Monday, December 26, 2005

Thai Curry Chicken & Vegetable Soup
and The Christmas Dinner That Wasn't

I've heard it said that lightening never strikes the same place twice. Well, I don't know about lightening, but what are the odds that a person will be stricken with the same illness for back-to-back holidays? Now I was a pretty good little trooper when I stated feeling sick on Thanksgiving Eve, but now I'm beginning to feel like a fugitive from the laws of averages. Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the kitchen I come down with yet another <insert expletive here> cold sinus infection and a budding sore throat from coughing so much. I don't know if it's worse this time around, but I definitely feel like crap. Again!

Around 9 o'clock Friday evening I started feeling weird and by the time I woke up Christmas Eve morning I knew there would be no Christmas dinner from my kitchen. The strange thing is that I was in pretty good spirits until I realised that I wouldn't be able to execute my holiday plans, which my guests and I had been looking forward to all week. I politely called each party, explained the situation, offered my apologies, and proceeded to spend the next two days in bed, downing shots of lemon Theraflu and sipping cherry martinis of the Alka-Selter Plus Cold variety between naps.

Though my appetite has been a bit suppressed, I found myself craving something hot and liquidy. I managed to drag myself out of bed long enough today to make more soup, slap a couple of photos together (which turned out awful, too much flash) and write this post. This soup is an adaptation of this recipe from Epicurious. I'd like to make another pot of Hot & Sour soup later this evening, but I'm still feeling pretty sluggish at the moment, so I don't hold out much hope for that happening.

Unfortunately, many of my taste buds are fried at the moment, but from what I can tell this soup is delicious. It tastes sort of like an Asian-style, curried gumbo, actually. Imagine that! A result of my never-ending tweaking, no less. I modified the recipe quite a bit, but I don't have enough in me right now to write it all out, so that'll have to wait until I'm feeling better.

Hope you guys had a Merry Christmas. I'm certainly looking forward to a better New Year's celebration. Mos def!

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Eat Drink Man Woman

All of the festive cooking and eating for the holidays has left me feeling stuffed, bloated and with a few unwelcome pounds. Earlier this week I decided to make a conscious effort to eat lighter and healthier for a change, as I have been junkin' it up BIG time since Thanksgiving. My plan is to lay off of the bad carbs for a bit, well until Christmas at least, and focus more on lean protein and increased water consumption. I'm even thinking of transitioning to a low-carb way of eating after the holidays are over.

Now that the cold weather seems to have finally settled in for a bit this is the perfect time for one of my favourite Asian dishes, Chinese Hot & Sour Soup. I absolutely adore this soup, which also happens to be low carb. Whenever I venture out for Chinese I almost always have a small bowl of this soup as an appetizer. Today I decided it would be a good choice for a light and healthy dinner to enjoy while watching The Joy Luck Club and one of my favourite foodie movies, Eat Drink Man Woman (both excellent, I highly recommend).

Feeling a bit adventurous, I opted to try my hand at making a pot on my own rather than the usual restaurant takeaway. My only dilemma was which recipe to use. A couple of my cookbooks have recipes and I found several others on the Web. While most are quite similar, I decided to try this one from Epicurious. Of course I did my usual tweaking to make the soup a bit more robust for my taste, but for the most part I was faithful to the recipe ... well, the ingredients at least. My adaptation includes these changes:

1. 1 lb. of pork loin instead of 5 oz.
2. 2 tbs. of soy sauce on the pork instead of 2 tsp.
3. Stir-fried the pork loin for about 5 minutes instead of 1.
4. Combined the chicken stock and pork, simmered for about 25 min.
5. 12 medium dried shiitake mushrooms instead of black ones.
6. Added 8 oz. thickly sliced button mushrooms.
7. An entire 20-oz. can of Bamboo shoot (strips).
8. Only used rice wine vinegar, about 1/2 cup.
9. 4 14-oz. cans of chicken broth instead of 4 cups.
10. Added the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms, about 3 cups.
11. Added 1 cup of scallions (green onions) into the soup pot at the end.
12. 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, instead of 2 whole eggs.
13. Used 2 tsp. black pepper instead of 1.5 tsp. white.
13. 2 tbs. of Asian sesame oil instead of 2 tsp.
14. 3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens per bowl.
15. 3 tablespoons fresh diced cilantro leaves per bowl.
16. Added 1 to 2 tsp. of Thai hot sauce (Sriracha) to each bowl.*

*Didn't want to risk adding too much heat to the entire pot since I'm not the only one eating it. Aren't I considerate?

That's pretty much it, I think. Wow, 16 changes. I didn't realise I modified the recipe that much. Oh well, oh well. It's all good. I had fun and the soup is delicious. Now I'm off to enjoy it, my movies ... and get cozy with a bottle of Riesling and my guest!

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Back In Stride Again

Finally! Due to illness I've been on an unplanned hiatus for the past couple of weeks. My trip home for the holidays was great until the bone-chilling weather in St. Louis took its toll. I started feeling lousy on Thanksgiving Eve and by the time I headed back to Houston I had a full-blown cold. Needless to say, I was miserable. Fortunately, before I started feeling like crap my girls and I attended Ricky's (my grandson) Super Bowl game (which his team won) on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and I took a couple of photos of my boy in uniform after the game. Unfortunately, after that I felt so horrible most of the time that I didn't bother taking any more photos. I could kick myself for that now. And there was very little shopping, dining out or partying after Thanksgiving, as I spent the remainder of my time nursing my nasty cold.

The good news is that it didn't snow while I was there and I was able to spend time with most of my family (whom I hadn't seen since 2003) and a couple of dear friends I've known since first grade. Best of all, I was able to spend at least half of my time kickin' it with my son, daughter-in-law, and four awesome grandkids. My DIL, the girls and I also had a chance to have a "girls only dinner" together. We decided to let the little ones pick the spot ... and of all of the snazzy places to eat in the St. Louis area, we ended up at Ponderosa Steak House. Though it's not on my list of "hot" restaurants, for some reason little kids just go wild with excitment for this place (I think it's the unlimited desserts). In the end, it really didn't matter. My little girls totally enjoyed themselves and we all had a great time just being together, so it was all good.

With the help of my girls, Triona and Taniesha, I managed to prepare a decent Thanksgiving dinner for my son and his family. I so love cooking with kids; they're so much fun. Thank goodness my DIL (from whom I caught the cold ... thanks, Shaun!) captured bits and pieces of the day on video, parts of which turned out to be hilarious, particularly the prank we played on my oldest grandson while he slept. Priceless! Having those moments on film more than makes up for the lack of photos, so that's kool.

Other than that, there's not much else to tell. I've been home since Nov 26, but it took an entire week of rest before I started feeling well enough to do anything other than work and sleep. I actually feel pretty good now and I plan to resume cooking tomorrow. I've already been to the market today and I'm raring to go. On the way home from shopping I picked up one of my favourite items, Fresh Spring Rolls, from Kim Son. This place has great food at great prices and though it's a dine-in restaurant, it's one of my favourite go-to spots when I'm in a mood for Vietnamese takeaway.

As usual, the food was wonderful, but I learned one important lesson this evening ... Chenin Blanc and spicy peanut dipping sauce do not go well together!

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