Week 4: General Tso’s Chicken (and Other East Asian Dishes!)

Today I started off my week by seeing The Search for General Tso’s at the Tribeca Film Festival. I am very interested in making East Asian foods, so that is what I am going to be focusing on this week.

I’ve honestly only had General Tso’s chicken once or twice in my life. I prefer to have authentic Chinese food in Chinatown, but if I go out for Americanized Chinese food, I usually get sesame chicken. While I went into this movie thinking it was just going to be about how General Tso’s is made, I was pleasantly surprised to get a nice history and cultural information about it.

One line in the film was about how General Tso’s is like gaining an “invitation into the world.” I really have never thought about food in this way, but it really is true. Food can tell so much about a culture, including the agriculture, nutrition and values. After seeing this movie, I feel like I have a newfound interest in the culture and background of food. It was so interesting to “walk” through the various Chinese dishes, such as Chop Suey, and see how they evolved into what we see as General Tso’s today.

While General Tso’s is now considered American-Chinese food, it was created by a Chinese man in China. Although the dish has changed dramatically since then, it is interesting to notice how the dish has evolved, and even more interesting to examine what kinds of dishes are popular in the United States (mostly consisting of sugar, salt and fat).

I really enjoyed this movie and I think it was a great way to start my week. This week I will indeed by concocting my own General Tso’s chicken as well as a homemade stir fry and some simple sushi. I may also try to recreate an East Asian dessert! I have never made any of these dishes before, and I am very excited to be trying them out. I hope they will taste as well as I imagine they will!

Week 3

This week is going to be a little different. I am going to be focusing on more of a variety of dishes. Because this week is passover, I am going to try to make some of my favorite Passover foods. I am interested in matzo balls and a kugel. I have found some recipes already that I think are possibilities. This recipe for  matzo balls seems great, and I liked that the author wrote that the matzo balls were “light and fluffy.” In my opinion, that is the most important part of matzo balls, and I want to make sure if I am making a recipe of matzo balls they will also be light and fluffy.

I am also interested in making the classic macaroons. I have been looking at many different recipes, and have found many that are not only healthy, but some only use 2 or 3 ingredients!

Lastly, I have been having a bit of a chocolate craving, and therefore found a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that looks interesting.

Now that I have my recipes ready, I am off to the farmers’ market and store again.

Sandwiches

I spent this morning researching different kinds of sandwiches. There are so many varieties of sandwiches because there is an unlimited amount of add-ins. When I think of sandwiches I usually think of myself pulling out 2 pieces of white bread and put a couple slices of turkey and maybe some cheese on it. This week I am going to focus on more complex sandwiches that actually require planning and using a stove or oven. I hope to focus on sandwiches in different cultures. This is interesting because it portrays not only what kind of food they eat in those cultures, but how they raise their animals and seeds.

To begin my research, I read this article about the many sandwiches from around the world. It is interesting to examine the different kinds of sandwiches to see what the country or culture values. For example, in Australia one of the kinds of sandwiches is a vegemite sandwich. While this is similar to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it is something that is not widely known about in the United States.

Some of the sandwiches I plan to make this week include a bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich (BLT), a panini, croque-monsier and banh mi. I may also try to include a dessert sandwich.

This week is going to be more focused on shopping local and organic than being low calorie. Sandwiches are not very low calorie because of the fix-ins and the bread, but I am still going to try my best to find healthier alternatives when shopping. I have a list of needed ingredients and I am now back off to the farmers’ market to get as many local items as possible. The items that are not in season or not available at the farmers’ market, I will be going to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to purchase. I will be writing a a review on the items that I purchase.

Eggs, eggs, eggs oh my

For the first week of this project, I thought I would start how we all start the beginning of the day: breakfast.

I began looking through recipes in my mother’s old cookbooks. I found some that looked interesting, and I noticed one thing they all had in common: eggs. Now, it is a bit of an exaggeration for me to say that I am learning how to crack an egg, but I thought it would be best to start at the very beginning. Thus, I actually looked up for information about cracking eggs and eggs in general. One of the most useful videos I found had 3 tips about eggs.

After reading a comment on that video about bacteria and eggs, I realized that I do not know very much about eggs. I decided to do some research. I wondered if eggs from cage-free chicken really tasted better than chickens who were raised conventionally. Also, what is the difference between white and brown eggs? From my research, I have found that there are many more options than just cage-free vs. regular eggs. They all seemed to have their letdowns except pasture eggs. Even though pasture eggs are not sold in many supermarkets, I am going to go to the farmers’ market later and try to pick some up. I will test them to see if they really do taste better than normal eggs, but even if they don’t at least the chickens are being treated more humanely. To make it even more complicated: what about the color? In reality, white and brown eggs are based on the chicken’s genetics. There really is nothing different between brown and white eggs except for the shell color.

Enough about eggs. Let’s get shopping…but in order to get shopping I need to find some recipes. Moving on to something more complex: muffins and crepes. These are two foods that are not usually associated with being health foods, but I want to change that.

One of the best resources I found was Blogilates‘ series “Cheap Clean Eats.” I had watched many videos about crepe making, but they were all filled with unhealthy additions, used far too much sugar, and had too many processed ingredients. In the coming days, I plan to be making her recipe of crepes, along with normal crepes and see how they pan out. As I did more research, I also noticed she had a muffin video. Even though it’s spring, I love apples all year round, and I think I will also be making her apple cinnamon recipe. Like with the crepes, I am going to try to make both her recipe of muffins and a normal version. I love how she records the prices of the ingredients, because as a college student I know I’ll be on a budget. It is also nice how she compares the calories of the healthier version to the normal version.

Anyway, the day has just started and I have to get to the farmers’ market as well as a few other supermarkets to get all my ingredients. I have my list finished, and I’m ready to go. Let’s get shopping!