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Black and white wins again March 2, 2013

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Though the shot is nice in colour, it seems much less cluttered in black and white. The angle (from below, cutting out all the mess of the bed beyond) and the blank wall also help to declutter the photo. In black and white, I also like to overexpose a little to bring out the contrast.

Grey cat eye March 2, 2013

Posted by pikapika20 in Photography.
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photography, cat, eye

Extension tubes let me get nice and close to the cat, without spending tons of money on a macro lens…

Chinese Green Beans and Minced Pork December 9, 2012

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Wrinkly yet fresh-crunchy green beans, crunchy salty minced pork, soft absorbent rice… 

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I wish I could say this was a healthy meal, and there are definitely steps we can take, but it’s one of those beautiful dishes that I can’t help but love and am loathe to mess around with. Here are some of the “healthy” mods that you CAN take… if you dare.

  • Dry fry the beans by heating up a tsp of oil until smoking and then just stir-frying on medium high until brown and delightfully crinkly. It’s better than the original DEEP FRY of the beans (though not as good as steaming until just crunchy) and it is still ultra-delicious. Don’t get me wrong. I lovelovelove steamed green beans (the quick way that leaves the beans vibrant and sweet and bright… not the American-diner brown floppy squishy mess which doesn’t just happen in diners but pretty much every Western chain restaurant I’ve been to). BUT there is just something so charming about these crinkly beans that I will never be able to abandon entirely. I’ve just gotta have it one in a while.
  • Use turkey or chicken mince instead of pork which is what I wish I had done today. I bought a particularly fatty mince and poured out a good 3 tsp of oil at the end (yuck!). Personally I like the texture of turkey or chicken mince, especially as a replacement in this FRIED pork dish, where the goal is nice crumbles of minced meat. 
  • Quinoa instead of rice… I’m a big quinoa convert (despite the fact that it contains 3.5 g of fat per cup). It’s easy to cook on the stove (forget the rice cooker … it does NOT do well in a rice cooker). Also, it works perfectly as a sauce carrier and salt-cutter. PLUS it is a source of protein and is lower in carbs and calories. 

Without further ado, the UNHEALTHY recipe for

Chinese Green Beans and Minced Pork

  1. Mince 4 cloves of garlic and the white part of 2 scallions. Also chop the green parts and set aside for later.
  2. Prep 1 pound of green beans or so (rinse and cut off the tops).
  3. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a wok on high heat and toss in the beans. Stir fry for approximately 15 minutes and they are brown crinkly. 
  4. Set the green beans aside. Heat another tsp of oil and fry the garlic and white part of onions really briefly (20 seconds or so). Crumble in one package of minced pork and allow to fry until the meat takes on some colour.
  5. Meanwhile, in a bowl mix together 2 tbsp black bean garlic sauce, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp hoisin sauce and 1 tsp water.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture over the pork and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or so (until the mix is ALMOST DRY.. there should be just a little bit of moisture in the pan, but there will be a lot of oil).
  7. Dump the beans back in and stir. Allow to cook until the mix is DRY (just oil in the bottom). Serve over rice or in lettuce cups.

 

Carrot Cake Muffins November 4, 2012

Posted by pikapika20 in Baking.
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My love affair with baking is definitely on again. I know I gave it up because of all the carbs, the sugar, the butter (o the butter), but with the huge variety of flours entering the market (so readily accessible at every supermarket except the Asian ones), I simply couldn’t resist coming back for just ONE fling. And what a fling it was!

Fluffy, hearty and sweet: I’ve always loved carrot cake. But not as cake. Like so many veggie-filled baked goods, I enjoy a carrot “cake” in muffin or loaf tins. Also, I’m a traditionalist. Raisins and walnuts are the only extras I enjoy in carrot cake (and none in my banana bread please… and of course none of that chocolate chip craziness that goes on) and though the original Martha recipe calls for pecans, I just couldn’t do it. Speaking of the original, there could be anything more glam than Martha’s marzipan fake carrots (pictured in her Baking Handbook but not on the website) and decadent cream cheese frosting with all of that butter and white flour and white sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made it before and it was oh-so-impressive. But baking and I have a new relationship. One based on understanding, communication, and NO WHITE FLOUR. So, this is a make-under for us healthy-eating types who just want a muffin goshdarnit.

Healthy(er) Carrot Cake Muffins

  1. Zest an orange into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and take a 1/2 block of cream cheese out of the fridge to come to room temperature.
  2. Soak .5 c raisins in the juice of the orange you just zested (or if you’re a raisin fanatic like me, bring it up to a whole cup).
  3. Grate 4 carrots and a thumb of ginger into a bowl.
  4. Mix carrots and ginger together with 1 c apple sauce, .25 c oil of your choice (coconut oil is so great in baking), 3 eggs, .5 c brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/3 c yogurt in a big bowl.
  5. Whisk together 1 c whole wheat flour, 1 c oats, 1 c almond meal, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, dash of salt and 1 tsp cinnamon.
  6. Pour on top of the wet ingredients and mix gently until it just comes together, then stir in .5 c walnut pieces.
  7. In a preheated 325F oven, bake muffin tins for 20-25 minutes (rotate halfway through) or in a loaf tin for 35-45 minutes (rotate halfway through).
  8. Meanwhile, cream together the zest and the cream cheese from step 1 with just enough icing sugar to bring it together (I personally don’t enjoy very sugary frosting anymore, so I only added .5 c of icing sugar and it was fine)
  9. Let the muffins/loaf cool before icing.

How to Make Creamy Oatmeal (single person portion) July 25, 2012

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I always liked oatmeal. Every morning my dad would hand me a packet of Quakers Instant and I would eagerly tear it open, dump the contents in the bowl and slowly stir it with water while I read the trivia on the side. The true love affair began, however, at an outdoor ed center on a retreat with my church. The gooey rich oatmeal the chef made was nothing like the grainy sugary stuff I had grown up on. But when I asked what the secret ingredient was, the inevitable answer – as for so many beloved dishes – was BUTTER. 

Butter… butter… well, I can’t in good conscience put BUTTER in something that is supposed to be as healthy was OATMEAL, so I was in despair. Until I found this high fibre oatmeal at the grocery store. The recipe on the packet is simple, yielding perfect proportions for the correct TEXTURE, if not the creaminess of the oatmeal I fell in love with years ago. .25 tsp of salt in 2 c of boiling water, stir in 2/3 c of oat bran and let boil for 2 minutes. Easy and fast. No problems, but nowhere as delicious as my memory. To add creaminess? Why cream of course. I just simmer a little bit of milk into the mixture at the last minute (milk that anyone and everyone adds to their oatmeal anyways)… it’s pure perfection. But now that I’m transferring my oat bran into a jar, I’m throwing away the packet with its perfect proportions… so here I am writing down that simple recipe

Using Oat Bran:

Put .75 c of salted water on the boil and slowly stir in .25 c of oat bran (add a tbsp of cold-milled flax if you like). Cook for two minutes. Add milk and let simmer on stove for a creamier finish. Serve with fruit or whatevs.

 

Easy low carb apple-carrot muffins June 20, 2012

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I’ve been watching a lot of SORTED FOOD recently, and one recent nommy addition was Apple-Carrot Muffins. Actually, I think they called them “Slimmers’ Breakfast Muffins”, but they’re not “Slimmers” enough for me. The original uses butter, brown sugar and – yes! – EVEN whole wheat flour. I suppose the minimal amounts of those terrible terribles would be fine for most people, but not me! Like most people in the blogging community, I really just can’t let well enough alone. So I replaced the butter with coconut oil, the brown sugar with a drip of honey, and the whole wheat flour with the biggest and bestest contribution that Paleo-dieters could possibly have contributed to the world: almond flour. The result? A moist, naturally sweet, soft and delicious muffin that I can eat guilt-free… and they’re filling too!

Pictures to come, but I wanted to post before I completely forgot the recipe. Also, I have a tendency to wing it when baking (a terrible habit I know) so the measurements are approximated

  1. Preheat oven to 325F
  2. In a bowl, combine .25 c apple sauce, 1 egg, 1 tbsp coconut oil (melted), 1 tsp honey and .25 c yogurt. Whisk to break up egg.
  3. Stir in .75c almond flour, .25 tsp baking soda, .75 c rolled oats, .25 tsp sea salt. Stir until just combined.
  4. Grate in 1 large carrot and 1 large apple. Mix.
  5. Portion into 8 muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  6. All done!

Why 8 muffin cups you ask? Well, not having baked for a long time (it is forbidden!! trying to lose weight), I thought that I would too happily polish off any and all muffins I made if they were even remotely good. I think it would be good to make a dozen by adding another apple, more oats and almond flour (NOT baking soda b/c it was a little soda-y already for my taste) and possibly an egg. The original recipe calls for orange zest, and that would indubitably taste fantastic.. but I didn’t have any oranges on hand. Yes, I did whip these up from just the things lying around my kitchen and I would do it again! That’s the best type of cooking!

Lentil Burger: Last day of Lent April 4, 2012

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YAY IT’S THE LAST DAY OF LENT.

I am so thankful for food now. And I’m sure I’ll be so very grateful for meat for a billion yearssss.

Anyways, to celebrate the end of this vegetarianism (and I’m also now on the 4-hour body Slow Carb Diet), I made Slow Carb Lentil Patties. I thought they would be tolerable, but they turned out extremely well. They’re so delicious, I’m making them my lunch tomorrow (instead of meat!)

SLOW CARB VEGETARIAN – LENTIL PATTIES

  1. In a blender, puree 1/2 c lentils and 1/4 c black beans with one egg. (I use canned for convenience)
  2. Also finely chop a bit of onion and mix it with the lentil puree, 2 tsp of almond flour, parsley, cayenne, thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat a cast-iron pan (in the photo, you can see I used very little oil. Use more oil if you like, but despite their look these were so yummy). Form four patties and roll in almond powder. The patties are quite loose.
  4. Fry up the patties. Serve with salsa, guacamole, relish, ketchup, or whatever else you like.

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Wandering King Street West March 14, 2012

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Here are some more postcards

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My New Project: 52 Postcards March 13, 2012

Posted by pikapika20 in 100 Strangers, 52 Postcards, Photography.
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Actually, I have two new photo projects.

Most of my photog friends say that they don’t have projects. Not interested, not motivated, no time or whatever? But as for me, I need a good project or I just stagnate in pretty overexposed supersaturated nature photographs. Fun… but actually I have a lot of difficulty with that style in winter. There are only so many plants to photograph and so many cat pics that people can take (or I can take!)

So I have two new projects:

1) The 52 Postcard Project

So I joined www.postcrossing.com , which is a neat website where you exchange postcards with people around the world. Unfortunately, it’s been very difficult finding postcards. There are so many ugly postcards out there… ugly and boring and blah. A lot of the photos on them were taken in the 70s-90s and don’t reflect a very contemporary aesthetic. With that in mind, I set out to take photos of my hometown (Toronto) in ways that I hope are attractive and properly reflect what it’s like to live here. At first I planned to go out every weekend and take a photo of a new landmark, but that of course has proved fairly difficult with timing and everything. As it is, I still have about one per week, though I have a tendency to get more than a few shots in during a single trip. March Break is the perfect time to walk around downtown (it’s been a mild winter, and walking is really pleasant) so I’m hoping to get the first 26 done before the week is over!

2) 100 Strangers

Inspired by http://www.100strangers.com/, I’ve been terrified to start this project. The idea is to go up to 100 different strangers, talk to them, get their story and take a photo. I’m sure most people can imagine why a very shy and socially awkward person would find this terrifying… but I was attracted to the project because I thought it would give me a chance to work on aforementioned social skills and would be a really big stretch for me. I heard about a man who did a project where he had to flirt with somebody every day (trying to work on his social skills) and this seems like a much easier and milder version of that. I haven’t yet got up the courage to do it, but I will while wandering around downtown this week. I was hoping to do 100 Strangers with Tattoos (because I do just love ink) but that seems overly ambitious.

Anyways, here are some photos from 52 postcards: