Before COVID John and I used to do quite a bit of traveling and in November, 2019 we took a trip to Southeast Asia. We started a cruise in Hong Kong and made our way down Vietnam, then to Cambodia, and ended up in Thailand. One of the things we signed up for was a cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City. The chef in Vietnam took us to the Ben Thanh market and discussed ingredients and then we went back to the Saigon Cooking School and made a three course meal. Here are some pictures.
Our chef discussing different vegetables at the Ben Thanh market
The seafood section
Spices and coffee galore
At the Saigon Cooking School we each had a super hot and scary propane cook top and sharp knives. We needed to watch the chef and try to duplicate what she was doing. Most of us had trouble just turning on the cooktop. My towel caught on fire!
Chef cooking Sour Soup with Prawn with a student (not me) watching
What the soup looked like when we made it in Vietnam
Here at home our ingredients are not quite the same. After our okra slimed out yesterday we decided to use use what we had in the refrigerator which was some broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, and cilantro. Although John is skeptical about the non-traditional ingredients, the soup turned out great! The tart flavor of the tamarind coupled with fish sauce and brown sugar gave an authentic taste to everything. I think I would put more shrimp in it next time. I posted the original recipe from the Saigon Cooking School the first time we tried to make it at home.
This is the third time making the soup and it came out the best so far. I think we are figuring out the ratios of what tastes we like best.
Our homemade Vietnamese sour soup with shrimp
We were supposed to make Vietnamese sweet and sour soup for dinner on Wednesday but discovered that the okra had turned entirely into slime and had to make an alternative plan for dinner. This plan was more like the old me. We ended up eating popcorn, tater tots, and potstickers.
So while I am a primo dieter most of the time, I do have my moments of unrestricted glee. But it is back on the straight and narrow today and I have started out with a hardy, nutritious breakfast. Yes, of course, I thought about eating nothing all day to make amends but that is just dumb. I would have ended up being hungry and tempted by more gleeful food.
This is the kind of breakfast I eat most days. It consists of an egg or eggs and toast. I find the eggs keep me satisfied until lunch time. Other breakfasts I eat are plain non-fat Greek yogurt and blueberries over some cereal or oatmeal with fruit. I know it is all the rage to be fasting through breakfast but missing a meal does not appeal to me at all. I have lost over 60 lbs. eating three meals plus some snacks every day.
Scrambled eggs on half a pita with kale
Oven roasted Chilean sea bass, steamed new potatoes, and asparagus
What can I tell you about this dinner other than it is quick, easy, and delicious! We get frozen individually wrapped portions of Chilean sea bass at Costco so the fish is not quite so expensive but is excellent quality. These 5.5 oz. portions were expertly roasted by John in a 400F oven for 14 minutes. Perfection!
My contribution in addition to steaming both the potatoes and the asparagus (notice the stem end is peeled) was a butter, lemon, tarragon sauce. Now that I have finished the losing portion of my diet, I think I can add a few extras. I melted a tablespoon of butter and cooked it very slowly with chopped tarragon, garlic, and fresh lemon juice. I gave the lion’s share to John but the spoonful that I had was really nice with everything on the plate.
Shredded omelet with vegetables and cauliflower rice with soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce
I realize that this does not look much like a traditional American breakfast. However, the eggs on a Breakfast For Dinner meal are really just a jumping off point for dinner creations. For my BFD I made a rolled omelet that I had flavored with soy sauce. I took that out of the pan and sauteed my vegetables in some soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce with just a sprinkling of sugar to help them brown. I microwaved some cauliflower rice dressed with soy. Then I combined the egg into the vegetables and served myself dinner. My BFD looked colorful, plentiful, but could probably have used a little more texture. From a diet point of view, it was a bunch of vegetables and two eggs. That is a pretty lo-cal, lo-carb dinner.
Orecchiette with mushrooms and broccoli
Saturday night is usually a night for LFD, leftovers for dinner. However, John opined that the broth from our Mediterranean seafood stew was too fennel-y to be transformed into Vietnamese sweet and sour soup as planned. So we needed to come up with an easy dinner that we could make out of existing ingredients in our pantry and refrigerator. Orecchiette with mushrooms and broccoli definitely filled the bill!
While the water for the pasta heated, John and I teamed up to get the mushrooms, onions, garlic, and broccoli cut up for the sauce. While the pasta cooked for 10 minutes, I sautéed the mushrooms, onions, and garlic and then added the broccoli florets with about three minutes to go on the pasta. John drained the pasta and added it to my vegetables. I swirled the whole thing around in the pan and added a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and a cup of pasta water which made a really yummy, rich, dark sauce. Some nights you just have to improvise!
This is an adaptation of a recipe by British chef, Rick Stein. It is from his cookbook, Fruits of the Sea. We have made this before and have had trouble not getting the various seafoods over cooked so we decided to just use scallops and shrimp cooked at the last minute. The original recipe is very fancy with a lot of discussion about how you have to cut everything just so, lots of different kinds of fish and shellfish, and using white wine and Pernod. We tried to make our simpler by merely cutting things so they would cook evenly. John did go to the bother of making a fish stock with the shrimp shells we have been saving in the freezer.
Mediterranean fish stew with pita
The stew is laborious to make with lots of chopping of fennel, celery, fennel fronds, tomatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, thyme, and potatoes. In fact, it is too much work for the result. Even though we did not overcook the seafood, I found the licorice flavor of the fennel and Pernod overtook everything. I suggested if we make it again that we not include those two items but John likes the licorice taste so I guess we just won’t be making it again.
On Saturday we are supposed to be taking the broth and making a Vietnamese sweet and sour shrimp soup but I really do not see how we are going to be able to get around the anise flavor. Maybe I will just make a sandwich for me.
Sorry to skip a day but much like most of the people in the U.S. I was watching the horrific events taking place in our nation’s capital on Wednesday. While John and I stayed glued to the TV we just grabbed a quick sandwich and called it dinner. So our week’s menu has really flown out the window.
On Thursday we got back on a track with a lentil curry with kale, carrots, and snow peas. Although we followed a somewhat elaborate recipe really all it boiled down to was bloom some curry-type spices, sauté shallot, garlic, and ginger, add stock and lentils, add carrots and snow peas near the end of cooking, and serve over kale. We completed our dinner with a piece of pita.
Curried lentils with vegetables over kale
As usual when we have one of the dinners where it is vegan or vegetarian and it is a stew and there is a lot of it, I ate too much. I just could not resist a second bowlful. Portion control remains one of the most difficult parts of eating like a normal person for me. I guess I would rather overeat one night and then undereat the next two days. Maybe I will get the hang of this maintenance stuff but it looks like I will be up and down during the week. Sigh.
Penne with mushrooms and asparagus
This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. While John heats up the water for the pasta, I sauté mushrooms, onions, and garlic in some olive oil spray. I cut the asparagus on the bias and put the stem pieces in the pan with the mushrooms etc. when there is 5 minutes left on the pasta cooking time. As he is draining the pasta, I add the bud ends of the asparagus. He empties the al dente pasta into my vegetables mixture, I add some reserved pasta water and a teaspoon or two of olive oil and cook the pasta and the vegetables together for a minute and the dish is done. John garnishes his bowl with pinenuts, parmesan, and olive oil while I just put a drizzle of good olive oil on mine.
This is just an extra post about what I eat for lunch. I am thinking that maybe people think that I starve myself all day so that I can eat the dinners that are described here. That is totally not the case. Usually I have a chicken, tuna, or chickpea sandwich with lettuce in a pita or an open-faced sandwich, and some pickles plus yogurt with blueberries. Today I got a little fancier with my lunch and made a chicken vegetable soup with some leftover rice.
Chicken vegetable soup with rice
My quick way to make soup is to spray a pan with olive oil spray and start the cut up mushrooms. While they are cooking I cut up an onion and garlic and add it to the pan. I turn the heat down a bit while I am cutting up the carrots, celery, and any other hard vegetables. Then I add them and the chicken or vegetable stock. The cooked rice and chicken just need heating up in the broth and the spinach and kale are merely wilted at the end.
A big bowl of chicken vegetable soup is the perfect cold weather lunch. It is filling and totally within my healthy eating plan.