on food, pho, and yogurt

i had a really good weekend. not fantastically great (i didn't win the lottery - although i should probably play the lottery if i'm entertaining thoughts of winning it), but really not too shabby either.

i did a lot of yoga, which is good because i havent taken any time off this past week to go to kickboxing. my excuse was because i was taking care of the boy and at first he needed a lot of help to get around and do anything at all, but that all changed this weekend when he was in a lot less pain, started walking around, and started bathing himself instead of me bathing him.

i have no idea what was up my butt, but i've been on an asian kick. it started with a trip to the mall and williams-sonoma. the boy needed to exercise, so off we went and ambled at his slow pace around the mall and there we ended up at williams-sonoma, with me staring at the most beautiful stainless steel all-clad wok that i've ever laid eyes on (and no, are you out of your mind? i didnt buy it. i like all-clad, but lets get real here). that eye candy led to me finding this particularly good hunanese cookbook written by an englishwoman who's an expert on chinese cuisine. i really like the book, as it's not only full of great recipes that are actually doable, but she inculded a lot of history from the hunan province as well. the dishes in the book are meant to be small servings, so for three people one should make three dishes as well as rice in order to feed everyone. saturday night i made two: beef with cumin (cumin, as it turns out, is used by the chinese muslims) and a dish called "numbing-and-hot chicken". actually, the name of that recipe is what made me decide to buy the book in the first place. numbing and hot? bring it on!

i'm not handy with a wok (yet), and the wok i have is a piece of crap (a gift from a friend, one of those Joyce Chen deals you get at bed bath and beyond). as with all chinese cooking, the actual cooking part took mere minutes; it's the prep work that kills you. it took me over an hour to prep for both recipes, although i did take my time and busied myself cleaning up broken glass from the gravy boat which fell out of the cabinet and all over the sauces, so i had to remake those. the dishes turned out decently, but i think i definitely need more wok practice, and i need a real wok. which i bought yesterday online from a store in san francisco's chinatown. incidentally, when i lived in SF back in 1994, i went to a store in chinatown and bought a hand-hammered wok, and i'm wondering if it's the same store? anyhoo.

since the boy is going back to work soon and he really needs to exercise his leg as much as he possibly can, we set out again yesterday on my quest to find sichuan peppercorns. which aren't hunanese (they're from sichuan, duh), but the numbing-and-hot chicken called for some. first we stopped at a korean-vietnamese-chinese market on buford highway (where i found said peppercorns and a bunch of other cheap housewares), then we went for pho. i had originally planned to take the boy to Pho #1, but there was a pho place in the same plaza as the market, which was packed, so we decided to go there (if a restaurant is packed, that's usually a good sign that the food is good). the boy has never had vietnamese food before, and seemed excited and curious. we had pho and it was good. that damn broth could cure any ailment. after that, we went to the Super H market in duluth, which, as it turns out, is owned by the same people who own the asian megamart we used to go to in maryland. so that was a nice discovery. it was also a lot nicer and cleaner than the one in maryland, and had a lot more prepared food vendors inside. i'll definitely have to go back during the morning when it's not as crowded, because it ended up turning into a pushy-shovy fest while in there. dinner last night was not asian-inspired (we had steak au poivre with herbed potato wedges), but i'm planning more chinesey meals in the future, especially as my new wok should get here in about a week.

i'm being particular about what i'm eating these days. even though i've always eaten what i thought was healthy food, i've never really paid attention to the ingredients list on prepared foods until just recently. which is why i'm making my own yogurt now, because a) yoplait sucks and is full of corn syrup, and b) the good yogurts i like that are all natural, like stonyfield farms and wallaby, are about a buck or more apiece. it's much cheaper and healthier if you control what you're putting in to the stuff. so even made with whole milk, each of my yogurts is 80 calories. then i can sweeten them how i want; the tastiest so far is with fruit nectar, like peach, although i've just been eating them mixed with strawberries and some kashi cereal, and sometimes a dab of honey.

anyway, that was a long food rant thing.

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