31 August 2010

The Chill Factor

Wikipedia defines phobia as an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people. In the complicated psychology of humans, there are many of them. There is even fear of phobia itself - called phobophobia.

Mr. B. has two biggest fears in life - being in a body of water and driving. He never had any traumatic experiences in his life as far as drowning or accident are concern unless you count the incident many years ago when he got into a water slide and became totally hysterical after being dropped into the pool, which he very quickly discovered was actually up to his navel only in depth. But that trauma mostly came from the humiliation than anything else.

I always thought that swimming and driving are basic skills in life but somehow Mr. B. never came around to conquer his fear on these two activities. That is why he recently started seriously considering taking swimming and driving lessons. Because we don't have a pool or a car at home, I told him to enroll in a training school. He started holding his breath and showed signs of panic.

"That is very silly, Mr. B.," I told him. "At some point in your life, you must start driving and swimming is a great way to lose weight."

"I know. But I can't help it if I panic easily." he answered catching his breath.

"Imagine how cool it would be if you are slim and driving a really stylish car!" I said trying to convince him.

"Yeah, I can picture that," he said. "But I am not sure I can go through it."

"You can motivate yourself like, say, you can buy nice clothes or have a grand vacation once you completed your training. Wouldn't that be great?" I said.

"I don't know. I get all anxious just thinking about it." he replied.

"You're so useless." I said turning away from him.

21 August 2010

Easy Eats #7 - 4-Course Dinner

Today's feature in Easy Eats is not easy at all, but in celebration of Mr. B. and D.'s 7th Anniversary, I am sharing with you the 4-course dinner Mr. B. prepared tonight. Here they are in order of serving.

First Course : Cream of Broccoli Soup
The name may sound very simple but I was a witness to how Mr. B. turned 2 (yes, 2) heads of broccoli into only 2 cups of soup! Saute one diced onion and florets of 2 broccoli. Pour in chicken stock and cook until tender. Pour the whole mixture into a blender and blend until totally smooth. Strain and return soup to pot. Add one cup of all-purpose cream and simmer very slowly. Season to taste. Because the soup is so concentrated and made with chicken stock, no additional spices and flavorings are required. The result is a rich tasting soup with loads of flavors!

Second Course : Smoked Duck Breast Salad with Mandarin Orange
If you think Mr. B. would smoke his own duck breast, then you are very wrong! He bought one in a gourmet store. But what you need to do is pop the duck breast in the oven (very low heat) to warm it and get rid of the excess oil (yes, ducks are fatty!). Slice and arrange on serving plate with frisee lettuce and slices of Mandarin orange until it looks like a tacky work of art. No need to dress the salad greens on this one. The sweet juice of the orange slices and the saltiness of the smoked duck provide enough flavors!

Third Course : Crab Au Gratin with Prawns
The gourmet shop also had this beautiful crab au gratin which Mr. B. bought with the prawns (since D. like prawns). The crab au gratin is baked to perfection while the prawns are cooked in salted water until done. On the serving plate, Mr. B. got creative and arranged the the crab and prawn to look like some creature from outer space with 5 legs. Make sure your prawns are the freshest available in the market for this one!

Fourth Course : Braised Oxtail with Mash and Buttered Mushroom and Broccoli
This is the dish that took more than 5 hours to cook not including preparation time! First, brown the oxtail on both sides. While doing this, chop carrots, celery and onion. Remove the oxtail from the pot and use it to caramelize the onion with butter. Add in carrots and celery and cook until soft. Add the oxtail pieces into the pot and pour in beef broth (you can use water but using beef broth will have better, tastier result). Season with thyme. Simmer in very, very, very low fire for 5 hours or until the meat falls off the bone. You will need to occasionally stir the pot and add in more broth. After 5 hours, you get that heavenly melt-in-your-mouth oxtail meat perfect with creamy mashed potato. I don't have to tell you how to make mashed potato, do I? Just one secret, always use chicken stock to cook your potatoes and not water, and add cream while you are mashing to get that smooth consistency. There. Two secrets.

That's the end of a day of shopping, chopping, slicing, cooking and eating for Mr. B.

Happy 7th Anniversary!!

20 August 2010

But One Heart

The past few weeks has been crazy for Mr. B. He had loads of work to complete, he had to travel to Canada for an important presentation, he missed the traditional Chinese Lovers Day, he missed D.'s birthday and he missed their 7th anniversary together.

I can't blame him because everything was happening at the same time, and all of these at a time when Mr. B. is about to make some life-changing decision.

Sometimes I am amazed by humans. They have to do many things all at once with only 2 hands, 2 feet and one brain. Perhaps it is also important to mention one heart because one has to put his/her heart into anything one does. Mr. B. once said that I am lucky because I only have to worry about updating my blog (well, like it's an easy task!) and nothing else. But I think he is right. I don't have to worry about clean shirts to go to work everyday, I don't have to worry about paying bills, running errands and all those things that make human lives so unnecessarily complicated.

Mr. B. has but one heart. But he has many things to take care of and worry about. He promised to cook dinner tomorrow to make up for what he missed. He needs to shop for food. He might also have to shop for a present. He needs to cook. He thinks that would solve the Lovers Day, birthday and anniversary issues all at once. Then he will have the time to focus and think about the decision he needs to make about his life.

I wish life is a bit more simple for him and for all other humans as well. Tired hands and feet can rest. Tired minds can be entertained. But a tired heart would be incurable, I think.

PS: Happy Birthday to D.! I already gave my present, which is a colorful Eastpak backpack!

14 August 2010

The Blue Lunch Box

In the past few weeks, I noticed that Mr. B. would pack his own lunch to work. He has this rectangular blue microwavable box that can squeeze in enough food for two people. He would pack pasta, rice, meats and other yummy things in there for lunch. Lately, he also discovered that he can actually pack raw vegetables with sauces and just let it cook in the microwave come lunchtime.

"You know what, Mr. B.? I think packing lunch is so anti-social!" I said to him as he was trying to crowd broccoli florets between the brown rice and curried minced pork.

"Why do you say that?" he asked.

"Because that means you don't lunch with the people you work with. You eat alone in your desk. There is a lack of social interaction."

"But packed lunch is healthier!" he defended. "So much better than the greasy food I eat outside. And besides, I work with the same people all day, why do I need to interact with them at lunch?"

"See? I sensed a problem there."

"And if people will judge me just because I bring my own lunch, well, that's their problem and not mine!" he replied.

After refrigerating his lunch box, he picked and sat me on his lap in the sofa. "Actually, there is another reason why I like packing my own lunch." he told me.

"Really? Why is that?"

"Because it serves as a reminder of who I am and where I came from." he replied.

"I don't understand."

"You see, when I was younger and just started working, I used to pack my own food in a brown lunch box. I save money bringing what was leftover from dinner the previous evening and having that for lunch. And because there were no microwave ovens then, I would eat the lunch cold," he said. "Those days were simple and easy, and I was happy."

"You are not happy now?" I asked.

"I am. But I don't want to spend money just because I can and forget simple things like packing my own lunch."

Mr. B.'s blue lunch box does not fit the corporate world where lunchtime is used for socializing, gossiping and complaining about other colleagues who are not present.

Now I understand that Mr. B. wanted to to use lunch breaks to retreat into his private world, not only wanted to nourish his body but also his soul, to be away from the triviality of the work place and return to the most basic of things.

08 August 2010

Easy Eats #6 - Chicken Curry

Rainy weekends deserve comfort food, such us warm, fluffy rice topped with golden chicken curry. That's what we had today for lunch! Right after a hearty meal, we all relaxed and went for a nap since it was raining and we can't go out. What a perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon.

This simple Chicken Curry recipe is very easy to prepare with very few ingredients involved, perfect for Easy Eats. Do it yourself and you'll sure love it! Happy Eating!

1 chicken drumstick, deboned and cubed.
2 large potatoes, cubed
1 carrot, cubed
1/2 onion
1 cup thick coconut cream
Curry powder (your choice of mix, I used Indian)
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste

1. Pan fry chicken pieces in olive oil and set aside.
2. Fry potatoes and carrots for about 3 minutes.
3. Pour in coconut cream and curry powder.
4. Simmer until potatoes and carrots are cooked, Add some water if the sauce gets too thick.
5. Tip in the onions and chicken pieces and continue simmering until done.

See how easy that was? You can serve it hot with cooked rice or hot crusty bread. Happy easting, everyone!


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