feb 02 2009

Aubergine Awakening

Published by under Meg og mitt liv

Jebus, another month passed by without an update! But I won’t spend to much time apologizing, after all it’s my blog. And I have had a lot flying around my ears lately, not to mention trying to pierce my eardrum again. Yes, I’m talking about the chicks. I’ve just finished another two week batch of behaviour experiments with 12 fuzzballs, and as the batch before them; they were loud. After around 10 days of stuffing my ears with shredded pieces of paper towels, I bought some proper earplugs. Oh the relief. Did you know that chicks, not a mere 2 days old, can produce sounds up to (and I’m sure well beyond) 90 db ? 120 db is the safety limit before you’re in serious risk of hearing damage. But boy! It does hurt at 90 db too.

 

(The mealworm is UNDER the brown cardboard roof, little chick).

 

The first week at Uni after the holidays (one week before all the courses started, mind you) I attended an intensive course in lab animals ethics and management.  Although I cringed internally every time examples of painful experiment with rats came up, it was quite interesting (and Sam got more than his fair share of treats and cuddles when I came home). A couple of childhood/young adulthood daydreams of a world filled with alternatives to animal testing were sent to their realistic graves – they exist, but only in minute numbers to all the testing needed – and I’m not talking of cosmetics. I mean development and testing of drugs, vaccines, chemicals,  etc etc. I wonder what anti-animal testing people do when they’re at the dentist to pull a tooth, do they ask for anaestasia or not ? Cause if they do, they’re hypocrites.    

My own lab animal; Sam, testing rats response to beer. Result: whisker licking approval.

 

Sam, a true beerrat 

 

Bah! My month long absence from writing in English is really noticable, I feel like I’m slightly retarded, fighting with every sentence. I hope I get back on track soon. On Wednesday I have to make a talk on a paper about food neophobia and food conservatism in chicken in my Behaviour 2 course. In english. In front of a room full of foreign master- and phD students, that do not possess the Norwegian students apprehension to asking questions. Oh, there will be questions asked and discussions galore. And nothing helps preparing for a talk in english more than a tad of blogging, right ? 

Here’s some proper blogging for ya’;  in the beginning of December last year (2008!) I turned vegetarian. For the whole length of a week. How did Tore go down with the lack of animal protein you might ask? The answer is that he didn’t; he was on Svalbard doing labworks, while I had my friend Mona visiting me, who – surprise! is a vegetarian. Now, I don’t think I could become a proper vegetarian, vegan nonetheless, but I must say I was positively surprised by the whole experience. Not once did I feel abnormally hungry or unsatisfied by the food we were eating. It actually felt quite good. And I discovered a new favourite dish, which I can’t wait to introduce to Tore, just to see what he has to say when I tell him it’s made from eggplants. Now, Mona isn’t much of a cook, at least that was her words. Eager as I am to try new recipes, I took on the «chore» of cooking for us the whole week. Let me present a small week menu of a vegetarian-wannabe:

Monday: veggie pizza with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, capsicum, garlic, black olives, pesto and cheese. Yum! To my norwegian readers; First Price Margarita frozen pizzas, 12 kr each, serve as an excellent alternative to ready-made pizza bottoms. So cheap and so thin-and-crispy-almost-authentic-Italian.   

Tuesday: One of my take-what-you-got Indian stews with lots of red curry paste and coconut milk. On impulse I added sweet potatoes in cubes and red lentils, and it was goood! 

Wednesday: Leftovers from Tuesday + some brown rice. Even yummier today after a night in the fridge.

Thursday: Aubergine/eggplant lasagna with salad on the side. 

Friday: Leftovers

The Thursday night dish really deserves some closer description. It was absolutely delicious, and although time consuming, very worth it. I cannot, although I want to, claim it to be very healthy, but who cares, it’s vegetarian, and that got to be worth some health points, if not karma points (not that I believe in Karma). 

 

Eggplant lasagna

The recipe in short terms: You take an aubergine, slice it, sprinkle with salt, let sit 30 minutes, rinse off salt. Coat with flour, then dip in egg, then crust with breadcrumbs. Fry, slowly, on low heat, until the flesh is soft and the crust is crusty. Layer as follows: Tomato sauce, aubergine, egg-ricotta(cottage cheese on students budget)-parmesan mix, repeat. Top off with tomato sauce and some kind of melting cheese, mozarella if you can afford it. Bake in oven until the cheese melts and the egg-ricotta/cottage cheese mix settles, enjoy!  You can find the original recipe here,   on the great danish foodblog Newyorkerbyheart.

A closer peek at the preparations: 

 

Eggplant lasagna

Oh, I see I added spinach in between, I forgot about that. I always wilt down spinach with some oil, minced garlic and a nutmeg drizzle whenever I use fresh spinach. And if you don’t feel like making this for dinner I don’t know what’s wrong with you. I Promise to post the extensive recipe Soon, capital P, capital S.

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okt 28 2008

The best salmon dish ever! + some other food-related triumphs

Published by under Meg og mitt liv

I’ve discovered a thrilling new, incredibly tasty recipe for salmon baked in the oven on a bed of baby spinach and leek. I will not take all the credits for this, since I was inspired by a dish Gillian McKeith made during one of her programmes, I think it was «You are what you eat». I watched the show one day, got totally inspired, and made this dish the following day – it turned out perfectly, was super-tasty and very satisfying. I prepared the salmon pretty much the same way as Gillian does in this recipe but I didn’t sauté the leeks before I added them to the pan, nor did I brush the salmon during the cooking prosess. I used fairly small (cheap!) fillets of salmon that cooked so quick that I didn’t have to do anything with them during their time in the oven. They came out perfectly cooked, juicy and flavourful, not dry at all.

The best salmon dish ever

The ginger and garlic gave the fish a remarkable fresh and delicious taste, and I’ll definitely pair those together in another fish dish. I wanted some starch in addition to the vegetables, so I cooked up some  diced sweet potato together with one regular potato, mashed them up with some butter and seasoned the mash with salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic and fresh ginger. Do you see a pattern? Indeed, the mash complemented the fish very well. 

Sweet potato purée..the best mash I've hadSweet potato purée..I adore thee!

On an impulse I drizzled a new spice mix over the lot (from the brand Santa Maria ; Wasabi and Sesame), which worked out very nice!  The next time I will even try to put some real wasabi onto the fish during the baking..mmmmhh!

Santa Marias new Wasabi Sesame spice mix

The finished master piece (I’m getting a hang at arranging my food, don’t you think? (Just say yes, please)) :

The best salmon dish ever

I seriously had to retain myself from gobbling it all up before I took the picture..actually, just looking at the pictures now makes me crave this exact dish. Jeez, me and my cravings.

The best salmon dish ever <- Heaven on a fork

Time to talk about the other triumphs. First, I’ve made sun…uh, oven dried tomatoes! My local vegetable marked had these glorious red cherry tomatoes and I just couldn’t leave them there in the shop, so I adopted them, took them home and roasted them! Slice in half, drizzle with sea salt, fresh pepper and olive oil, in the oven at 100 degrees celcius, about 4 hours, done. Mini-photo series below (click on the pics to make them bigger):

Wonderful cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes, ready for roasting
Oven dried tomatoes <- Look at that glorious, ruby red colour! Just beautiful! I planned to use them in some pasta dish, but I have to hurry, since I’ve already snacked up half the jar…yum!
So, are you curious about my third triumph ? A few nights ago I ate something I’ve never had before, but which I’ve been wanting to try out ever since I read about it in Andy’s great blog (you have to scroll down the page a bit) - ARTICHOKES! Artichokeartichokeartichoke. I heart artichoke. Just a week ago I knew nothing, now I know that I love their subtle flavour, that they are fun to eat, and that artichokes actually are flowers of the thistle family! How often do you eat a flower for dinner? If you’re somewhat like me, you have no idea how to prepare and eat an artichoke; this site  explains it all wonderfully.
My first artichoke!
I made a dip of good balsamic vingar and some mayonaise, which was absolutely terrific, but regular softened butter was very nice too. I can’t quite get over how much fun I had eating this thing with Tore (and Sam, nibbling away like crazy), it must be my inner child that loves the idea of eating a big flower. Just look here, it IS a flower!
Image:Artichokeflower.jpg
Lastly, I want to share a norwegian twist on pancakes with you guys. In Norway, we normally eat pancakes at dinnertime, not for breakfast. They are made without baking powder, just milk, flour, sugar, salt and eggs, and the batter is generally thinner than the american version. To make it even crazier, many norwegians like to have soup with their pancakes. I have to admit, I hadn’t tried this until I met Tore, but I really like it, since pancakes on their own are too sweet on my palate, I like something salty for dinner. Pancakes are one of those dishes that I just can’t bother to make, since they’re time consuming and Tore is more than willing to make them. Instead, I made the soup; a quick soup of little, green peas, fresh from the freezer, I think they’re called petit pois. When Tore visited the Netherlands a long time ago, he had pancakes with cheese on them, and ever since we’ve had cheese on our pancakes too. With sugar and lemonjuice. And my addition today; poppy seeds. Sound crazy, right? But verr d’lish, you should try it.
Pancakes and green pea soup 

Pancakes and green pea soup
Oh, I forgot, we added some bacon to the batter too! Yuuumm….You eat them like this; put sugar, a lemon squize, some poppy seeds and grated parmesan cheese (or any other, sharp cheese) along the center of the pancake, roll it up, and cut into pieces with the help of a fork and a spoon. Yes, a spoon, knives are prohibited. Take one bite of pancake, follow up with a spoonful of pea soup. Mmh-mmh-mmmmhhh!!! I’ll post the recipe when I get around to it or if you send me an mail and ask, right away.
Although this blog is turning more and more into a food blog, I just have to add some pictures of my beloved little chunk of hairy loveliness; my pet rat Sam. Here he is snoozing away on my fake fur blanket, on the couch. Isn’t that little nose just adorable? He didn’t even flinch when I kissed his little head, the sleepy little man.
The sweetest nose there is
And one more (look at that little hand under his cheek! So cute!) :
The sweetest nose there is
All together now: «Aaaaaaawwwwwwhhh!!!»

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sept 26 2008

Mac ‘n cheese, my way

Published by under oppskrifter

My take on mac 'n cheese
I’m just going to slot this recipe down before I forget how I did it: None of the measurements are precice, since I didn’t follow any recipe myself, you’ll just have to eyeball it, like I did. 
  • 3-4 cups cooked whole wheat semolina Cellentani pasta (a fancy  tripple-twisted macaroni)
Cellentani whole wheat semolina pasta
  • half an onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tb butter
  • 2-3 tb flour
  • 1-2 cups of frozen spinach
  • 2-3 cups of milk
  • half a can of ham (Spam!) with 10 % fat
  • 2 tb cream cheese (with spices)
  • as much grated cheese you want to, I added 1/2 cup to the sauce and 1 cup of Jarlsberg on top
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • nutmeg
  • celeriac salt, if you want to

While the pasta was cooking away in salted water until al’ dente, the oven was heating up to 200 degrees Celcius, and I started to sauté the onion and the garlic to a shiny, translucent state. The blocks of frozen spinach were added to the golden mix, and were left to melt under a lid. Then I drizzled two tablespoons of flour into the green mix, stirred it all together, and started to add the milk gradually while stirring meticoulously, until I had a beautiful, green sauce, not to thick, not to thin. I seasoned it with some celeriac salt, regular salt, freshly ground black pepper, and some grated nutmeg (my favourite!). The only remaining thing to do then was to add the diced ham and cream cheese (which I’ll substitute for another kind of cheese the next time since it didn’t add very much flavour) and some of the grated Jarlsberg, and stir until the cheese had melted. In the meanwhile the pasta was done, so I drained it and rinsed it with cold water to stop it from getting all mushy because we don’t want mushy pasta, do we? (I know an italian guy who throws out freshly cooked spagetthi if it’s just a tad more on the mushy side than on the al’ dente side, but I’m not that extreme. His roommate on the other side, who ate the freshly cooked pasta from the sink, while muttering about the shame of throwing away food, is extreme (but I agree more with him than with the food-wasting guy).- Better to take extra care to not overcook the pasta!).

Ahnywhay (phew!), I folded the pasta into the spinachy Bechamel sauce, poured it into a buttered, ovenproof dish, put cheese and breadcrumbs on top and showed the lot into the oven.  I don’t know how long it stayed there, I took it out when the top started to brown and look nice and crunchy (and indeed it was). Maybe 10-15 minutes? I think my crappy student housing oven should not be trusted to behave how ovens from more «furnished homes» do (I’m sorry Mr. Crap Y. Oven, but it’s true).

Some Dijon mustard would’ve been good I think, and some time in the future I’ll try a version with blue cheese. But for now, I’m very pleased with how my first mac ‘n cheese turned out. Yay!

My mac 'n cheese  My mac 'n cheese

Making this dish reminded me of my all time favourite dinner from my childhood, my mothers german «Nudel auflauf». Its just cooked pasta, with bits of cured ham, sausage (whatever you have on hand), mixed up with beaten eggs and cream, salt and pepper, and then cooked in the oven for about an hour until the egg-mix is starting to set, and the top getting brown and crusty, served with a thick tomato sauce..my mouth is watering from just thinking about it! I need to make it as soon as I’ve recovered from the mac ‘n cheese..mmmmhh!

Oh, and one more thing. Does anyone know why Spam is called Spam? And why are those annoying e-mails, that are offering me pills that will enlarge parts that I don’t even possess, called spam mail? Please enlighten me, someone.

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