hill Country Cook's 3 Bean & Spinach Soup

Munching in the Mitten's Garbage Soup
La Petite Pancake's Gnocchi & Pesto Soup

Country Cleaver's 40-clove Garlic Soup
Grier Mountain's Sunchoke Soup with Gorgonzola

The Grommom's Coconut Curry Soup
Bakeaholic Mama's Beef Bourguignon

Tenaciously Your's White Chicken Chili
Decadent Philistine's Arizona Mountain Soup

From My Sweetheart's Pink Prosecco Soup
 Inside NanaBread's Head's Shrimp Bisque

And now...  

Creamy Mushroom Soup!
From Smitten Kitchen

1 ounce dried mushrooms (porcini, morels, or shitakes)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary
4 sprigs of sage
1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 pound white button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 pound shitake mushrooms stemmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
6 cups chicken stock or water
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Soak the dry mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes, until they have reconstituted. Set aside.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Bundle the rosemary and sage together and tie with kitchen twine. When the oil is hot, add the herb bundle and sizzle for a few minutes on both sides to infuse the oil.
4. Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent but not brown.
5. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the white mushrooms and shitakes.
6. Cook for 10 minutes, during which the mushrooms will give off their liquid (which should evaporate quickly due to the high heat) and deflate significantly. Stir occasionally.
7. Add the chicken stock and the dried mushrooms along with the soaking water.
8. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the herbs, then add the cream and butter. Remove from heat, and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until completely smooth. You can also puree in a blender, working in batches. Keep at a very low simmer until ready to serve.

Adapted from Betty Crocker's Best Bread Machine Cookbook

3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups bread four
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons quick active yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt

1. Place all ingredients except for last 2 in the bread machine, in the order suggested by the manufacturer. 
2. Select Dough/Manual cycle.
3. When the signal beeps, remove the dough from the pan. Let it rest on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.
4. Grease a large cookie sheet. Pat the dough into a (roughly) 12-inch circle. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Using your fingertips, gently push on the dough to make depressions all over (like little craters). Drizzle the dough with the remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse salt to taste. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Colonoscopy ProTips

Welcome to TMI-town. If you have no interest in colonoscopy prep, then you can just move along. But if you, or someone you know, has the joy of an upcoming colonoscopy, then you should probably read this, share this, and forward on. But I'm keeping it real below - you've been warned.

I know that some people have had many more, but I've had 4 colonoscopies in 5 years. And in that time, I've learned a few tricks. Some people don't have any trouble (those people are rare) - if you don't, and don't want to get psyched out, then again - move along. Nothing to see here. Just a basket of puppies.

Are they gone? Good. Let me clarify - colonoscopies really aren't that bad. That's the secret. It's all the prep. The prep is just about the worst thing I would wish on a person I hate the most. It's also possible that I don't have really creative tortures and that I don't really wish ill will on many... But it's bad. Imagine if you have to eat a gallon (bucket?) of spicy chicken wings in just 2 hours. That itself may be hard (I know I have a little stomach), but include in that the abdominal discomfort, gas, and explosive, burning diarrhea that often accompanies too much spicy food. And there's less burn in this, except that you can't buy toilet paper soft enough to feel good at hour 4 of toilet time.

After a night of that, going into the hospital, stripping down, and getting a roto-rooter camera up your butt doesn't seem that bad because at least you'll get a good nap without being woken up by the sudden urge to fart (except you know it's not a fart. How there could be anything left, you won't know at 3 am - but you do know not to trust a fart after a gallon of laxatives so you get up anyways). It's a good sleep. And the fog you have when wake up is worth it, because you get at least one more poop-free nap when you get home. Unless you have trust issues. At which point you might want to wear Depends. Get over the shame - you were just roto-rootered.

This whole thing is prompted by the fact that colonoscopies seem to be a trendy way to end or start the year. And I've heard that a few people aren't feeling well, so I hope that this at least makes you smile a little bit. Below are some of my top tips from my most recent Plumbing Exam. I will preface this by saying that since I am not your physician, his/her advice definitely overrides mine. And also there are several different kinds of colonscopy prep, so obviously listen to your doc about yours.

(1) Practice chugging. If you were a good kid like me, you never learned the fine art of chugging in college. I didn't because of the timing of my Crohn's diagnosis. And also I didn't like beer (the feeling was mutual...). I've learned chugging through these exams, but the worst part of all the different kinds of prep is the sheer volume of liquid that you're required to consume in a relatively short period of time. I don't mind telling you that it's hard enough for me to drink my 8 glasses of water in a whole day, let alone a gallon in 2-4 hours. So in the days leading up to your exam, it won't hurt to practice pounding back a few glasses of water at a time. Bonus: pre-funk hydration is key.

(2) Find a method that works. This depends on your prep, but I've only ever had Golytely (or Trilytely - neither appropriately named). The basics of most of these preps is to assault your system with too much salt and it just expels ALL THE THINGS from your digestive track. Something about all of this salt in the mix that changes the texture of the water just a little. Ever accidentally swallow sea water? Not only is it straight up salty and gag-worthy, but it's a little... viscous. Just not right. Not right at all. After about the half-way mark, Golytely gives me THAT feeling. Now - keeping it chill really helps. But that also makes it harder to pound back (Salty Ice Cream Headache without the joy of ice cream and with all the pain and sorrow of salty tears). To miss the gag reflex, I used a straw for a few times. It works for some people. If you don't mind the smell of things, just chug-a-lug out of a regular glass. But my new favorite is out of little plastic water bottles. Easy to chug from without smelling, and I found little ones that were the perfect size for the 8 oz chug times.

(3) Don't drink between chugs. You will want to cleanse your mouth to remove the unholy terror that is Golytely. With something. Anything. But let me promise you - it just takes up valuable stomach space for the chugging. You will be hungry. You may not think that you could fill up on some salty exile fluid. But you can. And you will. And you will feel grosser than that one time you ordered a XL chili dog with super sized onion rings and a chocolate shake and regretted it immediately but strangely couldn't stop eating. Or that other time with the gravy. So. Much. Gravy. You'll feel like that. And even though there's no grease, just salt, it does weird grimy things. Speaking of grimy...

(4) You'll want a shower. You will be going to the bathroom. A lot. This is obvious. What you may or may not be familiar with is the urge to shower. Between the toilet frequency, gross bloaty feeling, and that weird sweating (has to be the salt, right?), you'll consider several showers over the night. But you'll have to time it carefully, because you'll need to use the restroom again. Proceed with caution.

(5) Buy some super gooshy toilet paper. The reasons should be obvious.

(6) Bring something to do. Whether sudoku, a book, solitaire, or your twitter feed... maybe movie streaming on your laptop? You'll be in and out so often, that you might as well just camp out. It sounds weird, until you're there. All shame leaves right around your 4th or 5th flush.

(7) Find a dye-free flavor that you like, but won't mind never drinking again. Most preps come with a flavor packet - lemon is common. After the second prep I realized that I needed a new flavor because I got some sort of pavlovian response to the lemon and would start gagging well before I started pooping. Once I was able to find a lemon-lime-cherry flavor without red dye (what?!? I know right!!). This time I found some peachy thing that was good. But you'll never want to drink that flavor again. Seriously. And be sure to read your prep directions carefully about your dye limitations.

(8) Don't. Trust. A Fart. Once you start drinking, all bets are off.

(9) Make jokes. The process sucks. It just does. But find people who laugh with you, keep you company, and keep you sane. It will take several hours, and it will take a lot of you. It gets better in the morning. But it's also easy to get really psyched out by the whole process. People who have been there will laugh at you. People who are grossed out by it might ignore you for a little while. Get over it - they will. It's just poop being forcibly expelled at rapid velocity and high frequency. Get over it.

(10) Remember: It will be over soon. As terrible as this evening is, it's just the one evening. And you will feel better in the morning. You will want to eat. You will stop sweating in weird ways. The bloating will go away. The world will keep turning. And you will return to normal bathroom visits.

To everyone undergoing checks this year (whether planned or due to illness), I wish you all the best of luck with quick and easy preps, and good news on all your labs. And keep smiling - because you're never alone in this.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter Cleaning

For some reason, this time of year makes me feel a little stuffy. I guess it's not really "some reason" - it's cold and rainy out, it's starting to get stuffy inside, and cleaning up from the holidays makes me want to keep on cleaning. We've already made 2 trips to the Salvation Army, and cleaned out a lot of other garbage (school papers for recycling, mostly). To top off feeling stuffy, I have been actually stuffy - a cold I've been fighting off and on since my post-Thanksgiving work trip (a challenge from the Crohn's medications, unfortunately). I think I'm finally on the up swing. I stayed on the couch for most of Saturday (didn't even get out of my pajamas - serious vegetable) and by Sunday I was ready for action. I ran (a little) and did a serious bit of laundry and organizing.

You may notice that no where in there did I mention cooking. I haven't been doing much of it. As I hit the worst part of my cold, the hubster has been doing a great job of helping me out by getting my soup (3 dinners in a row) and even cooked "real" dinner tonight (sometimes Kraft mac 'n cheese and Oscar Mayor hot dogs are okay).

Top the cold off with some of the winter blues and stuffiness, I feel almost suffocated by all the "stuff" around me. Which is why my energy has been more focused on cleaning than cooking. Not apologizing, just constantly seeking balance, and finding a place in my life to blog more.

I don't really do resolutions, per se, but I do have goals. It's not that I have anything against resolutions on principal, but I don't just set them at this time of year. I have little goals that start at my birthday, Jewish new year, and American new year. But writing them down is helpful.
  1. Run at least 500 miles. Training off of a healing ankle, I think this is a realistic goal.
  2. Find a place for blogging in my life. It's already in my heart, but I need to action it more. Twitter is not a blog.
2013 is looking to be a busy year, both professionally and personally, and (although cliche to say) I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully, maybe even busy for the blog.

I'll leave you with a photo from my European adventure this past fall. It's me, with my dad's Traveling Gnome. On my head. Because... I'm... classy like that?