I don’t just eat to live, I live to eat.
~See Lemons Eat
Random Observation/Comment #366: I was going to make stuffed peppers, but my girlfriend doesn’t like to eat peppers, so I switched it to zucchinis. (This is where you say “awh”).
Recipe: Something stuffed – stuffed zucchinis
I’ve only ever made stuffed peppers and that’s with a rice pilaf for stuffing. This was another level of carving and fun. In this recipe, I decided to add a bit of diced red onions because I had some spare. I cut out the case of the sausages and used a spoon to dig out the seeds from the zucchini. Because I didn’t have mozzarella, I improvised by using Swiss cheese (the same I used for the Chicken Cordon Bleu).
- Make sure you have a big enough pan to fit your zucchinis. They take up a lot of space and you’ll want to make them all at once (instead of in batches).
- You definitely need to cover the pan with aluminum foil for the first 30 minutes so it slow-cooks the sausage.
- Make sure you use the right ratio of breading to sausage because it will change the texture of the filling immensely. Also use the Parmesan and mozzarella instead of the substitute cheeses. I think the salty-ness really brings out more flavors from the zucchini.
- Feel free to add other vegetables into your stuffing because it will only bring out the taste more. I really thought the red onions turned out excellent.
I never thought I’d have that much fun making an easy meal. The baking takes a bit more time and you may want to experiment with the seasoning, but this was overall very simple. Next time, I will definitely try to add a bit of cayenne pepper to bring out some flavors. I could also see myself making this the same method of making stuffed peppers. A bit of pilaf and some more cheese would be fantastic.
~See Lemons Eat Stuffed Zucchinis
Random Observation/Comment #365: The best hard-boiled eggs I had was in Bavaria by Schliersee. It was not only perfectly cooked, but probably laid that morning..
Recipe: Something small and easy – deviled eggs
This was made at 7AM and only took about 10 minutes. I had hard boiled the eggs the night before with the recommended Italian mother method. I placed the 8 eggs in cold water, put it on high heat covered, and then once at a rolling boil, did not lift the lid and directly took it off the water to sit for 13 minutes. This ensures that the eggs are perfectly cooked in texture. I was feeling extra experimental, so i decided to use that same wasabi mayo that I had used for the potato salad.
- You want to make the egg on the more hard boiled side, so maybe try 13-14 minutes off the stove for a better texture.
- The other reason behind making the eggs this way is that you don’t have the trouble of dropping them into the boiling water. When dropped, you may puncture the egg shell and make the egg boil into a weird rubbery texture.
- If you want to get fancy, you can make the filling in a plastic zip-lock bag and cut a hole at the end corner to squeeze the right portions in
- Use a bit of cayenne pepper sprinkled over everything at the end to make it look cooler and add a bit of spice to it
- Put it on a pretty plate because pretty plates make everything look better
- Do not make 4 of these in the morning because it means you’ll need to eat them all and that’s way too much cholesterol even for me.
Deviled eggs are so easy to make and really delicious as quick hors d’oeuvres if hosting a party. They’re also great for picnics and the recipe is easy to tweak for your own desired flavor.
~See Lemons Eat Deviled Eggs
Random Observation/Comment #364: True story: I was inspired to make potato salad this past early summer because someone made one that blew my mind. I’m still looking for it.
Recipe: Something picnic-y – make a potato salad
Potato salad is not that difficult to make. All I really did was cut ingredients, boil potatoes, throw them all into a big bowl, and mix with mayo. It also doesn’t require that much specific timing to make before serving. For example, if you made a steak, you’d want to cook it 10 minutes before someone arrives so it’s still hot and juicy. With potato salad, you can just make a whole bunch in advance.
- I used wasabi mayo instead of regular mayo because I wanted to be cool. This is initially a very bad idea because it stings your eyes worse than the onion you’re trying to cut into thin slivers. In order to cut the nostril cleansing taste, I put a bit of lemon juice and salt in there to adjust the flavor.
- I cut the potato slices slightly smaller than usual to cook faster, but I think I like bigger 1/8th chunks from the red potatoes.
- Because I needed to eat the last pickle before using the pickle jar, I forgot to add any pickles to the potato salad. I’ve made this recipe a few times in the past, and it does make a big difference without the pickle tartness.
Potato salad is a wonderful invention. It takes a few more ingredients than some meals and it’s mostly prep time, so it’s great to practice some knife skills. I think this is a nice spring and summer recipe to learn and there’s a lot of leeway to putting together the proportions. I also have a tendency to make way too much food.
~See Lemons Eat Potato Salad
Random Observation/Comment #363: I used to hate pickles, but the taste has grown on me. I guess my taste buds have adjusted to tart and sour tastes. It’s probably from all the beer I drink.
Recipe: Something fermented – make own pickles
These are refrigerated pickles, so I just used a pickle jar I already finished and filled it with my own brine and extra tastes. It was extremely experimental and I didn’t really follow any measurement tool. I’m just going to leave it in there and hope for the best.
- These cute little cucumbers from Trader Joe’s was such a great catch. I snatched them up the minute I saw them and I knew it would be a match made in heaven.
- You could also use a Chinese soup take-out quart to ferment the pickles instead of the glass jar – I don’t know what the effects of plastic are to the fermenting process or taste.
This is a rare case where I’m preparing this meal for a much later time, so I will need to come back and revisit this post because I have no idea how this turned out. To be honest, I don’t think I did a good job with this one because I wound up using Apple Cider Vinegar instead of the regular kind. I’m sure the extra sweet taste from the apple will do something to the whole recipe.
~See Lemons Eat Pickles
Random Observation/Comment #362: There’s something about peeling potatoes that makes me happy. It’s just a simple task that reminds me of spending the summers in Pennsylvania making mashed potatoes with my gravy master uncle. Still thinking about you, Goo Jerng…
Prepping will be a big part of this challenge. It’s important to optimize this process so the challenge doesn’t take up my entire life. Last year, my epic 30 day challenge was only possible because I had project managed every day and approached it with vigor and excitement.
In order to do the same with this challenge, I’ve thought about different variables I can control and prepared well beforehand. For example, a bulk of the writing (including this entry) is being written ahead of time so on the cooking days, I just need to worry about cooking, taking photos, and writing the observations.
The other variable that I’ve looked into is the shopping list for the week. With the exception of the meats (of which I will get fresh from the butcher on the way home from work), I think the vegetables and other ingredients can be purchased on a weekly basis. Using the “Shopping List” feature from AllRecipes, I have put together my shopping list for each week (given I follow the meals I want to cook per week).
Week 1: (pickles, deviled eggs, potato salad, stuffed zucchini, meatballs, oxtail soup, mac n cheese) – Bought at Trader Joe’s
- Cucumbers – $2.29
- Wasabi Mayo – $3.29
- Swiss Cheese – $2.65
Bowtie Pasta – $0.99
- Zucchini – $2.29
- 2 Lemons – $1
- Bag of Potatoes – $4.99
- 4 cloves of Garlic – $2
- 2 Red onions – $1.48
- Carton of eggs – $3
- Ground beef
- (already had)
- Olive Oil
- Bread crumbs
Week 2: (congee, sushi, naan, chicken tikka masala, pbj, ham and potato soup, chicken cordon bleu)
- Sushi rice
- Chicken drumsticks
- Loaf of bread
- Peanut butter
- Cream of Chicken can
- Chicken breast
- Red Wine
- Ziplock bags
- Corned Beef
- Avocados (buy ahead of time to ripen)
- Soft burrito shells
- Baked beans
- Tomato salsa
- Ahi tuna
Week 4: (brownies, ravioli, jap stir fry, mashed potatoes, lime chicken, baked ziti, omelet in a bag, curry cauliflower, ramen burger)
- Ziti patas
- Tomato sauce
- Lots of cheeses
- Curry paste
- Bell peppers
- Shitake mushrooms
- Beef patties
- Pickles (from before)
Receipts for each week’s purchases will be saved and the cost of all the ingredients for this 30 day challenge will also be analyzed at the end. The first week has already been filled out above (since I bought them already).
~See Lemons Prep and Ready to Cook
Random Observation/Comment #361: Cooking challenges are great because they’re win-win for both parties. I get to practice cooking and my friends get to eat what I cook. Time to make my friends fat and feel better about myself.
Q: What are you up to now, you crazy cat?
A: I’m working on a new cooking challenge where I make 30 different meals over the course of 30 days posting recipes, photos, and blog posts about each meal. I don’t expect to cook every single day, but I’ve organized it so I can have some lee-way for personal events. My girlfriend, who is interested in getting better at photography, has offered to photo-document my prep, cooking, and presentation journey.
Q: How did you organize your meals?
A: I used Allrecipe’s pro account to create menus for 4 weeks. This menu feature takes saved recipes and allows you to organize/plan your meals for the week. It also has a shopping list that summarizes the ingredients I’ll need to buy in the beginning of the week to cook all the recipes. I’ve noted these shopping lists and ordered the meals per week based on their shelf life. I chose meals that I enjoy cooking and would test different cuisines. Throughout a week, I test different cooking difficulties, times, styles, and tastes.
Q: What will you be making?
A: I’ve shared the full meal list in the approximate order I’m planning here: [http://allrecipes.com/cook/seelemonsonline/profile.aspx]. These cover meals throughout the day, appetizers, soups, healthy, fatty, interesting, and overall just fun things to cook. I’m going to most likely stray from this list, but here are all the categories I wanted to cover:
- Something fermented – make own pickles
- Something picnic-y – make a potato salad
- Something small and easy – deviled eggs
- Something stuffed – stuffed zucchinis
- Something with meatballs – meatball sub
- Something soupy – oxtail soup
- Something comfort foody – mac and cheese
- Something Chinese comfort foody – jook/congee
- Something with rolling – sushi rolls
- Something bready – Naan
- Something Indian – Chicken Tikka Masala
- Something childish – Grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Something new soupy – Ham and Potato soup
- Something baked and wrapped – Chicken Cordon Bleu
- Something boozy – Sangria
- Something brunchy – eggs benedict
- Something stewed – Guinness corned beef
- Something with dip – Guac and chips
- Something to use with extra guac – burritos
- Something decadent – Seared tuna steaks
- Something fun to make – Okonomiyaki
- Something sweet – brownie cupcakes
- Something made from scratch – homemade ravioli
- Something classic Japanese – Japanese stir fry
- Something new – Spicy garlic chicken
- Something Italian – Baked Ziti
- Something amazing – Garlic mashed potatoes
- Something weird/creative – omelet in a bag
- Something with curry – Curried cauliflower
- Something ridiculous – Ramen burger
It’s a lot of things to cook, but the fun part was really organizing the meals so they have most reuse of ingredients. Leftovers will probably be a good thing to bring to lunch the next day as well.
I’m also considering taking an ICE course for knife skills (because we can all improve on this), making pasta, and making sushi. Those may be nice replacements and a good change in pace.
Here’s an example of a standard format with making the French omelet.
Recipe: (link it) http://frenchfood.about.com/od/maindishes/r/basicomelet.htm
I didn’t have chives, so I didn’t add them (obviously). It’s all about the quick shaking technique to keep everything creamy.
- You need to be quick with moving the egg around when making French omelets. You don’t want the curds to stick too long or they will brown.
- I use a different salting technique. I add oil and salt to the pan first and then have the eggs cook over it.
- For fun, I use string cheese instead of grated cheese to place in the middle before folding it over onto a plate
- The center is slightly runny when I cook it because it will cook as it sits on the plate.
I love the French omelet because it’s easy to make and it can take on many variations. I’ve learned something from every experience cooking the omelet, and I hope each one I make is better than the last. Solid go-to breakfast and it will always be in my repertoire.
Also, this is why I love to cook: http://seelemonslive.com/2013/09/27/why-i-love-food-and-cooking/
~See Lemons Epic-ly Cook
Random Observation/Comment #359: Being open to eating new foods is a pre-requisite to be a bad idea bear. I think I just like to do things that keep me as bear-y as possible.
I posted a photo of duck feet the other day from Chinese dim sum, and someone asked me about how I eat it and what the details are about the food so if this particular weird food came up in their life, what they would expect. I think I did a fairly good job explaining it, so I decided to do this for a few other interesting foods that you may not know how to eat.
- Duck Feet braised with Sauce
- Cooking it: Braise in a vat of sauce overnight so that the skin/meat falls off the bone
- Order it: Go to any Chinese dim sum place in Chinatown or Flushing in NYC and they’ll have it.
- Eating it: Bite into the first two joint openings and use your tongue and front of your teeth to pick out the bone. The chopsticks are used to maneuver the feet around. After biting the first few digits, you can move into the base of the palm
- Weird part: Duck feet are mostly skin and the texture is slightly rough and slimy with all the sauce. It’s weird because it’s feet, but also weird because of the texture combination. If you don’t like eating fatty things, you definitely won’t like this.
- Chicken Feet Marinated in Pickled Peppers
- Cooking it: Boil chicken feet in salt and ginger water, and then transfer into cold boiled water with pickled pepper, ginger, and white wine vinegar. It’s served cold as an appetizer after marinating for 4 hours in the fridge.
- Order it: This can also be found at select Chinese dim sum restaurants in Chinatown or Flushing.
- Eating it: Because this is usually cold and not cooked at the same length as duck feet, it doesn’t fall off the bone as much. You can bite off the digits or go around it nibbling off the skin. The flavor of the vinegar and pickled coldness is very refreshing.
- Weird part: Again, you’re eating feet. It’s less slimy, but more vinegary and definitely an acquired taste.
- Shanghai Soup dumplings
- Cooking it: Most places put these gelatinous cubes of pig fat into the center of the dumplings and then steam it so the soup stays inside the dumpling.
- Order it: Every Shanghainese restaurant has this, but I prefer Shanghai Café in Chinatown off Mott St
- Eating it: Word of caution first, this stuff is usually made to order and the soup is scalding hot, so please be careful not to burn yourself. Pick up the soup dumpling gentling with chopsticks and put into your spoon. Bite a small hole on the side of the dumpling and drink some of the juices. Hold the dumpling with the chopsticks and use your spoon to get some black vinegar/ginger to pour into the opening you’ve just sucked juices from. Lastly, when cooled down, put the whole thing in your mouth and feel the awesome explosion.
- Weird part: This isn’t so much weird, but freaking awesome. I love soup dumplings and everyone should if they eat it correctly and don’t burn yourself. It’s a dumpling filled with soup – what’s not to like?
- Pig Feet/Knuckles
- Cooking it: The pigs feet are braised and cooked until tender for about 5 hours. Sometimes it’s made in vinegar and ginger, but I like it with a bit of bbq sauce and garlic.
- Order it: This is slightly harder to find, but I know a great place that has roasted pork knuckles on 48th and Lex called Onya
- Eating it: I like eating this with my hands and dipping it in the black vinegar. Sometimes it’s too messy and I’m forced to look like a hot mess. Sucking on toes.
- Weird part: You’re eating the fatty skin off the feet and sucking on toes. Maybe that’s just your thing. It’s totally my jam.
- Steamed fish head
- Cooking it: Clean the fish and get off the scales. Steam it in a wok for about 9 minutes (yes, with the head). Heat up some oil, green onion, ginger, and soy sauce and pour on top of fish.
- Order it: Ask my mom to cook it because it’s the best when she does it. I think most Chinese banquet restaurants will sell this clean way of steaming fish. Claim the head, if you’re the head of the table.
- Eating it: There are dishes where they only serve large fish heads. There are 3 parts that taste the best: 1) Cheeks – fish cheeks are the most tender and smooth. 2) Jaws – the Fish jaw is definitely bone-y, but really good for those who like to suck on the flavor. 3) Eyeballs – you don’t exactly eat them, but you take it out and suck out the juices. The pupil white ball in the middle is fun to chew on.
- Weird part: You’re eating a fish face. The cheeks have meat, but everything else is exactly how you imagine eating a face would be. There’s a lot of skin and licking involved.
- Century Eggs
- Cooking it: This is usually added at the end to congee.
- Order it: You can find this at any Chinese restaurant that sells congee. Ask for “pay daan” and you’ll get a few pieces mixed in there.
- Eating it: DO NOT EAT LIKE HARD BOILED EGGS. It’s hilarious for others to watch, but it’s way too thick and creamy to be eaten all at once. I only put half the egg into the congee bowl and bite small pieces at the time. The salty and thick yolk adds a lot of flavor to soup.
- Weird part: It’s a black egg that looks clearly rotten. The taste can be off-putting to some, but in the right doses, it’s very delicate.
- Lobster heads
- Cooking it: After cleaning and killing the lobster humanely, steam it or throw it into a hot boiling pot for 12 minutes.
- Order it: I don’t think I’ve seen lobster heads served whole in American restaurants. Chinese restaurants usually chop it up and do a stir fry with it, so I would rather make this myself.
- Eating it: Peel off the claws with a twist. Hold the tail and abdomen to crack off the tail. Now open the head part and eat all that amazing green stuff. That’s the blood and liver (tomalley) and it’s really creamy. Do not eat the brain sack near its eyes. That’s filled with sand and gross. Everything else is game.
- Weird part: I think this is perfectly normal. It’s high in cholesterol and the texture is very creamy. I personally love the taste because it tastes like the essence of seafood.
- Crab heads
- Cooking it: I kill the crab by grabbing its legs in one hand and lifting the bottom part of the shell with my thumb. The whole head piece just pushes out and the crab dies instantly. I prepare this steamed with XO sauce and some spicy peppers over flat noodles. The juices from the crab head add to the flavor of the noodles.
- Order it: Some Chinese restaurants prepare it this way, but my mom does it best.
- Eating it: Take the head and turn it upside down. Add some red vinegar and some of the flat noodles into the head and use it as a bowl. Get all those extra meat pieces on the inside of the side.
- Weird part: You’re using a crab head as a bowl and enjoying all the juices from its cooked blood. Just another day.
- Raw Octopus
- Cooking it: Well… it’s not exactly cooked. It’s just chopped into small pieces 30 seconds before serving and placed on a plate with some hot sauce.
- Order it: I order this at a Korean restaurant in Flushing called Sik Gaek Chun Ha
- Eating it: Pick it up any way you can and put it in your mouth. The suctions will be lively and it will not want to be eaten. There’s really not that much flavor, so dip it in the hot sauce if you’d like. You’ll need to upgrade your chopstick level to grab some of this stuff.
- Weird part: It’s still moving on the plate, on the chopstick, and in your mouth.
- Cooking it: Prepared by amazing Japanese chefs cut with decades of experience and made perfectly.
- Order it: You can get it a lot of places, but if you’re really looking for a good time, go to 15 East for the tasting menu.
- Eating it: Some people at this wrong, which is why I added it to the list. You’re supposed to use your hands for sushi. Hold with thumb and middle finger on the sides and the pointer finger on the fish. When dipping in soy sauce, flip the sushi over and only lightly dip the fish part (careful to not get the rice wet). Tip your head back 30 degrees and put it all in your mouth in one bite.
- Weird part: It’s raw fish? Which means it’s awesome.
- Hakarl (fermented shark from Iceland)
- Cooking it: It’s fermented shark that’s hung around in a room with other fermented sharks for 4-5 months
- Order it: Somewhere in Iceland. Those weirdos.
- Eating it: It’s on a toothpick and eaten as a drinking snack. Close out all senses and try not to think about rotting fish.
- Weird part: It smells like ammonia and tastes not too far off. It’s said to be an “acquired taste”.
People ask me: “Why do you like to eat such weird foods? Isn’t it gross/slimy/icky?”
Answer: I like being pleasantly surprised when it tastes good and I’m always on the edge of my seat trying new things and straying from routine.
~See Lemons Eat Weird Foods
Random Observation/Comment #356: “I don’t mind cooking, it’s just the cleaning afterwards.” ~Everyone who’s too lazy to cook. A clean kitchen is a productive one and every chef must at some point first be a cleaner.
It must have started at an early age, my love of food. How else could one explain my chubster qualities up until my high school growth spurt? It wasn’t that I ate junk food and didn’t exercise; It was because my Mom is the most amazing cook and I ate a bit more of everyone else’s share (plus, I didn’t like to exercise).
I was raised as a good Chinese boy: One who finished everything on his plate and asked for seconds. It kept my mouth shut to not say anything disrespectful, and it kept my smiles wide as my aunts and uncles all praised me for being so good eating all their meals. This was probably some of the highlights of my childhood – my little legs dangled off the chair while my face licked the gravy off the third plate of mashed potatoes.
And what has this childhood created?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t obesity or diabetes. My metabolism has been very kind to me and the regular exercise routine (from table tennis at Spin mainly) probably helps a little bit. I’ve come to appreciate food in many ways. I review restaurants, take part in foodtography, study food as a hobby, and love to cook. I admire chefs who are able to transform cuisines into an art, dishes into a work of art, and the meal into a journey.
When one has a master cook like my mother, it would be silly for me not to appreciate such an art. At first, I think my mother kept my brother and I away from the kitchen so her job couldn’t be replaced (or we wouldn’t try to be professional chefs). As years passed, however, I think she realized that the American modern stance for male cooks is that their value as a husband increases by multiples (seriously, knowing how to cook is a leg up in the dating game). From that realization forward, my relationship with my mother and family has been emphasized by food discussions and sharing recipes. Similar to the reason behind my favorite beer, it’s really this relationship with my mother that has fortified my love for cooking.
I don’t think cooking is a personal achievement that should be compared in a competitive manner. Perhaps great chefs compete for such an honor, but the act of cooking is much simpler. I think cooking is about sharing the tastes and creations from the heart and soul. True cooking, I see now, formulates with family and love. The delicate meal prepared by my mother and aunts are done so because they know it will be the strong bond between all families. Cooking and eating becomes the ritual that stays sacredly tied to life and happiness. For me, it’s that reaction when someone tastes your meal and the smile of satisfaction when there are no leftovers (or people complain they’re too full to move).
I will never be a better cook than my mother, but I know she appreciates it when I try. I know she sees I’m cooking for the same reason she has every night all these years – it is a gift of sustenance to the ones you love. Whether someone else seems grateful or not, Mom, know that I will always love your gift.
~See Lemons Love Cooking
Random Observation/Comment #332: “…it borders ice cream and can be drank as a meal in most occasions…” ~This article a little bit further down
I remember my very first beer with my Father like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 2002. I had been helping my Father do some gardening in the backyard for the day, and all I could think about was going back into my bedroom to play Counter Strike on the new cable modem. (We had just gotten off of DSL and my ping was 15 compared to 200+). Anyway, when I was excused of my duties, I ran to take one of my famous 5 minute showers so I could maybe get a few games in before dinner. I’d get to kick my brother off the computer because I had done all the chores for my personal computer-time.
When I got out of the shower, my Father greeted me with a smile and something unexpected. In his left hand was a glass of dark brown liquid mixing like a cloud of hot cocoa after it’s been swirled into a tornado. more »
Random Observation/Comment #325: Did I mention I love mashed potatoes?
As a man that does not just eat to live, but lives to eat, I find writing this post slightly hypocritical because I don’t exactly follow all of these rules. In fact, I would rather ingest more calories and spend a bit more time working out just because food tastes so good to me. Alas, I do feel the need to share some tips and tricks: more »