Octopuscarwash's Gourmet Adventures

I live to eat. Yes, I am an Asian Jew. My favorite meal is breakfast (oatmeal in particular). I'm only in high school, so I am a complete amateur. Some of my favorite cuisines are Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Japanese and Korean. I eat so much Chinese food that it's hard to say whether I like it or not... all I know is that I don't like what most of America seems to think of as Chinese food, Panda Express. I'm a pescetarian and love coming up with my own healthy fusion food.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Off to New York!

Just thought I'd blog last night and this morning before heading off! I'll be gone till the 2nd, and hopefully eat some awesome food, see Equus (!!!!), hang out with relatives, see museums, and shop, of course.
My cousins came for lunch and we took them for dim sum at Ed's Potstickers, which has a different name now, but I don't remember what it is. Either way, it's probably the only Northern Chinese restaurant in Chicago, and is pretty authentic. We're regulars here, which is a nice feeling.
WE ORDERED SO MUCH FOOD! Most of it was meat, so fortunately, I didn't end up eating TOO much.
For the meat eaters we ordered:
Ed's famous potstickers, which are rolled up in a cigar shape
Shrimp dumplings-- I originally ordered these for myself, took a bite of one and realized that it was mainly pork. Didn't swallow it or anything, but a year or two ago I would have been really upset. Luckily, I'm not as fragile about that right now.

Wonton soup

Stir-fried lamb from Xinjiang province (Muslim region that uses cumin and eats flatbread)
Some kind of pork dish that turned out to be at room temperature
Scallion pancakes with sliced pork in the center
Shao bing, sesame bread, with more meat in the center

What I ate:
(or drank)-- fresh soymilk, which only my dad and I appreciate. It's so light and refreshing!
My favorite dish was a classic peasant dish of cornbread and fried fish. The fish weren't fried as in breaded-- they were just crispy, savory and delicious-- also probably the cheapest kind of fish you can get. I love the cornbread because the only ingredient is corn-- this is very, very authentic.

The weirdest tofu soup ever, but I loved it. The broth was cloudy and tasted a bit like soy milk, but also had undertones of sesame. It had little strips of fried tofu that soaked up the soup. Of course, it also had cilantro.
Vegetarian potstickers-- I'm not really a big fan of potstickers, esp. not vegetarian ones. I tried part of one, and it just had cabbage, carrots, and I don't know what else. I'd rather have the real thing.
Stir-fried sweet and sour cabbage with peppers-- this isn't really sweet and sour like Panda Express makes it. It's just full of vinegar and not too much cornstarch. The vegetables are crunchy and tangy, and I couldn't rave about this dish enough. I order it all the time in Beijing.

Last but not least, vegetarian shaobing (the sesame bread, remember?). Not bad considering you can't really get them in the U.S., but they were a little on the bland side, and not hot enough. Of course, I doubt they were made fresh, so I shouldn't complain.

All in all, I definitely recommend this restaurant, ESPECIALLY if you're a pork fanatic.

Last night I didn't end up going to that birthday party. Instead I went to a family gathering of my friend's-- the same one I hung out with on Wednesday. They're relatively religious (Jewish), so it was kind of like a big Shabbat dinner! They eat vegetarian (plus fish) like me, so the food spread was absolutely ideal. I was in heaven!!!!

There was challah (not homemade, but apparently it usually is!), and then the food appeared. Seriously, this spread had ALL of my favorite foods. Here's what there was:
Baked salmon wrapped in tinfoil
Brussel sprouts
A kind of not-quite kugel-- it was called a baked latke
Homemade apple sauce and sour cream
2 salads: one with chickpeas (dried and soaked, not canned) and those other big white beans, mushrooms, greens, sweet peas, and cherry tomatoes, the other with pears, avocado, and pecans.
I only had half a piece of salmon... I would have gone back for seconds, but nobody else did, so I just hung out. However, when I got home I was pretty hungry and had yogurt, grapenuts, and berries.
I definitely ate more than what was pictured.

Last night I was woken up at 4 by the LOUDEST thunder and BRIGHTEST lightning ever. I love thunderstorms, and just lay there listening to the sounds, but it did make me kind of tired. I was thinking of working out before we left for the airport, but decided against it-- I was really sleepy and there wasn't that much time, since our flight leaves at 11.
For breakfast, I had a really filling bowl of oatmeal... I accidentally dumped in half the bottle of vanilla and had to pour it off, but let's not talk about that.
1/3 cup oats, a little more than 1/2 a banana, 1/3 cup vanilla hemp milk, 1/3 cup water, applesauce, part of a crumbled oatmeal raisin cookie, a spoon of Greek yogurt, and peanut butter (plus spices and wheat germ).
Man, was this filling. Maybe it was that little bit of protein from the yogurt that did it?

Anyways, we have to leave soon and I have to finish packing my carry on. Hopefully I'll keep blogging in NY, but if not, I'll do one of those summary posts where I list the highlights.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

I celebrated Christmas!! .... sort of

Yesterday was super exciting because for once in my life, I celebrated Christmas... in the sense that I went to a Christmas dinner hosted by the same neighbors we had over two nights ago. What nice people... their relatives and family friends were there and I ended up having a great time.
HOWEVER... It was a very weird day food-wise. I'm not used to eating at irregular intervals, and I think all that really wreaked havoc on my sensitive-ish stomach. I was supposed to head over to my neighbors' around 3:00 and we would be eating at 4:00 ish even though it was dinner (apparently a lot of people do this on Christmas). Therefore, I didn't want to eat lunch. But I was also really tired when I woke up and didn't feel like working out, so I ate a light breakfast.
I had 2/3 of a cup of GoLean Crunch, 1/3 of a cup cinnamon Puffins, soy milk, a sliced banana, some blackberries and blueberries, and a sprinkle of almonds and pecans. I also had a blood orange.
A while after breakfast my parents and I decided to go on a very long walk in Jackson Park, where there's a little Japanese garden. Everything was COVERED with snow and caked in ice... I stupidly forgot my camera, but my mom took some photos that I'll post later. It was a strange feeling, not actually knowing where we were, since everything looked homogeneous. We actually walked for a long time, and my toes were getting numb by the end. The sound your shoes make when they crush the slightly hardened snow is even more satisfying than cracking the top of the creme brulee (yes, I know that's in Amelie). Anyways, we walked for a good 45 minutes, or maybe even an hour. We were nice and flushed when we got back.
This was a perfect opportunity for hot chocolate if there ever was one. I love making hot chocolate in big batches because you can use more and feel like you're not the only one drinking it :)
I used the special Spanish hot chocolate from Zingerman's that my mom got me for my birthday last year. Here are our Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear mugs (the only difference is that I have a bigger mug than my mom).
Along with my hot chocolate I had a tiny little gingerbread cookie that I made... verdict: it was actually delicious! I suppose this was my lunch.

Meanwhile, my parents made what looked like the most wonderful lunch: a sort of zhou (rice porridge) of leftover chicken and vegetables. Think chicken soup and rice. I seriously have never wanted to have a meat dish so much... and I don't think there's anything that should hold me back. I didn't want to eat the actual chicken, just the broth, and God knows how many times I've probably had chicken broth accidentally. Yes, I know it's not the same, but maybe my body was trying to tell me something... If I hadn't been saving my appetite for dinner, I really might have had some. I just don't like always having a label: "vegetarian," "pescetarian," whatever. How about just eating according to my preferences, which usually favor vegetables over meat?

At my neighbors', they had a spread of cheese, crackers, and various dips. The photos didn't come out well, but I had one cracker and a few tastes of dips: artichoke, roasted vegetable, cheddar horseradish, and a little cranberry goat cheese.
The table was so nicely set: even a little place card for me!

"Dinner": pork tenderloin, lasagna, asparagus, and coleslaw.

The difference between this lasagna and the one they brought over to our place was like night and day. This one was melty and not too chewy.

I didn't have seconds because this lasagna is probably 2 parts cheese to 1 part noodles and sauce. I could feel my stomach churning a little. I'm not lactose intolerant or anything, but when ever I eat a lot of cheese, which is rare, I can feel it.
Because of this, I decided to pass on dessert, even though I hadn't eaten that much by my standards.
For dessert, there was homemade mandelbrot (half the people there were Jewish, despite the pork tenderloin), some kind of toffee, cookies, and vanilla cake.
When I got home around 7:20, it was almost time to leave for our movie, Slumdog Millionaire. I was a little hungry but my stomach felt weird, so I just had some applesauce.

The movie was amazing, but a bit of a shock. My parents thought it was a comedy, and it turned out to be super violent, disturbing, and depressing. I was sobbing by the end and that rarely happens.. BUT, I seriously recommend it.
We got home after 11, and I was starving. I rarely eat so late at night, but my schedule was so out of wack yesterday that I had a very strange "dinner": a piece of toast with 1 scrambled egg, 2 pieces of smoked salmon, some leftover squash, and a blob of hummus.
Plus a tangerine.

This morning I woke up and forced myself downstairs to the weight room. I was really sick of the elliptical, so I ran 3 miles on the treadmill and then cooled down, so about 3.4 miles total. I really hate the treadmill, but you can get more of a workout in a shorter amount of time. I was also sweating way more than I usually do on the elliptical. I should probably ice my knee, though.
Breakfast was really more like dessert. Seems like other bloggers are "recovering" from the holiday season, but I never really ate any dessert during the season to begin with, so why not use up some of those delicious cookies?
Today's oatmeal was (partly inspired by Kath):
1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup soy milk, 1/3 cup water, 1 small banana, cinnamon, vanilla. Toppings: a sprinkle of gingerbread, peanut brittle, toffee, and a mandelbrot. PLUS: my new chocolate banana peanut butter!

This was very, VERY sweet. I ended up ignoring the peanut brittle because it was too chewy. The toffee basically melted in, so I didn't have to chew it. The peanut butter wasn't too strong-tasting, but the banana chocolate flavor was definitely there.
I also had a glass of milk and a tangerine.
Today's agenda (feels REALLY weird to be blogging in the morning, but I might start to): cousins and aunt coming for lunch, then tonight we're going to an awesome colleague of my parents' birthday! She's a total foodie, has a black belt in karate, and is from Malaysia.
Happy day-after Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For once, I'm celebrating the holidays!

This year Christmas Eve and the days building up to it have actually felt festive, which says a lot, considering we don't celebrate Christmas. Hanukkah has been pretty low-key... and the weather has been awful. Yesterday, I didn't go out of the house ONCE! I had no reason to...
Got up and did a yoga routine (about 30 minutes)-- surprisingly, it was enough to get me to sweat and my heart rate up! Not the same as a "real" workout, but definitely something.
Breakfast: repeat of blackberry cardamom cashew oats.
After breakfast, I decided to bake cookies for neighbors. I made oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies (these were actually semi-healthy because I used some canola oil and white whole wheat flour) and gingerbread cookies! I wanted to make gingerbread men, but I didn't have the cookie cutters, so I ended up with leaves... and no frosting because it's gross and unnecessary.
Because I didn't go out, lunch was VERY light. I started with a bowl of beet soup with a few spoonfuls of brown rice to thicken it, plus some Kashi crackers.

I soon realized that this wasn't enough, so I got some carrots and celery and hummus.
Afterwards I debated having a cookie, but to be honest, I was feeling kind of down on myself-- I hadn't gone outside or even walked around, and I felt like I kind of "didn't deserve it," which is probably ridiculous. I had a pear instead.
For some reason, I was STARVING around 4:45! I had cottage cheese and a sprinkle of grapenuts and GoLean Crunch. I started with 1/2 cup, which is a serving, but it just wasn't enough...
Dinner was Chinese-- scrambled eggs and tomatoes and a very strange dish of bok choy, tree ears, tofu, and cucumbers, of all things. It was very monastic-- I think it would have been better if the cucumbers had been cooked longer so that they resembled zucchini.

TODAY WAS PRODUCTIVE. It flew by so quickly, and I was hardly in the house at all! I got up at a decent hour to do some interval training on the elliptical. I was feeling fine while I was working out, but afterwards my knee started hurting AGAIN! I wonder what it is... it feels more like shin splints, but the elliptical is supposed to be low impact!
Anyways, for breakfast I made one of the best bowls of oatmeal EVER. I used 1/3 a cup of oats for the base, since the toppings are pretty decadent. I used a whole small banana, 1/3 cup vanilla hemp milk, 1/3 cup water, and later, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. On top, I crumbled most of a small oatmeal raisin cookie and had a spoon of peanut butter. Because you can't have cookies without milk, I had a glass of milk on the side. This was so good, I can't even describe it. I think it was the combination of textures, plus the few melty chocolate chips. YUM.

After breakfast, my mom and I headed out for some errands-- we set up some last minute dinner plans with neighbors and had to go grocery shopping. One of the stops we made was at that same Zalenski and Horvath, the gourmet foods store. I picked up a little present for one of my friends, AND one for myself, as well as an awesome fish and seafood cookbook.
CHECK THIS OUT, PEANUT BUTTER FANS. For my friend (they let me taste a little bit-- I basically licked it, knowing how many calories could potentially be in that sample) I got CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH PEANUT BUTTER! I realize that sounds disgusting (or wonderful, depending on who you are), but I assure you, it was fabulous. For myself, I bought chocolate banana peanut butter... we'll see how this goes. I also plan on buying some Peanut Butter and Co peanut butter when I go to NY... I realize they sell it at Whole Foods, but I want to go to the actual store.

By the time we got back from all the errands, it was nearly 2:00! I made myself a strange but nice lunch... talk about fusion! Basically, I was trying to use up leftovers.
There were leftover canned tomatoes in the fridge, so I heated them with marjoram, thyme and white wine, then added brown rice and later on, arugula, which wilted. At the last minute, I crumbled in some feta and on top, I had the VERY last of the tempeh mole. An interesting combination of flavors...
I also had carrots, celery and hummus (sorry for the blurry photo).
And a pear

I didn't have much time after lunch, since I was due at a friend's, but I made a quick squash dish for dinner that night-- basically just baked squash (I used one mini pumpkin and one crazy-looking squash called a Carnival squash) drizzled with a combination of olive oil, maple syrup, and smoked paprika.
I went to my friend's and had a great time. First, we had some hot chocolate-- this was super decadent because she used a combination of whole and 2%. Therefore, I only had half a mug. It was plenty (these photos came out TERRIBLY).

We celebrated Hanukkah (so I lit the candles twice tonight!) and her mom let me try a bite of her sweet potato latkes! They were eggy and more moist than my mom's-- apparently this is because she used some mashed sweet potato to give them body. I didn't want to spoil my appetite, so I only had a bite.

Dinner-- It's so fun having neighbors over! They're Jewish (partly) too, so it felt nice having something to do on Christmas Eve when everybody else is busy.
To start with, we had... more latkes! Once again, with homemade applesauce and this time, some sour cream. I decided to pass on the latke encore.

My parents made roast chicken and stir-fried asparagus, which we had along with my squash and a vegetarian lasagna that they brought.

My neighbor kept insisting that the lasagna was overdone, and it was a little dry, but it had a fantastic souffle-like top that ballooned out of the cast iron skillet-- apparently it had a lot of eggs in it. Very rich... it was strange, though... by the time I had finished eating, I realized that I wanted the chicken. I've been waiting for a time when I actually wanted to eat meat, and I did tonight. I regret not going with it, a bit. I just don't know when to start!
First helpings (my squash was delicious, if I do say so myself)


Dessert: basically a conglomeration of cookies-- my cookies, sugar cookies and peanut brittle from one neighbor, and a gingerbread fruitcake-ish thing from another neighbor. I was pretty full and decided on a tangerine.

There's a possibility that we'll go back to these neighbor's for Christmas dinner (or lunch? at 4:00) tomorrow... we'll see. It would be nice to have some plans.
Happy holidays!

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