Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eating the dumplings (a couple of them)

Today's lunch has a few new things - one of each of the dumpling shapes I made last night, and a buttercup squash thing and some carrot and parsnip chips I made the night before. There is also some spinach, some tomato/zucchini/onion stuff, and some capsicum and onion cooked to death stuff, which are the same as I had yesterday.

70 g weight of dumplings - not much fat so I'm guessing = 160 Cal?
carrot and parsnip = 40 Cal?
pumpkin thing = 60 Cal?
spinach = 12 Cal
tomato etc = 60 Cal
capsicum etc = ~40 Cal

Total = 372 Cal, but there's a good bit of guesswork involved in that calculation. As far as I could work out from the figures on the dumpling wrapper packet, each wrapper should be either 5 or 10 Cal. I'm calculating the dumplings as the calories in an equal weight of pork mince, plus a bit. If anything that should be on the high side as there is a lot of shrimp and onion in them and they are lower in calories than pork by a long way.

My walk to the farther supermarket today took me past this ingenious piece of fence decoration:

Yes, those are beer cans (Dunedin's own Speight's) impaled on the fence palings. The students are definitely back - so of course the weather has improved too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jelly, dumplings, meatloaves, turnovers.

The apple and blackberry mush I cooked up last night produced four cups of juice which showed a good clot in the pectin test (a teaspoon or so of juice in a glass of meths).

So I added 1.1 kg of sugar and boiled it all until the setting point was reached …

… then bottled it and labeled it. One jar will go to the donor of the apples, the rest will add to my huge stash in the pantry.

Next thing is to start preparing for my weekend away - tomorrow night I'm playing bridge so I can't do a great deal then. Here we have the beginnings of, from left to right; shrimp and pork dumplings (pork mince, chopped shrimp, mirin, soy sauce, onions - much what Maki puts in her shuumai dumplings but in different proportions); stuffing for a couple of chickens I'll put in the oven to cook while I'm at bridge tomorrow night (breadcrumbs, onion, salt, fresh parsley and sage); and meatloaf (pork mince, beef mince, tomato sauce, salt and pepper, onions, breadcrumbs, eggs, milk):

And here it is after I've had my hands in it squishing it all around:

The stuffing went into the cupboard, waiting for me to add a bit of melted butter before inserting it into the chickens' orifices tomorrow. Most of the dumpling mix was turned into two different shapes of dumpling using the same wrappers, which are Korean and came in a packet which is unreadable by me.

I steam-fried them as per Maki's instructions.

There was still some dumpling mix left, so I made two small pork and shrimp meatloaves, which I cooked at the same time as the one large (for my trip) and two small (for bentos) meatloaves made from the proper meatloaf mixture.

Then I used the rest of the apples from Sue's tree to make some apple turnovers. I really could not be bothered making flaky pastry, so I whipped up a batch of sweet short pastry and used that. It's not the same, but it'll do. See the lovely yellow New Zealand butter? Comes from cows that eat grass and live in paddocks. There was a time when the EU (or EEC as it was then) tried to stop the importing of our butter, because they thought it had dye in it. It took our diplomats a good few months to persuade them that it was natural.

The finished turnovers - they'll probably get eaten by starving non-cooking motorcycle racers. They'd probably better, because they're about 600 Cal each.

Meatloaf and spinach

Today I have more tomato/zucchini/onion stuff; some meatloaf; bulghur with bought salmon furikake (I don't think I like it very much); a capsicum and onion cooked to death thing; and some of Maki's blanched spinach. I have the same recipe in a book at home which says to sprinkle on some toasted sesame seeds, so I did. I'm not so sure I like these too much either actually, they're not nasty or anything, but there are things I like better than cold spinach. I put a little of the seaweed from yesterday in the bulghur too.

100 g meatloaf = ~150 Cal
100 g bulghur = 87 Cal
capsicum and onion = ~40 Cal
tomato and zucchini = 50 Cal
spinach = 15 Cal (mostly from the sesame seeds)
furikake and seaweed = 5 Cal

Total = 347 Cal

Not too bad.

On today's walk I went to the nearer supermarket again, to buy chickens and mince so I can take a monster bento with me when I go away at the weekend. When I say monster bento, I'm talking 3 days' food, and there will be blokes there too. Old fashioned ones who would never dream of taking food.

On my way I went past the Farmers' Market promo stall where I bought blackberries yesterday. This time I took photos:

Most of the students, however, had other sorts of refreshment on their minds…

… it's Cook-a-thon day. They were queueing up when I was going to work this morning, and there's still an enormous line waiting to get in to "The Cook" I'm not exactly sure what the Cook-a-thon entails (other than a lot of drinking) because it is a new event since I was a student. They all seem to go in sets - there'll be 5 girls in indentical nighties (as in the end of the queue below), or 4 supermen, or 10 people all dressed in orange and yellow tie dye. It may be a requirement, or it may just be a tradition. And there must be some sort of reduction in the price of alcohol, or it wouldn't be so popular.

It's just as well we don't have laws about public drunkenness, because they all seem to get pretty tanked up at home before they even get to the pub and afterwards there will be bodies in the gutters. Oh well, you're only young once.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blackberries, and some veges.

I bought a kilo of "cooking tomatoes" the other day at the supermarket - they were really cheap, only $1.50. Goodness knows why they were called that, because they were the tastiest tomatoes I've had for a long time. Usually I only get cherry tomatoes, because they are the only ones with any flavour, but these were great. Nonetheless, I can't eat a kg of tomatoes before they go yukky, so I cooked some of them.

This is something I've been making for years, the combination of flavours is wonderful. It's very simple; I just sautée some onions and zucchini, then add tomatoes and cook them until all the juice has come out and mostly evaporated. It's nice as a vegetable, or as a pasta sauce, and is fine at room temp in a bento.

While that was cooking I put the blackberries I bought today in a pot with some water and chopped up cooking apples from a friend's tree, and cooked the lot until it was soup-like. Totally disintegrated. This pic is of about the mid point of the process:

The pulp is now in a jelly bag, straining overnight. Tomorrow night I'll measure the juice and make jelly.

Then I made a much less fancy version of this squash gratin, with just boiled buttercup squash (which I think may be the same as kabocha; I know we export a lot of it to Japan, and that they call it something different - it has sweet and quite dry flesh) …

… mashed up with some salt and pepper, grated cheddar, and an egg.

I sprinkled a few toasted sesame seeds over it and baked it in the oven …

… at the same time as I baked these carrot and parsnip chips …

… which are also nice at room temp in bentos.

Not a bad evening's work.

Sausage, bulghur, and seaweed.

I forgot to say yesterday that despite all of the desserts on Saturday night, I still managed to lose 500g (a little over a pound) last week. So I'm happy. It'll be a different story this week though - I'm off to Christchurch for the weekend to go to some motorcycle races, and will be drinking beer and eating lots of fattening food.

Today I have 70 g of a home-made paprika sausage from the freezer (I've almost finished all of the fruits of a little sausage-making spree I had a couple of months ago); beans from the garden; some tomato, zucchini, and onion stuff I made for dinner last night; bulghur; and some asparagus spears from the freezer.

After eating the asparagus I also mixed a little of this …

… into the bulghur. It's a Korean crispy flavoured seaweed, and very yummy. There's quite a lot of fat in it though, so it needs to be eaten in moderation.

7o g sausage = 180 Cal
beans = 15 Cal
100 g Bulghur = 83 Cal
asparagus = 15 Cal
zucchini etc = 25 Cal
5 g flavoured seaweed = 25 Cal

Total = 343 Cal

Pretty good. I do enjoy doing these calculations - I always do them after I've eaten the food; a little game I play with myself. One day I'll get a big fright, I know it.

I went to the nearer supermarket today, to get veges mostly. On the way I went through the area outside the Student Union - it's Orientation Week, and luckily I was a bit early because later on it will be packed.

There was every sort of stall - from the fundamentalist Christians trying to save a few souls, through the Armed Forces and the local gyms trying to recruit bodies, to all of the banks, trying to lure future customers with free food and cheap loans.

And the obligatory beer stall:

I took this photo of a roll of loo paper sitting on a paper recycling bin - interesting name for loo paper, but why was it sitting there?

What I didn't take a photo of was the fruit and bakery stall, from the weekly Farmers' Market. I bought some blackberries, but managed not to get anything else. I kept reminding myself that my lunch was waiting at work, and I have another fruit delivery due on Thursday. It was hard work though, some of those pastries and bread were very tempting.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chicken roll and kumara

Today it's pouring with rain and I've just walked up town to the library for some reading material. I've been meaning to get Eldest by Christopher Paolini out since I read Eragon at Christmas - my eleven year old nephew kindly lent it to me when I'd run out of things to read. Louis (my nephew) was quite chuffed to think I'd enjoy reading his books. A good 45 minute walk anyway - burnt off some of Saturday's desserts.

Today's lunch is kumara chips, the last of the chicken and carrot roll from the freezer, and runner beans from the garden. Kumara is a sweet potato that the Maori used to eat before the arrival of Europeans, it has pale cream coloured but quite dry flesh, and purple skin. The chips were cooked in the oven with a sprinkle of olive oil and some salt.

chicken roll = 160 Cal
100 g kumara = ~100 Cal
30 g beans = 15 Cal

Total = 275 Cal

Not much at all, that'll help to counteract Saturday's desserts too.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rhubarb tart for the pot-luck

Last night I went out to a pot-luck dinner. These are reasonably regular events at the (very large old) home of one of the guys from bridge; we play bridge after dinner.

I decided to triple my usual bread bake, and also make a rhubarb tart from the rhubarb in the garden. One of my slimming ploys is to make a single baguette once a week, out of one cup of flour. This satisfies my bread craving without allowing me to eat too many bread and butter calories. I do love bread.

So here are the two loaves of bread I took to Alec's:

And here is my poor rhubarb plant after I cut off most of its stalks:

There's still enough left to photosynthesise, so it'll be fine. Probably be as big as ever by next week.

Usually I'd make this sort of tart just on an oven tray, but I had to transport it so I thought better safe than sorry and put it in a flan dish. It's just some sweet short pastry whizzed up in the food processor with rhubarb and sugar piled onto it and the edges folded over.

Just as well I used the dish - there was a reasonable amount of juice leakage. Here it is ready to go:

It was an interesting dinner - only one couple brought a main, everyone else brought dessert! I actually have no problem with that once in a while, but we whipped up some sausages from Alec's freezer. The main course ended up consisting of bangers and mash; Thai chicken curry and rice; and bread on the side. The only bit of green came from the coriander in the curry. Luckily there was a lot of curry, enough even for leftovers.

In addition to the rhubarb tart there was pear and blackberry crumble, a lemon and sour cream cake, another crumble sort of thing, two flavours of ice-cream, and some yoghurt. Rather fattening - my scales tell me I gained a kilogram overnight.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Laksa-ish noodles

A couple of weeks ago I poached a chicken and carrot roll, and froze the stock/fish sauce/sugar etc it was poached in for some future use. This is because I'm stingy and hate throwing stuff away. Anyway, the other night I thought of a use for it - laksa. I made the soupy component from the stock, some coconut milk, red curry paste, and a bit more fish sauce etc., and froze it in ice cube trays.

Today I had experiment lunch - I was wondering if I could fit sufficient of all the laksa ingredients into my bowl bento box to make a proper laksa. Here they are; the noodles, bean sprouts and chopped tea egg (because I had one in the fridge) in the bottom bowl; and 5 ice-cubes worth of soup, a chopped crab stick, and four prawns in the sealable inner box:

It's pretty good, that inner box, no spills or leaks.

The answer is, no not really. I can't fit enough of the soup into the middle box for a proper laksa. But it is quite sufficient for a laksa-ish noodle curry, and very delicious it was too. Just as well really, because five ice cubes worth of soup is 120 Cal. If I could fit more than that, I would; then I'd be getting fatter instead of thinner.

Here it is all heated up and in my big office bowl:

soup = 120 Cal
noodles (1/6 pack) = 167 Cal
egg = 88 Cal
crab stick (30 g) = 32 Cal
prawns (40 g) = 40 Cal
bean sprouts = 10 Cal

Total = 457 Cal

If I had the amount of soup necessary for proper laksa, it would have been getting on for 600 Cal. That will have to be a now and again treat, and I need some other box in which to transport it! A pity, because I like that wee bowl box.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Today I have a little bit of barley, tuna, potato slices, a treasure bag egg, broccoli, and little turnips. The tuna was marinated in garlic, lemon juice and oil, then rubbed in a little paprika and cayenne and seared on each side before being sliced. I brought a slice of lemon to squeeze on it too. I'd really like to know why broccoli that is nice and bright green when I put it in my box ends up sort of browny in parts and ugly by lunchtime!

50 g barley = 54 Cal
40 g potato = 35 Cal
60 g tuna = 60 Cal
treasure egg = ~120 Cal
broccoli = 15 Cal
turnips = 15 Cal

Total = 299 Cal

That is a bit extreme. I'd better have something a bit more substantial tomorrow. Mind you, I'm going out for dinner (a pot-luck) on Saturday, so will no doubt overeat then.

I didn't want to go to a shop today - I don't need anything and I'd just buy something unnecessary if I did. Instead I went for a walk around the back of the university, through Logan Park playing fields. On my way I attempted to get a half decent photo of our building for the department website. Some hope. Our building is an ugly 60s thing to start with, and is obscured by trees and taller buildings when looking at it from the only angle at which it might look OK. At least this photo has a bit of grass, and the wall of the groomed portion of the Water of Leith. There is actually water at the bottom of that bit of concrete in the foreground.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tea egg and turnips

Today I have barley again - I really like barley, there's something about the chewiness of it that is very satisfying. I also have smoked chicken, chargrilled zucchini, carrots that were cooked with yesterday's treasure eggs, a tea egg, and a couple of baby turnips.

100g barley = 107 Cal
50g skinless smoked chicken = 70 Cal
tea egg = 88 Cal
zucchini = 15 Cal
carrot = 10 Cal
turnips = 10 Cal

Total = 300 Cal

Hmmm. A good thing I have some little snacks in the office.

On my walk to the closer supermarket today I took this photo of a Dunedin landmark; "The Cook" has been a major student pub for many years, and is the venue for "The Cook-a-thon" a day-long fancy dress drinking binge that happens during orientation (soon). The Cook has been painted over the summer break, and is now black, and is sporting some weird sort of squidy/octopussy thing in its doorway and a large and very drunken looking Captain Cook on its corner. Captain Cook looks to me as though he's about to pee in his pint - I wonder if that's intentional.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Salmon and treasure eggs

Yesterday I bought some fresh water and sea salmon to compare. I cooked a morsel of each last night - and I can't tell the difference! Might as well just buy what's cheapest.

So I've cooked the fresh water salmon in a dry frying pan, and am turning the sea salmon (of which I bought two pieces) into some of Maki's salted salmon and some salmon tartare, which is similar but with sugar and lemon zest in addition to the salt.

Today I have a piece of fresh water salmon, an "Egg in a Treasure Bag", some broccoli, some chargrilled zucchini, a couple of tomatoes, and barley for my carb. The barley is seasoned with salt and lemon juice. It actually looks not bad for a change!

60g salmon = 140 Cal
100g barley = 107 Cal
treasure egg = ~120 Cal
zucchini = 15 Cal
broccoli = 15 Cal
tomatoes = 6 Cal

Total = 403 Cal

Pretty good, and very tasty.

My walk today took me through the Botanic Gardens again. It's lovely having this wee stream (actually it's Dunedin's river; the Water of Leith) just five minutes from work …

… although I can actually see a more groomed portion of it from my office window.

It must be getting on towards autumn, look at this crocus:

This is the Winter Garden where they grow tropical plants:

It is a lovely day - the air has a bit of a chill about it, but the sun is toasty warm.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Decisions …

I'm trying to decide whether or not to continue with this blog now that Maki's challenge has finished. I think I will for the moment, as I do find it an incentive to eat well, and not to eat the licorice allsorts in the cupboard.

I didn't lose any weight this week, which I was sort of expecting. Too many cherries and apricots! But again, I didn't get any heavier so that's good.

I had to use a different furoshiki tie today, with two knots on top, because …

… I'm having a Salade Niçoise (sort of). I figured I could put the olives and tomatoes and tuna and eggs etc. in one container with the vinaigrette, and the lettuce in another to keep it crisp. The stack was a bit high for my usual basic tie.

Then I put it all together in my nice oversized office salad bowl. It was OK but would have been a great deal nicer with oil packed unflavoured tuna than it was with the low calorie lime and cracked pepper tuna which was what I had in the cupboard. The lime flavour almost overpowered the anchovies! I didn't have any black olives either, so I used the pimento-stuffed green ones.

egg = 88 Cal
tomatoes = 15 Cal
tuna = 79 Cal (that's probably why it wasn't very nice)
70 g potato = 68 Cal
olives = 20 Cal
anchovies = 10 Cal
beans = 10 Cal
balsamic vinaigrette = 30 Cal
lettuce = 5 Cal
herbs etc = not worth counting

Total = 320 Cal

I think I could have afforded some oil packed tuna! Even if it added another 100 Cal it would have been OK. Then again, I've been eating more of the cherries and apricots this morning, so maybe just as well it is such a low calorie bento.

Went for a walk to the fish shop before lunch, and bought some sea salmon, some river salmon, and some tuna. I'm going to try making Maki's salted salmon; goodness knows what I'll do with the tuna. Something delicious to put in my lunches anyway. I'm interested to see what the difference is between the two salmon types though, I'll have to try cooking a wee taste of each.