The Second Half

Anything goes. Within the bounds of propriety, of course. Welcome and behave, please!

Broccoli demon gets kicked out of cauliflower heaven: Day 4 — November 17, 2017

Broccoli demon gets kicked out of cauliflower heaven: Day 4

Alas, all good things must come to an end and this was one good head of cauliflower indeed! My grief is tempered by the gratitude I feel for the four excellent meals I squeezed out of it.

So, my esteemed readers, our cauliflower journey has come to its conclusion. In parting, I’d like to give you the recipe for one of my most favorite salads ever. In fact, this is what I usually end up making when I have cauliflower around. It will only set you back by a few minutes (when you exclude the time for steaming) and is a fantastic crunchy, creamy mixture I can never get enough of 🙂

Without further ado, here’s what you need besides the steamed cauliflower:

  • A cucumber
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes
  • Boiled eggs (I used three)
  • Parsley
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard

So, roll up your sleeves and cut the cucumber and tomatoes. The shape matters not as long as the pieces aren’t too chunky – just common sense really, you don’t want to use force to stuff them in your mouth. Then chop up the boiled eggs and add everything to the cauliflower, sprinkling with the parsley.

The dressing is the same we used on day three – mayo mixed with some mustard. You may have noticed that I rarely mention salt. I leave it up to you to decide if or how much you want.

And there you have it, the culmination of this cooking adventure. Granted, it didn’t require much in the way of utensil-wielding and pan-tossing skills, but that’s how I roll – minimum effort for maximum enjoyment 🙂

Thank you for accompanying me on this journey! I hope you gave some of these recipes a shot or at least enjoyed reading.

I’m off now to indulge in some mindless entertainment. Have yourselves a glorious weekend!

Broccoli demon outstays welcome in cauliflower heaven: Day 3 — November 16, 2017

Broccoli demon outstays welcome in cauliflower heaven: Day 3

Sorry, sorry, sooorryyyy! This series was meant to take a few days and be done with. Eyes will probably start rolling now, but I swear this is the truth: I got swamped with work, then went out of town for a couple of days and time just passed. In fact, I’m using a lull in the daily workflow to get this one finished and dispatched. Yep, I feel guilty, please don’t hate me!

So, let’s proceed. On day three of this cauliflower journey, there will be no cooking, just mixing stuff together. Well, apart from where you spend a couple of minutes to throw the cauliflower and carrots into the veggie steamer.

Here’s an interesting fact: for most of my life, I had no idea what tuna fish tasted like. I won’t start reminiscing about my childhood and adolescence, which were spent under an authoritarian communist regime. What I want to say is that many things were unknown in these parts, tuna included. Sure, we had fresh and canned fish, but no tuna graced supermarket shelves. At least the masses didn’t have it, the bastard commie elite may have gorged themselves on it.

The point of telling you this is to make it known that I have become a huge fan of tuna in recent years. No, I don’t start salivating profusely and acting strangely at the sight of it, but I do love it. Ergo, today you’re getting a recipe that features tuna. We’ll be having a salad of sorts, for which you need your cauliflower and carrot mixture plus the following:

  • Some canned tuna
  • Sweet corn
  • A cucumber
  • A few radishes (A spur-of-the-moment thing, saw them in the supermarket and thought it would be a good idea to throw some into the mix. My taste buds thought so.)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard

Do you even need me to tell you what to do?! Just in case you do, here’s the procedure: chop up the cucumber and radishes, add to the cauliflower, and then throw in the corn and the tuna. In another bowl, scoop up some mayo and mix with a bit of mustard. The quantities will depend on how much dressing you want and how mustardy you prefer it.

And here’s what you get for your efforts:

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Incidentally, I’m having another tuna-based salad for dinner today. Don’t worry, I won’t be forcing that recipe on you as well. In fact, my cauliflower head proved enough for four meals, so the next post will be the final in this series. Then I really need a change of theme or people might think they’ve stumbled across a cooking blog. Which they have not, I must point out.

Broccoli demon lingers in cauliflower heaven: Day 2 — November 6, 2017

Broccoli demon lingers in cauliflower heaven: Day 2

So, the Earth did its rotation thingy and a new day dawned on my cauliflower project. After the euphoria of day one, I felt like something creamy for the next round. My thoughts strayed to the two options I typically debate in my head: mayonnaise with mustard or blue cheese sauce?

Frankly, I stick with those because they are easy to make, especially the first one. I mean, you just mix mayo with mustard and you’re done! Sometimes I add a spoonful or two of yogurt, depending on what else is in the dish to keep it from getting too rich.

I decided to go with blue cheese sauce. Since that’s quite the extravaganza in my book, I thought, “What the hell, let’s go wild and throw in some mushrooms!” And that’s what I ended up with: cauliflower with mushrooms and blue cheese sauce.

Cauliflower in blue 🙂

All right then, you have your steamed mixture of cauliflower and carrots. You’ll also need the following:

  • A few mushrooms (I had five mid-sized ones)
  • A little butter
  • Parsley
  • Ground black pepper

And these for the sauce:

  • 100ml of cooking cream (mine came in one of those small cartons)
  • 50g of blue cheese
  • 50ml of milk

And…action!

Cut the mushroom up however you want and throw them in the pan, where the melted butter is sizzling and beckoning. My two cents: use as little butter as possible because there’s plenty of fat in the sauce. Of course, if your attitude to butter and similar fats is summed up by “the more, the better,” don’t let me stop you.

Once the mushrooms are cooked, turn off the heat, sprinkle with black pepper and chopped parsley and give the mixture a few good final stirs. Then remove the pan, take a deep breath and proceed with the sauce.

Did you notice how I gave you exact measures for the sauce ingredients? People who have read my recipes know that I have quite the disdain for precise quantities, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes you just have to do what you’re told. This sauce is a case in point. The first time I made it, my passion for blue cheese got the better of me and I plonked in the entire piece, which was 100g. I tell you, it was a massive waste of material as the sauce turned out too salty. I may or may not have cried in anger and despair.

Anyway, here’s how you make the sauce. Pour the cream into a pan and bring to boil while stirring. Add the milk and the mashed blue cheese and keep stirring until the cheese fully melts.

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That’s it! All you have to do now is mix everything together, give it a few minutes to settle and proceed to devour with gusto. I think I gave my cats a scare because I was practically growling while I ate. I probably sound disgusting…Maybe I should just keep some things to myself.

See ya soon!

Broccoli demon goes to cauliflower heaven: Day 1 — November 1, 2017

Broccoli demon goes to cauliflower heaven: Day 1

Those who’ve read my article on fruit and veggies know that I turn into a demon at the sight of broccoli, a fiend losing all regard for familial ties, any sense of propriety and basic human decency. Must-have-all-broccoli-no-touch-you-die…..that kind of thing.

While not as demented, my reaction to cauliflower may also seem unhinged. Domestic peace has endured due to the exceptionally fortunate fact that my son doesn’t much care for either broccoli or cauliflower.

What I’m going to do over the next few days is share with you how I consumed a massive head of cauliflower (not all at once, of course, I split it into several portions). These are concoctions I felt like trying out, but I won’t claim originality – it may very well be that some ideas have stuck during my frequent browsing of recipe sites. I don’t even know what to call them: some are neither properly cooked meals nor salads. What I can tell you for certain is that I found every single bite orgiastic!

To spare myself some keyboard clacking and your good selves reading time, here is something that unites all recipes: the cauliflower is steamed together with some sliced carrots and this is later mixed with the cooked portion of the meal. OK? So every recipe has this as its foundation. Quantities are entirely up to you.

Some of these combinations probably violate a rule or two or a dozen of proper cooking. I kindly ask you to note that I’m clueless as to said rules and I’m solely guided by my taste buds and intuition.

Now, let’s see what came out of my kitchen on day one.

Broccoli meets cauliflower in epic merger of near-equals 🙂

In addition to the steamed cauliflower-cum-carrots mixture, you’ll also need:

  • Some broccoli (I got the frozen variety because my store had no fresh broccoli right then and I couldn’t wait)
  • A cucumber
  • A couple of tomatoes
  • Chili pepper flakes
  • Cooking oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Salt (perhaps)

As I noted above, this is a hybrid of sorts. I may like veggies, but I’m not too keen on steamed ones; they are depressingly bland. But combine them with some stir-fried goodies and you bring a good thing into this world.

All you need to do is stir-fry the broccoli, adding the chili pepper flakes near the end. I love spicy dishes, but if you don’t, you can just use sweet pepper flakes. Mind the salt because the soy sauce has plenty of it.

 

broccoli flakes
Phase 1: broccoli done

 

And that’s all the cooking, I kid you not! I mean, involving heat and some stirring. Remove the pan, add the cauliflower and carrots and mix well. I suggest leaving this to cool before proceeding to the next step.

 

mixture
Phase 2: broccoli mixed with steamed veggies

 

Once the mixture has cooled down, grab that cucumber and the tomatoes and chop them up, in as small or as large pieces as you want, in whatever shape pleases you. Add them to the pan and mix carefully so as not to squish the tomatoes.

 

final
Phase 3: all done

 

What next? Just scoop some of it onto a plate, drizzle with soy sauce and tuck in!

I realize I’m excessively biased in this case, but I have to tell you I was stuffing my face to the sound of heavenly trumpets and angel choirs. It was all in my head, of course, and I plan to seek professional help. That said, I hope somebody is intrigued enough to give this a try and get back to me with a comment. Happy cooking, fellow broccolites and/or cauliphiles!

‘Twas a day of peppery pleasure — October 29, 2017

‘Twas a day of peppery pleasure

Remember a while back, when I shared with you the recipe for a fantastic meal? Well, I happen to find it exquisite, you may beg to differ. Anyhoo, I told you then I’d be back one day with the recipe for one of my favorite dishes and here I am. Sorry it’s taken this long but I had to up and cook it, you know, take pictures and stuff. And that’s just what I did the other day, which is the reason I’m now at my desk, pounding away on the keyboard.

Before we get into the swing of things, let’s give credit where it’s due. I did not come up with this recipe, uh-uh. It resides here but might not be of great help because it’s in my native language (Bulgarian). You can try with translation or you can just rely on me – I’ll give you my version but also tell you what the original says.

Now, this one is supposed to be a salad – you prepare it, let it cool and serve it. I’ll probably become the object of ridicule, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: I’ve consumed this in the prescribed way but I have it more often as a proper meal. You know, serving it hot with crusty, fragrant bread to dip in the sauce.

The second thing I want to note is that you’re supposed to grill the peppers and peel them. I tell you right away it’s too much hassle for me. I might be persuaded to grill peppers, but I do my Speedy Gonzales act when peeling looms. Besides, very few things smell as heavenly as frying peppers or taste as good. In other words, my version has the peppers fried.

OK, we’re ready to get cracking. If you’d be so kind as to look at the picture above, you’ll see the ingredients you need and realize it’s a simple meal. I have another selling point: it only takes about half an hour to prepare. Here’s what I invested in this cooking venture:

  • About 400g of chicken cut into small pieces (I bought about half a kilo but my cats decided they were in the mood for some. Mind you, they don’t much care for chicken, cooked or otherwise, but they were being contrary, for some reason)
  • 420g of corn (that’s what it said on the can)
  • 400g of peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 7 or 8 red peppers cut in strips (I forgot the exact number, shouldn’t matter much)
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (or as many as you want or maybe none, depends on your relationship with the plant)
  • Ground white pepper
  • Basil
  • Cooking oil

It’s all pretty straightforward from here on. Heat the oil and start frying the chicken. A couple of minutes will suffice because you’ll get to cook it some more when you add the peppers. Don’t let them fry for too long either as they’ll get mushy when the tomatoes go in. Say, 10 minutes max for the peppers, then on with the tomatoes and the garlic. That’s where most of the cooking time will go – give the tomatoes at least 15 minutes, adding the white pepper and the basil at some point. When you decide it’s just about ready, throw in the corn and let the whole mixture cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and you’re done. Congrats!

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Whether you serve the cold or warm version, I hope you find that half an hour time well spent. Bon appetit!

Fruit, veggies and a bit of a rant — September 11, 2017

Fruit, veggies and a bit of a rant

No, no, and NO! No way! Really??! When does it end? Can we finally get a definitive answer?

Umm…sorry about the outburst, but it’s difficult to remain calm right now. I’ll try to explain as best as I can and then leave you to decide whether such frustration is warranted. Apologies if I get distracted and ramble some before getting to the point (which typically happens with me).

I’m one of those people who fight all their lives to maintain a healthy weight. I have no excuse such as a metabolic disease or some other disorder associated with weight gain. I’m a glutton, that’s all there is to it. I alternate between fat and slim periods, having the worst possible mentality when it comes to food: it’s either all or nothing (meaning no food at all or a total pig-out). In other words, I can do without but never with little. Shame on me! In my defense, I’ve worked hard on it and grown far more disciplined in my later years. Our bodies wear out and it will be awfully irresponsible of us not to take this into account and go easier on them.

I wasn’t much of a fruit or veggie lover in my youth. Not that I disliked them, I just never consciously sought to include them in my diet. Now I can’t go a few hours without munching on some fruit, grapes and watermelon being perhaps my most favorite. And veggies…You know, I might sell my firstborn into slavery if the world woke up one day with just one head of broccoli left. If my first (and actually only) child would not be enough to secure me that precious cluster of green buds, I would probably throw in my left hand as well plus a few toes. Yes, that’s how much I love broccoli and you couldn’t make me eat that in my youth even under pain of death!

 

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The veggie love of my life!

 

Even if you don’t care about the scientific rationale, you just know that fruit and vegetables are good for you. Your body tells you so, it’s why every person on this planet likes some fruit or vegetable. It’s not the case with other food groups: many dislike yogurt, meat, or fish.

Think back to all the slimming diets you tried over the years. Chances are that virtually all of them were heavy on fruit and vegetables. And they most likely included at least one day per week of eating only one or the other and nothing else.

In general, we have been taught that fruit and veggies are the definitive healthy foods and we should eat as much as possible. But it now appears there are no extra benefits to consuming truckloads of fruit and vegetables! Yes, it broke my heart! Incidentally, the study focused on “the relationship between macronutrients and cardiovascular disease and mortality.” In plainspeak, the researchers looked at the connection between diet and the occurrence of strokes and heart attacks.

A consolation of sorts is the declaration that these findings in no way suggest people with a passion for fruit and veggies should reduce the quantities they typically consume. It’s just that the benefits taper off beyond a certain amount ingested. Elsewhere, the results support the conventional attitude to carbs, which is to say this study is yet another one suggesting we cut down on them. People who love rich food may rejoice at the researchers’ conclusion that the consumption of more fat at the expense of carbs can prove beneficial for cardiovascular health.

So, a mixed bag of goods, this so-called Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study (depending on your point of view, of course). But does it invalidate the reason for my unladylike conniption? I don’t think so. It was simply an expression of the frustration I feel every time study results of this kind come out. What the hell is a person supposed to believe? Eat less fat or indulge in more? Carbs are good for you, some clever folks say??? Oh, wait, other clever folks just said they aren’t, dump that bagel immediately! More fruit and veggies, less of them, none at all…Increase meat intake for more protein, get your protein from sources other than meat…Aaaargggh!!!

Here’s what I have to say about the whole thing. As a rule, I don’t much care what the latest study has found. This one made an impression simply because it messed with fruit and veggies, but I’m over it now. In the end, it all boils down to this: it’s your body and if you listen to it, you’ll know whether you’re treating it right. If you indulge in more carbs than recommended but carry no excess weight and feel fit and healthy, who’s to say your eating habits are poor? And if your passion for thick, juicy  steaks doesn’t have you popping pills for your cholesterol or high blood pressure, then your body obviously has no problem with it.

Now, I’m not saying anything goes. There are still rules to be observed if you want to stay fit and healthy. I may be terrible at moderation, but I fully realize it’s critical for good health. It’s my firm belief that everyone should identify a dietary regime that works for their body. In my case, that’s fruit during the day and one cooked meal in the evening, sometimes just a jumbo salad. And no, I don’t go hungry! The good thing is that I can do without bread (no sacrifice really) and I don’t crave confectionery. In fact, I hardly ever eat sweet things, a bit of chocolate once in a blue moon or a piece of cake at a birthday party and then only if someone insists I absolutely must. Where I make sacrifices is with beer: boy, do I love my beer!

 

grapes
My knees go weak at the sight of white grapes!

 

No, I don’t care what you have to say about the importance of breakfast, three meals a day, or whatever you consider a healthy regime. Conversely, I don’t expect you to care about what I have to say as regards your eating habits. Perhaps we can just agree that each body has its specific needs and then proceed to give ours what they require.

If you’ll excuse me now, I have a piece of juicy watermelon waiting for me in the fridge. Have a great day and stay healthy 🙂

It had me at broccoli and blue cheese! — May 29, 2017

It had me at broccoli and blue cheese!

I tend to improvise a lot when cooking. I also go with my gut where quantities are concerned. That’s not to say I go completely rogue, but I generally use the amounts provided in recipes as more of a guideline than gospel.

What I just said does have a point, I promise. I’ll give you the recipe for a meal I cooked today and I must say it’s the tastiest thing to emerge from my kitchen in perhaps five years! Absolutely, insanely, indescribably delicious! I didn’t come up with the recipe. I’m not really an original in the kitchen; my creativity begins and ends with adding or removing ingredients and sometimes tweaking the serving suggestions.

I found this recipe on a website where I usually go for culinary inspiration or just an idea for a quick dinner. However, it’s a Bulgarian portal. Google Translate might be of some help but be prepared for quite a bit of guesswork and occasional examples of the ridiculous. In this particular case, you’ll get my help along with my personal choice for execution. Let me just repeat what I said in the beginning: I don’t deal with exact quantities so you might want to take a peek at the original recipe if you’re a stickler for such things.

So, what are we talking about here? It’s essentially chicken with vegetables and a scrumptious sauce.

1) The veggie mixture

I chose baby potatoes, carrots, sweet corn and broccoli. If I had any say in it, governments would pass a law making broccoli mandatory for daily intake! When I die, I want broccoli wreaths on my grave!

But back to the task at hand. Pick your favorite veggies and stir-fry them. I think I had about 450g of baby potatoes, two carrots, canned sweet corn (about 420g) and a head of broccoli weighing just under half a kilo.

I began with the potatoes as they require a bit longer to cook. Then in went the carrots, and the corn and broccoli joined towards the end. I like my broccoli crunchy, but if you prefer it well-cooked, you can add it earlier. Just a few pinches of salt here, nothing else. When the veggies are cooked, remove the pot, set it aside and get cracking on the chicken.

2) The chicken part

I had about 400g of chicken breast, but you can put as much as you want. Still, keep it reasonable: more than 600-700g would be overkill.

You can cut the meat into strips (as the original recipe suggests) or into mid-sized chunks, I don’t think it really matters. Season the pieces with a little salt and pepper. I recently bought one of those grinders that come with a mixture of peppercorns: black, white, red, green, some other color may have been inside as well, I’m not sure. So I used that on the meat. Then you just throw it in a pan and fry it until ready. Put this one aside too and start on the sauce.

3) The saucy bit

I suspect that my choice of this recipe had much to do with blue cheese being among the ingredients. Love, love, love it! But if you don’t, there’s no reason to give up on this dish. You can substitute blue cheese for another kind. Just make sure it’s some kind that will melt in water.

So, you need a piece of blue cheese and a small carton of sour cream. I had 100g and 200g, respectively. Pour about 150-200ml of water into a pan and bring it to a boil. It’s best to have the blue cheese mashed with a fork before you add it to the boiling water because it will melt faster. When it’s melted, add the sour cream and keep stirring until you get a smooth mixture. That should take less than five minutes.

And now you have all the parts ready! The original recipe calls for mixing the chicken and the sauce and serving it with the veggies on the side. However, I chose to mix all of them together in the pot where I’d cooked the vegetables. And I ended up with this:

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Is it any good? Well, let me put it this way: I nearly burst into tears when I tasted it! Tears of joy and pride, of course. The same thing happened a couple of years ago, when I tried my hand at another dish. I’ve since experimented a bit with it and made it even better (at least I think so) but I’ll tell you about it another time.

I really hope you give this recipe a try. It doesn’t take long to cook: depending on the vegetables you choose, it will be 30 to 40 minutes in all. If broccoli and blue cheese are things you love, you’ll be sobbing after your first bite. If not, you can pick veggies that you like and some other cheese and still end up with a mouth-watering meal. I believe that’s the secret of good cooking: take an idea and give it your own treatment!

Bon appetit! I’m off for a second helping.

How Danes closed the beer-piss cycle — May 11, 2017

How Danes closed the beer-piss cycle

D’you love beer? I definitely do. OK, that’s settled then. Now the question is whether we love it enough to get adventurous to the point where we let piss into our beer mugs.

That didn’t come out quite right. I’m not saying we sample beer that contains piss. But how about beer whose production involves using human urine to fertilise the malting barley? Now that’s sustainability for you!

Maybe it’s not surprising that the idea originates in Denmark: that country gets a lot of piss! One thing it’s famous for, at least among music lovers, is the Roskilde festival. It’s the largest in Northern Europe and its 2015 edition supplied 50,000 litres of urine for Norrebro Bryghus to use. As reported by Reuters, the Danish microbrewery put this sea of human waste to interesting work: the piss served as fertiliser for the malting barley that ultimately delivered around 60,000 bottles of beer.

Norrebro Bryghus has dubbed its novelty brew “Pisner.” No great mystery here: piss and pilsner give you Pisner. Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Council is behind this idea and has already come up with a term for the concept: beercycling.

In case you’re worried the brew carries any whiff of pee-pee, Anders Sjogren can put your mind at rest. He is entitled to provide feedback as his excreta contributed to production: Sjogren was among the attendees of the 2015 Roskilde festival. Anyway, Reuters cited him as saying this:

“If it had tasted even a bit like urine, I would put it down, but you don’t even notice.”

As for Norrebro Bryghus, it came into being thanks to Anders Kissmeyer. The former brewmaster for Carlsberg founded the company in 2003. Norrebro Bryghus also has a food business, its cuisine drawing inspiration from Nordic classics of the genre. I wonder if piss has a future in their kitchens as well…

Nørrebro_Bryghus
Image by Karri Huhtanen
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