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Showing posts from June, 2013

Sous Vide BBQ and Creamy (no mayo) Potato Salad

Sous Vide BBQ and
Creamy (no mayo) Potato Salad
Yeah it's the weekend! This is a great recipe for the weekend and another illustration that getting a sous vide machine is totally worth it.

I can't take any credit for the potato salad as this was another Kenji-Alt-Lopez-Serious-Eats gem (yes, I always say his name in one breath with the Serious Eats tagged on!). As a mayo lover, I was so surprised that I loved this recipe. The olive oil adds a lot of richness so you don't miss the mayo at all. I usually skip celery in recipes like this but the celery adds a crunchiness that doesn't get soggy even after a few days. The recipe clocks in at a respectable 1.06 calories per gram - not that high considering the decadence of the end product. I've tried decreasing the oil to 1 tablespoon and 2 tablespoons to see if I could cut the calories but the savings was not worth it in my opinion but if you must then 1 T of olive oil…

Fast Day #21: Open Nature Beef Stroganoff - 280 calories

Open Nature Beef Stroganoff
280 calories

Today was rough - I had a meeting tonight at a restaurant. A Vietnamese restaurant. A Vietnamese restaurant that serves really, really good food... on a Fast Day.... urgggg

But I made it through and high tailed it out of there! I was soo hungry. So when I got home I ran straight to my freezer and tore open an Open Nature® Beef Stroganoff frozen entree.

I zapped that bad boy in the microwave for 5 minutes hoping that it would turn this frozen block into something more appetizing.

It got better but still looked a bit sorry. So I took out the veggies and nuked it, uncovered for another minute hoping the sauce would thicken up.

After all that waiting I was very eager to dive in. It looked half way decent:

The portion is not large but it wasn't measly either. But don't let the looks fool you - this was not a good meal.

First off, unlike the picture on the package, I could not find a piece…

Fast Day #21: Faux Greek Salad - 176 calories

Faux Greek Salad
176 calories
For this week's post work out meal I had made a gorgeously broiled plate of Turmeric Chicken and a Greek Salad. The chicken was broiled until the skin was crispy in spots but the meat was still moist and tender - gotta love chicken thighs for that! The Greek Salad was a Kenji-Alt-Lopez-Serious-Eats recipe so you know it was good (but no onions for me). That plate also clocked in at 996 calories for this plate:

This was totally worth it and appropriate for a post workout meal. Alas, today is a Fast Day so what to do, what do to?

Well I had all the fixings for a Greek Salad minus the cucumbers. But the main problem is trimming down the calories and keeping the taste. The obvious high calorie culprit is the olive oil - but will it still be good? Oh yeah it is... especially when you smash up some feta to give the dressing some body!

If I wasn't too lazy to go to the store I'd have added some cucumbers to the…

Simple Vegetable Consommé - 5 calories

Saba Shioyaki, Rau Muong and
Simple Vegetable Consommé
I love big, bold flavors. My middle name should be Salt Lick. But sometimes even I need a respite from salt and oil, like in the above meal of Saba Shioyaki (broiled salted mackreel) and boiled Rau Muong (water spinach) dipped in Man Ruoc (prepared fine shrimp paste sauce). So instead of piling on more white rice to counter balance the strong flavors and oily fish, I added a simple "soup".

This soup is merely the cooking liquid from the rau muong with a bit of lemon juice and salt (optional). This works beautifully for spinach too. The water has a wonderful sweetness and the lemon brightens it all up. It's refreshing and cuts through the fatty fish very well.

As an added bonus, the soup is chocked full of vitamins and nutrients lost from the vegetables. This is a very thrifty way to bulk up a meal and offset the often salty dishes.

Growing up, my sister and I made this "c…

Fast Day #20: Broiled Mackerel and Rau Muong - 373 calories

Broiled Mackerel and Rau Muong
When I was at the store picking up the salmon sashimi, there was some good looking mackerel pieces that were calling my name. This meal is as easy as it gets. The fish is salted overnight in the Japanese style of Saba (mackerel) Shio (salt) Yaki (broiled) and the Rau Muong (water spinach) is boiled to counter balance the oiliness of the fish.

The water spinach can be easily replaced with boiled spinach or if you have enough calories, a simple saute of kale, garlic and a bit of oil. The mackerel is pretty high in calories so I recommend the simpler veggie preparations.

Saba Shioyaki is quickly becoming one of my favorite dishes due to the ease of preparation and the wallop of flavor. I got these fish pieces (they are not fillets as the spine is still attached) at a Japanese specialty store but Costco sells a package of frozen, wild caught, individually packaged mackerel pieces from Norway that I am eager to try.


Culinary Milestone: Cheesecake

Super Decadent Cheesecake
My relationship with cheesecake has been a tumultuous one. For the longest time I had an aversion to it because my first piece of cheesecake accompanied my first bout of food poisoning - not a good association. I was pulled out of my anti-cheesecake stance by a tall, dense New York style cheesecake with a juicy strawberry topping. Ever since then I've never shied away from a cheesecake.

Except if it was to make one. I've tried a few times to make a cheesecake to disastrous results. They just don't bake up right for me. Springform pans fail as soon as I look at them. Every trick, tip and technique that has been suggested has been tried to no avail. After a while I started to think I was born under a no cheesecake moon or something.

Recently, I have been feeling very confident in my culinary skills and I was enamored with a blog post of a super rich cheesecake that haunted my dreams. Even so…

Winner, Winner Broiled Turmeric Chicken Dinner - 476 calories

Broiled Turmeric Chicken
_______________________________________________________ I'm always looking for ways to spice up my chicken routine and this Thai inspired, turmeric recipe really hit the spot. Turmeric is a spice that is often used in Indian chutneys and curries and, to a lesser extent, South East Asian dishes. Its very fragrant, lends a nice color, a tiny bit of heat and enhances the natural taste of meats. You need just a little bit; too much turmeric will add an unpleasant sharpness and completely take over a dish.

The marinade for this dish blends turmeric with the umami powers of fish sauce and a bit of sweetness, hitting all of the major taste profiles.

Originally, the recipe that inspired this dish called for boneless and skinless chicken thighs but I'm a fan of the skin. If you want to cut the calories slightly, feel free to remove the skin.

If I had easier access to a gas grill, or even better a charcoal grill, the charred smokiness would have made this dish p…

Fast Day #19: Salmon Sashimi and Seaweed Salad - 293 calories

Salmon Sashimi and Seaweed Salad
Today was an inadvertent Fast Day. I woke up early and headed over to a friend's house for a cheesecake cooking tutorial (more on that later). We were so busy that all I had to eat all morning was a cup of coffee and 2 Vietnamese Steamed Tapioca Dumplings (Banh Bot Loc - more on that later too) for a grand total of 163 calories.

So when I got home, I figured that I should convert the day into a Fast Day and go for a light dinner. Luckily I had some salmon sashimi and seaweed salad in the fridge already.

I'm amazed how filling the salmon is. The richness really helps to keep me full all day. I barely miss the rice now - and that's a big thing for an Asian person to admit!

The seaweed salad (from the prepared section of my Japanese market) was a great addition. On its on own, the salad is very salty so you need very little soy sauce for the fish.

There's no recipe since nothing is cooked. Just slice …

Cracking the Calories: Hu Tieu (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup) - 250 Calories

Cracking the Calories: Hu Tieu
Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup
Noodle soups are a mainstay in Vietnamese cuisine. Pho (pronounced: fuh), both chicken and beef, takes the spotlight in popularity. But there are many, many other noodle soups that range from spicy (Bun Bo Hue) to sweet (Bun Rieu) to seafood based broths (Hu Tieu) that are also quite delicious.

I wanted to cook something light and refreshing for Mr. J's return from a long, hard week at a client site and Hu Tieu jumped out at me as the perfect fit. Also it didn't help that Wandering Chopsticks was taunting me with wonderful Retro Posts all week on her Facebook page and this was one of the dishes.

Traditionally, this dish is made with a light seafood broth, topped with pork (BBQ for Saigon Style or boiled for Nam Vang style), shrimp, sometimes, crab claws, and always with lots of vegetables (lettuce, Chinese celery, chives, etc). The noodles are usually wide and flat made of rice…

Fast Day #18: Soy Chorizo Zucchini Tacos - 250 calories

Soy Chorizo Zucchini Tacos
Since I'm at home all alone, I went shopping to do some cooking projects. I didn't plan on this to be a fast day but I got so caught up with things that I didn't stop to eat. By the time I realized this at 9 pm, I figured it'd just be as easy to continue not to eat. This was the easiest fast day ever.

So it turns out the only meal I had was a super hearty breakfast using a Cacique Soy Chorizo. I've always been a fan of Mexican style chorizo and eggs for breakfast, it's really high in calories. One serving of Mexican chorizo has about 250 calories - a definite no go for Fast Days. By the way, I keep saying Mexican Chorizo to differentiate it from Spanish Chorizo which is a dry, cured meat versus the Mexican stuff that is more of a spiced minced product.

I tried Cacique's Soy Chorizo for the first time at a tradeshow I was working. The Cacique booth was right across from my booth. They had a …

When the cat's away.... Pork Belly and Water Spinach Rolls - 290 calories

Pork Belly and Water Spinach Rolls

Mr. J is on a week long work trip. I took advantage of this time alone by indulging in comfort food that may seem weird to most people. My sister L and I LOVE boiled pork. Most people think that boiled meats are bland and boring and more often than not the meat is dry which is funny since it's boiled in water.

At a very young age, my mom taught me the secret to boiling any type of meat to keep it juicy and tasty. It's very simple but it's nerve racking to my Western sensibilities but works every time. It's really simple, put cold meat into cold water/ broth/ flavored liquid, bring the pot to a roiling boil and immediately turn off the heat, put on the lid, let rest for 30 minutes. Easy. I always worry that the meat isn't going to be cooked all the way through but it is. Even if the meat isn't to the temperature you desire, after you slice you can dip the slices into the still warm water…

Fast Day #17: Sushi, Sushi all Day Long - 250 calories

Salmon Sashimi with Rice
Mr. J is on a road trip for one of his clients this week and I am in no mood to cook today. So I took the path of least resistance and hopped out to my local Japanese supermarket and picked up some sashimi grade salmon, paired it with rice and there you go - lunch!

The calories are great and since the salmon is so rich very filling. The addition of rice kept me really full for most of the day. For dinner I repeated this same meal but with skipjack tuna sashimi (sorry, no picture).

I did cook the rice fresh because - well there's nothing better than freshly cooked rice. I didn't do any fancy soaking or extra washing that is generally suggested for "sushi" rice and it turned out great. After the rice was done, I tossed it with a bit of seasoned rice vinegar and voila - so fancy!

The only thing missing was a vegetable to complete this meal. But I went shopping and picked up a bunch of greens and veggies f…

Time for a Lay Off

Don't worry no one is getting fired. I just realized that my progress at the gym has stalled and I'm exhausted all the time. Those are clear indicators that it's time to take a break from the weights. Over the next two weeks, I'll be doing a lot of yoga, some high intensity interval workouts (HIIT), and other random and fun exercise routines that I see floating around the internet.

Exercise is the fun and easy part. The hard part of a lay off is the diet. It's a weird transition because my body has been running on such high gear with lifting weights and I could basically eat whatever I want knowing that any extra calories would be used in a productive way to repair and fuel my muscles or be offset by my 5:2 Diet activities. But now I have to watch my daily intake of calories and readjust them for my activity level.

This is not a fun or easy thing for me to do - that's why I'm on the 5:2 diet to begin with. I'm horrible at controlling my food desires. Bu…

Fast Day #16: Cracking the calories - Seaweed Stuffed Deviled eggs - 23 calories per half

Seaweed Stuffed Deviled Eggs
23 calories per half
I was trying to make it through the night having only one meal but I couldn't do it. My dinner was quite tasty but there was no bulk to it. I never really got full, just not hungry. By midnight (yes, I am an extreme night owl), I was starving.

It was too late to make something complicated but I wanted something satisfying that was low in calories.
I love snacking on deviled eggs but the calories were out of the question. They usually pack a whopping 70 to 90 calories PER HALF! Yikes! It's not the worse calorie count in the world but when you only have a few hundred calories to work with, it's tough to spend it on one egg.

So the deviled egg conundrum got me thinking and rummaging through my fridge. Devil eggs don't need to be stuffed with their own yolks right? I tried to think what would be yummy to use. Tuna - didn't want to open a whole can for just a few eggs. S…

Fast Day #16: Scallop and Shrimp Noodles - 300 calories

Scallop and Shrimp Noodle Salad - 300 calories
_______________________________________________________ Every few months, I do a clean the freezer/ fridge/ pantry day to use up the odds and ends that end up languishing in the back of shelves and drawers. Today was the freezer's turn.

I found a bunch of seafood - each item was not enough to make a full meal with but I figured if I cobbled together the scallops, shrimp and shrimp balls I could have a pretty nice mixed seafood fast day meal. I still had a package of shirataki noodles in the fridge, so all the main components for a seafood noodle dish were handy.

If you don't have shrimp balls handy feel free to use more shrimp or more scallops. This is a super flexible recipe. I bet squid (calamari) pieces or some slices of steak would be delicious too.

There, also, was really no need for the dark soy sauce either. I only put it in because I wanted color on the shirataki noodles. I don't know what it is but the pale translucen…