Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | Leave a comment

There is something about the word ‘steak’ that conjures up a feeling of a very good, rich meal; maybe it’s paired with lobster or crab, for certain it’s accompanied by a baked potato and some nicely roasted vegetable. Steak seems to be associated with affluence, a night out, a special occasion, a big expense.

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When I was little my mother didn’t cook steak and did cook steak. Her version of a steak dinner was making fried liver with a side of our favourite steak sauce and passing it off as steak. I was really young. I bought the steak schtick. I just ate it. Liver was cheap back then and she was always deceived by my boney prepubescence into believing I was in desperate need of nutrition. Iron, I was always lacking in iron in her eyes and she could fix that by feeding me her version of steak. Fortunately for me she cooked liver perfectly, not overcooking it into a dry sawdust state and by the time I figured out that I was actually eating liver it was simply too late to protest and I realized that I liked it.

Summers when my kids were young I cooked steak, though it was never the better cut. It was generally the cheapest cut of meat and I would marinate it in a container in the fridge for about a week with lots of onions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, ginger ale or 7Up and a splash of oil to seal the whole concoction. I would let it sit there all week and on the weekend I would take the meat out and barbecue it, replenishing the stock for the following weekend. Yes, the cheap cuts of meat needed all that time to break down enough for us to be able to chew them.

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Of course it didn’t help that my girls liked their meat overcooked, revolted at the sight of any juice on their plate. Even having marinated for a week once it was ‘well done’ it was chewy. But there was just something I loved about barbecuing steak on a hot summer day, the ease, the lack of cookware involved, the feeling of a meal out (side) instead of the drudgery that comes every so often with having to cater meals to two picky little girls. Wrapping a potato in foil and letting it sit in the oven was virtually mindless. It was a treat for me to cook those meals and sometimes I would indulge in a nice cold beer, sitting outside, while the kids played and ran through the sprinkler, waiting for the potatoes to bake before setting the steaks on, feeling like I was an adult even though I was poor and we were struggling and I couldn’t afford to take them out for a steak dinner.

 

We still eat steak frequently, it’s still the epitome of a great meal for me. The cut of meat has grown and evolved, I can actually afford and much prefer a much better cut of beef. As much as we pride ourselves on barbecuing throughout the winter some minus 40 days are just too big of a challenge for our barbecue to hold heat enough to cook steak. That’s a lie. We’re sucks. No one here wants to stand outside in that weather to actually barbecue a steak or anything for that matter when the weather is that cold. And even when it’s a good cut of meat nothing really beats the barbecue and we’ve been spoiled so that we don’t want to cook our meat stovetop. We’ve had to adapt to our first world problems.

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Earlier I pulled out a piece of tenderloin from the freezer, I was craving a hearty beefy meal and once again it was much too cold to stand in the windchill and barbecue steaks. I scanned though the internet looking for something different to do with the fabulous but raw cut of meat that was waiting for me.

I drew inspiration from Dentist Chef and Becomingness and changed up the inside and outside a bit. I mixed whole allspice in with the peppercorns so that I could get the peppery crust without setting everyone’s mouth ablaze. The allspice has a similar texture to peppercorns but doesn’t pack the heat and once it’s all roasted and done, it’s amazing. I decided to ‘glue’ the peppercorn/allspice mixture to the roast with a mixture of Chardonnay mustard and honey hoping that if the peppercorns were still a little hot the sweetness would help to temper the burn. I stuffed my tenderloin with caramelized onions, spinach, slow roasted tomatoes (recipe in a previous post of mine) and chunks of gorgonzola cheese.  Two of us at this house aren’t big fans of smelly or blue cheese but I have to say this worked so well.  Everyone loved it… we’ll be doing this again!

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Peppercorn Crusted, Stuffed BeefTenderloin

  • I piece of tenderloin (denuded)
  • enough kitchen string to tie the tenderloin 2 – 3 times depending on size

Filling

  • 1 sliced and caramelized onion (pan fried in butter)
  • Large handful of fresh spinach (enough to cover the base of the beef)
  • 1/2 – 1 Cup slow roasted tomatoes (or sundried tomatoes)
  • 1/2 Cup Gorgonzola Cheese chunks

Coating

  • 2 Tablespoons mustard (whole grain preferably)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 Tablespoons whole allspice

Instructions

Slice and fry a whole onion in butter until nicely caramelized and set aside. And preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice your tenderloin, as evenly as possible, lengthwise and flatten it out.  You can pound the meat lightly to get it as even as possible though the meat doesn’t really need a beating.

Layer ingredients on the length of meat leaving a bit of room on the edges to allow you to roll it up and not lose all the filling.  Layer the spinach, caramelized onions, tomatoes and cheese chunks. Then have the kitchen string handy as you’re getting ready to roll the whole thing up and tie in a couple of places so that it stays together.  ***I forgot when I made it, and seems I’m forgetting now, it’s a good idea to give the string a good soak in oil to allow you to take it off easier without pulling off the delicious crust when done.

Mix the honey and mustard in a bowl and microwave for just long enough so that the honey is melted and add in the oil.

Put the peppercorns and allspice in a plastic ziplock bag and crush coarsely with a rolling pin.

Coat the roast with the honey mustard mixture and then cover with the peppercorn mixture as evenly as possible. It’s a bit of a mess but don’t worry about that… it’ll be wonderful once baked.  Place the roast on a pan covered in foil and sprayed with oil and bake for about 20 minutes on the middle rack.

You can bake this for as long as you wish, even well done tenderloin is soft and amazing though we like our meat medium at this house these days… yes even the kids…. they adapted their way of eating beef.

Enjoy!

Beef Stroganoff with (hidden) Mushrooms over Noodles

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | Leave a comment

Hiding Things

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I’ve hidden different things at different times in my life, Christmas presents from eager little eyes months before the big day, making mental notes as to where I stash things only to find that I’m scrambling to remember what it is that I’d hidden in the first place just before Christmas Eve.  I would wander around after the kids had gone to bed and feel like I was missing something, but alas I wasn’t. They would and they wouldn’t even be aware. Then I would find these gifts in the middle of summer and debate for a moment what to do with them.  Clearly nobody was missing these items.  And unable to convince myself that I could stash the items away again to actually find them the next year I would just hand them over and my girls would get a little surprise.  Thank God I didn’t stash any perishable items.  Over the years I stopped hiding things away.  I now hide things in the same spot, put my glasses in the same spot, my watch, rings and phone.  If I didn’t I would most certainly spend most of my time running around the house like a freak constantly looking for things.

I’ve hidden money for a rainy day, though this happened most often when I’d go into a winter coat at the beginning of a cold snap, plunge my hands into my pockets and feel a crumpled bill shoved to the bottom.  Clearly I had been in a rush the last time I wore the coat, probably getting gas with a line up behind me or running out of somewhere and just shoving the five or ten in my pocket, too hurried to open my purse, open my wallet and place it where it should be. Then the bill would resurface once the weather was again too cold for sweaters, almost as payment for the horrendous weather I was about to have to endure for the next three months. The five or ten or, less often — twenty would rustle as I put my hands in my pocket for the first time that season to find a small and hardly sufficient but still welcome gift.

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I’ve also been known to hide feelings from people especially when I’ve been so frustrated I’ve wanted to strangle them, though I don’t actually hide that very well. I’ve never had a good poker face as they say and even less so as I get older.  I suppose I’m tired of hiding how I feel, it’s too much work and the weight of it is something I’m not interested in carrying for anyone else’s self esteem anymore.  And though I tend to be more honest I also tend to be a bit more forgiving and so frustrations don’t have the same hold on me as they used to  at one time.

I’ve unintentionally hidden things even when I just wanted to simply put them away, to keep them safe, for a while, then I would desperately look for them for days until I gave up and that’s when they would surface.  Maybe having done this once too often is what has exhausted me from hiding things.

Of all the things I’ve hidden I think the food I’ve hidden in other food has been my favourite thing to hide.  I remember hiding all sorts of vegetables in beet soup so that my kids would get the benefit and I wouldn’t have to hear the complaints about not liking peas or spinach.  A round thing a square thing a flat thing a fat thing… they are all the same when cooked long enough in beet soup and you can’t hardly pick them out if MOM cuts them small enough. I remember sitting and watching them devour a bowl of bright red vegetable filled soup and smile because they didn’t know to put up a fight and I won… and so did they.

These days I live with two people who hate mushrooms.  I’ve realized that they don’t hate the flavour of mushrooms when I started hiding ground dried mushrooms in gravy and no one complained.  It was the texture that they don’t like and even though I don’t understand  that I’d rather resort to hiding mushrooms and still getting to eat them, enjoy the flavour of them, rather than fight with two of the people I love.  Life is just too short.

Ground dried mushrooms have become one of my favourite ingredients to use since I’ve started stealthily incorporating them into soups and sauces. Not only do they give a nice layer of flavour to dishes they also serve to thicken things, often without having to make a roux or using cornstarch.  And though I haven’t seen this ingredient in stores anywhere it’s certainly easy enough to buy dried mushrooms and grind them yourself though admittedly they are not cheap, but then you don’t really need much.

 

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Hidden Mushroom Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

  • 2 lbs of stewing beef
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup ground dried mushrooms ( about 1 1/2 cups of dried mushrooms run through a bullet or coffee grinder)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 litre of beef stock (unsalted)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • splash of oil to coat the pot

Mix all dry ingredients including the ground mushrooms in a large bowl and then add your beef pieces.  Mix well to ensure all meat is covered in the mixture then set aside while your set a pot on the stove to medium heat with a little splash of oil and wait until it gets nice and hot.

Add the coated beef and brown on all sides.  Add the beef stock and water and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the meat is nice and fork tender.  Take the pot off the stove and stir in the sour cream until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over a nice bed of noodles.  I used wild rice noodles but I’ve also served this over broad egg noodles.

Eat immediately… enjoy.

 

Chocolate Wine Poached Pears with Wine Reduction

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | 2 Comments

Valentine’s

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Valentine’s Day will fall ten days before the tenth anniversary of my daughter’s cancer diagnosis this year. Yes. February 24th. There are many dates I forget and I’m embarrassed to say that they include various close friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, special events, the specific number of years we’ve had pets or even my own relationships seem to escape me. It’s not that I don’t want to remember — I just honestly can’t. Time seems to mean nothing to me. I’ll admit here that I had to actually concentrate and count back to be sure that this particular anniversary is actually the 10th and for people who know me this won’t come as a shock. Even as I write this there’s a very tiny part of me that isn’t quite 100% sure I’m right because I’m so often so wrong.

Many of my friends find it hysterical when we talk about time. You know those conversations between friends, how long they’ve known each other, or how long its been. Outrageous numbers come out of my mouth and complete confusion slides over my face. They think I’m insane and most of them just don’t get it. And neither do I…. Seriously!

Time seems to sit behind me somewhere all messed up in a pile. I don’t envision it as a line where I can mark events or a movie clip I can fast forward or rewind to remember…. Just a pile of all sorts of events that get all jumbled up, often overlapping in strange and ridiculous ways. For me it doesn’t often matter when an event took place but simply that it did. And this event, in its entirety is imprinted on my life like a fingerprint on a pair of glasses that obscures things, forces you to focus and look harder and try to understand and see through the smudge. You can occasionally wipe the smudge away but so often something happens that will make you look through it again. Valentine’s Day is that day for me in many ways and maybe it’s because that’s how I manage to remember the 24th, the actual numbers seem similar to me in a way though the significance, taste and feel of the day is drastically different.

So many things have changed, memorable and forgettable things. We’ve moved out of the house that seemed to be serendipitously close to the hospital. Both of us growing out of it at different times to different places, leaving parts of ourselves behind us. Still, occasionally my mind drifts back, sometimes when I smudge my glasses and other’s oddly when the house seems to be cracking open.

The house cracks and snaps, often at night as it’s bearing against the wind that so forcefully comes racing off the river. I’ve never actually seen any cracks or splits, the house hasn’t torn apart but I know slight fractures exist, hidden deep in the cedar walls be they nails or splitters of wood. It reminds me that we all have cracks in our lives that don’t often tear us wide open even when we think that the sheer force of the assault should. It’s amazing really, the weathering of the worst kinds of storms. And though I’ve not counted the years as you would steps, away from that time. I wasn’t sure when the numbers were supposed to begin and the people around me told I shouldn’t … so I didn’t.

I felt like I should make something significantly different this Valentine’s Day. Ten is significant. TEN is different. Not better necessarily as the number itself doesn’t really mark any kind of line in the sand… I know better…. But it still stands out for me somehow. No cake, tart or cookie as in year’s past. I’ve decided to make Asian Pears Poached in Chocolate Red Wine. Regardless of levels of stress or misery the combination of chocolate and wine are timeless and somehow magical and aside from having a bottle of chocolate wine on hand, it just makes sense. A special treat for a special anniversary.

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Yes, I realize that it isn’t actually Valentine’s Day yet. But need I remind you that actual dates don’t mean that much to me? I’m just marking this year differently, I will enjoy Valentine’s Day with my co-conspirator but enjoyed something special with my kids just the same. And this actually works out well for all of you out there because this dish is so easy you still have plenty of time to make it for your loved ones… for Valentine’s Day.

You don’t need much for this recipe… It is sinfully simple!

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Chocolate Wine Poached Asian Pears with a Wine Reduction

  • 1/2 – 3/4 bottle of good chocolate wine (I would choose a less creamy kind, and use enough to cover the fruit)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2-3 Asian Pears (peeled, halved and cored)
  • ice cream
  • mint leaves (optional)
  • shaved chocolate (optional)

Pour about a half a bottle of wine in a saucepan big enough to place your fruit in one layer, add the sugar and heat to about medium temp. While the wine is heating up and the sugar is dissolving peel and core the Asian Pears. Set the fruit in the pan and make sure there is enough wine to cover, they’ll rise up a bit so don’t put in too much. Place the lid on the pan and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes then gently turn the fruit over to ensure that the other side also cooks, about another 20 minutes. There really isn’t a hard and fast rule here just that you need to try to simmer the fruit on both sides so that it cooks as evenly as possible and is soft but still firm enough to hold its shape. The exact length of cooking time will depend on how firm your fruit is.

Once the fruit is cooked take it out gently and let it cool. This can be done the day ahead to make things really easy. Now for the really good part, let the wine simmer for about another half hour. You want to reduce it so that it starts to feel thick. You’ll notice it starts to coat the side of the pan and that’s what you want. Once you take it off the heat it will thicken further as it cools. Allow the sauce to cool and then serve the pear with a scoop of ice cream, drizzle with the sauce and some chocolate pieces or mint leaves.

This is uncomplicated and beautiful — the way life should be!

Happy Valentines…

RAW: Almond – Winnipeg

Posted by Pussycat in Reviews | Leave a comment

A Winter Dining Experience in Winnipeg – On the Frozen Red River

Imagine being bundled up in full winter gear, walking down a frozen river in the darkness. You are starving. You haven’t had much to eat all day. The wind is blowing, your face is freezing and your eyes are watering from the sting of the cold — it’s about minus 25 with the windchill (if you don’t know what that means then you don’t obviously live in Canada). You come upon an illuminated tent that seems to sit in the middle out of nowhere. You were just thinking to yourself, “What the hell am I doing out here?  I must be out of my cotton picking mind!” You don’t dare take off your mitts to unzip the doorway for fear your fingers will freeze on the metal zipper. You are greeted by about a dozen people huddled together in a foyer that will again unzip to a makeshift restaurant on the Red River just off from where it meets the Assiniboine. Is this a mirage? Is this a nightmare? No. This is an amazing dining experience!

 
I felt at one with the crowd which is something that doesn’t often happen since I tend to stay away from large groups of people — No anxiety issues — just preference. The only other times I remember feeling this way were in years past at The Lake, where you could leave your bicycle out in the borrowed yard leaning against a trailer and where everyone came to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather. That was the place where people didn’t steal your bike, didn’t go inside your home, waved and smiled at you when you walked by and slowed down to let you cross the gravel road. I’m not sure how many places there are anymore where these things are true but it has been my experience that this still exists at The Lake, wherever that is— during any given summer. And now it feels like it also exists in the middle of a frozen river in Winnipeg. Though to be fair I didn’t ride my bike and I didn’t leave it leaning against the tent, so this could be just my perception but I’m going with it.

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I’m not sure exactly what it is about camping that prompts people to be kind to each other, maybe it’s the lack of stress, maybe it’s the perceived struggle of roughing it, maybe it’s the beautiful weather — though rainy days never seemed to bring out the beasts in anyone — or maybe it’s just the fresh air. This kindness and camaraderie was also seemingly present as I sat on a tuft of black faux fur placed on a wooden stump at RAW: Almond at the Forks in what felt like the dead of night… our seating was at 9:30 pm and they were running behind when we arrived.  I would come to understand and appreciate the late seating since we didn’t want our party to end either.

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We were fortunate enough to get tickets to this annual event that is in it’s third year and based on current popularity it will continue for many more. The event is sold out long before anyone not in the know hears about it. Is it the idea of eating in a tent on the frozen river that brings people out? Is it the pride that Winnipeggers feel when they don’t let a small thing like the long cold winter deter them from enjoying a dinner outside? Or … Is it the damn good food?

I personally think it’s all of these things. The eating experience is certainly intensified by the trek onto the frozen river, crouching through a zippered doorway into a makeshift restaurant where staff and visitors alike wear their winter best — you can’t live here and not have a good pair of boots, warm mitts, hat and parka. They then seat themselves either on faux fur covered wooden stumps or the edge of the ice that is carved in the shape of a wine bottle and await a set meal they’ve purchased based on their selection of Chef rather than menu.

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We sat around the long table with pendant lights, our group of six with another ten people at one of four tables. The kitchen staff wore funky metallic bodysuits to ward off the cold that emanated from the ice floor that was covered in rubber mats to keep everyone’s feet from sliding out from under them. Each guest was given a shot of vodka… a little extra boost added to the vents that blow in warm air, the music turned up a bit — “Cheers!” and the party was on.

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I’d love to tell you in delicious detail all about the food we ate but really — that wouldn’t do it justice. Though I did take a few pictures, admittedly not the best quality, you can certainly use your imagination to fill in the blanks. I will say though, that we had a starter of sustainable protein provided by Diversity Foods which included crickets and meal worms and everyone in our group… yes — even the slightly faint of heart — enjoyed the first of the parade of plates that took us about two hours to eat, each more delicious than the next though none as daring as the first. I will admit that though I L.O.V.E. food there was a voice in my head that screamed, “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR” when first I saw and heard our waiter mention meal worms and crickets but I closed my eyes and thoroughly enjoyed every last bite! And I suggest that if you ever find yourself being served this kind of meal on a cold dark night you do the same because it is well worth the ride especially when the Chef is experienced… I harken back to a saying I repeat to others, “You can eat anything and everything — if it is cooked well” and this was cooked amazingly well.

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Our boundaries had been expanded and we were all eager to devour more. Next on the list was slightly cooked Bison Tartar, Sweet Potato Chips with Lentils and Horseradish. The horseradish could have used a more vigorous kick in my humble opinion but I like horseradish to incinerate my nasal passages and burn my eyes and I’d guess I’m the odd woman out as opposed to the norm. It was super yummy nonetheless. The Heirloom Beet Salad drenched with a broth and surrounded pillowy carrot gnocchi was small but hearty and delicious. Then the dreamy Polenta with Chicken Sausage and Smoked Duck with Cilantro and bits of bursting corn – Ah… Mazing. And there was the Elk with Browned Butter and Parsnip Purée… another home run I can’t even begin to describe. Who knew parsnips could be so damn luscious but seriously… a puddle of perfectly browned butter — no diets here because everything is better with browned butter and this was no exception. Lastly, the home made Yogurt, Chocolate Cake with Freeze Dried and Fresh Berries was the perfect… let’s say that again… PERFECT end to a begrudgingly ended evening.

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Though my feet were entirely frozen because I neglected to wear my warm boots and the cold emanating from the ice seeps into you if you don’t guard against it appropriately… I’ll know better for next time. This is an experience not to be missed and it transforms the harsh Winnipeg winter… with a few shots, vodka and Jaegermeister, several bottles of wine and several plates of great food into the best winter camping experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets or gone to the Red for dinner you are too late for this year. RAW: Almond is wrapping up and we have to wait for the weather to move through spring, summer and fall so that we can once again drink and dine on the frozen river. I’d suggest you beg or borrow or shamelessly steal one of those coveted tickets for next year’s event if you can… you will not regret it. I for one will be seeking out tickets when the first snowflakes fly.

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BAM Shrimp

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | Leave a comment

IMG_0007 Bam ShrimpI am an oxymoron — a figureof speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.” according to the dictionary and this is what I feel like these days.  I love food and eating different things yet I seem to constantly get into a rut of eating the same thing over and over again.  These two acts are just not congruent.  I can eat the same thing for lunch for weeks on end, it’s easy, it’s mindless and if I like or love something I will make it over and over again rarely thinking even about what I’m eating or preparing to take to work with me everyday.

This is what I have done with these damn BAM Shrimp.  They are so easy and they appeal to my need to ease up on carbs during the winter — okay this particular winter — because I’ve been lazy and my activity level has been plummeting. To combat my inactivity I need to take it easy on carbs or those damn little critters will shamelessly turn into fat and though I can definitely enjoy the meals I’ll be bloated and miserable as the number on the scale slowly creeps me into a depression.

It’s not fair, this getting older, having to watch what you eat.  Though I have never counted carbs I have in the last year tried really hard to not eat that lovely soft and crusty loaf of bread or that bowl of cream laden pasta.  If you are struggling with the same things I seem to be consider this a gift from me to you.  Though I’m certain I’m not the one to have discovered this particular way of eating shrimp I am posting it here to share with you.

I discovered Emeril Lagasse’s BAM Creole Seasoning mix quite some time ago and have recently been putting it on everything.  Maybe I’m missing New Orleans where the spicy foods abound or maybe I’m being lazy and just putting it on everything (like in my previous post Bam Cup of Soup) because the seasoning punch in this mixture seems to make up for the lack of fat and carbs, no matter.  This little treat is so simple and quick it makes for a perfect weeknight meal.

IMG_0024 Bam Shrimp

BAM Shrimp

  • 1 bag of deveined shrimp (thawed and peeled leaving the tail on)
  • 2 tablespoons or more of the BAM Seasoning
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter (to fry)
  • 1 + 1 tablespoon canola oil (1 added to butter in the pan so that it the butter doesn’t burn and 1 for the shrimp)
  • Sprinkle of salt

Thaw the shrimp and toss with the seasoning, flour and 1 tablespoon of oil, let this sit while the pan heats up (about medium heat) melting the butter and mixing with the oil in the pan. Lay the seasoned shrimp in the hot pan in one layer and let these babies sizzle for 2 – 3 minutes.  Turn them over and cook for a couple of minutes more until they are opaque.  Quickly transfer to a bowl and serve with a wedge of lemon, seasoning with a little salt and serve.  Don’t forget to scrape up the fried bits of seasoning (with the butter) and add that to the shrimp.

These are so yummy you won’t miss the pasta… at least not for today.

 

BAM Cup of Soup

Posted by Pussycat in Soups | Leave a comment

IMG_0001 Shirataki Noodle Cup of Soup

Do you remember the cups of noodles that you probably ate shamelessly as a teenager? The ones that are full of fried noodles, less than a half dozen pieces of vegetables that are so out of place they stand out and allow you to brainwash yourself into believing that perhaps you’re actually eating something that might be healthy; the ones that only require that you plug in the kettle and pour boiling water and wait? Though the waiting is truly a challenge and I would often burn my tongue slurping it too soon. I loved these noodles. Okay, I still love these noodles or at least I love the memory of them. I always had the spicy version, spicy chicken, spicy beef, but who are we kidding there wasn’t actually any meat in these styrofoam cups. It was the spicy broth and the noodles that always appealed to me as well as the ease and portability of them. You could throw the shrink-wrapped cup in a bag and as long as you could get some hot water you were good to go.

Maybe you’re still eating them but I for one have long past the age where my internal system is able to manage all the salt and MSG that lurks inside and I have been avoiding them for years. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss them and wish I could still eat them. Yes, it seems I’m still doing some ‘lamenting’ as I was in my last post. Maybe I need to go out and buy myself a convertible, or maybe I just need to get over it. Though I suppose that’s the challenge for many of us and would be why so many people my age are driving some pretty expensive sports cars. You know who you are.

IMG_0003 Shirataki BAM Soup

We’ve seemingly been immobilized by the winter weather lately, hunkered down watching as many of the Oscar nominated movies as we can and the list is amazing this year to be sure. My experience of watching these movies so far has evoked my mother’s voice. “You have to taste it before you decide you don’t like it.” These words also ring true of the movies. You have to watch them before deciding you don’t like them. Granted that may not be true of ALL movies, I think we need to have some latitude here to dismiss some movies though I’m not going to tell you which of those I think they are, I will say that they are not of the ones on the list of this year’s nominations. These words snapped in my head as I reluctantly watched Birdman. It wasn’t even just that I wasn’t much in the mood for that kind of movie, which by the way was not at all what I had talked myself into thinking it was going to be, I wasn’t even actually in the mood to see if it was something that I would like. But I did. Watch it that is. And love it.

Now I’ve seen most of the nominated movies and Birdman is dark and funny and eerie in a way that is not metaphysical or unrealistic but realistic in a way that will follow you for a few days. But don’t take my word for it, try it and see what you think. It happens to be my favourite so far.

IMG_0006 Shirataki BAM Soup

This brings me back to the ‘try it and see before you decide’ comment. I posted Shirataki noodles with Chicken soup before and after moving out butts and getting out on a nicer winter day this soup is pure comfort. The noodles themselves are gelatinous and really pretty flavourless but once you immerse them in a broth that is killer they will bring back memories of your youth though with much less guilty and much less swelling as a result if MSG does that to you as it does me. It’s also pretty simple and just a wee bit more work than boiling water. So simple. So good. So healthy! Also good for Dukan followers everywhere. I’m still going to post the BAM Shrimp but today I needed soup.

Cup of Soup

  • package of ground turkey
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons (to taste) Emeril’s Essence seasoning*
  • 1 litre of beef broth (salt and fat free)
  • 2 bunches of baby Bok Choy
  • handful or two of chopped cabbage
  • 2-3 kale leaves chopped
  • 1 package of Shirataki Angle pasta noodles

Fry the onion in a medium sized pot in a small drizzle of oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey and season with Emeril’s Essence mix, fry until the turkey is cooked through. Add the broth and throw in the vegetables. I use the ones as listed above but any ones can be added depending on your affinity towards certain veggies. Rinse the noodles in a strainer and then add to the mix. I cut my noodles up since they’re a challenging to keep on the spoon if they’re too long and warm everything and eat. I will generally top my soup off with some additional chili paste but you don’t have to, it really depends on how hot you like it and Emeril’s seasoning mix packs a bit of a punch if you use a fair bit like I do.

The thing that is nice about these noodles is that they do NOT disintegrate or suck up a whole bunch of the broth. The lousy thing about these noodles is that they do NOT suck up the broth which means that a) they can sit in the soup as long as need be if you’re making this for the week’s lunches and b) they still won’t taste like much but they contain a whole lot of pure fibre.

*Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning Mix (I left out the salt in my mix and generally season with salt to taste)

INGREDIENTS
• 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon black pepper
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Linzer Cookies

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

Gluttony and Leftover Linzer Cookies

IMG_0001 Leftover LinzersI’m not sure what it is that twists us into gluttonous swines during the holidays. Food is so central to the celebrations that we don’t often even enjoy it but rather stuff our faces until we brink on explosion. Our pants get unbuckled and we lay back into our seats be they at home or at a relative’s, we adjust over and over again until we move in such a way that allows even just a whiff of space… only to be filled, overfilled once more with things like cakes and cookies. Every year when we do this… we know…. yet we do it anyway.

I’m not only guilty of overfilling myself during the holidays I am also guilty of overcooking and overbaking, making sure that there is MORE than enough so that everyone struggles to keep their bloated bodies in their clothes. Every year I double or triple cookie recipes to make sure that there is enough, rather, more than enough actually. Maybe it’s the tediousness of such baking that makes me always want to make things in bulk. It just doesn’t seem to make sense to make just a few when it takes so much time and energy. Once you have all the cookies baked why go through the mess of melting chocolate and brushing them for just a few? Then I continue to justify the madness and I think to myself. Why make two dozen when I can make four or six. What if I want to take some to work? What if more people cover over? For god’s sake, what if we run out!? It is madness. It is not rational.

IMG_0008 Leftover Linzers

I’d like to say that it’s my leftover panic, a throwback to the days when I had nothing, this fear of running out. But that isn’t it. Yes, we were certainly poor when I was growing up. We didn’t have much but I don’t ever remember not having food or not having enough. And when I got divorced we didn’t have much either. Though we never ran out of food, it wasn’t that expensive feeding two little girls who didn’t eat much. Christ, I could make a whole turkey last for a week, butchering it and making four different stir fry meals out of the breasts, a huge pot of soup with the carcass and roasting what was left, the roasted pieces alone would last for a couple of days.

I was asked recently by the bloggers of havefruitwilltravel, who are currently in the Czech Republic, to answer some questions about the culture of Czech food. It made me think that even European’s don’t seem to hoard food the way Canadians and North Americans do, what with our monster sized refrigerators supplemented by the freezers most of us have in our basements all bursting with food that frequently gets lost and freezer burnt in a back corner. As far as I’m aware Europeans have always had very small refrigerators, strolling on their way home from work and picking up the evening’s and the next day’s food on their way. I’m sure it was about availability and about space and also about a different way of living and yet they lived through numerous wars and famines you would think they would hoard the way we do. Of course, then again, we don’t know what millions of jars of preserves are hiding in their cold rooms either, maybe they just hoard food differently.

IMG_0012 Leftover Linzers

So today I’m lamenting. I’m lamenting the teenager I once was that didn’t seem to need to overindulge in food, I’m lamenting eating and never feeling bloated or gaining weight and I’m also lamenting eating! I’m on day four of a carb cleanse and I’m constantly being taunted by the few dozen cookies that are lurking in my porch in boxes. Packed away for what I do not know. They are stacked in boxes and as I walk by the big windows leading into the room and see them stacked there I swear they are screaming my name…. I swear they are shamelessly begging to be eaten. In years past we’ve discovered that most of these cookies are also fantastic frozen, maybe they aren’t really as good but when you’ve been living in a food deficit that is synonymous with most of our New Year’s resolutions frozen cookies taste like a dream!

So today I’m posting the Linzer cookie. A smooth, buttery, creamy cookie filled with a tart cherry jam. These are the ones that were my favourites as a kid and they are a staple for Czech Christmas baking though they are not only a seasonal cookie but a year round one. Similar to, but much, much better than the ones that hide in the boxes of bought cookies I used to see in the store. Though not difficult these are as all the other Czech Christmas cookies seem to be, time consuming to make. Time slipped away from me before the holidays and I didn’t get around to posting them but today I am pulling a few out of the box, warming them up, taunting them and giving them a moment of fame, sprinkling them with icing sugar and sharing them with you before I pack them back up and freeze them into silence until my body has adjusted to protein and veggies and isn’t begging me to eat the rest of the entire box. It’s my way of being passive aggressive and once this is done I’ll share with you some of the more nutritious and less carb laden food I’m vowing to eat for the rest of the month. Stay tuned for the BAM Shrimp that’s coming up! Or if your pants are strangling you and you can’t wait then check out my post on Dukan bread — it’s the only bread I’ve been eating for the last three days and for the next month…. almost feels like a cheat!

IMG_0002 Leftover Linzers

Linzer Cookies (altered from my post last year Lemon Linzer Cookies with Cranberries)

* makes about 100 little cookies… not nearly enough!

  • 350 gr flour
  • 140 gr icing sugar
  • 200 gr softened butter (unsalted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Tart cherry or Raspberry Jam

Mix all the ingredients together to form a nice soft ball (nothing too fancy here… just easy peasy). Let the dough rest overnight in the fridge or not if you’re dying for some of these today just cool them in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Roll out the dough and cut out half for the bottoms and half with holes for the top. bake on parchment at 180 degrees for about 5 – 6 minutes. Watch them, if you roll them out fairly thin like I did then they will bake quickly and go from light golden to over-baked very quickly.  Set them aside and let them cool before spreading your favourite jam in-between and placing them together.  I used a tart cherry jam I had hidden away though you can always also use a lemon curd if you like.  Sprinkle with a little icing sugar before serving.

If you’re going to store these that can be done easily in a cold room for a few days or freezer for longer, especially if you make these in bulk like I did. Make sure to separate the layers between wax paper so they don’t stick together.  However if they do because you didn’t think ahead then you will have to eat these… they won’t look as pretty and we wouldn’t want to serve cookies that don’t look pretty!

Rosemary, Nutmeg and Butter Roasted Chestnuts

Posted by Pussycat in Sides, Sweets | Leave a comment

Firsts…. and Happy New Year!

This year I’ve transcended the need to hear the booming detonation of chestnuts, bursting and exploding out of their skins, spitting overdone meat on the four walls that would later need to be scraped and scrubbed or better yet cremated into ash in a self-cleaning oven if you were so lucky as to have one of those. This is how we used to know they were done. The explosion would send my mother running back to the kitchen, racing as she quickly pulled them out before a succession broke out, slapping themselves against the walls, blowing the lid off the cast iron pan meant to hold them in. SHIT! She would yell in another word, in another language as she bolted, a chestnut bounding out of her seat, grappling the lid to the pan, often burning skin that nudged against the hot iron skillet as she hurried. We would laugh. We weren’t the ones cleaning the damn oven later.

IMG_0043 Roasted Chestnuts

My mother would buy chestnuts around this time of year and our fingers would hurt for days from the scratches and dents that were caused by prying them open, the corners of our nail beds sore, our skin sometimes mimicking the same bursting chestnut. The steaming meat soft and tender, so different from anything else we would indulge in throughout the year; similar to a slightly undercooked sweet potato but more like the texture and even slightly in flavour to a roasted cassava root albeit lacking the explosion that has always marked the experience for me.

IMG_0074 Roasted Chestnuts

In Austria and other parts of Europe where the winter is far less biting outdoor vendors sell small paper bags of the cooked jewels, a visit on my bucket list, but for now I’m told by my mother that people put them in their pockets or hold them in their hands to keep warm. Something of a pointless endeavour in Manitoba and maybe that’s why we don’t have any vendors selling them street side in the winter… Come to think of it selling anything street side in the winter in Manitoba as it seems is something that hasn’t crossed anyone’s mind. Manitobans aren’t strolling anywhere but rather running, determined to get quickly from point A to point B, hoods over their heads, scarves over their faces, hands covered in warm mitts. Perhaps if they had hot chestnuts in their pockets they would be less focused on their destination. Or perhaps even these wonderful nuts wouldn’t warm us to the point of strolling anywhere at all when the temperatures plunge beyond minus 30 degrees… Yes people that’s far colder than many Europeans have to endure lest they refused to leave their homeland.


IMG_0068 Roasted Chestnuts

I’m not sure if my mother didn’t know to score these nuts prior to placing them in the oven or if this is a Czech tradition that she held on to but it has become an obsolete experience in my home. I am much too lazy to spend an hour or so washing splattered meat off the inside of my oven. I am much more inclined to restrict my experience to pained fingers, eased in suffering by licking browned butter infused with rosemary, nutmeg and salt, as suggested by Bon Appétit magazine, off of them as I joyously place them in my mouth one by one, suckle the seasoned butter before cracking them then carefully and eagerly peeling and eating.

IMG_0015 Roasted Chestnuts

If you are so fortunate as to have an underused three season porch surrounded by frosted windows this time of year, sit close to the cold nipped glass and suckle a handful of these nuts. Or if you have a fireplace then set it ablaze and enjoy the baked and fragrant butter that transforms these nuts into a treat that is not only for the mouth but also for the nose as the nutmeg and rosemary fill your home with the aroma of winter warmth.

IMG_0031 Roasted Chestnuts

This post marks several ‘firsts’ for me; the first post of the year, the first time I’ve roasted chestnuts and haven’t had to spend the following hour or so cleaning the oven as a result, the first time I’ve dressed these nuts in a concoction so utterly delicious, the first time I’ve been so damned wordy in a post! I anticipate it will be a year of many more ‘firsts’ as my resolution is about creating a great many ‘firsts’ and practicing a new perspective on things that are not.

Happy New Year everyone…I hope that 2015 is filled full of many wonderful ‘firsts’ for all of you!
Rosemary Nutmeg Butter Roasted Chestnuts (as found in Bon Appétit, though slightly altered)

  • 2- 3 dozen fresh chestnuts
  • 1 Tablespoon rosemary (I used dried rosemary, broken and rubbed between my hands)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and set a kettle of water to boil. First take the chestnuts and score an ‘X’ on each of them using a sharp knife. Once they are all scored pour hot water over them and let them soak for a minute. Lightly dry off the chestnuts and place them in a baking dish (best to have them in a single layer) where you have melted the butter. I tried to arrange mine all cut side down… better to soak up the butter or at least that’s what I was hoping.  Sprinkle them with rosemary, salt and nutmeg and cover loosely with foil. I promise that they will not explode in the oven and will not force you to spend an hour cleaning same oven when you are done… ;) Bake for about 45 minutes and then remove from the oven, push them around a little to make sure they are well buttered (Also as payback for the way they will destroy your fingers when you peel them!)

Sit back and enjoy…. maybe even with a hot cup of chocolate milk and some damn good minty marshmallows!

Roasted Veggie Wild Rice Salad

Posted by Pussycat in Salads | 7 Comments

We had a large Christmas / Holiday gathering at our house, roasted turkey with all the fixings was on the menu as was a new treat for those who don’t eat meat.  We are such carnivores in our house that I often forget that others don’t appreciate flesh the way we do.  Consequently as the second turkey was baking (yes, I did two of them; roasting one the day before) and all the veggies were being prepared I decided that I needed to make a more dedicated vegetarian dish for those who might otherwise feel left out.  Luckily for me I have a monster sized (50 lb) bag of wild rice hidden away that we bought when we were frequenting the northern part of Manitoba that I dip into for special occasions such as this.

IMG_0034 Wild Rice - Veggie

I had initially wanted to make a squash dish and I picked up about 4 lbs of cubed squash earlier in the week but opened it up to find it had gone bad in just a few days.  This would have made a great pairing with the wild rice and I love squash but that was now out of the question.  Though squash would have bulked up this dish and could easily be added I have to say that adding other veggies like large chunks of roasted onions and whole roasted garlic made it super yummy.

IMG_0022 Wild Rice - VeggieI love the layers of garlic in this dish from roasted and raw garlic and even though I’m not the biggest fan of cooked spinach it worked well as did the roasted chickpeas.  I know this dish seems like a lot of work with the list of ingredients but if you have the oven going anyway slipping another pan on the bottom rack with some veggies on it for this is not a big deal and well worth the time.

IMG_0002 Wild Rice - Veggie

Roasted Veggie Rice Salad

  • 1 cup raw wild rice
  • 1 jar slowly roasted tomatoes (recipe found here or use sun dried tomatoes —  though admittedly not as good)
  • 2-3 onions
  • 2 garlic bulbs (I actually used 3)
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 large bag of spinach
  • olive oil to coat the veggies while roasting
  • cayenne pepper to season the chickpeas
  • butter to lightly cook the spinach
  • Salt and pepper to season

Set the rice in a pot of water to cook (cook according to instructions) lots of water and for about 35- 45 minutes on medium until the rice starts to split. You can cook for a longer or shorter amount of time depending on your preference for a stiffer or softer rice.

While the rice is cooking quarter the onions and cut off the top of the garlic bulbs, coat with olive oil and set in the oven (I baked at 350 F on the bottom rack) make sure to check often and turn the onions as they become nicely caramelized roasting the garlic until they start to push out of the top. When you cut the tops off the garlic bulbs you’ll end up with the tips of the garlic that would normally get thrown away, don’t toss these, mince them and then throw them in raw with the wild rice.

Place the drained and rinsed chickpeas on a separate pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and lightly sprinkle with cayenne pepper.  Also place these on the low rack of the oven and bake for about 10 – 15 minutes, checking and rolling them around frequently until they have a nice crisp outside… taste them as you go along…. once you like the consistency take them out.  Mine were pretty crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Pan fry the spinach with butter until it’s wilted.

Assemble

Toss the rice with the minced garlic; a jar of roughly chopped roasted tomatoes, roasted onions, the roasted garlic (mashed and broken up slightly), the cooked spinach and lastly the roasted chickpeas.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.  I made this early in the afternoon and had to warm it up a little before serving.

You do have to love garlic for this dish to be a hit and I’ve come to understand it is doubtful that there is a person alive that doesn’t love garlic.  I know it seems as though there is a lot of it in this dish but the roasted garlic, which really is the bulk of it has such a nice sweet flavour without the burn.

This was an improvised dish that I’m going to make soon again for sure…. it’s just that good…. and super healthy…. and there was barely a spoonful left over – seems it was a hit with the vegetarians and the carnivores.

 

 

Gingerbread Cookies and Drizzling Chocolate

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IMG_0033 Gingerbread Cookies

You should never be in a hurry when drizzling chocolate, certainly not if you actually want it to look really nice.  Of course, I tend to always be in a hurry… it’s an affliction I’ve suffered from since as long as I can remember.  It also doesn’t help that it’s the last weekend before Christmas and I had some finishing to do… there are just so many steps in our traditional Christmas baking that you really need to think ahead…. and I keep adding baking to the list.. it’s crazy I tell you!  You know… having decided not to make certain things then deciding somehow that you can’t live without them.. like these boozy chocolate covered prunes with almonds… really… Can it be Christmas without Rum?  What the heck is that!  Plus…. given that I’ve been using the kitchen A LOT this last few weeks (I also made marshmallows for staff and it takes some intense work cleaning snow from all corners of the kitchen) I have some serious house cleaning to get done as well.

Back to the chocolate drizzle.  Today I needed to  brush the backs of the Marokanky with chocolate, my absolute favourite Christmas treat. I also needed to drizzle chocolate on the  gingerbread cookies that just didn’t ice very well… again… I was in a hurry… it was a weeknight… Now they needed something to make them look a whole lot nicer than the icing that, though it tastes yummy… looks terrible!  I found these instructions on how to melt chocolate in a ziplock baggie in the microwave here and it actually worked really well.

Figuring out how to manage a ziplock baggie full of melted chocolate chips takes a bit of practice.  First cut a small corner off the baggie… make it small you can always make it bigger…. You can’t go back and make it smaller!  If you’re in a hurry and squeeze the baggie too much you end up with this…  kind of a fun curly thing but very obviously not the look we’re going for.

IMG_0014 Gingerbread Cookies

And if you cut the hole too big you end up with this…

IMG_0006 Gingerbread Cookies

Just like Goldilocks… you need to get it just right and you need to put just the slightest pressure on the baggie so that you end up with a nice drizzle like this.  I only have a small handful of ones that actually turned out looking nice. I’ll have to come back here the next time I need to drizzle chocolate to remind myself to put the coffee down, take a breath, relax and let the drizzle happen!  ;)

 

IMG_0018 Gingerbread Cookies

As for the Gingerbread cookies.  I’ve always loved my mother’s gingerbread cookies at Christmas… they were a speciality cookie that was a staple this time of year so I made them following a recipe my mom has from one of her old Czech cookbooks, altered of course over the years and made to taste really nice and gingery.  You can play with the spices a bit, add more of one if you don’t have enough of another.  These cookies are very forgiving in terms of spices as long as there are ENOUGH spices — the exact combination, however, is pretty lax. There isn’t any molasses in these ones, I find I’ve never really much like the taste of  molasses.  I actually tried another version earlier but they didn’t turn out very well so I stick with these.

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 650 grams flour
  • 100 grams honey
  • 50 grams butter
  • 250 grams icing sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 7 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fine candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 heaping teaspoons star anis
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • citrus zest (could be lemon or orange)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

****  Anytime you can use whole spices and grind them yourself that always produces the best flavour, just add the spices to a coffee grinder and let it go until you have a nice fine powder.  Again, because the mixture of spices is so forgiving, it won’t matter if the amounts of ground spices don’t measure up exactly to the whole ones you added in… make sense?  Essentially ‘eyeballing’ it is okay as long as you don’t cut anything back too much!

First melt the butter and honey together then mix in the egg yolks.  Mix all the dry ingredients together and add the seasonings.  Mix the wet into the dry ingredients and mix until you have a nice dough.  Let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight.

Roll the dough out and cut out your favourite shapes, snowflakes, snowmen, gingerbread men, Christmas trees.  Bake at 350 degrees until just browned.

IMG_0034 Gingerbread Cookies

Icing

Squeeze the juice from two lemons and add icing sugar until you have a nice paste (a little  runny) in a bowl then dip the cooled cookies into the icing and let them sit until dry and store for Christmas or enjoy.  I’ve also then drizzled with melted chocolate and I tend to use unsweetened as the cookies are sweet enough.  You can also decorate any other way you like.  * I should note that if you mix too much and don’t let the sugar calm down you’ll end up with bubbles and they won’t look great (like some of mine) and if you don’t let the sugar actually melt then the icing won’t be even (again some of the mistakes I made with mine).

Mine may not be the prettiest but they sure do taste good and I love the lemon juice with the icing sugar as it gives them a bit of tang.