Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Pandemic Pantry: Cooking Covid-19 Style, Days 48 - 61

Day 48: Fri May 1
Japanese curry, jasmine rice, George Forman-grilled chicken.
At  this point, my meals were getting more repetitive, and I was working through my frozen leftover portions.  Here is my Japanese curry revitalized with more vegetables that I cooked, served on top of jasmine rice since I ran out of Japanese shorter-grained rice, and some grilled chicken.  My little George Forman grill is still going strong after decades.

Day 49: Sat May 2
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on toasted bread ends served with coffee. 
Gotta appreciate the butts of the loaf when you are running out of bread and don't always get the bread you ordered in your delivery.  I wound up getting gifted a friend's breadmaker later on, and I'm never really going to run out of bread again. 

Day 50: Sun May 3
Paella-style rice with sausage (I know, not authentic), chicken, black olives, and chickpeas.
I'm now writing these notes months later and things have faded in my memory, but I think this was quite tasty. 

Day 51: Mon May 4
Roast beef, gravy, roasted vegetables and new potatoes served with a hefty California pinot noir. Strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. 
This was the height of my pandemic cooking, I think. Maybe only my second time making a roast beef even though it's one of my all time favourite dishes.  It turned out spectacularly well. It was tender and juicy and perfectly medium rare.  In my research, I actually found Jamie Oliver's video extremely helpful.  There was more gravy in the pitcher.  And this roast fed me (plus treats for my cat) for days (probably froze some as well).

Day 52: Tue May 5
Toasted hot cross bun with black forest ham for breakfast. 
I loved those Save-On Foods hot cross buns.  Such a good deal - I bought the big pack and separated them and froze them so that I could toast them up in the oven anytime.

Day 52 and 53: Tue May 5 and Wed May 6
Sandwich of leftover roast beef on toasted rye with roasted veg on the side.  Some sort of whipped cream topped dessert...probably a makeshift version of banana cream pie or maybe tapioca pudding.
Sharpened my knife and shaved some of my roast for some excellent sandwiches. Probably put some horseradish mixed with mayo in there. 

Day 54: Thu May 7
Avocado, ham, and Japanese Mayo on Rye. 
Hey, I was doing avocado toast before some of you were born.  It's a great breakfast. Roast beef tacos later that day. 

Day 55: Fri May 8
No photo.  I assume I was still happily eating leftover roast beef. 

Day 56: Sat May 9
Nachos; pickled daikon - an unsuccessful attempt at  "chicken mu"; open-faced egg salad sandwiches.

Day 57: Sun May 10
Full egg breakfast with sausage, pan-fried grape tomatoes, rye toast, cucumber, and mandarin.
I did tend to buy a sausage because it keeps in the fridge well and its easy to toss into different dishes.

Day 57 and 58: Sun May 10 and Mon May 11
Dark roast Jif creamy peanut butter.  I'm guessing I had it on toast but also had some spoonfuls straight.
The old  dark roasted coffee trend has reached peanut butter.  I feel the same way about this peanut butter as I do the coffee and the previous French press coffee. Yes, it's a stronger, roasted flavour but it's not really better than the smoother flavour of the lighter roast, just different.  I went back to original roast after this jar.  But it was fun to have some Jif as I was using other brands before this.  I also had some jars of more "natural" peanut butters and I've got to say, I really like the over-processed, high sugar, high salt creamy smooth ones.  I even wound up "fixing" a jar of natural peanut butter by adding salt and sugar. 

Day 59: Tue May 12
Mac 'n Cheese with sausage and peas, raw veggies on the side, maybe potato salad.
As I look back on my cooking, I know that my lockdown cooking was very comfort food-oriented and let's face it, childish.  This particular photo of my meal on a pink divided plate really says it all. 

Day 60: Wed May 13
Happy face chef's salad.
I made a lot of big salads and it was easier to get in a lot of fibre and veggies when cooking all the time in the summer season with good produce, instead of going out to eat.  I think I lost a little tiny bit of weight over those months. 

Day 61: Thu May 14
Cabbage (sui chow) and sausage soup with potatoes, and carrots.  Topped with greek yoghurt and parsley and served with crackers and tortilla chips. 
This mostly veggie soup was very buttery.  I discovered how long sui choy lasts in the fridge, so it's a good pandemic vegetable for minimizing number of grocery trips or deliveries. 

Straight and Marrow on Powell St.: The Whole Package in Vancouver!

I can't remember the last time I've been this excited about a non-Asian restaurant in Vancouver (although it kinda is somewhat Asian because of the chef, some influences on the dishes, and the comfort level of serving and with working with offal). It was the whole package for me - tasty, creative/interesting, satisfying food, take-you-on-a-journey cocktails (taste-wise so much happening, but also love geeking out on drink techniques, ingredients, and history. Plus, you can just trust that you're going to get a well-balanced drink which honestly is not always the case in town), stellar service, comfortable vibe.  They've only been open for a few months, too.  

Here are some icing on the cake thoughts: I might suggest trying some candles on the tables to show off the plated food better or tiny overhead warm lighting (in a fantasy world, I'd add a fireplace) which might also add to a cosy feeling in the room.  Maybe a very tiny comp bar snack (couple of olives or popcorn/chips/nuts kind of thing) or an amuse bouche?  An occasional option of a tasting menu paired with a variety of tasting size cocktails/sake/wine would be killer.  I know it's a casual vibe kind of place, but I always appreciate when someone's thought about pairings for me and a tasting menu sometimes means getting to try more dishes.  Enjoyed everything, but the texture of the gnocchi (rabbit gnocchi dish), the creamy garlic purée in the sweetbread dish,  the cheek stew in Tongue in Cheek (but not the tongue as much), and the complexity of the Fat Panda and Turboso Flip cocktails were standouts.  

Every dish on their food menu sounds intriguing which is also relatively rare in town in my opinion.  I love seeing a creative menu. I felt like it was fairly priced too.  It's almost like a little izakaya with extra French and western influence instead of Japanese. I know they'll do well (but still hoping to be able to get a table or spot at the bar at the last minute).

Saturday, May 02, 2020

The Pandemic Pantry: Cooking Covid-19 Style, Days 29 - 47

This is a continuation of my documentation of my experiences and humble sustenance during this strange but fascinating time.  So much of our human activities have shut down but I've just noticed the magnolia trees across the street and on the roof of a building have suddenly bloomed.  It's beautifully sunny also.  I've been meaning to get out to walk or bike ride more but I face quite a bit of exposure to people just getting in and out of my building.  My immune system has not felt strong in many years, so I do feel extra susceptible, and more likely to also transmit the virus to other people.  I have always loved my apartment, and I feel very safe here these days.  I'm more suited, at this age, to quarantine than many others.  I don't know what it would have been like if this had hit 25 years ago.  No good internet, no plethora of food delivery services and grocery delivery, no Zoom meetings and parties, and I wasn't employed in a job that translates to remote working from home plus I always wanted to go out.  It's an interesting time to go through this, but people are getting stir crazy.

Day 29: Sun Apr 12, Easter
Tzatziki, garlic hummus, veggies, dolmades, olives, chips and bread, served with guava/orange pop.
I made the tzatziki which turned out well.  I like to eat my carrots with the skin on, and I usually look for a bag of organic carrots that are mostly skinny ones so that I don't even need to cut them, but in this case I did, lengthwise.

Day 30: Mon, Apr 13
That green stuff was a jalapeño sauce from Trader Joe's that was pretty tasty. Remember when we could cross the border into the States just to get a different brand gourmet groceries than what we had here?

Day 31: Tue, Apr 14
Big dipper, fries, bbq ribs, garlic toast from Boston Pizza.
I think this was my second restaurant delivery during this last month.  I believe I chose Boston Pizza because it was one of the few restaurants available for delivery at that time of night, and I'm not a huge fan in general, but I do love beef dips; it's one of the few dishes of theirs that I like.  When I order delivery, I tend to order enough for several meals, so there is a bit of the rib dinner too.  The onion rings were great. I made a mistake with the pizza though.  I wanted one with pineapple and went for their chicken and pineapple to mix things up but really should have had the regular Hawaiian.  Next pizza delivery, I'm going old-school with just ham and pineapple.

Day 32: Wed, Apr 15
Spaghetti with mushroom tomato sauce, Boston Pizza bbq ribs, served with Diet Orange Crush.
My leftover spaghetti portioned out for the freezer was a great side to the ribs.  Pop is a big treat for me.  I'm very careful to not have it as often as I'd like to because I can easily get addicted.

Day 33: Thu, Apr 16
McDonald's Drive-Thru Quarter Pounder, McNuggets, a bit of a strawberry shake (unphotographed, but you know what they look like and here is a picture of the view I had when I ate it).
I remembered late at night that hybrid cars should not sit for weeks, so I went to go turn it on and 3 am was a great time to avoid people so I decided to go on a quick drive around, and visited the 24h drive-thru which would have been one of the few things open.  I discovered the hearts on the Fairmont Hotel, and it was such a bittersweet Covid-19 image.  So many empty rooms with no hope of filling them is needed to make these hearts in this strange time.  But I reflected on how people struggling to get through this are taking the trouble to send some love out there.  I found out when I googled it at home that hotels around the world were doing it.

Day 34: Fri Apr 17
Mac n' cheese with peas.  Potato salad, macaroni bean salad, garnished with olives, cornichons, grape tomatoes. 
Mac n' cheese and potato salad are great comfort foods.  

Day 35: Sat Apr 18
Orange flavoured water, mac n' cheese, frozen dim sum. 
Do you put your rinds and ends in water when you eat an orange?  I'm not great at drinking a lot of water, so it helps if I put a lot of ice in, and give it a little flavour with juice or orange slices like this.  There's so much flavour in the zest of an orange, might as well use it. I portioned out and froze a lot of mac n' cheese when I made a big batch.

Day 36: Sun, Apr 19
Balkan style yoghurt, honey, nuts served with coffee for breakfast.

Day 37: Mon Apr 20
Japanese curry with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, green pepper, tofu, sausage served with rice and Chinese sausage (lap cheong).
Leftovers from the freezer. Chinese sausage is amazing, isn't it?  In its package stored in the fridge, it lasts so long.  Great "pantry" item when it's unopened (in the fridge).  When I'm cooking the rice, I throw the sausage on top so that it's done when the rice is cooked, and then I slice it afterwards.

Day 38: Tue Apr 21
Cobb salad with grilled chicken thighs seasoned with five spice salt. Grape tomatoes, cucumbers, chunky blue cheese dressing, shaved carrot, celery, black olives, cauliflower, spinach/kale/red chard dressed in red wine vinaigrette.
I love this old bowl that my mom gave me ages ago,s traight from the 70's and still going strong.  Also, I used the George Forman little grill my parents gave me decades ago when they upgraded to the large size.  Iconic.  I love how it crisps up the skin on chicken thighs, and it really does keep the juices in while cooking both sides simultaneously.

Day 39: Wed Apr 22
Duck broth, duck meat, noodles, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cherry tomato, Chinese mushrooms, noodles, dumplings. Dessert was a faux banana cream pie.  Crushed digestive biscuits, Tesco instant custard, banana slices, sweetened whipped cream. (photos of inside layers and the finished cream topped dessert).
I love get Chinese bbq meats, and when I get roasted duck, I save the bones and the bony pieces to make a broth for soup noodles.  These bones were in the freezer, and I've really cleared out a lot of things in my freezer which is very satisfying.  That includes these slices of duck meat that I had forgotten about for a while.

Getting an whipping cream canister was a bit of a splurge, but I used my Canadian Tire money to get it and love it (and I like to use those points for treats that I wouldn't normally buy with regular money).  I have plenty of cartridges at home so that's not a problem, but it took a while for the whipped cream to be available and I still don't have sweetened condensed milk which I'm waiting for to use up my box cake and make tres leches cake.  This faux pie really did taste like a real banana cream pie, which is my favourite pie (with warm blueberry à la mode being a close second).


Day 40: Thu Apr 23
Frozen udon, duck broth, Chinese mushrooms, carrots, green onion served with coffee with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.  
Breakfast of champions.  I would never have gone to the trouble of making this for breakfast on a weekday in the "before times."  A hot bowl of noodle soup is a great hearty breakfast.

When I buy green onions, I don't store them in the fridge in water.  I plant them in soil, and they grow like crazy, even though it's indoors, with a northern exposure, and pretty much throughout the year (but of course it's better in the spring and summer sun).  I cut what I need from the top, so I never get the white parts, but that's fine for me.  I usually have yellow onions around if I want a harsher flavour. I typically use green onions nearly every day, and I get at least five times the material by keeping them in dirt.  They do eventually wither away after a couple of months, and then I start over again with another bunch from the store.  

Chicken Caesar salad with avocado, broccoli, baby kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. 

Day 41: Fri Apr 25
Butter flake roll, strawberry jam, whipped cream, apple, grape tomato, celery, French press coffee, my whipped cream canister.
I was in the mood for being fancy and having a matched set of dishes.  Once I've got whipping cream loaded into my canister, I want to have it on everything.  This was sort of like having scones with devon cream and preserves.

Avocado, grilled chicken, sriracha, and mixed greens sandwich.  Side of veggies and spinach hummus, and peanut butter.
I put the peanut butter out for the celery sticks (like ants on a log sans ants), but I discovered that raw broccoli tastes way better with peanut butter on it.  

Day 42: Sat Apr 26
Cobb salad with a bit of garlic sausage added this time.  Kozy Shack tapioca pudding with whipped cream.
I substituted a little grilled sausage for bacon, and lightly cooked some carrot/broccoli/cauliflower for this when I was searing the chicken.  Cobb is always such an indulgent salad.  The tapioca pudding was a treat at the end of the day.  I was given a free sample of Kozy Shack at the Sun Run the first and only year that I ran it.  I had walked it before, but it was a huge accomplishment for me to run 10k when I've always hated running and out of shape.  But what I discovered was that it wasn't great for losing weight because I was always starving.  You can imagine how good that Kozy Shack tasted on race day when I was so hungry and tired, and I had never heard of the brand before that (this was probably 17 years ago).   Anyhow, I'm hooked on the rice pudding and the tapioca, but I try not to buy it for myself much.  Buying a pack is one of the "hell with it" kind of moments that I've had in response to isolation. I normally wouldn't buy individual cups because of the plastic waste, but if I buy the big one, I can't make it last over weeks.  I did the same with buying a giant multi-pack of small bags of chips which I still have not run out of all these weeks.  A big bag would disappear in only a few days.

Day 43: Sun Apr 27 
Canned sockeye salmon sandwiches two ways - one grilled as a breaded patty and the other as a cold salmon salad mixture.
Now that I'm cooking at home so much, I've taken opportunities to test and compare techniques side by side to see what I prefer.  In this case, I used an ancient can of salmon and tried two approaches to sandwiches.  I did like the pan-fried patty quite a bit.  But I would say that both were equally good, but just very different. I think my mom gave me those cans of salmon years ago and I just never felt like using them until now.

Dinner was my take on pasta con sardé.  Spaghettini with sliced onions, celery whites plus crushed fennel seed, dill, saffron, white wine, raisins, grape tomatoes, cashews, olive oil toasted panko bread crumbs and canned Bar Harbour skinless, boneless sardine fillets. (photographed in the pan before the pasta was added, and then the final plate with a topping of bread crumbs and roasted cashews).
Appetizer of one more salmon patty from the lunch mix.  And my first alcoholic drink of the quarantine.  Botanist gin and soda (known as a Gin Rickey).
Pasta con sardé is a dish that I have never tasted or even heard of until I was searching the internet for a pasta and sardines recipe.  I had bought the can just before the quarantine thinking that it would be a good thing to have in the pantry and imagined having the oil and the fish with just some chilli flakes on pasta (but discovered I had bought sardines not packed in olive oil).

I was intrigued by this Sicilian dish, and I saw many different versions of it.  I didn't have fennel (which is put in with the bulb and greens) and make my own fascimile with the celery and herbs.  I got to use my saffron which I hardly ever use, and I have a fond memory of when I was gifted the huge stash on a cruise where the chef was on deck making a giant paella as a cooking demonstration and saw me surprised at the size of his box.  After the demonstration, he gave me the tin.  That was a fun day.

I had planned a virtual dinner party with foodies and that was great for encouraging me to go that extra step with my meal, and also to finally have a cocktail.  I usually use tonic, so trying the gin with the club soda that I had available was great, and I think I might even prefer it for letting the gin come through on its own.  The Botanist from Islay (which is known for scotch) has 22 hand-foraged local botanicals.  I wound up watching a YouTube video that night about scotch drinkers visiting Islay and it sounds like a magical island.

Day 44: Mon Apr 28
Quesadilla with black olives.
A simple but tasty breakfast.  Again, in the spirit of side-by-side comparison, I tried three different amounts of toasting on the tortilla.  Very different end products, but I still enjoyed all three. I think I like the softest for a bit of chew.

Day 45: Tue Apr 29
Balkan-style yoghurt, very cherry fruit cocktail in light syrup and Nature's Path vanilla and almonds granola.
Another indulgence - a big pack of fruit cocktail cups on sale that would last for months as a backup when running out of fruit.  I always like to have some fruit around.  Canned fruit cocktail is something I really only ate as a kid but I love it.  With the sugary syrup, it was great in the yoghurt.  Unfortunately it meant much more plastic waste than I would normally buy, but the cups are better portions without the metallic taste, so I caved.

Avocado toast with whipped cream cheese, grape tomatoes, Kewpee mayo, and green onion

Day 46: Wed Apr 29
Mint (probably peppermint).
This stuff just doesn't die.  It sprouted up again this year, and I really didn't take care of it at all last year.  Not enough for a summer of mojitos right now, but we'll see how it does.  The rest of the day was for eating leftovers of my pasta sardé.

Day 47: Thu Apr 30
Romer restaurant delivery of steak with a peppery sauce, roasted potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts and tomato, and fries (and an unphotographed mushroom burger for lunch). 
This was my third restaurant delivery (actually less that what I was doing in the before times) and mainly inspired by the announcement that Foodora bike delivery is closing down its business.  Sad to see it go as it was my favourite restaurant delivery service.  Recently it had some bad press that criticized them for not reducing their charges to restaurants in this time, but I was thinking that they had to keep things afloat too just like the restaurants, and their delivery people also need to make money just like the restaurant employees.  Apparently they did not make it.  I gave a good tip for the delivery guy.  Romer was a new restaurant for me (not my kind of place generally), and I did that on purpose because I do miss discovering new places in person.  That was one of my main hobbies along with sharing those places with other people.  It was all good and those potatoes and brussel sprouts were definite winners.  Steak was a bit thinner and smaller than I expected, but honestly pretty good for a $22 main at a burger place.  Burger for a separate meal was also good (but not crazy good). 

At this point, there are rumblings about other provinces opening up a bit more, and BC is doing well. There's a bit of hope we'll stop quarantining in stages soon, but that we will need to be ready for a second wave.  There are a lot of lessons we should have learned about living during this pandemic about gratitude, being less wasteful, learning "old-fashioned" basics skills, reevaluating priorities for how our time is spent, and more.  It will be fascinating to see the next steps.