The one where I go on about Paleo diets and stuff

Its been a while since I’ve updated. Ages and ages.

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Since my last post I have sustained an idiotic leg injury (I turned right and something popped) vacationed in England, gone on an elimination diet, been part of a corporate buyout (henceforth known as “The Event”) adopted a Paleo style of eating and killed a mouse. Yep, it’s been a while.

First The Elimination Diet.

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Cooking for one

My homemade lunches often illicit curiosity and commentary from work colleagues. Generally I get questions about my cute bento boxes, healthy lunch choices and “professional” looking food presentation. Apparently bringing your lunch and avoiding the foodcourt is considered to be counter-culture in my office and other day one of my co-workers told me that if she lived alone she would never cook for herself, she would just eat takeout”. For some reason I found myself spewing out a series of excuses in response to this: “Take out is expensive, It’s hard to get gluten free take out, I am trying to reduce my sodium intake, there is no good take out in my neighbourhood, I am on a low fat/reduced carb/cheese/meat/all cabbage diet”……

Now, due to my spinster lifestyle I get this sort of comment a lot from well meaning relatives and friends who are “nesting” and purchasing duplexes in Mississauga… Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of becoming a Cordon Bleu chef and anything that takes more than 30 minutes to prepare is a no-go as far as I am concerned, but the commentary does inspire certain thoughts. It seems for many people cooking is linked to social interaction and taking care of people and it seems that people who live alone are reduced to Lean Cuisine microwave meals and cereal and popcorn dinners.

If it weren’t for the gluten intolerance I suppose I could become a Subway sandwich eating machine but truth be told, I find most take-out disgusting and I am actually fairly picky. Also I hate to share. I guess the answer to the question of why I cook for myself as opposed to eating Michelina 24-7 is that I like tasty food and I figure why waste calories on disgusting, tasteless food when I could be eating filet mignon, mozzarella di bufala and sashimi with my cat, accompanied by a bottle of wine and a Gilmore Girls DVD.

Last weekend I went for Tofu Bibimbap. I went to the restaurant by myself and ordered and ate food by myself and amazingly I didn’t die of embarrassment. Instead I drank tea and gorged on tasty Korean food while enjoying K-pop videos…by myself.

Here is a blurry photo of the Bibimbap and check out that egg. Now, most places will cook that egg for you, but check me out bitches, that egg is not fried, it’s raw. Can you handle my authenticity?
If I had been with someone, they probably would have tried to talk me out of the raw egg.

In this picture the Bibimbap is all mixed up and the egg is cooked due to the awesome technology of hotplates, ceramic dishware, manual chopstick power and one person stirring the food.

Here are some bedpan shaped dishes filled with tasty stuff and I got to eat it all, because I was by myself.

In closing believe that the people who are unable to cook for themselves are the same people who can’t eat at restaurants alone or see movies by themselves… and one day I will punch every single one of those people in the face.

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Thursdays are for Tofu

I had been planning to go on a grocery shopping adventure after work on Thursday to prepare for potential store closures over the long weekend. I was waffling between the St. Lawrence Markert and T&T, however, perhaps due several hours of invoicing training, Mercury being in retrograde and hormone fluctuations I was in a piss poor mood by the time I left work. I decided to just go home and make due with what foodstuffs and alcohol I currently have (which to be fair, could easily see me through the long weekend)

I left my office an hour and a half later than anticipated, hopped on the street car and tried to block out the hideousness of public transit by thinking about what kind of olives to put the sorely needed martini I was planning to have as soon as I got home. I had pretty much decided to go with the blue cheese stuffed ones and then the King streetcar decided to short-turn at Bathurst. Well, I say the streetcar decided, but it was probably the TTC official with the clipboard who made the final decision and we all piled out onto the sidewalk. There was another streetcar right behind us, however it would be filled with 2 streetcars worth of people….and me. No amount of olive fantasies could block out that horror commute so I decided the universe and the TTC wanted me to go to Sanko to pick up some provisions.

I went to the store and wandered around looking at Bento boxes and pottery while filling up my basket with the usual stuff: Sushi rice, Umeboshi, Meiji Apollo chocolate and Burdock root salad. I had a discussion about the different types of Natto with one of the nice young men who work at the store, who also assured me that the chunk of Sashimi grade salmon I was contemplating could be taken home and eaten immediately without cooking and I would not die. When I was cashing out, the nice young man at the cash noticed I was getting pre-packaged tofu and suggested I get fresh tofu instead. Not only was it less expensive (.30 per tofu block and .45 if I wanted a plastic container instead of bag) but is infinitely tastier. I decided to spring for the container, you only live once after all.

I came home and was feeling pretty craptastic, so decided to forgo the martini for a handful of Motrin and devoured the Sashimi (sadly no pictures) with some steamed rice, soy sauce and wasabi. It was tasty and so far I haven’t died.

Today I am feeling a little better perhaps due to the Omega power of raw salmon and decided to do something with the tofu for lunch. Unlike prepackaged Silken tofu which can have a rubbery consistency, fresh tofu has an almost flan-like texture. It is also much tastier than your basic Mori-nu type tofu especially when eaten uncooked with a minimum of seasonings.

Pictured: Sushi Rice with avocado, burdock root salad and fresh tofu drizzled with a small amount of soy sauce, sesame oil, hot pepper flakes and green onions.

Delicious, and because I still have 3 blocks of tofu left, I plan to have the same thing for dinner with noodles instead of rice. Happily the tofu will last about a week if I change the water daily, so I won’t have to eat it all over the next 2 days, although it is so tasty I could see myself doing just that

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Sundays are for cooking pt deux.

Saturdays (and the occasional Friday after work) are for food shopping adventures and Sundays are for cooking. On Sundays I try to cook something a bit more challenging or time consuming than my usual weeknight fare. Something involving meat or tofu which will hopefully result in leftovers for one or two work bentos.

Today I planned to make Tofu and Vegetable Piccata from Just Bento but was lack pretty much all of the ingredients and due to my injured hand, the idea of finely shredded pepper and carrots seemed just out of reach of my decrepit and moribund digits.

Here is my version:

Potato Encrusted Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu (chopped into 1  1/2 inch rectangles which are then pressed and drained)
Sesame oil (for frying)
2 tbsp Tamari
2 tbsp Mirin
a splash of Fish sauce
1 egg or 2 egg whites
Dried chives
Dried pepper flakes
Instant Potato Flakes

Mix the Tamari, Mirin and fish sauce together, pour over the tofu and let sit for a few minutes

Heat sesame oil in a pan,

Beat the egg(s) with the chives and pepper.
Dredge the tofu in the egg mixture and potato flakes and then fry until crispy on each side

(optional: throw open all your windows and put the fan on to avoid your ultra sensitive smoke alarm from going off.)

I had some left over egg mixture and a bit of the mirin mixture so I stir fried it with some julienned orange peppers and carrots and served with steamed rice and asparagus.

I had left-over tofu, rice with ume plums, steamed asparagus and bell pepper and pickled onion salad for lunch on Monday.
With berries and Meiji Apollo chocolates for dessert.

My Wa! picks are pretty excited.

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Typical me, typical me, typical me

I have been remiss in my posting duties. This is not unusual however I have a somewhat viable excuse this time. A month ago I was thinking about ways to get in shape and had an idea that I wanted to try Roller Derby. I did some research, talked to the owner of My Roll Life a new-ish skate shop in Parkdale and decided to attend a Sunday “learn to roller skate/learn to skate roller derby” session held at the Parkdale community centre.

There is a lot to like about Roller Derby. It’s exciting to watch, it’s an empowering, bad-ass Woman centred sport with a great sense of community. The session I attended was a great work out and the girls were really encouraging and non-judgemental.

What I did not like, however, was the hand injury I sustained during one of the many falls I took. I was actually wearing protective gear, however the injury was actually caused by said protective gear jamming into the webbing between my index finger and thumb. Now, I am not afraid of pain however I cannot begin to describe the depression and hopelessness I have felt over the past 4 weeks at having to wear a wrist brace and the detrimental effect that has had on my usual routine. I have had to endure 35 hours a week typing one handed-ly, I am unable to play Mariokart, wash my hair properly and most devastating, I cannot knit. Adding to my crankiness are the several painful alcohol-free weeks I have had to suffer though due to twice a day anti-inflammatories. Happily I am back on the sauce and perhaps it’s just my Martini tinted glasses, but everything seems rosy again.

I think that this is not the sport for me; I have too much yarn I want to knit, too much Gin I want to drink and the majority of my work day involves data entry. Recurrent tendonitis in my right hand and a previous wrist injury in my left makes me fear for my already fragile appendages, but don’t let my cautionary tale scare you off Roller Derby if you are interested and more coordinated than me. The weekly skate session is a great place to start and Goldie at My Roll Life does skate rentals and runs the Sunday Skate sessions, if you want to check it out before investing in gear.

In happier news, I have been working a new job (at the same company)for the past month and a half and so far I am feeling pretty good about it. I get to leave at a reasonable time, the pace is better and I am not constantly being harassed – well I am still being harassed a bit as the CSRs can see me through the glass. I do however get to enjoy a full lunch hour now instead of being harassed. I have been bringing my lunch every day in a variety of bento boxes but haven’t been taking pictures due to the lunches being a little un-cute because of my injury, however I swear I will be carving radish roses and wiener octopi with the best of them as soon as my hand is fully healed.

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Big Soup

I was first introduced to Pho about 12 years ago when I was attending Theatre school in Montreal. Although our school was in the “Upper plateau” our theatre was very close to Chinatown which always afforded excellent options for tasty food on student budgets. One day one of my classmates suggested we all go for “Big Soup” and I was intrigued. After all, I like soup and Big Soup sounded like soup…. only bigger.

We trouped to a hole-in-the-wall called “Pho Bang New York” and my classmate advised to “get the small soup…. trust me.” I ordered a small chicken Pho Ga and it was big… so big in fact that I only managed to get through about half a bowl. Over my 3 years at school, we went to this place pretty regularly until we had to change venues due to the legendary “nail in the Bun Ga Nuong” incident.

Here in Toronto, I have been hard pressed to find decent Pho and Bun in Toronto. For one thing, the soup is not as Big as the soup in my memories, although perhaps I am not as Small. I also find that many places cut the rice vermicelli noodles into small gummy bite-sized white person portions that are actually impossible to eat with chopsticks. I began to despair that I would never have decent Vietnamese food again, then on a whim (with a touch of desperation) I wandered into a place on College near Landsdowne. A place which fulfills my noodle requirements. The restaurant has big windows, a large screen TV which is usually showing European sports and is generally filled with Vietnamese families and a few 30 and 40somethings from the area but happily, not too many hipster douchebags. The bathrooms are a bit odd but as long as I don’t get a nail in my spring roll I am happy. If I am feeling cranky or sad, flu-y or that I shouldn’t be spending my weekends indoors, I will head up and over to Phoenix restaurant for some not-so-big but still delicious soup.

Here is the actual real live soup. I like to add copious amounts of Hoisin and Sriracha sauce and lots of fresh basil and bean sprouts.

I am jonesing for soup now. I wonder if it’s possible to develop a dependency on Star Anise.

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To me, From me.

I arrived home in Monday to find a big box under the welcome mat in front of my door. Now I am not sure why the post office keeps delivering packages as opposed to just leaving a package slip, or who is signing for them but at least this time Tony the building thug didn’t try to use his keys to enter my apartment without my permission to leave said package. But I digress.

Happily this was my Christmas present to myself, my order of Bento making supplies from Casabento and everything looked as awesome as it did on the website.

In the photo above: 1.Kokeshi Geisha bento box. Holds 450 ml in the two tiers plus the hat holds an additional 250 ml.
2. Unit Colors Tier bento box. Holds 650 ml so is suitable for a bigger lunch.
3. Animal shaped sauce containers
4. Wa picks for sticking things to other things and adding cuteness.
5. Wa rice molds for making cute Onigiri
6. Wa cutters for cutting bread, vegetables, cheese etc into cute shapes
7. Silicon cups for keeping food contained and separate.

Below is the Kokeshi box in action. Please excuse the low quality photo, this was taken with my blackberry at work and yes, my colleagues thought I was a little strange for photographing my food before I ate it.

On the bottom tier is Natto fried rice (inspired by this Just Bento post). I am always trying to find a way to enjoy Natto as it is somewhat of an acquired taste but is a good and inexpensive source of protein.

To make this, I fried precooked, short grain brown rice in sesame oil and soy sauce with King Oyster mushrooms, celery, onion, garlic, edamame, fresh basil and the ubiquitous Natto. The Natto paired nicely with the brown rice and vegetables. The pungentness and gooey texture of the Natto was offset by the bland but nutty flavour of the rice and vegetables.

On the top tier: a small sauce container with a mixture of hoisin sauce and Sriracha chili sauce, some parboiled carrot coins, 3 hard boiled quail eggs and 2 steamed red bean rice cakes.

The bowl contains miso soup.

This with the addition of a small yogurt drink made for a very filling lunch.

I ate pretty much the same thing on Wednesday but decided to forgo the Hoisin/Sriracha sauce and instead brought a larger sauce container filled with avocado mashed with lemon to have with the fried rice.

On Thursday we had a work potluck so I did not bring a Bento lunch. On Friday I went home sick from work pretty much as soon as I arrived, possibly due to something eaten at Thursday’s potluck. The problem with potlucks is that one doesn’t really know how concerned with food safety their colleagues are…..

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Get out of the ghetto and into the grocery store

As a child I had a particular dislike for grocery shopping. I still harbor a great deal of resentment at being left alone with the cart for what seemed like hours (it was probably only 3 minutes, but 3 minutes parked in front of the Babybel cheese can seem like an eternity to a child) and my sister following me around the store silently laughing and not telling me I had tucked the back of my lycra skirt into my sagging ribbed wool tights added insult to injury. In addition to the boredom and humiliation I was sure to endure at the store, our local Provigo had a lackluster food selection; wilting vegetables that had been “ashed” on by University students, bagels which were actually just bagel shaped bread, cardboard thin minute steak, iceberg lettuce and Kraft Italian salad dressing as far as the eye could see.

When I was 19, I moved to the big city, where I developed a love of food shopping. There was a multitude of stores to choose from and a wide variety of food choices to suit my vegetarian and later on, my gluten-intolerant needs. I still enjoy food shopping and I like to go to a variety of grocery stores (especially when traveling) to check out all the different snacks.

I have decided, not in a New Year’s resolution way but in a general lifestyle change way, that I need to return to a healthier way of eating as I have been eating a lot of unhealthy food court takeout and have a Starbucks monkey on my back. My Christmas present to myself this year was a large order of Bento boxes and Bento making supplies from casabento.com which I will write about in great detail when it arrives. I anticipate this will give me some excitement about bringing my lunch to work. I am already off to a good start. I had a week and a half off over the Christmas holidays which gave me time to recover from the foodcourt (and the flu) and upon my return to work last week, I brought my lunch every day and more importantly did not go to Starbucks once. I actually feel slightly less crappy.

I decided to go on a grocery shopping adventure this weekend to stock up on lunch making supplies and get some tasty weekend treats for myself. My first stop was the The St. Lawrence Market on Friday after work since my office is in close proximity.

My primary reason for going was to find a replacement rubber ring for my Bialetti Moka Express, but while I was there fulfilling my coffeemaking needs, why not also pick up 3 kinds of olives, some spicy chorizo, a filet mignon tornado, some rollmops, roasted artichokes and 200 grams of strong appenzeller cheese from the cheese store where all the cute guys work.

Today’s lunch of Rollmops, roasted artichoke hearts and carrot and celery sticks

Fueled by my a desire to get more exciting, exotic foods I decided to have a Saturday adventure and go to one of my favorite stores:PAT in Little Korea, This store has a great variety of produce and Korean and Japanese food and the prices are pretty reasonable.

This is what $61 worth of groceries from PAT look like. It is actually 2 large bags worth of food and includes some higher end products like umeboshi plums, dried shiitake mushrooms, fresh King Oyster mushrooms and a Guava. I have never had a Guava before.

Here are some rice flour dumplings filled with red bean paste and Shiritaki noodles. These have about 0 calories and are now being touted in the US as the miracle no-calorie pasta substitute, although truth be told, those expecting a pasta-like texture will be sadly disappointed. I find the gelatinous texture quite pleasing and clearly the woman in line behind me felt the same way, as her sole purchase was 30 packages of these noodles.

2 packages of single serving Miso soup packets. 1 with tofu and 1 with fried tofu. Some of these will come to work with me. These packages were about $1.75 cheaper than at the Japanese store. It’s a fact.

2 packages of frozen Inarizushi skins (fried tofu pockets). I plan to make Inarizushi, which I have never made before. You can read more about the deliciousness at JustHungry.com. One can also chop up the tofu skins and add to stir fry, which I do on occasion. The tofu skins are a bit sweet and add an interesting flavour to whatever you cook with them.

Quail eggs! I have never had these before, but I am excited. They are cute and are often featured in Charaben Bento. I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of my Christmas bento equipment so I can see these eggs in action.

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