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What’s for dinner?

September 3rd, 2003 · 2 Comments

While reading Anita Rowland’s LOL blog , I noticed that she and her nephew liked Kenneth Lo’s book Chinese Cooking on Next to Nothing . Sounds intriguing to me – I’d love to read a copy of the book and learn what is meant by “next to nothing”. Too bad it is out of print. Chinese food is fantastic, if I say so myself….

We cook a lot of Chinese at our home and I’d been thinking that I should blog about my favorite cookbook: Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking by Norma Chang. Norma is a relative of ours by marriage. Both Ted and I learned to cook Chinese from reading her books. This low fat cookbook has great recipes that are easy on the wallet and waistline. I also find them fast and tasty. For example, after coming home from my weekly trip to the grocery store, I spend twenty minutes or so in the kitchen, chopping and marinating, and my meals are set for the week! I just put the marinating meat in the freezer and thaw the day it will be needed for dinner. Then I spend a little time chopping and cooking some veggies, then the meat and serve with rice.

Before I met Ted, I didn’t know how to stir fry a thing but now I mostly cook Chinese – in part because it is our family’s heritage – but also because it is healthy and easy. I follow Norma’s recipes, but she also has variations and I’ve learned to improvise myself: I can basically buy whatever meat and veggies are on sale – or grab whatever’s in the garden -, prepare them and cook them together, put rice in the cooker, and presto: affordable and delicious dinner! I’ve gotten so spoiled now that “American”-style meals with separate dishes for the meat, vegetables, starch and salad seem like too much work, too much food to fix and bring to the table. Rice and stir-fry is simple and nice.

This year, with three little ones, I’ve gotten even simpler….trying to cook one-dish meals that are tasty and healthy. Fried rice is a big hit at our home, with baby and big girls. Norma’s recipe works well. I cook leftover rice and add some thawed frozen veggies, Chinese sausage or other meat, eggs of course. Good dish for the weeks that eggs are on sale, or if we have Thanksgiving turkey etc.

I’ve also started a few variations, like a Mexican rice dish similar to a recipe in Six Ingredients or Less : mix old rice with salsa, brown some meat, add corn or olives, sour cream or cheese, chips etc.

And at the gourmet grocery store on the island, I found a bottle of Xhosa Umsobo Iyababa with an intriguing color – speckled magenta purple (“Purple Heat”)- and intriguing list of ingredients such as spirit vinegar, chili peppers, bell peppers, beets, onions, cabbage, garlic, sweet potato, cilantro, spices. Although I feared that the marketing “A Taste of Africa” – complete with beaded bottle – would be offensive to our African friends, when I spied the bottle on sale for $2, I figured it was worth a try. For this dish, I had some leftover salmon in the freezer (at 88 cents a pound I had stocked up on the fish – then realized why it had cost so cheap – tasteless!) and added that to old rice, along with peas. Because we have little kids and the sauce is spicy, I served it on the side, so the kids could spare their taste buds. I like having sauces in the house: black bean, curry, barbecue, African – anything to spice up simple meals.

Any other ideas for fast and tasty food? Any other easy answers to the question: what’s for dinner?

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anita Rowland // Sep 4, 2003 at 10:24 am

    The main idea of Chinese Cooking on Next to Nothing is flexible recipes, meat or main dishes with lots of intense flavor that can accompany vast quantities of rice, noodles, steamed buns, congee, or the like. I like Kenneth Lo’s philosophy.

    I got started with Chinese cooking in high school and often cook that way. it’s great for quick simple meals using what you have, and if you do an elaborate dinner or banquet with multiple dishes (but only one stirfry) people are very impressed!

  • 2 enoch // Sep 4, 2003 at 9:46 pm

    how do you find all this time to write! kudos to you 😉 the salmon is probably chilean/argentinean farmed. the local wild catch is usually wonderfully more flavorful, but usually around $8-10 a pound. if you buy it fresh and just cook a little, it’s worth it for the flavor.

    i find it ironic that i’m cantonese, but mostly cook french 😉 i woudn’t know where to start with cantonese food…