Monday, November 28, 2011

Cravings, Reflections, and Thanksgiving

Hurricane Busy made landfall, stayed, and swept up everything in its path.

At least, that's what my entire month-plus has felt like - busy, stressed, busy, stressed, in a never-ending cycle.

I've been ill too, and that's probably a result of all that craziness back to back for weeks on end. I've been cooking, but on a much smaller scale than before - not had time for it, and I can't cook when I come home too late, by agreement with the Housemates.

So it's with relief that I'm finally able to breathe out a HUGE sigh and rest for a day before getting into the week full-stride. Even a day is good - I'll take all I can get because I won't be getting another chance till after mid-December.

A week ago, when I was performing with the Young KL Singers in Penang, I ran into bakeries and baked goods everywhere. This likely accounts for why I had a sudden, inexplicable craving for bread the minute I got home. Thanks to over-exhaustion, I also didn't wake up in time the next morning to do a full-bore gluten-free crusty boule like I wanted, so I had to search for alternatives.

See that herb-flecked, olive-studded gloriousness? That's Karina's amazing gluten-free whole-grain olive bread. I followed everything in the recipe, except I didn't have rice bran, so I added more quinoa flakes. Now, in the past, I've had trouble with some of Karina's recipes - the liquid content mostly, and I wasn't experienced enough to judge consistency at the time, so I was a bit worried to see how this one would turn out.

As it is, I needn't have worried. It was wonderful. It came together quickly, baked up beautifully, and it was delicious. Satisfied all my bread cravings, and now I want to make more - except that quinoa flakes are out of stock in the two organic stores I frequent!

My eating patterns haven't been particularly healthy for a while, due to production rehearsals, upcoming exams, and a crazy schedule - which is why I found myself also craving Simple, Healthy Food. Nothing fancy, or overly fussy.

Heidi Swanson's Shichimi Mushroom Rice Bowl is what I ended up with in the end, and it was exactly what I craved. Easy to put together, simple and healthy - mushrooms, tofu cubes, brown rice and lots of shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-flavour chili pepper). I had no kale, so I used baby kailan instead, and it came out just fine. I also used eryngii mushrooms because they had nice large stems that would work much better than the usual oyster mushrooms we get here. The green of the kale was such a beautiful colour, probably my favourite part of the whole dish. One note: you -must- brown the mushrooms on both sides as the recipe specifies. It gives them a definite, delicious flavour.

Today...well, today I wanted to prepare for the rest of the week, and that got me to wanting to make bento staples, and that led to this:

That's Maki's Kinpira Gobo (minus the sesame seeds as I didn't have any) and her basic meat soboro (minus the green onions because I didn't have any on hand). I added a bit of kimchi, because I just happened to have some in the fridge and I thought it'd be a nice bit of colour. I was inspired and cookery-deprived enough to make the potato dough for potato oyaki as well, just so I could have food to take to work tomorrow and the day after.

I am thankful for food bloggers like Shauna, Karina, Maki and Heidi who give such inspiration to their readers, and who work so hard to bring us recipes and posts. I know we don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Malaysia, but I think sometimes we ought to just step back and count the many, many things we need to be thankful for. It's the best antidote to post-illness blues.

Because it worked for me. I'm thankful for my friends, family, and the many chances I've had to do what I love. I'm thankful for a kitchen to cook in, and people who make sure I can eat safely when I meet with them. I'm thankful that I'm well enough to sing again. And I'm thankful for my choir students, some of whom graduated this weekend at their year-end concert.

When I look at it like that, there's really no reason to complain.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, one and all.


  1. Such variety and all so delicious... I agree we have much to be thankful for and even when things don't go well or when we fall ill, we have our eventual health and things getting right again to look forward to.

    And take care of that voice, my friend, it's the lyre of the angels, it is.


    P.S. And aye, we really have no reason to complain at all. :)

  2. Delicious they all were! I think you really might enjoy the mushroom bowl - with slices of pork added. Many MANY hugs. I am so looking forward to catching up with you - thank you re: the voice! I don't know about lyre, but I need it to pass my dratted exam on the 13th December!

  3. Oh yes, the mushroom bowl looks like the one I'm mostly like to be able to handle in a jiffy, hehe. Pork's not cheap though so I'm gonna have to make my meat go the extra mile.

    I'm wishing you all the best for the 13th... but I can't imagine anything but you passing with flying colours. Watching you perform with the rest of the group that Sunday was an amazing experience, especially your "solos", if that is the right term. :)

  4. Oh man, YES, it is incredible how expensive pork is now. You might be able to get some nice char siu and add it to the bowl though! That would last!

    As for the solos - yes, that is the right term indeed! And I am thankful that I -could- sing that day because my voice still wasn't recovered from my sinus infection and I was on a double dose of antihistamines. Oy!

  5. I think the trick is using quality cuts/cooked pork but not in huge quantities. A little goes a long way, especially with rice or in a salad.

    You were wonderful that day. Thank goodness you decided to pursue singing otherwise we'd have been deprived. :)

  6. It's almost time... Oh yes!

    Have yourself a bigger, better, brilliant-er 2012, dear! Happy New Year! :D

  7. Thank you m'dear! More posts to come! Have yourself a wonderful, equally bigger and brillianter 2012 as well - and peanut soup!