Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Garlic and Herb Infused Olive Oil

This is the first of my flavoured olive oil series. Flavoured olive oils are usually pretty expensive. Why not make your own? You can create your own unique flavours.  This versatile oil also simplifies cooking and shortens cooking time in the future.  You can drizzle on any food before you roast it, emulsify it in soups, drizzle it on cooked vegetable, or use it as a salad dressing.

You can make as much or as little as you want.  Once it cools down, it can be stored in room temperature, covered or in a squeeze bottle.

1 litter medium or low grade olive oil
8 cloves garlic
1 spring thyme
1 spring rosemarry

1. Place all ingredients in a pan or pot on the lowest heat possible
2. Heat for at least 20 minutes, never let the herbs or the garlic brown.
3. Strain in a sieve and let it cool.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Poultry Nesting Doll Project: Step 3

This method of deboning is specifically for keeping the duck in one whole piece.

In this case, it was done for Poultry Nesting Dolls Project. Spencer from Market Meat deboned this duck in 12 minutes. iMovie was a little wonky and I can't seems to remove some of the background sounds... very sorry about that.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trainer's Tip from Christina

Hopefully I have piqued some interest with my last blog post and have gotten some thinking about the primal lifestyle. It focuses on eating whole, natural foods (lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds), getting lots of quality sleep and training smart.

I have personally seen great results on many different levels. Huge gains in terms of body composition and training performance, as well as improved digestion and reduced sugar cravings.

Being a busy Personal Trainer, I tend to have a few set "go-to" recipes; stewed tomatoes, peppers with extra lean ground beef or chicken breast stir-fried with almond butter, spinach, onion and carrots.
Lately, I have been tapping my creative powers and having a lot of fun experimenting with different recipes to keep "paleo" eating interesting.

My favorite thus far has been my hybrid of a Double Down and Australian style hamburger. The Double Down is a KFC creation that sandwiches two chicken fillets around bacon, cheese and special sauce, sans bun. An Australian burger is a beef patty topped with sliced beets, fried egg, cheese, bacon and pineapple ring. Right now you are probably grossed out or confused. How could something inspired by these two things be healthy and delicious?
Allow me to educate.

I made two thin patties using extra lean ground beef, olive oil, onions and garlic. I grilled these and stacked on sliced beets, spinach, tomato, pineapple and a fried egg. On the side, I had a mixed salad with spinach, carrots and peppers to get some more foliage. It was amazingly satisfying meal packed with lean protein and vegetables.

All in all, the Primal Aussie Double Down was a fantastic success and will be added to my paleo menu, especially when I have company to impress! Get creative in the kitchen and see what delicious primal meals you can create.

For information regarding personal training services in Vancouver, please contact Christina Longo at longoc@live.com or 778 846 4185

Friday, November 26, 2010

Update: Dinesty

Dinesty has kindly informed me that they are no longer a "Cash-Only" business.  They now accept both debit and credit card.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gyundon Ya

Need something warm and comforting (but really fast and cheap!) for lunch? Look no further than your friendly neighbour Gyundon Ya. Well, they only have one store now at the busy corner of Robson and Richards, but I expect this successful 'fast food' joint will soon spread to other commercial areas and cafeterias around Vancouver.

Chicken with combo
Gyundon means sweet-shoyu marinated beef on rice.  Gyundon Ya serves exactly that, delicious protein (beef, short ribs, or chicken) with teriyaki-like sauce on rice with sides of miso soup and salad.  This little 'restaurant' has two rows of bars with stool, seating no more than 20 people.  Two to three Japanese waitress with identical squeakily voice and overly feminism demure.  It feels like Tokyo!

Beef with combo
For 5-8 dollars, Gyundon Ya offers well-portioned, nutritious, and well-balanced lunch for busy Vancouverites on breaks.  I have tried everything on the menu, and my favourites are actually the short ribs and  then the chicken.  Unlike other Japanese restaurants, their miso soup is not overly salt or grainy.  Warm and delicious - perfect for this cold weather.

If you happen to be in the area, definitely check it out.  It's unlikely you will find a delicious, well- balanced meal for $5 dollars anywhere else in Downtown.

Btw, they serve coke in the vintage glass bottle.

Gyudon Ya on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lady Gaga's Real-Meat Dress

Every year at VMA, Lady Gaga does or wears something totally crazy.  This one is pretty phenomenal. Real meat sawn together with meat tendons, not strings.  Even the shoes is made of meat and animal bone. (The shoes looked pretty good if it wasn't made of meat).

My questions are:
1. HOW did they saw the dress together?
2. How did it smell? Were there maggots?
3. What animal did she use?
4. Is there a layer of something sanitary between her skin and her outfit?

Maybe her designed was inspired by this monster Turducken Good way to get publicity too though.  Even the foodies are blogging about her now.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Taiwan 2010: Tea

While China provides a more diverse and larger quantity of tea, Taiwan has a much higher regulation, specialization, and technology for tea viticulture. The differences in quality are night and day. Although Taiwan has only been cultivating tea since mid 19th century, the industry has grown rapidly with its economy and consumer demand.  Now, Taiwan is known for its tea like French with wine. Japan is the only country that produce even higher quality tea, but the terroir is completely different.

Bubble tea is second from the right
With better regulation and quality control, consumers do not have to worry about issues such as residual pesticide and impurity on the tea leaves.  Also, it is less likely that buyers would be scammed or cheated at the retail level.

The most famous Taiwanese tea is the Oolong, grown high in the mountain.  Teas are harvested 2-3 times a year depending on the weather. Taiwan's climate varies drastically from year to year, quality of tea may differ from season to season, and good vintages are highly sought after. Although Taiwan is small, it is geographically varied, like Italy, with high, steep mountains rising quickly from low-lying coastal plains. The terroir result in differences in appearance, aroma and flavour of the tea grown around Taiwan. Premium teas have been cultivated at ever higher elevations to produce a unique sweet taste that fetches ever higher price.

Instead of sugary pop drinks often associated with diabetic epidemics in North America, Taiwanese convenience store refrigerators are filled with variations of tea based drinks in bottles, cans, and tetra packs.  Dennis's favourite is the organic rose tea 90cal per liter, cane sugar free, for $2.

Bubble Tea
Bubble Tea is sweetened tea based drink with small tapioca balls. It is invented in Taichung Taiwan - by a small tea shop on the same block as my childhood apartment building.  Lots of other Asians have attempted claiming their country have invented it, mainly South Korea and China.  Sorry dudes, I have the first hand account dating back to 1980s. I am pretty sure a significant percentage of my body is made out of bubble tea. That small tea shop is now a huge tea house chain around Taiwan and China, like Starbucks.

However, there are a lot of super refined sugar in the tea and as well as in the tapioca balls. Acquiring a taste for sugar, the popularity of this drink is beginning to be associated with health problems in the younger generation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Poultry Nesting Dolls Project: Step 2

Step 1: Brining

This deboning method is specifically for keeping the chicken in one piece. This is done for the Poultry Nesting Doll Project. Spencer from Market Meat deboned this entire chicken within 11 minutes.

I am beginning to love Youtubing. It's an exhilarating experience.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why “Cash Only”?

Authentic Chinese restaurants around Vancouver often only accept cash, which would seem like an economically unsound practice in our credit-card-centric world. This is such a prevalent practice in Vancouver that I would often judge the authenticity of an unfamiliar Chinese restaurant its “cash-only” sign. (Well, also the “No-MSG” sign would indicate an inauthentic Chinese restaurant)

So why would these restaurants go out of the way to inconvenience their customers? Why does it seem like a common practice amongst authentic Chinese restaurants?

The Cuisine
Unlike Western cuisine where chefs are encouraged to create new and beautiful dishes, Chinese cuisine is rather rigid, and each dish has an idealistic and specific taste and texture. Customers expect the same Kong Bao Chicken from restaurant to restaurant. If one restaurant prepares the dishes better and closer to the expected ideal, the customers will go to that restaurant next time. With an universal and standard taste for the cuisine, it also becomes easy to determine which restaurants have the better value. In addition, unaware or unappreciative of Vancouver’s tipping culture, Chinese customers usually do not tip or tip very poorly.

As a result, Chinese restaurants have to compete with each other like fast food burger joints. They have a very small profit margin compares to Western restaurants, and they must find creative ways to cut cost.

Transaction Costs
The highest are credit cards, which charge vendors a couple percentage for using it. Debit machines also charge a fixed amount each month and as well as per transaction.

Tax 'Benefits'
One of the benefit of cash transaction is that restaurants do not necessarily have to declare this income. It is dishonest and illegal, but there are no paper trail. Restaurants not only can lie about the income, but also pocket the sales tax they charge their customers. This is probably super racist: my fellow countrymen view tax evasion with a sense of pride and entitlement.

Labour Laws
Then restaurants decided to pay their staff ‘under the table’ by cash. . Restaurants do not have to pay tax nor spend money of employee benefits by hiring mostly young people with language barrier and borderline indentured workers with or without proper working visa from China. They can also force workers to work overtime without having to compensate them properly. A woman I knew worked 90 hours a week being paid 8 dollars per hour, cash - business as usual, it seems.

Does it really mean ALL Chinese restaurants that only accept cash do all these unethical or illegal things? 99% Yes.  Fortunately, the head of Canadian Tax Revenue Agency is a Chinese guy, and he is doing very well cracking down on these practices.  Hopefully, we will see labour improvements in the near future.  For now, you must judge for yourself if these issues matter to you when you choose restaurants.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Poultry Nesting Dolls Project: Step 1

Just a quick reminder that Poultry Nesting Doll Dinner is this Sunday at Craig's common room. Please check our facebook event page for more detail. This is a semi-public event (a.k.a. you must be invited by someone who is invited) and here is a $20 cover charge per person. If you don't use facebook, please phone me, Craig, or the friend who invited you. Proceed will go to the Food Bank. We can't forget about other's hunger in our moments of gluttony. Plenty of food and drinks will be provided, but feel free to bring something too!

Also, big thanks to Market Meat for teaching me and helping us put the birds together. Above is my video of the brining process. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My New Toy

Few years ago Dennis got me an expensive Blentec Blender - you know, the one from the "Will It Blend" youtube series.  This machine was a beast - crushing things with a motor loud enough to shake the house.   As with every electronic appliance that had the misfortune of having me as an owner, it finally died after a few years of abuse and misuse. "It Will Blend" was my motto.  Most notably, I tried to blend mochi (condense dough of glutenous rice), and the blender was never the same ever again.  Will-It-Blend Blender will not blend mochi.

Cuisinart Food Processor / BlenderImportant Lesson: Don't use your blender as a food processor and vice versa. Blender is for grinding liquid such as juice and soup while food processor are for dry stuff such as nuts and dough.

Dennis got me a new (and more practical) toy for our anniversary: Cuisinart Duet Blender and Food Processor.  It has separate blender and food processor attachment and additional blades for different chopping and shredding function.  It's also cheap enough if I somehow killed it again, it has a three year warranty or we can just buy another one.  This is the perfect solution for my little kitchen - and it doesn't shake the house when I make smoothie in the morning.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Roasted Leg of Lamb

By the way, Food Network's website is a great place to get accurate and delicious recipes.

In one drunken midnight sometime ago, I saw Pitchin' In with Lynn Crawford and that episode where she visited a sheep rancher in Ontario.  She made Hay Roasted Leg of Lamb with Ratatuille and Parmeasan Zuchinni Frites for the rancher's family and a festive-loving greek guy.  The hay was used as 'bedding' for the lamb in the roasting pan.  Since lambs ate hay for their entire life, the beautiful smoky and earth aroma of the hay was eagerly absorbed by the meat. Ingenious!

Where do you get hay? According to Peter, you can ask farmers in south of Richmond for free.  According to Tom, manager at Caper's Wholefood on 4th Ave, you can order clean, organic hay through their produce department.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to order them or find them last minute, so I decided to use the vegetable scrapings (garlic stem, onion skins, carrot peels, and etc) for the "bed" for the lamb.

Garlic Spinach Swirl inside the lamb
My awesome butcher at Market Meat deboned the leg of lamb for me and even chopped the bone into small pieces for my sauce. I follow the recipe to the 'T" and it tasted amazing.  I am so happy to have discovered this recipe.  It's dairy, egg, and sugar free. However, I used my own ratatouille recipe instead of hers and I skipped the deep fried parmeasan zuchinni frites.  People also commented that the sauce added moisture to the lamb, but it did not really add to the flavor. It's also needed tons of butter which I did not appreciate. I can safely say that you can skip on the sauce all together.

Recipe from Food Network
Serves 6

3 handfuls hay, soaked in water
2 cups white wine
1 leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied, reserve the bones for sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons anchovies, finely chopped
1 lemon, zest and juiced
2 tablespoons capers, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely diced
8 cups baby spinach
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butcher twine

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, anchovies, lemon, capers, mustard and herbs together to form a loose paste. 
  3. In a large sauté pan over medium high heat add the butter and shallots. Cook until shallots are soft then add the spinach in batches and sauté until wilted and season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and cool on a plate.
  4. Season the lamb on both sides with salt and pepper and rub both sides with the marinade. 
  5. Lay the lamb leg out and place the spinach on the inside surface in an even layer. Roll the lamb into a cylinder. Take about six 12” pieces of butcher’s twine and tie the leg together making sure you pull twine taut.
  6. Heat olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb to skillet; cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. 
  7. Take a large deep roasting tray, and line the base with hay about 2 inches thick. Moisten hay with wine. Lay the leg onto the hay, and cover with the rest of the hay. Place a lid on top of the roasting tray or cover well twice with foil. It must be completely sealed. 
  8. Bake for about 15 minutes and then lower heat to 350F. Continue to roast lamb until thermometer inserted into thickest part registers to 135-140F about 55 minutes, depending on the size of the leg.
  9. Transfer lamb to platter and let rest for 20 minutes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Godfather

The Godfather - one part Scotch and one part Amaretto on the rock.  It tastes good, looks good, and sounds good. This is a great drink to get to not only enjoy, but also impress your friends.  This is also a great way to finish up that bottle of Islay Scotch you can't stomach otherwise.

Personally, I like my Godfather as two part Scotch and one part Amaretto with two rocks (two cubes of ice) without the straw.

Peter, who is probably cursing Dennis under his breath for introducing this drink, ruining his pocketbook and liver, can attest to the awesomeness of this drink.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

La Terrazza

For Dennis and my 10 year anniversary, we wanted a restaurant that was super fancy, romantic, delicious, and possibly overpriced (splurge a little for our special occasion). La Terrazza, an Italian restaurant tugged away on the edge of Yaletown, was our final choice.  We have never been their before, but the menu on their website looked irresistible.  La Terrazza did not disappoint.

Food: (3.75/5)
The warm, fluffy bread (free!) with olive baked in came bundled up like a little baby.  As we unwrapped this delicious present, we were greeted with an explosion of the mouth-watering-freshly-baked-bread-with-olive scent.  The bread came with an olive oil dip with garlic salt. This combination makes the bread particularly savory but perfectly suited for an Italian restaurant. (3.5)

Dennis, the gnocchi expert,  ordered their Gnocchi Alla Margarita($15).  The handmade potato dumplings tasted like clouds... The texture was perfect.  Its fresh tomato basil sauce was elegant, delicious, but missing that extra-something to make it extraordinary (4). I ordered Carpaccio Al Bosco ($15.88) with black truffle vinaigrette, asiago, and herb pita.  The carpaccio eaten on its own was delicious, but nothing special, but when I ate it with the warm pita bread, the truffle scent was intensified and the carpaccio became something quite incredible. This is not your ordinary beef carpaccio (4/5).

For main course, Dennis ordered Spaghettini Carbonara Al'aragosta.  Dennis loved the crispy pancetta, the perfectly cooked lobster pieces, perfectly cooked pasta, and the creamy parmesan sauce.  It reminded him of Lamb Pappardelle from the fallen Trattoria. This pasta's flavours were a little too subtle though (4).  I got the Agnello, oven roasted rack of lamb in grainy mustard, mint consomme, and fontina potato gratinato. The lamb was perfectly cooked, tender, and moist.  The flavour of the sauce was very subtle and light; I was expecting something more substantial with lamb.  The fontina potato gratin was absolutely delicious! (3.5)

Spaghettini Carbonara Al'aragsta
For dessert, dennis and I shared La Creazione, a warm white chocolate cheesecake, wrapped in layers of phyllo with sour cherries. It was beautiful and delicious, but Dennis did not like it.  He found the flavour of the cheesecake too subtle and overpowered by the sour cherry (3).

We believe the chef runs an disciplined and organized kitchen with other skilled chefs.  Every single items was prepared to perfection and perfectly consistent and executed.  The executive chef knows his/her gastronomy and manipulating and maximizing simple scents and flavours.  With that said, Dennis and I tend to like heavy, in-you-face flavours, and the flavours are too subtle and "feminine" for us.

La Creazione
Service (3/5):
Our server was an odd duck.  He is an older Italian gentlemen with the arrogance of French waiter.  If I want to be snubbed, I would go to a French restaurant.  We were served well: glass and wine were filled regularly, food arrived timely and together, but his service was intrusive and abrupt. Maybe he was having a bad day.  He was completely blown away when I ordered an d'Asti to go with my dessert without consulting the wine menu, and then suddenly he became a lot friendlier.  Maybe he initially thought I was just a Chinese tourist without any appreciation for fine Italian cuisine.

Ambience (4):
The restaurant, tugged away on the edge of Yaletown, has the most beautiful and romantic dining room in Vancouver.  I felt like a princess in an enchanted Italian castle with an opulent lounge, timeless dark oak decor, and beautiful frescoed walls.  Wine cellars lined the walls displaying expensive and rare wine collections.  The light was dim, warm, and cozy.  The music was Italian style electronics - cool, casual, and not annoying. This is like the perfect restaurant to bring your girlfriend to - to pop the big question.  Just tugged her in the corner beside the fireplace surrounded by wine cellars or into the private wine cellar room or beside the window facing a beautiful garden, or... I can go on forever.

Overall Experience (3.5/5):
Their wine list was even more extensive and impressive (and expensive) than Cin Cin's.  Cin Cin may have a book, they had an encyclopedia. I ordered one of the cheapest bottle on the menu: a 2006 Carmere for $55. It was beautiful, smooth, fruit forward and perfect for our dishes.  However, as I was enjoying my Muscato D'asti in this fancy glass, the edge of the glass was chipped and cut my lips.  It was an unpleasant surprise, but I understand things like this happens can happen in any restaurant, even though the server should have checked.  The drink was taken off our bill, but I was expecting them to do more.

Total: 14.5/20
Dennis and I would love to go back and try the rest of the menu. We do appreciate subtle and elegant dishes sometimes. Hopefully, we will get a different waiter next time. La Terrazza is better than Cin Cin in terms of consistency and execution of the food, but Brix is superior than both.

La Terrazza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Patisserie Colette

Patisserie Colette is undoubtedly the most beautiful bakery cafes I have ever seen in Taiwan. Its imposing, white stand-alone building, surrounded by a grass lawn in Taichung's premium real estate area, is an eye catcher. The gorgeous interior has a cute pink and white color theme, highlighted with sihoulettes of flowers, butterflies and rabbits.

Let me tell you a story about the owner and the store. Tatjana Yeh went to baking school in Paris and worked for renowned bakeries such as Carton and The Ritz in Paris, and Toronto's famous Rahier. Her father is a wealthy doctor, and he bought that expensive piece of property and funded all the construction and reno.  Her start-up cost was technically zero.  Unfortunately, so was the profit.  Her beautifully crafted pastries failed to catch on.  Is it the price? $120 ($4 CND) Danish pastries are way to expensive in Taiwan. Or is it because her original French-style desserts are not suitable for Taiwanese palette? Or both?

Stepping into the stores, I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb in my jeans and T-shirt, even though there were no other customers. The cafe was ultra feminine, chic, and way to fancy for my dress code.  This could be why its business has been so bad -  Taiwanese didn't really like dressing up.

I ordered a simple hot chocolate.  The milk tasted thin, the chocolate tasted thin too, and there was no foam to speak of.  This was possibly made with powder chocolate or syrup, much inferior than Starbucks. I have expected real melted chocolate from cafe of this caliber.  At least my father's latte came with good foam and even latte art on the foam.  My father asked "How do you drink this?"  Looked like people didn't know how to appreciate it either.

You can tell that this store and its beautiful products are labour of love from their owners.  However, the type of clientele this cafe attracts is rather few and far in between in Taiwan.  Also, the drink manu needs improvement.  What a shame.

Royal Football Cake!

Downgrade for Trattoria

Trattoria has been downgraded from one of my favourite restaurants.  Its marks have been deducted too.  The quality of their food just keeps slipping.  Right now, Cin Cin and Brix has the best review at 15/20. The search for THE restaurant continues....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Motomachi Shokudo

Motomachi Shokudo is a hole-in-the-wall, hidden (quite literally) gem of Vancouver, evident by the long line-up in front of the store and around the corner.

Tokyo-style ramen: pork-based broth with shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt), or miso flavours, is in full rage in Vancouver. Raman houses have higher stores-per-square-foot density than Starbucks around Robson and Damen Downtown and Benkei Raman is working on its 6th store.

Ramen is not generally healthy. It's salty, oily, and packed with carb'licious noodles and low quality meat.  Motomachi Shokudo distinguish itself with organic ingredients and even organic chicken and fish based broth - no MSG. The ramen gets its delicious flavours from the fresh and high quality ingredients.

Shoyu Ramen
In addition to the low-fat, pure goodness flavours, my favourite soup is the innovative Bamboo Charcoal Miso Dark Miso Ramen.   Selling bowls of grayish liquid with yellow noodles to Westerners?! Yes and it's a revelation! In Japan, bamboo charcoal is considered healthy, cleansing, and common used for sweets.  Its beautiful smoky flavour adds complexity to the chicken and miso broth.

This is (so far) definitely my favourite ramen house. Nothing like a big bowl of deliciousness at $8-10 that you won't regret later.

Japanese Style Cold Ramen

Motomachi Shokudo on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 8, 2010

Whiskies 101

This is very expensive, but is it good?
This is an in-depth guide about Whiskies.  For the abridged version, see Scotch Cheat Sheet.

What is whiskey?
Whiskies are spirits (distilled alcohol) made from grains, where as Brandies are spirits made from fruits. Traditionally, whiskies were made with barley, but nowadays, maize and rye are just as common.

Unlike fruits, grains don't naturally contains the sugar needed to create alcohol.  The starch in the grain must be converted into sugar before fermentation (yeast convert sugar into alcohol).

Here is the production of malt whiskey:

Step 1: the grain is soaked in the 'steep', regularly changed water, for 48 hours to encourage the seeds to release its natural enzymes to convert the stored starch into sugar (which the seed can use to grow).

Step 2: the wet barley grain is then spread on the malting floor, a temperature and humidity controlled space or warehouse, and and regularly and gently turned. Alternatively, it can be placed into the (more space conscious and less labour intensive) rotating Saladin boxes.  This encourages the barley, which at this point is called the green malt, to germinate and create sugar.

Step 3: Before the barley sprouts, they are dried, usually kiln, to stop the growth. In scotch, peat is used to smoke the barley to add flavours. At this point, the barley is called malt.

Step 4: Malt is grinded into grist and then mixed in hot water in a mashed-tun.  This process completely the sugar conversion process.  This sweet beer-like liquid is called a wort.  Wort is then placed in fermentation tanks called wash-backs. Here, the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol.

Step 5: The alcohol is then distilled either through pot-still or patent-still.  The product of patent stills is usually flavorless, like vodka, The premium whiskey, such as scotch, usually uses pot-still which leaves more impurity (a.k.a flavour and nuances).   This distilled alcohol is called British Plain Spirit, not scotch whiskey yet.

Step 6: In ordered to be called Scotch whiskey, the alcohol must go through maturation for three years, usually in oak cask.  Traditionally, scotch uses freshly emptied sherry casks, but used Bourbon casks are now widely used.  The casks gives the most obvious flavour differences between different whiskey.  As amateurs, this is usually (the only) what we tastes.

Here is the production of grain whiskey: This is the more economical way of churning out cheap whiskey.

Step 1: Grind the grain (maize or any grain really) into flour.

Step 2: Cook it in a pressure cooker to release the starch.

Step 3: A little bit of malted barley is added for the enzyme and allow to ferment.  The fermented product would be weaker than the wort in malt whiskey.

Step 4: The industrial strength patent-still will distill it to whatever alcoholic strength you want.  This product is pungent but very smooth.

Step 5: In order to be called Scotch whiskey, it still has to be fermented for at least 3 years, effectively making it palatable.

Alternatively, grain whiskey is blended with malt whiskey.  In fact, most whiskies are made this way.  Standard Blend is usually not much more than three years old with varying quality and proportions of grains and malts. Deluxe Blend usually have more and better malt, the more expensive component of the two.  It will also age-able for longer and stated on the bottle as 8, 12, 17 years old.

Change of Heart

It's daylight savings and I am up at 5:30am, sigh. Call me flaky, but the gloomy Vancouver Weather was getting to me. I didn't need more rain on my blog, so I changed it to a sunny day!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spooky Pumpkin Risotto

Deliciously Evil
This is a Restaurant City inspired dish. By putting the risotto into the pumpkin, it absorbs the flavours of the pumpkin and the pumpkin keeps it warm.  I did not use any butter or cream to make this dish.  You can replace the potatoes into other vegetables.  For example, you can add saffron or cinnamon for the additional orange color.  I kept my risotto white for the photo.

For the pumpkin, I had my pumpkin carving kit and as well as the food scalping tool I brought back from Taiwan.

The dish icon in the game
1 liter Fish, chicken, or vegetable stock
1 cup White wine
150g Arborio Rice
2 cup Pumpkin meat (cubed)
1 cup Purple potato (cubed)
1 cup Sweet potato (cubed)
1 cup Grated Parmesan
1 shallot (minced)
2 garlic (minced)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp thyme
Salt and pepper

Paprika used for the eyes
1. Carve the pumpkin. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Rub the inside of the pumpkin with olive oil and tiny bit of salt and pepper.
3. With the lid close, place the pumpkin on the middle rack inside the oven for 30 minutes. When the time is up, remove from oven, set aside, with the lid on.
4. Boil water in a small pot.  Boil pumpkin, potatoes, and yams until its done.  Blench and set aside.
5. Put stock in a pot over high heat
6. Put a pot or large sauce pan on medium heat.  Sauté shallot for 5 minutes, make sure it does not brown
7. Add garlic, sauté for 30 second.
8. Add rice and stir
9. Add white wine and let it reduce
10. Increase the heat of the pan to medium high.  Stir frequently and thoroughly, making sure the rice don't burn onto the sides.
Close look of the stuff inside
11. When the rice looks a little dry (thick and harder to stir), add boiling stock to the dish.  Increase the heat of the pan briefly when stock is added to maintain the boil and then lower it back down to medium high.
12. Repeat this until the rice is at a desired doneness, about 15-20 minutes
13. Reduce heat and add thyme. Stir.
14. Add in the cooked pumpkin, potatos, and yams. Stir carefully to incorporate.
15. Remove from heat. Add parmesan and season to taste.
16. Scoop the risotto into the pumpkin

Spooky Pumpkin Risotto on Foodista

Trainer's Tip from Christina

“Going Primal….grrrrr”

This week, I will discuss the book I am currently reading, The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. The focus of the book is not a weight loss or “diet” as in quick fix. It's a lifestyle program with an evolutionary slant, using the example of historical and contemporary hunter-gatherers as a model towards a healthier, happier and simpler lifestyle. The diet section will be familiar to anyone who has read about "paleolithic"-type diets. It focuses on eating meats, seafood, eggs, nuts, abundant vegetables, and fruit; organic and local when possible. He also suggests avoiding grains, legumes, dairy, all processed food, and reducing carbohydrate to less than 150 grams per day. These dietary suggestions appeal to me because they focus on real food .I also like that Mark is not all or nothing, making it accessible to everyone and emphasizing that any changes will bring benefits and hopefully lead to further lifestyle adjustments. He tries to create a plan that will be sustainable in the long run, by staying positive and allowing for indulgences. I have been eating “Primal” for the past few weeks, making my overall week about 85-95% on point. Although my diet was very clean to begin with (I have always emphasized whole vegetables and fruits, lean protein and nuts in my daily regime), there were a few points that I have adjusted to encouraging results. For me, I needed to increase my protein intake, remove soy from my diet, and cut out all grains including my breakfast stand by oatmeal. Here is a sample before and after of my eating habits.
½ cup old fashioned oatmealSliced banana ¼ cup sliced almonds

¼ cup almonds Apple

Pita pit small chicken pita, whole wheat with hummus and tzatziki, lots of vegetables

1/3 cup almonds

Café misto with soy milk

Homemade peanut sauce stir-fry with carrots, onion, peppers and chicken, ½ cup brown rice or soba noodles

Treat: beer, wine or dark chocolate

Fruit salad-berries, pear and grapefruit (Low GI)

Hemp hearts, almonds or hard-boiled egg

1/3 cup almonds

Coffee with 1-2 tbs heavy whipping cream

Spinach salad with mandarin, beets, green peppers, sliced lean steak 4 oz, hemp hearts
Apple, More almonds or egg

Homemade almond butter sauce stir-fry with spinach, carrots, onion, peppers and chicken

Treat: Beer, Wine or Dark Chocolate

The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energyThe biggest point for me was that I noticed my cravings for carbohydrates (on my rest day, Whole Foods muffins call to me) have completely disappeared. I turned to fruit and vegetables to provide my carbohydrates and keep my body satiated with lots of protein and healthy fats.
Another point I have noticed is an increase in my recovery time after my training. I am currently working very hard on a Cross Fit program that is slamming me every session. Each session, my strength is increasing and my energy levels are staying high through-out the day.

The Primal Blueprint Cookbook: Primal, Low Carb, Paleo, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free and Gluten-FreeSo if you are looking to clean up your already conscious lifestyle or are starting from scratch, Mark offers excellent “primal” points to ponder. As with any “lifestyle” or diet literature, read, think critically, do some of your own research and focus on the overall message.

What I take from this book, which has been my personal philosophy for a long time, is to fuel your body with clean, whole and natural foods and keep space for those quality indulgences that make you smile. Allowing you to attain the results you want within a healthy, satisfying lifestyle.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stock Pots 101

Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-Quart Copper Stockpot with Lid
Mauviel Cuprinox $614
So which pot out there is the best for the job?

Peter asked me what pots were good for boiling.  I had no idea, so I did some research.  When it comes to cooking that requires the boiling of a significant quality of water, such as cooking pasta, stock, soup, and poaching, a stock pot is used.

A good pot would be good thermal conductivity and durability.  Copper provides the best thermal conductivity of all the pots. It transfer heat quickly and efficiently.  A good copper pot would have thick copper with a thin tin lining to prevent copper from reacting with acidic food.  However, copper is a very expensive metal and these pots are prohibitory expensive.  It is not dishwasher safe. Well, you can put it in the dishwasher, but I would want the $600 pot to last 60 years (and they do usually come with life-time warranty).

Calphalon D812 Commercial Hard Anodized 12-Quart Stockpot with Lid
Anodized Aluminum $69.99
The second best metal for conductivity is aluminum.  However, aluminum does leak into food, and can be easily corroded by acidic food.  Although there are no solid scientific evidence linking aluminum to diseases such as Alzheimer, the internet prank emails worked and aluminum cookware has become unpopular.  If you have old, light weight, light colored pots at home that seems to boil water super fast, that is quite possibly an old aluminum pot! Nowadays, anodized aluminum is rapidly gaining popularity.  It is a specially processed aluminum which reduces (not prevent) the leaching of metal into the food.  Affordability meets conductivity!  It is not dishwasher safe (corrosion promotes metal leaching) and the pot is no longer safe to use if there are damages.

Imusa Stainless Steel Stock Pot, 16 Quart
Stainless Steel $19.99
Stainless steel cookware is the most widely use and possibly the cheapest too.  It is super sturdy, can withstand lots of abuse, and is dishwasher safe.  When in doubt, you can't go wrong with stainless steel. I have super old (and cheap) stainless steel pots that continues to work well today. However, they are the inferior product for thermal conductivity. It takes much longer heating anything in stainless steal and has a hard time maintaining the boil when food is place in the water. For example, pasta which then will tend to stick to each other and won't give you that firm (Q'ey) texture.

All-Clad Copper Core 8-Quart Stockpot
All-Clad Copper Core $361
Premium cookware, such as All-clad uses cladding aluminum or copper technique for their products. These usually have a thin stainless layer on the cooking surface and a thick core of aluminum to provide structure and heat diffusion.  Sometimes a thin layer of copper inside or outside of the pot that provides additional diffusion and the "look" of a copper pot. This provides much of the functionality of tinned-copper pots and the durability of the stainless steel at a lower price.
Le Creuset Enamel-on-Steel 8-Quart Covered Stockpot, Cobalt Blue
Le Cresuset Enamel $74.95
The new thing in the culinary world is  enamel over steel. Enamel is a type of fused glass which is non-reactive, while the stainless steel inside offers better thermal conductivity.  Enameled cookware is lighter than most cookware of the same size and cheaper.  It is more durable than aluminum or copper, and it is safe in dishwasher.  Enamel is non-reactive on the ion level, so food actually tasted better and the cookware won't have the left over food smell from the last use.  Because of it's (light) weight, enamel is especially ideal for water-based cooking and camping.  However, because enamel is a type of glass.  It can be prone to chipping and cracking.  For example, a low quality enamel pot may crack, when you shock it with cold water after cooking. The glass will end up in your food and the rust from the steel will end up in your body. Also, low quality enamel may contain cadmium, which is harmful for your body (this is illegal in Canada, but not regulated in places like China).  I would recommend Le Cresuset and Chantal offers high quality ones with those 25-lifetime warranty on their enameled cookware.

Copper and aluminum still have better thermal conductivity then enamel, but enamel is an upgrade from your ordinary stainless steel and cheaper than cladded cookware. And enamel is possibly the healthiest of them all! The choice is yours!

P.S. A lot of rice cooker nowadays are already using enamel over steel.  I have one of these and it sure is amazingly easy to clean.