Tag Archives: food

All in a day’s work: planning dinner recipes in advance

Each week, I try to prepare creative, healthy meals that will provide to my boyfriend and I the energy that we need in order to get through our long workdays.
Since food is one of my tasks on the common chore list, I need to find ways to be able to cook my dinners in advance because when the work week starts, I don’t have the time to do it. Currently, I try to cook 3 or 4 dinners at a time, usually on Wednesday afternoons. This way, dinners are ready until Saturday.

This is how I usually function:

On Tuesday evenings, I map out the list of recipes I’m going to make. My criteria is: healthy ingredients, flavor and accessibility of ingredients (I need to be able to buy them at the store where I work or at another grocery store that is near my house). I also try to prioritize recipes that I can cook at the same time (so they share ovens and don’t require too many stove elements).

The thing with me is that I don’t like to repeat myself in terms of cooking. I’m always challenging myself to try something new. This means that we’ve rarely eaten the same dinner twice in the past year and a half. It’s not easy, but I have a blast doing it (most of the time).

Last Wednesday, I prepared three meals.

I started out by placing all the ingredients I needed for those three recipes on top of my small buffet, and grouping them together by separate meals.

Brocoli eggplant carrots

sausage green beans

Spinach potato

I started out by preheating the oven at 400F(205C). Then I got ready for the recipe that requires the most time:

Roast chicken with baby potatoes, garlic and spinach

What you’ll need (for 2 people)
+2 chicken thighs
+Light olive oil or grapeseed oil
+5 or 6 cloves of garlic
+100g of spinach
+200g Baby potatoes
+1 tbsp lemon juice
+Herbes de provence or Court Bouillon spices

spinach in the oven

How to prepare it:
+In a rectangular pan, spread out the spinach and splash it with either of the oils you’ve chosen (as shown in the picture)
+Add the garlic cloves (bared beforehand of their skin)
+Pat down the chicken thighs with a bit of oil, lemon juice and spices
+Put the chicken over the spinach
+Add the baby potatoes
+When the oven has reached 400F, put the dish in and cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour, check to make sure the chicken is well cooked. Depending on your oven, it may take another 20 minutes.

Serve with some brown rice noodles.

In my 3 meal plan, I had another dish that required cooking in the oven:

Brocoli, tomato, eggplant, sausage and cheese casserole

What you’ll need (for two people)
+2 sausages (choose your own type. mild italian, tomato and basil or honey dijon are all good for this recipe)
+250 grams of mild cheddar cheese
+1 good sized Broccoli
+1 medium sized eggplant
+1 can whole tomatoes (fresh is good too)
+ 4 cloves of garlic

brocoli eggplant tomato sausage cheese

Directions:

+Start out by thoroughly cleaning the broccoli and skinning the eggplant
+Cut them into bite sized pieces
+In a large pan (of any shape, I used a medium sized round one and a small rectangular one), set the broccoli, eggplant, garlic and tomatoes (with the juice)
+Cook for thirty minutes before checking to see if the vegetables are ready
+During that time, cook the sausage, at low heat, in a pan. This should take approx. 15-20 minutes if you bought them uncooked, 5-10 if they were precooked, but do keep an eye on them at all times and remember to turn them often.
+Grate the cheese
+Check the broccoli. Once you find that it is close to being ready (still crispy but manageable under the teeth)  take the pan out of the oven, cover everything in cheese and put it back in. Leave it to cook for 5 minutes.
+ When the cheese has melted, remove the pans from the oven and add the sausage to the vegetables.

Brown rice noodles with shrimp, Bok choy, green beans and chili sauce

What you’ll need: (for 2 people)
+1/2 package of Brown Rice Noodles
+3 baby Bok choys
+Green beans (10 per person is good)
+30-40 small precooked shrimp or 20 big ones
+1 carrot
+Sweet chili Eggroll sauce (I use it on EVERYTHING)
+1 tsp Light olive oil or Grapeseed oil

shrimp bok choy green bean noodles

Directions:
+Start out by heating the olive oil in a large pot(medium heat)
+Add the green beans, still cooking at low to medium heat (if the oil spits at you, turn it down)
+Cut the Bok Choy into bite sized pieces (including the leaves), add it to the pot
+Grate the carrot into the pot, stirring all the ingredients so they don’t stick to the bottom.
+When the green beans start softening, add the shrimp
+Start boiling some water for the noodles
+Once the water is boiling, follow the instructions on the package in order to know how long to leave the noodles in (2-3 minutes is pretty frequent)
+When the noodles are soft and ready, drain them in a colander
+Mix everything together and add some sweet chili eggroll sauce (1 tbsp per person should do the trick)

Dinner on the stove

Tips on how to cook multiple meals at the same time:

Calculate how to use your downtime on one meal: The roasted chicken took less than 10 minutes to prepare but cooking it is long, so I had 1 hour to work on the other food.

Know what is done and what needs to be done. I’m still able to manage with just my head most of the time, but written lists can help a lot too.

Make meals that share common ingredients. We ate brown rice noodles with both the chicken and the stir fry. Nutritious and time-saving!

All told, this took me 1.5 hours in one afternoon and I had food ready for the rest of the week (including a couple of leftovers that we used for lunch)

The ingredients of a perfect day: simple things that make me happy

After two heavy, rather personal posts (on traveling and death), I decided that this week’s piece would cover a lighter subject: everyday moments of joy.

Louise Hung wrote a fun piece for xojane.com, titled Is happy really that simple? 10 tiny things that make me ecstatic.

This inspired me to make my own list of simple things that I like to do and that are, to me, among the necessary elements of having a great day.
Like most people, I’m at my workplace 40 hours per week. My schedule is tightly packed with long work days from Wednesday to Saturday and although I love my job, I cherish my days off. When I’m not blogging for this site or for Untapped Cities, I love to fill them with the many activities that make life enjoyable: long walks to discover the city, meals at yummy restaurants, going to the movies, getting together with friends, painting and crafting…

Sunday is the day where I best like to indulge. Usually, I’m in no shape to be productive in any manner since I’m coming off of having been through 3 consecutive 11.5 hour shifts (with minimal sleep between), so here’s what I like to do:

Sleep in:
A classic way to enjoy your day off is to sleep a little later than usual. Of course, when your weekday alarm sets off at 5h30AM, sleeping in means a rising time of 8h30AM at the very latest. Still, it feels so nice to rise after the sun has.

Sleeping in

Eat pastries for breakfast:
During the week, my first meal regularly consists of a dry bagel, orange juice and some Sesame snaps later on in the morning (I know, I know, this bad habit shall be changed soon). Come Sunday, I’m craving a good pancake or a gooey chocolate croissant. We are lucky to have a great bakery (Nigelle Café)at less than 3 minutes walk from our place and the walk to get there mostly takes us through alleyways. This means that we can walk to and from the place without changing out of our wrinkled sweats!

pastry

Paint my nails properly:
This is what my fingers look like during the week:

Ugly fingernails

Now here is what they look like after a good moisturizing treatment and some pretty polish. A simple, superficial but pleasant thing to do!

CUte nail art

Chill with my cats:
I do this because I love them and because if I don’t give them a bit of attention at least once a week, they’ll come to think of me only as that strange lady who serves the food (some particularly busy weeks I think my boyfriend sees me that way too).

Jack the cat

Experiment with fun hairstyles:
For the last year and a half, I’ve been dying my hair. The new shade I’m trying out is hot pink. I also need some new dos that are cute but practical for workdays. When I get up to go to work, I don’t have time to think about pins, barrettes and elastics. I want to be able to do my hair with my eyes half open and a toothbrush hanging loosely off my lip.
Sunday is the day where I take care of my hair, make it nice and learn how to do those cute fishtail braids or those 40 ways to wear a headscarf, so that when I’m getting ready on Wednesday at dawn, the fingers will do all the work and the brains can stay asleep a bit longer.

Pink hair blue flower

Watch some corny TV.
Ah, the couch. Such a warm, lovely place to spend a few hours. What better a thing to do on this comfy piece of furniture, than to sit, cover yourself in a warm blanket and enjoy the pleasures of turning off your brain for 21 minutes. I’m a sucker for cheesy sitcoms and lately I’ve been watching Will and Grace (I got the box set for Christmas). Friends, Modern Family, 30 rock… Watching hilarious (and often witty) TV shows, is one of my favorite ways to relax.

Cook a nice meal:
I’ve said it before here, I like to cook. For the new year, we are trying to reduce the number of pre-prepared meals we eat, so I try to fit cooking into my busy schedule.

2008_0224straotherandmontreal0165

Discover some new music:
I’ve been working on learning Spanish lately (Fluenz software is the best!) and I like to get lost in the deepest realms of Youtube, trying to find some good music en español that does not sound like this (no offense to the fans). I know it’s out there and I’m very open-minded about music (I like electic things ranging from Britney to Buena Vista Social Club or the Black Keys, yes that was me lazily going through the Bs on Itunes).

Here’s one gem that I discovered last week: Los Super elegantes.

As for music in English, I learned about the band Temples last week, through NME music magazine’s 2013 watch list.

Read, read, read and read some more:
I’ve always been a big reader. When I was young, it was babysitter’s club books. Then I developed an obsession for magazines of all kinds and never went back. I rarely read books but I read dozens of articles every day. I guess I prefer the shorter format of storytelling.
I often go to the same websites everyday, as they always release new content, but I still love to find new sites (using Stumble Upon is a great way).
Here’s a list of great websites I discovered lately:

Daily Nibbles

The Jealous curator

Stars for streetlights

This isn’t happiness

Seven spoons

Elise Blaha

Sincerely Kinsey

Poppy talk

comfy clothes leggings and a wool shirt

So that’s it, a list of simple pleasures that make life good on a regular basis. It may be nothing compared to visiting the Louvre, tasting a new dish on a side street of Sapporo or watching your favorite band live but as banal as these small things seem, they are just as important as the bigger, more extraordinary moments.

What are the little things in life that make you happy?

Christmas at home: last minute hosting and decorating ideas

Christmas came so fast and it’s already over.

I learned less than two weeks ago that I’d be having 10 people for lunch on Christmas eve, a challenge that I gladly accepted. It was the first time that I was the one hosting Christmas for my family.

I was psyched, but had a lot of work to do since there were no decorations installed and I needed to prepare a menu. Generally, I do pretty well with last-minute decorating and cooking so the event was very successful and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Here are a few snapshots from that day, along with tips:

Funky paper christmas tree

Funky christmas tree

I have to be honest, Christmas wasn’t really on my mind this year for various reasons that I won’t get into. That’s why we hadn’t decorated at all before December 23rd. I didn’t have the time or money to go out looking for a tree so I decided to get creative with some funky paper that I had in my craft drawer. Does the job pretty well doesn’t it?

Vase with christmas ornements inside

Mason jar christmas decorations

In 2010, I worked for 6 months at a year-round Christmas store. A year-round what????? you ask.

Yep, a store that sells Christmas ornaments and other holiday related items, 365 days a year. It was fun! Amazingly, I never got annoyed about the constantly playing holiday music, or the fact that I was being called an elf. We, Santa’s helper’s, spent our days decorating trees, drawing on glass balls and setting up  Christmas villages worth thousands of dollars.

In those short six months, many funny things happened, like the time when I had to run after Denise Richards into the street when she left half her things on our store counter, or the other time when I recognized and caught a frequent robber (at one of my former jobs) trying to steal a 50$ Stanley cup shaped ornament. Just another day at the Christmas store!

Needless to say, that is where I stocked up on my own (small) collection of Christmas things. I have a few pieces, most of which are actually too fragile to set out because of my cats. Putting a couple of them inside mason jars makes for a nice and safe display!

funky gift wrapping

Tree design wrapping paper

The pretty blue and red wrapping papers were created by graduating design students at Concordia University. They were picked up at a vintage event. For the other gifts I covered them in silver tissue paper, then used pictures that I had cropped out of a local theater venue’s brochure.

Sprout salad Purple dinner table

The food we prepared was about as far away as you can get from tradition. My mom and I forgot to consult each other before we prepared our dishes, so we ended up making something incredibly similar, but everything was good nonetheless. Everyone seemed happy with the food, including my stepbrother, a chef, so YAY!

The menu:

Butternut squash purée

Quinoa with lime and cilantro

Beet salad with tomatoes, lentils and goat cheese

Beet salad with mackerel

Spreads on crackers: Olive tapenade, creamy salmon

Jalapeno poppers (stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon)

Sprout salad

Dessert:

Pear tiramisu (the ladyfinger cookies where covered in apricot/apple jam and apple cider)

Baklavas

What did you guys eat for Christmas? Any tips for last minute decorating?

Beautiful food: the romanesco broccoli

When I’m not out looking for a new subject to blog about, I work at a small, family-owned grocery store.

I’m one of those people that gets amazed at the little things in life, and the fact that I get to play with fruits and vegetables all day long makes me happy.

Rarely will I get excited about an apple, an orange or an onion, but once in a while a new, cool looking variety pops up and I’m back to being a kid again.

The romanesco broccoli is one of those vegetables that amazes me.

I first saw a romanesco broccoli in a book called Pour en finir avec la cuisine de mémé (In english : Down with boring old food! Inventive little recipes for the 21st century) by Raphaele Vidaling.

Taste-wise, it has been compared to a mix between a regular cauliflower and a broccoli. It was first discovered in Italy, hence the name.

If ever you come across one of these, don’t be intimidated by it! Here is a list of interesting recipes:

Linguine recipe on La Tartine Gourmande

Pan-roasted Romanesco with peas on Martha Stewart

Roasted romanesco cauliflower with thyme and pine nuts on Almostveg

Pasta and Cauliflower soup federica on Epicurious

Roast chicken and romanesco cauliflower and potatoes on Sweet Potato chronicles