The Leftover

The Leftover SaladIMG_2160

Prep-time: 5 minutes
Calories: Less than lots
Healthy (+): Veggies galore!
Healthy (-): Cheese, tortilla chips, sodium
Cost: about $0
Feeds: 4 people at sensible portions. 2 ravenously hungry women.
Delicious scale:4 stars

I don’t know why cooking for two is so damn hard. Cooking for one is relatively easy, if your eyes aren’t monstrously bigger than your stomach. Cooking for three or more also isn’t all that difficult because odds are someone in the group is going to eat like a mouse while someone else has bottomless stomach/high metabolism so that any extra food is pretty much guaranteed to be licked out of the bowl. But for some reason, cooking for two always results in either not enough food, or too much food, so someone has to wake up extra early so that they can make off with the leftovers like some sort of midnight snack elf. Fortunately the partner made herself pasta for lunch today, and even if she hadn’t, she was significantly put off by the onions in the taco salad to stay far, far away from it. The point is, I had left over green stuff today. No more beef though. Beef doesn’t tend to be a leftover in Japan.

How I made it:

Ingredients

– One bowl of leftover green things.
– 1/4 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese.
– Remains of corn chip crumbs.
– The smears remaining at the bottom of a thousand island dressing bottle.

Instructions

1) Scoop out leftover green things into salad bowl.
2) Sprinkle on cheese.
3) Sprinkle on chip crumbs.
4) Shake out last few pitiful drops of dressing onto salad.
5) Eat super easy salad.

Quick, easy, no cost. What’s not to love about this salad? Honestly, I don’t know why I can’t have leftover salad every night.

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Late Coming Taco

Late Coming Taco SaladIMG_0002

Prep-time: 40 minutes
Calories: Lots
Healthy (+): Umm… some vegetables
Healthy (-): Beef, cheese, tortilla chips, sodium
Cost: about $20
Feeds: 4 people at sensible portions. 2 ravenously hungry women.
Delicious scale:4 stars

I worked hard yesterday. I sweated. I saved my calories. I deserved meat! After powering a super walk up the mountain and pushing myself through an hour and a half of kendo, my muscles were crying for protein. Alex put the idea of taco salad into my head yesterday at work, and there it bloomed, a delicious promise to myself if I could just get through the rest of my day. Sadly, kendo went overtime and by the time I got home, all the supermarkets were closed (cry). So there was no yummy taco salad yesterday. Today, though, by God I was going to have a taco salad and nothing was going to stand in my way.

How I made it:

IngredientsIMG_0001

– 1 head of iceberg lettuce
– 1 white onion
– 1 red pepper
– 4 firm tomatoes
– 6 sprigs of Italian parsley (cilantro can go to the devil)
– 1 bag of avocado cream cheese corn chips
– 1 lb of ground beef
– shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

1) Slice iceberg lettuce into thin strips. Or to specific taste. I prefer thin strips. Add to large bowl.
2) Cut onion in half. Ponder the strange green spots inside onion. Consult partner about said spots. Cut and throw out spots from onion, and chop the rest* finely and add to bowl.
3) Dice the parsley into unidentifiable flakes of green goo. Ponder how herb chopping skills could correlate with body hiding skills. Add goo to bowl.
4) Chop tomatoes into fine cubes. There are lots of blogs out there that will tell you how to cube a tomato. This is not one of them. Add goo to bowl.
5) Hollow, slice and dice red pepper. Add to bowl. It should look like Christmas. If not, you’ve done something wrong.
6) Rescue taco seasoning from a year-out-of-date box of Old El Paso hard taco shells.
7) Ponder the viability of probably expired taco sauce. Consult partner about said taco sauce. Ultimately throw out taco sauce, but use seasoning.
8) Follow directions on Old El Paso box:

  • Brown beef in a skillet.
  • Drain beef.
  • Add one cup of water and taco seasoning to beef.
  • Let simmer for 7-8 minutes or until most of liquid has boiled off, stirring often.

9) Beat the bag of corn chips like it owes you money.
10) Portion out salad into individual bowls.
11) Sprinkle corn chip crumbs onto salad.
12) When done, add beef to top of salad, to taste.
13) Sprinkle on cheese quickly. QUICKER! It won’t melt, otherwise!
14) Gorge.

This was a bit of an experimental salad. I mean, I know intuitively (and from experience) what a taco salad is supposed to be, and what it’s supposed to taste like, but not how to make one. There isn’t any place to buy real tacos or corn chips around here either, except for the expensive foreign foods store that only sells them in big bags. That’s dangerous. So, like most instances involving me cooking, this was improvised. It turned out pretty damn good, all things considered.

* It is the opinion of the partner, and my indigestive stomach, that half an onion is the optimal amount of onion for this salad. We’re going to be sleeping facing away from each other for a few nights.

How it’s supposed to be made.

Rushed Italian

Rushed Italian SaladIMG_2157

Prep time: 10 minutes
Calories: 250ish
Healthy (+): The salad mix is mostly just water.
Healthy (-): Go easy on the dressing.
Cost: $10
Delicious scale: three and a half

The Rushed Italian salad is the perfect salad for the health conscious individual with the flexibility to leave the kitchen a disaster for a few more hours. Packed full of root vegetables, it’s sure to give you the energy you need to sprint off to that meeting you’re already 10 minutes late for.

How did I make it?

IngredientsIMG_2159

– One bag of mixed salad. This one had iceberg lettuce and julienne Japanese radish. If I’m being honest, it was mostly radish.
– 3/4 of a fat carrot.
– One whole, skinny cucumber.
– Five cherry tomatoes.
– Italian dressing.

 

Instructions

1) Start this salad off by being late for work. While hastily closing the lid on the raw ingredients you’ll need to put it together later, flip the container over and throw tomatoes across the room.
2) Curse. Curse a lot, and rewash your tomatoes.
3) When you finally make it to work, dump the bag of salad things into the bowl.
4) Cut the cucumber in your hand with a butter knife because you can find neither a cutting board nor a cutting knife.
5) Cut the carrot as quietly as you can because there’s a meeting going on in the lunchroom. Do this on the cutting board you just found,  but with the same butter knife.
6) Add cucumber, tomato and carrot to salad.
7) Add Italian dressing.
8) Awkwardly leave the lunch room. Try not to make eye contact.

For being made in a hyper rush, it was a pretty good salad. I definitely added too much dressing though, which made it too spicy/salty. The cucumber and the carrots go very nicely with the Italian dressing, and the radish adds a nice water balance. It needs meat, though. Everything needs meat.

How you’re supposed to make it.

 

Grilled Chicken

Grilled Chicken SaladIMG_2151

Prep Time: 30 minutes (requires cooking to avoid salmonella)
Calories: Um… yes.
Healthy (+): Dark leafy greens are supposed to be good for you. Nice balance of protein, fiber and vitamins.
Healthy (-): Careful how much oil you use to cook the chicken. Crunchy noodles also add calories (but they’re so tasty!)
Cost: > $10
Delicious scale: four and a half stars

The wonderful thing about salads is that if you have a carnivore craving or you need a quick protein infusion, you can pile a bunch of meat onto the top of your green things and it’s still technically a salad! Now, I’m trying to go easy on the red meat after two weeks of gorging on bacon and steak in Canada over Christmas left me and my heart in a bit of a catatonic state. Scary stuff, yo. Fortunately, chicken is a nice little healthy substitute, if you’re into that sort of thing. It also tastes good. Not as good as steak, but we try not to make unfair comparisons here.

How did I make it?

Ingredients

– Chicken. I don’t know what kind it was. It was filleted, so I’m assuming it was breast.
– One bag of mixed salad. Mine had iceberg lettuce and red onions in it.
– One bag of mixed green things. Mine had spinach and dandelion greens and… uh… arugula?
– One orange pepper.
– Five cherry tomatoes.
– Five white cap mushrooms.
– Half a cucumber.
– Monterey Jack cheese.
– Crunchy Asian noodles.
– Caesar dressing.

Instructions

IMG_2047

Pika demands your vegetable trimmings.

1) Mix the green things and the salad things in a separate bowl. Try not to fling leaves around the kitchen. Fail at this.
2) Wash and cut the pepper and the cucumber. Give the ends of each to the bird. Which bird? This bird. –>
3) Wash and cut the mushrooms. Do not give the ends to the bird. They will give him a tummy ache, no matter how much he tries to say otherwise.
4) Wash and de-stem the cherry tomatoes, but don’t cut them. Or do, if that’s what you’re into. I won’t tell.
5) Toss the cut vegetables into the bowl of green things. Try to get the cherry tomatoes into the bowl from across the room. Realize this is a terrible idea and start acting like a grown up.
6) Cut the cheese. (I said act like a grown up!) Add it to your mix.
7) Slice chicken into thin strips. Knives are sharp. This shouldn’t need to be said, but sometimes it does. Be careful.
8) In a separate bowl, add chicken seasoning. I used lemon and herb which turned out rather well. Mix with a fork until evenly coated.
9) Add a drop of oil to a frying pan on medium heat to prevent chicken from sticking. Add chicken. Cook chicken thoroughly. Look up risk of salmonella from undercooked chicken. Cook chicken a little more thoroughly.
10) Add dressing to the vegetable things and stir. Drop a layer of crunchy noodles onto the dressed up vegetable things. Resist eating the crunchy noodles directly from the bag. This is a bad idea. There’s no stopping after one fistful.
11) Arrange grilled chicken artfully on top of tempting crunchy noodles.
12) Admire salad.
13) Eat salad.

For just being thrown together in a moment of calorie desperation, this salad was actually pretty damn good. It gets bonus points for being delicious whether the chicken is hot off the grill or cooled in the fridge to carry on as part of a salad for another day.

How you’re supposed to make it.

The Salad Bowl

IMG_2153This is my salad bowl. It’s nothing particularly impressive–just plain, white and deep enough to hold a filling meal. I bought it at the 100-yen shop a few years ago. It’s only made of plastic, but that means it won’t break or get chipped if I accidentally drop it, which is likely to happen. No, my salad bowl isn’t all that much to look at, but it’s utilitarian. Maybe if I’m feeling fancy I might draw a smiley face on it in permanent marker. Or not. I’m a bit fond of its unobtrusiveness.

The rules of the salad bowl are simple. I make a salad as near to every day as I can. I put the salad in the bowl. I eat the salad. For the purposes of this blog, salad will refer to any collection of forkable food of which 90% or more is plant matter. Preferably green plant matter, but I don’t want to box myself in this early in the game. The important thing is that it’s fruits and veggies, and that it must fit within the bowl to qualify as edible.

Now, living in Japan I’m a little, how should I say, limited with what produce I can put into the bowl. Most fruits and veggies out here are seasonal if I don’t want to be selling internal organs to pay for it. The goal is to lose weight and save money, but I’d rather avoid hacking pieces of myself off to do it. That said, I’ll have to be a bit creative with what I put into the salad. If I happen to make a salad in which the only components are Japanese squash and steamed carrots, let’s just assume that Nicky couldn’t stomach the thought of eating one more mouthful of shredded cabbage.

Finally, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a chef. I probably won’t be making anything that looks like this. I cook only rarely and when I do, it is with a complete disregard for the thousands of years of history humans have put into turning raw materials into palatable foods. Part of that is because I almost never have all the ingredients and/or tools to make something from a cookbook. The other part is that I don’t take directions very well. But hey, it’s a salad, right? How much do I really need to know?