Rice


My love affair with chickpeas started in my first year of University. As a student living on campus and stuck with a meal plan, it was easy to get bored with the food pretty quickly. So I spent a good amount of time trying to eat salads (the only relatively healthy meal option available). And before I knew it, chickpeas became an integral part of my diet.

Chickpeas (otherwise known as garbanzo beans) are a great addition to meals. They are a great source of folic acid, fiber and protein to name a few. They can help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels making them ideal for diabetics. They are often consumed from the canned variety. I certainly took a liking to them even after I moved off campus but discovered the economical and health benefits from just cooking dried chickpeas for yourself and that’s where this meal came in.

I keep a jar of dried chickpeas in my pantry whenever I need them. The process of cooking them from a dried state is this:

How to cook chickpeas/garbanzo beans

1. Soak the chickpeas in room temperature water overnight. Change the water if needed.

2. Fill a large pot with water. Put in the chickpeas. Make sure there’s about 2-3 cups of water for every 1 cup of chickpeas that you are cooking.

3. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a slow simmer.

4. Leave for about 1 hour +, checking on the doneness and tenderness of the chickpeas.

5. Use as you’d like.

It’s a fairly simple process. I’m not entirely sure it’s the exactly correct way to cook them so if anyone has better suggestions let me know as I based it off of the instructions I could find (but of course everything has variations so it’s hard to determine who is right)

Along with my chickpea obsession at this time, I was also obsessed with corn. I bought several cans of corn and decided for this meal to create a spicy fried rice with the chickpeas and the corn.


I’d provide a more solid recipe but to be honest, I just threw in whatever I had on hand (a typical tactic I employ when making food in a hurry)

Essentially I had cooked some bacon a little earlier in the day so instead of letting that valuable bacon fat go to waste, I decided to sauté some onions and garlic, threw in some sausage from a leftover the night prior, added the chickpeas and corn and finally the rice. Once that was all well incorporated and mixed together, I added whatever spices I fancied that day. I added some chili powder for kick, garlic powder and other spices. I also finely chopped some parsley and added it at the end for some fresh flavours. I can’t remember every single thing I added but I definitely remember enjoying it. It just goes to show that cooking doesn’t have to be hard. It’s all a matter of throwing together what you think would taste good to you and heating it up. Voila!

Writing this up has put me in the mood for some chickpeas so I think I’m gonna go soak some tonight. As for you guys, I hope you’ll think about trying chickpeas if you haven’t already. Happy Eating! :)

I apologize for the lack of posts going on for this blog. It is certainly not from a lack of material. I’ve just gotten so backlogged on my photo editing that I just haven’t gotten around to posting anything on here. Also, I’ve tried to focus my attention to my other blogs which for the majority of them, post on a regular basis (every other day). So as not to leave you out in the dark, please check out those other sites of mine in the Blog Roll on the side as well as conveniently collected on my main site Jara Mae. From there you can be updated on all my blogs, my twitter and various social media sites. Please also support my site by joining the Facebook page (Jara Mae Inc) to receive updates on everything that I’m working on.

In the meantime, I decided to start up a new series called Meal of the Day. Often times I cook/make simple meals at home consisting of leftovers or food that I have around the house. Food that I wouldn’t necessarily devote a whole blog to as it normally wasn’t created by me. I think it would give some insight about what I was eating every day, maybe record some memorable meals. I will try to do them as often as possible, though don’t hold your breath on getting it on  daily basis but I’ll work towards it. If you have meals that you’d like to share feel free to leave a link so I can take a look. It’s always interesting to see what people eat regularly besides all the creative recipes/dishes that you see on food blogs.

This is what I had for dinner last night. A fairly well-balanced meal if you ask me. It consisted of:

  • Half a plate of salad: mixed greens, dried cranberries, feta, almonds, red onion, fresh button mushrooms, lemon citrus dressing
  • quarter plate of white rice: I normally eat brown but this is what I had on hand at the time
  • a few slices of smoked salmon
  • 2-3 tbsp of giniling: Filipino dish of ground meat with potatoes, tomatoes and peppers
  • for dessert: 2 yogurts, vanilla & mixed berry

A very filling meal. I ended up eating a banana as well later in the evening to tide me over for the night. Not bad for student eating :)

*Update* I’ve had some personal struggles lately and with the transition from the school environment to back home, I’ve been unable to update this page at all. For those who constantly remind me and support me in this, I thank you and appreciate you. It makes me so happy knowing that I have readers out there whether you come on a regular basis or have dropped by just once. Also, through the kindness of a great friend of mine, he purchased my domain for me so the plan is to get the site running and eventually redirect you guys to my own personally owned site (though I will always love wordpress for giving me a place to start this up) Can’t wait! :)

I’ve eaten short ribs in many variations in the past. When I came across this recipe  and saw the delicious photo, I put it into my ever-growing list of recipes that I want to try. While on a grocery run with the family, I encountered some short ribs and instantly remembered this recipe and decided it was time to give it a try. I hadn’t really mentioned to anyone in my family that I was making it they didn’t get excited for it until make later into the cooking process.

The experience was an interesting one as I don’t often ‘braise’ any type of meat, new cooking method for me to try out but of course I love experimenting. I luckily had all the other ingredients at home waiting for me and I set out one weekend to make this long but tasty meal. (more…)

Szechuan Szechuan is a pan Asian and Szechuan restaurant. It has two current locations; one in Vaughan mills and the other in the First Canadian Place in downtown Toronto. On a shopping excursion to Vaughan mills, my family decided to eat at the Szechuan Szechuan restaurant. We decided for quicker service and general convenience to stick with the takeout/express service as opposed to the sit down meal in the restaurant. I can’t comment too much on decor but it looks really classy and modern inside the restaurant. The website displays some pictures.

image taken from google

The food choices are quite extensive even for the take out. There are soups, salads, main dishes of every meat, sushi, side dishes, rice, noodles and set menus with the type of food ranging in the Chinese, Thai and Japanese flavours. Simply ideal if you ask me. We ordered 4 dishes, one for each of us and ended up with leftovers. The other bonus to the take-out service is that they provide take out boxes of all sizes if you’re unable to finish. There’s also water on hand so you don’t have to worry about buying tons of drinks if all you need is some refreshing water to go along with the meal. The take out service has certain special up on the board with enticing photos as well as the menu. It’s all very clean-looking and appetizing. I can’t really explain the thought process behind choosing what we did that day. We all wanted a little something different.

I remember choosing the Pad Thai ($9.95) simply because the other noodle choices didn’t seem appetizing at the time and although Pad Thai dishes in most places aren’t all that authentic, I’d settle for it over other options. It was surprisingly better than I had anticipated, certainly not super authentic but better than most. There was a lot of flavour and you could definitely tell that it was freshly made to order. I could happily live off of Pad Thai for the rest of my life.

My father got the General Tso Chicken ($10.50) since it was advertised as a house speciality. I can’t say it  looks all that appealing in this photo but it was definitely delicious. A little too much on the salty side so luckily we had some rice to go with it. There wasn’t as much spice and kick as you’d think there’d be considering all the dried peppers in the dish. I like my food spicy but I don’t mind either way. Definitely a hearty dish.

I’m not 100% sure what this is. Upon reviewing the online menu, I tried to figure out what this might be and was torn between two choices. I’m leaning more towards Crispy Ginger beef ($10.95) but someone correct me if I’m wrong. At my favourite Szechuan restaurant, they have a similar crispy beef dish so we decided to try this out. It was certainly tasty but a little salty as well. We might have ordered extra rice because of it. Again not as much spice and kick as you’d think considering you can see the big pieces of dried peppers. We had some of this left over in the end.

And finally, my sister decided she wanted Sweet & Sour Pork ($8.95), a Chinese classic dish. Also tasty but pretty generic compared to others you could find elsewhere. She happily gobbled it all up.

Overall, Szechuan Szechuan is a great place to grab a bite. There’s a wide selection and I certainly appreciate the takeout option as it is certainly much more convenient especially while on a shopping trip. The portionning is really good and great value. It’s a different level of fast food. Maybe one of these days, I’ll venture into the restaurant itself but in the meantime, I hope you try it for yourself and enjoy :)

1 Bass Pro Mills Dr
Vaughan, ON L4K 5W4
(905) 738-8398
Website
Take Out Menu
Cash/Credit/Debit

Szechuan Szechuan on Urbanspoon

Rouxbe is an online cooking school that I came across a while ago. It has informative professional videos that demonstrate cooking techniques, information on food varieties and overall good source for food information. After watching the videos you can take quizzes and see your progress. Membership gains you access to more videos. I highly recommend checking out the site for yourself. Here’s a preview video of this specific recipe and their overall style of videos.

The video recipes are really wonderful and explain everything step by step. While looking over their recipes one afternoon I came across a rice recipe  that enticed me. I was fortunate to have all the ingredients and tried it out myself. Unless done in a Asian  fried rice manner,  most of the rice I’ve eaten has been plain to accompany as a filler for the rest of the dishes on the table. I also love anything with coconut in it (curries, soups, noodle dishes) so coconut infused rice sounded just as good. I followed the instructions, adjusting to my taste and equipment. The end result was amazing.

Recipe adapted from Rouxbe

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1 1/2 cups Cold Water
  • 1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • small sprinkle of lemon grass seasoning (optional)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (1 cup)
  • 3 green onions (approx. 1/2 cup)
  • handful of crushed peanuts (optional)

Instructions


1. Heat up the rice cooker then add the oil and diced onions and sauté until translucent.

2. Then add the rice and sauté for a few minutes until the rice is coated in the oil and slightly translucent.

3. Add the cold water, coconut milk, salt and pepper and lemon grass seasoning. Place the lid on the rice cooker (making sure the rice cooker is still on, and has not switched to the warm setting).

4. Let cook for approximately twenty minutes, or until it switches off indicating that the rice is done.


5. Fluff rice with a fork to ensure no clumped mounds of it. Roughly chop the cilantro and green onions and fold into the rice along. The peanuts I have are home roasted and seasoned whole so I crush them myself with whatever I can find that’s heavy.

Review

This is the final product. The original recipe calls for fried crispy onions which you can make at home or buy. I didn’t really want to go through that process so I opted for crushed peanuts for a textural difference and it went well with the coconut rice. It added a nice nutty element. Although liquid amounts are quite precise (straying from it might result in undercooked rice or to the other extreme, a coconut soup with rice), seasonings are yours to experiment with. Cilantro and green onions add freshness to the rice. You could experiment to put more spice into it as I might do at some point. I added lemon grass seasoning just because I had it on hand. Let me know how yours turns out and enjoy :)

I often get sushi cravings considering there isn’t a multitude of good places to go in Kingston which is real shame. So when I manage to make the trip back to Toronto I instantly think of certain foods in hopes of satisfying my cravings until I finally come home for the summer. I have a definite fav place to go for my sushi craving which is out in Whitby (Sushi Mountain, yum!) but I’m always open to new suggestions especially ones closer to where I live. A friend of mine, J suggested heading to a place in Markham for All U Can Eat and I was happy to accompany. I had limited amounts of time to spend so we decided to go for lunch.

I had come to this specific plaza several times to visit other surrounding places but had never noticed the Japanese sushi place on the side. J often came here with friends for crazy feasts from what he described. I was certainly eager to see what they had and definitely hungry.

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I’ve noticed in the last little while that my home cooking strays more towards the vegetarian region and my restaurant/takeout meals lean more towards more  meaty dishes. So I wanted to switch things up and try the vegetarian fare at Lotus Hearts Blossom. Since moving to downtown, I became aware of the  lovely vegetarian restaurant close to where I live. I’m actually able to look into the restaurant from where I live and I often people watch from time to time while in my kitchen. I was thoroughly surprised at how much traffic the restaurant received. I looked over their great website and wonderful menu and I realized that I had to give the restaurant a try.

I decided to do take out because I’m the type of person who feels a little uncomfortable being in a restaurant alone, especially one that I’ve never tried before. Take out was also more appropriate because at the time I was busy doing lots of readings and housework so I just didn’t want to bother with sitting in the restaurant. Their menu is quite diverse and features so many great dishes and drinks. They feature some vegan and gluten free items when they can. They’ve chosen dishes that have lots of spices and herbs to bring out the most flavour from their ingredients. There are hints of indian, mexican and mediterranean to their meals.  It was actually very difficult for me to decide since it all sounded so appetizing. Their menu is separated by all day selections, lunch meals and dinner meals. They also have a brunch menu for the weekends. Check their site for hours.

It was lunch time when I decided to get something so I decided to opt for their meatloaf meal or “Neatloaf” as they call it, lunch portion. I love meatloaf but I can’t seem to bring myself to make one from scratch. I was intriguied in what a vegetarian version would taste like. They describe the meal as “A loaf baked with rice, grains, eggs, ricotta cheese & tofu served with mashed potatoes and rich mushroom gravy.” After reading that, how could I resist? I also decided to get a strawberry milkshake because I knew their version would probably delicious and healthy as opposed to the version you could pick up at a fast food chain. I adore strawberry or berry milkshakes. As I’m writing this, I’m craving one. :)

When I picked up my meal, I got the opportunity to see the interior of the restaurant myself. It’s an experience for sure. There wasn’t too many people in the restaurant when I went to pick up mainly because it was later in the afternoon so the place was rather quiet and calm. The lady who gave me my meal was very friendly and sweet looking. The whole place had a relaxing aura, very colourful and warm. It definitely doesn’t give off this eat and run vibe to it that some other restaurants can give off. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos inside since it was a quick visit but the website does show a few.

This is how the meal looked like upon pick up. I thought the writing was a cute touch :)

Let’s have a look inside!

Although you could definitely eat it from the very sturdy box, I opted to transfer my whole meal onto a plate for easier photo taking and easier eating. I don’t know about you but I don’t normally eat out of a box. (hehe)

First thing I noted was that it was quite a lot of food for a lunch time portion. I remember having to finish off the rest another time. The neatloaf was definitely hearty. You could taste all the ingredients that went into the neatloaf, especially the tofu. You could also see the bits of rice. It was definitely delicious and filling. The neatloaf was covered with the gravy so you definitely tasted the mushroom gravy sauce first. My piece of meatloaf seemed to have been a corner so some of the edges were a bit more tough that I would have preferred. The bottom was also a bit more crisp that I really would have liked. The whole thing held well together and had a meaty taste so I definitely didn’t miss any of the flavours.

As mentioned it comes with mash potatoes and a salad. The mash potatoes were nicely seasoned. I normally eat the boxed mixed version of mash potatoes for convenience sake so this was a nice change. and the gravy went really well with the potatoes although I would like more gravy to cut the thickness of it. The salad was really tasty. It had a lot of fresh vegetables which included mixed greens, sprouts, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions; all yummy things! The salad dressing that came with it was unique and had an interesting taste. I was testing it for the longest time trying to figure it out but my palate just isn’t good enough to determine the ingredients. It’s not my favourite dressing but I was willing to eat it, although next time I’ll probably opt for my own dressing. It did go well with the vegetables though.

As for the milkshake, it was super light and full of strawberry flavour. They didn’t overdo it with the ice cream so you could definitely drink it through a straw but not so thin that it was a smoothie. There were specks of the strawberries while I was drinking which made me wonder if it was made with actual strawberries. My questions were answered when I found a chunk of a strawberry at the bottom of my cup. I have a sneaking suspicion that they were frozen strawberries as opposed to completely fresh but for milkshakes, frozen strawberries will do. It was a beautiful pink colour and very well blended. Delish!

In total my whole meal was approx $15 with tax included and it was definitely worth it for all that I got. Had it not been the fact that I live so close to the place, I wouldn’t have come across it which would have been a shame. Its definitely an experience, meat fan or not and I highly recommend it. Happy eating!

Lotus Hearts Blossom Restaurant
185 Sydenham Street, Kingston, ON
613-549-7777
website

Lotus-Heart-Blossoms Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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