Friday, May 25, 2012

Rice Guk

The Dutch don't really have their own cuisine. Pancakes, stamppot, pea soup, and cheese. And that? Is about it. So, instead of being satisfied with their bland, cheap, boring dishes, the Dutch invaded Indonesia, called in colonization and borrowed (stole?) their cuisine. Nasi Goreng, specifically, a rice dish of soy sauce, veggies, spices, etc.

Essentially, the most disgusting thing ever.

While in university, my dad made his own version of nasi goreng on a semi regular basis. Take a university student who had never cooked for himself before and combine it with an ever popular familiar dish and this is what you get:

Cooked rice.
Ground beef.
Frozen vegetables.
A generous amount of soy sauce.

He dubbed it rice guk.

Essentially, the most disgusting thing ever.

Somehow, this mess became a family staple. My siblings didn't get the memo that soy sauce, without something to balance the saltiness, is disgusting, and my cries of complaint seemed to be drowned out by everyone else's odd, inexplicable enjoyment. I think those cries of complaint meant my dad was pleasantly surprised when I tweeted a shot of my lunch to him yesterday.

This is rice guk, but it's a far cry from the rice guk I complained so much about as a child. This is a rice guk I can happily consume. This is a rice guk I will happily make again in variation after variation.

So. An apology is in order.

My dear parents: I am so sorry I complained so much on the evenings you put rice guk in front of me. I didn't know at the time that all those times I pouted over my plate would lay down a foundation of appreciation for a mix of rice and meat and veggies. I would never have even recognized a bowl of rice, meat, and veggies as a meal, probably.

That said, you guys should try this. You'll probably never go back to your soy-sauce-flavoured rice guk.

Rice Guk

1 cup brown rice, uncooked
1 lb ground chicken, beef, pork, etc.
1 packet fajita seasoning
1/4 cup water
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup marinara sauce 
1 cup leftover pineapple salsa (or 1/2 cup pineapple, chopped, and 1/2 cup salsa of your choice)

Super easy to make.

Cook up your rice. 

Meanwhile, brown your ground meat. Drain the fat and excess liquid. Add in the packet of fajita seasoning and the water. Throw in the veggies, the marinara sauce and the salsa. Add in whatever else may be floating around your fridge. 

To serve, scoop the meat and veggie mixture on top of your rice. One serving is about 1 cup with 1 cup of rice and has all sorts of good things in it for you.

Also, it's delicious. Like, really truly. In a completely non-soy-saucy way.

We've welcomed a second pup into our tiny home for the week. See why at This Dusty House

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pineapple and Cilantro Tilapia Tacos

Last weekend, after spending the day running, gardening, cleaning out the garage, and sorting through piles and boxes of mislaid things - why do we own so many things? - the Husband and I made a quick stop at Home Depot to drop off our old paint cans. I was exhausted, ready to go home and collapse as we climbed back in the car. 

"We're out of milk." The Husband said. "We could just pop into the grocery store really quick."

No. Please no. I hate grocery stores when I'm tired. But we were out of milk. And I was hungry. We were also out of ice cream.

"Ok." I said. "But let's not get anything else." But ice cream. And milk. Of course.

We whooshed through the automatic doors, scurried through the fruit and veggies section, pause briefly among the bread to determine that we did, in fact, have enough carbs to get us through. We turned to head toward the dairy aisle. My head must have turned to far because there, beside the fish counter, my eye was caught by one of those turning tower things they put books on. Except this one didn't have books on it. It has recipes. Little index-card-sized recipes. And at the top of the tower? A big sign labeled FREE
The Husband came to collect me 10 minutes later, ice cream, milk, and a box of freezies in hand. 

This recipe was one of those recipes. It's tasty. It helps if you like cilantro (the Husband does not. I most certainly do.) but if you don't, simply leave it out and you'll still enjoy it. I modified the original to become a taco and it was the perfect bit of tasty delight to finish off our Victoria Day weekend.

Pineapple and Cilantro Tilapia Tacos
From a Sobey's recipe card

For the salsa

1 cup pineapple, chopped
1/3 cup salsa (I used mild. If you don't have any, just chop up 1/3 cup of tomatoes.)
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp lemon juice

For the fish

1 tbsp olive oil
chili powder
garlic powder

For the taco

1 ancient grains soft tortilla or your favourite tortilla variety
2 leaves lettuce
A handful of green onions, sliced

Mix together the salsa ingredients. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium heat with some olive oil. Meanwhile, brush both sides of the fish with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with the chili powder and garlic powder and rub into the flesh if necessary. Place the tilapia in the hot pan and cook approximately 3 minutes on each side.

When the fish is finished, assemble your taco: lettuce, fish, a generous scoop or two of salsa, and the handful of green onions. Roll up, consume! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies

This weekend was a high energy weekend. There was an 8.5 km run in the beautiful weather along the Don Valley Trail. There was an hour or two of gardening, an hour or two of organizing the garage. There was a long walk to the dog park, and an hour or so of throwing the pup her ball.

And then, there was the hour or two of sitting with my feet up, a glass of wine in hand on the front porch, watching the world pass. I love our front porch. Perhaps I'm nosy, but I'll admit it: I like watching our neighbours, seeing what they've done with their front lawns these days, waving across the street in a distant moment of neighbourly connection. My front porch makes me feel a part of this place, this street. 

Sunday evening, I pulled out my mixing bowls, a few ingredients, a baking sheet and set to work. I've tracked down a few healthy cookie recipes for the week, something I can make up and pack for snacks, lunches, grab for breakfasts, quick things that are low in calories and high in nutrition. Things made with applesauce and bananas and no oils or added sugar.

I know. These don't look like they fit that description, right? A chocolatey oatmeal cookie? Turns out these are kind of deceptive. As the Husband chewed through his first, he looked at me with this almost hurt expression on his face. Where was the coat-the-mouth sweetness? The rich chocolate delight? They look promising, but the tastebuds tell another story.

Until you have a second one.

And then a third.

And your brain starts realigning its expectations and your stomach reconsiders its cravings and suddenly you're five cookies in, starting on the sixth and you realize that, really, these will do just fine, thank you very much.

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies

I didn't adapt these in the least. I didn't even change the somewhat silly name that grows on you in the same way these cookies grow on you. I mean, just say it a couple times: skinnychunkymonkeycookies skinnychunkymonkeycookies. Fun, yes?

For the recipe, go here!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Banada Bread Muffins

I've been so good the past two weeks, carefully eating healthy foods, allowing myself a treat or two, focusing on getting as much exercise as possible, feeling amazing. And I do; I really do feel great. Eating lots of fresh foods rich with nutrition has been good for me. Getting to the gym when I can and taking the dog for long walks when I can't has been amazing, strengthening.

On the other hand, I've been craving fresh baked goods. You know the kind: gooey chocolate cookies, warm out of the oven, fresh bread, still steaming as it's broken open, sticky cinnamon buns and soft, fresh croissants.

In other words, all that is buttery and rich and oh-so-bad-for-you.

I don't necessarily crave the foods themselves. In fact, if someone showed up at work with a stack of chocolate chip cookies, I believe I could keep it to just one or resist altogether. Rather, it's the act of baking, of creating, of measuring and mixing and finally pulling something delicious and perfect and to-die-for from the oven.

But I won't. Because as soon as I start by measuring out that first cup of flour, I'm doomed to eat the whole dozen.

Instead, on the weekend, I made these. Whole wheat, banana, applesauce, raisins. You know. Healthy. But also tasty! Definitely delicious, especially right out of the oven. They're moist, hearty, fresh. They likely won't cure a craving for chocolate and high volumes of sugar, but they definitely fit the bill for fresh baked goods. Especially warm, cut open and slathered with a little - or a lot of - butter.

Banana Bread Muffins (adapted from Allrecipes)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup raisins

Mix together the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Mix quickly until just combined, but don't over-mix or your muffins will be tough and chewy.

Fold in the raisins.

Spoon into a greased muffin tin and bake at 350* for 20 minutes. When finished, the tops will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the muffin will come out clean. Turn the muffins out onto a cooling rack or consume right away with as much butter as you wish.

Now, I'm on the hunt for more recipes like this, tasty ones that keep the fat content down and an eye on the sugar, that use whole wheat and grains instead of the white stuff. And maybe something with chocolate. Do you have any to share?