Archive for August, 2011

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black bean burgers.

August 25, 2011

I soaked/cooked black beans last week without any specific intent on using them. When a couple of days past, I had to use them before they went bad. Since I don’t have a plethora of bean recipes, I decided to experiment and make black bean burgers. Being completely honest – I’ve never had a black bean burger in my life. Meat burgers just have so much more appeal to me. However, that also means I had no idea what I was going for in taste, texture or looks. This makes my style of cooking (aka not following a recipe) a lot harder.

After a lot of recipe searching to get a general idea, here’s what I ended up doing:

  • Black beans (cooked)
  • Zucchini (half)
  • Onion (half)
  • Red and Green Pepper (bits and pieces that I had)
  • Salt/Pepper/Cumin/Garlic Powder

Put it all in the food processor until it looked like what I would guess black bean burgers look like – err on the lumpy side. Mix in 1 egg and breadcrumbs. Cook them in a frying pan.

My first batch didn’t hold together at all – it ended up being more mushy lumps. So I mixed in more breadcrumbs and the second group at least held their burger shape. I ate them with avocado and Monterey Jack cheese. They were pretty awesome; I will definitely have to work on getting the consistency right.

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food tales.

August 23, 2011

My recent reading has taken a weird focus on food. This was completely unintentional – I didn’t even realize until I started writing about each of the books that I noticed the theme.

Squeezed (What you don’t know about orange juice) – This book was a disappointment to me. It went into great detail about how the FDA came up with its regulations around orange juice – which just didn’t interest me that much. I just wanted the basics – how have the beverages gone about marketing orange juice so that consumers automatically think it’s fresh, is “not from concentrate” better than concentrated, what are the practices around orange juice that we don’t hear about (like storing the juice for weeks and months or the oranges not coming from Florida). Pretty much this interview sums up the exciting parts of the book.

Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life –  Stories from the author, who is allergic to dairy, eggs, beef, soy, shrimp, swordfish, certain fruits/veggies/nuts (though not peanuts) and some environmental allergies. And she’s prone to anaphylactic shock. Having no allergies, I actually found this book pretty interesting as it touched on many things that I would never have even thought about. Things like how little kids learn, understand and avoid their allergens, worries about your kids having allergies or not having allergies, having to worry about every ingredient in a dish, and about the awareness that has slowly emerged around peanut allergies and celiac disease.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food – I thought this book was awesome. It starts out as the author begins investigating fortune cookies (after reading a story about lottery winners picking numbers based on fortunes). But it evolves into researching not only the cookies, but how Chinese food in general has become so prolific in America and how it’s basically become its own cuisine – Americanized Chinese. Lee delves into where General Tso’s chicken started, why Jews like Chinese food, Chinese immigrants becoming restaurant workers, soy sauce, take out, and of course who invented the fortune cookie. It was a funny and interesting read. I highly recommend.

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movie munchies IV

August 17, 2011

You Again – Kristen Stewart, teased terribly in high school, faces her old high school tormentor, who just happens to be the future wife of Stewart’s brother. Perhaps it was because I was on a string of bad movies, but this one wasn’t terrible. Not really worth a recommendation, but if it happens to be on TV or something – it wasn’t that bad.

Sucker Punch – It was an interesting attempt. I think perhaps I had already seen too many unfavorable reviews pointing that I couldn’t really like this movie. Once you know going in that it’s characters are flat and it’s terribly misogynistic loosely wrapped in girl power – it’s hard to see past that. Too bad. It was visually pretty stunning though.

The Cove – About the dolphin killing in a specific town in Japan. I was impressed by this movie. I was expecting crazy animal rights activists pulling stunts that I don’t approve of. But instead, it was actually pretty informative without being over the top. And the stunt they pull is making the movie to inform people rather than some attempt to “save” the dolphins. You should see it.

Limitless – Surprise surprise, I bought the book this is based on just the other week at the library book sale without realizing it. It’s about a crazy drug that allows you to become super smart but then it seems it might kill you. Anyway, it was a fun movie; I liked it.

Sukiyaki Western Django – Japanese western, but I was not impressed. It has a Tarantino feel (surprise, he’s in the movie) and some cool visuals. However, I felt confused for a lot of the movie, I couldn’t tell if the good guy was a joke or not, and I really wish it had subtitles rather than bad English. It is on Netflix Instant, Amazon (if you have Amazon Prime) and it looks like IMDB too.

Also, I rewatched Rain Man – that is one fantastic movie. I also attempted to watch the new Red Riding Hood – and stopped; it was too terrible.

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dip.

August 10, 2011

Back in Madison, when I was in town, I used to go to the gym quite a bit – 5 times a week for an hour. I was determined not to let my membership go to waste, even if I traveled every other week. So I made sure to find a gym with classes (because otherwise I have no motivation) that I really enjoyed. Supreme Health and Fitness offered lots of classes and all their instructors are great. But now that I’m in California – I don’t belong to a gym. And now I’m all worried that my previous eating habits are going to catch up with me.

The point being that I’ve been on a quest to find healthy snacks. Not healthy in the sense that I can only eat 8 almonds or 15 chips. Hence the zucchini carrot muffins, roasted chickpeas, and lots of fruit. Recently, I’ve decided to experiment with dips in an effort to sneak in more veggies.

Dip #1 – Basil Chickpea – I got the idea from this recipe. Like always though, I don’t ever have all the right ingredients. So I substituted red pepper in place of the cucumber and added more basil (since I love basil). Turned out pretty well. I tried it again – but used tomato instead of cucumber or pepper – bad idea. Way overpowering and way too watery. This dip was best if it’s been refrigerated overnight – the basil taste really comes out.

Dip #2 – Eggplant Zucchini – This started as an attempt at baba ganoush (which I’ve never even really had) because I had an eggplant that felt like it was about to go bad. It became a combination of this and that. Confession: I never ever have tahini. I roasted my eggplant and zucchini – both brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Threw it all in the food processor with basil (because I have so much), lemon, salt, pepper, lots of garlic. So good while everything was still a bit warm from the roasting. We’ll see how it does after being in the fridge.

I know dip recipes all end up about the same especially since I rarely have any fancy ingredients. But I still look at recipes to get a better idea of what things could go well together. Also, having a food processor is just about the best thing ever.

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navigating stereotypes.

August 8, 2011

Dan posted his thoughts on an article on not quite fitting into racial stereotypes. As he points out, it is very good. The author goes into detail about how racial stereotypes affect her choice of food – how she almost goes out of her way not to order what people would expect. Dan sympathizes with her concern. I, on the other hand, don’t. I’ve mentioned before that I’m Chinese, but grew up in the very non-diverse upper middle class white culture of Wisconsin suburbs.

To be totally honest, I’ve always been more concerned with how other Chinese people see me than how anyone else judges me. It’s like the reverse of what the author discusses in her article. When I eat Chinese food, I never think white people are silently thinking I reinforce a stereotype. I’m too busy worrying that the waitress/hostess will assume I speak Chinese or that I won’t understand the menu – things that are to an extent a racial expectation, but things that also will significantly hinder my ability to get the food I want. While these things won’t stop me from going into Chinatown – it will stop me from using for a fork instead of chopsticks (which is the ultimate tip-off you are not Asian enough). Am I conforming to white culture’s stereotype or am I breaking the expectation of my Chinese waiter, who can always seem to tell I might be “not that Chinese”? That sentence alone took way more thinking than I’ve ever put into it before.

What seemed funny to me about the article, was the author seemed to enjoy breaking people’s expectations and being “not that black”. But that expectation breaking is only possible because of the stereotypes that are in place. To refuse the fried chicken that you really want in order to show that the stereotype is wrong – that’s just crazy. And it’s bending to the stereotype just as much as if you felt pressured to order it just because that’s what’s expected. If you really want the chicken, just go ahead and get it. To think that anyone else really cares enough to think that hard about what I’m eating is ridiculous (and vain).

In a way, it seems that the author’s “acceptance”  into white culture is something that makes her feel special and unique. This might be where we differ. Having grown up in the white suburbs, that is where I feel most comfortable, where I don’t stand out, where I fit nicely into everyone’s expectations. However, her “whiteness” also seems to be a disguise sometimes – as if she doesn’t quite fit in all the time – and I wonder, as she never mentions, how she fits into black culture. Does her “not that black”-ness still make her feel special in those situations? Or does it just make her feel like an outsider?

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plus.

August 3, 2011

Google+ has taught me something. I’m too lazy to do this social networking thing. This is a weird revelation for me – seeing as I spend hours online, love sharing things I find and try pretty hard to stay in touch with people. With all the positive commentary I’ve heard about Google+, I (foolishly) expected it to be somehow magical. It wasn’t (my fault – unreasonable expectations).

But here’s the thing. When I first joined, I compared it to my empty apartment. Lots of potential, but at right here/right now, I’m bored to death. I spent some time fixing my profile and putting people into circles. Google gets some credit for giving me an easy way to add all the people I really care about quickly (this should be a given though, since they have access to my email contact list). This all got old pretty quick, since my email also has a lot of people I don’t see any reason to add. Then I actually sat and didn’t know what to do.

Figuring it was just because most people I know aren’t on Google+, I patiently waited. And although the emails began to pop up to tell me I’ve been added to someone’s circle, I still waited. <begin rant> The emails themselves bother me because they give me totally useless information. I don’t want to know that I’ve been added to someone’s circle if you’re not going to tell me what circle it is. And I really don’t want to be added to someone’s circle if I don’t know who they are. Plus, all the adding makes that alert in the top right of my screen appear (and it never goes away!). <end rant>

Thing is, I still don’t know what to do. And it’s because I don’t do anything on Facebook. Except reading my news feed and the occasional profile change. I don’t post pictures. I don’t do status updates. I don’t share links. I don’t do check-ins and reviews. And I rarely send a message (sometimes I chat). I absolutely don’t use apps or play games. For me, Facebook has basically become a gossipy news site about people I know. It might be stupid, but yes, I do want to know who’s married, who has kids, who is working where. I hardly ever contribute, and as of right now, most people I know have not migrated their lives to Google+.

small tangent: I actually tried once to use Google+ or at least what I thought was using it. I +1’d (yikes, that’s unhappy to type) something. I couldn’t figure out what it did – so it essentially did nothing worthwhile. I also thought sharing from Google Reader would automatically add it to my stream (feed, circle, I don’t know what it’s called). It doesn’t and I spent significant time trying to figure that out before I learned that it just doesn’t do that.

Even more strange though, I realized that everything I have and use is public. Twitter, Tumblr, blog – even my Facebook profile has minimal security on it. My friends, my family, my family friends, my co-workers, people who I’ve never met in person, and total strangers – it’s pretty much the same. I have no concept of “circles”. It may be a result of never having that option. But since I don’t feel like something’s missing… In fact, most of the time if I think it’s worth sharing to a few people, I think it’s worth sharing to everyone. Is that weird?

Circles to me is similar to when Facebook added in additional security for profiles. I couldn’t randomly look up people I wanted to know about but didn’t really want to friend. Except circles are sneaky, since I don’t know what circle I’m in. Either way, that extra layer of privacy makes it boring.

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if you cry, it’s a good one.

August 2, 2011

Time Traveler’s Wife – Definitely enjoyed this one and then end had me crying my eyes out. And it wasn’t tainted at all by having seen the awful movie. My only problem with this story is that I keep feeling that Clare (the wife) is waiting her entire life. I’m not one to need a strong female character, but in this book, it bothers me that waiting is the only thing she does. It’s a lot like in New Moon, when depressed Bella is passes six months in six empty pages.

A Scanner Darkly – Unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me. It was just too many drug trips and not enough character connection. After a while, I felt like I was reading just to finish and then the end wrapped up way too fast.

Harold and Maude – read it in about one day. If you’ve ever seen the movie – the book is just like it. I don’t know why I expected anything else.

Homebody – by Orson Scott Card. It was a quick read but nothing special. I didn’t really connect with the characters and it’s got the whole “supernatural in the real world” thing that I dislike.

Upcoming: Game of Thrones, Squeezed, Lace Makers of Glenmara