Thursday, February 08, 2007

Quick Dinner

I was thinking whilst I made my regular dinner that maybe others could benefit from my method. I like to cook but I also like to eat without waiting too long. This meal takes about 15-20mins. This is for one person but I'm sure you could adapt it fairly easily.

Notes on ingredients:

My philosophy is to get the best ingredients for the best price. But I'm not travelling crosstown to get some cinnamon. I mostly use the supermarkets and occasionally a deli.

Ingham Chicken Selections, Sweet Thai Chilli, Chicken Breast
These are one of the few microwaveable chicken portions on the market (the other brand I tried was awful). They are not 100% chicken but are 88% chicken breast which is formed. They taste good and are ready in 4 mins. They are 19% protein, 8.4% fat and 7.1% carbs.
There is a honey mustard version which is OK but I prefer the chilli. You can't really taste chilli and it's not at all hot, it just has a nice flavour. I am not a fan of chicken breast as they are often bland and dry but these portions are tasty.

Heinz Lite Salad Cream
We have used this in my family for many years (although Mum used the full fat version). It tastes great and has a distinctive flavour. It is 18.9% fat, so I use it in small quantities.

Sacla Italia Classic Pesto Pasta Sauce
This has 36% basil and 5% parmesan and tastes great. It is 44.3% fat so I use it sparingly.

Always Fresh Fusions Black Olive Tapenade
I'm a recent devotee of olive tapenade. This is has 83% olives and is 18.5% fat. Small quantities.

Ayam Chilli Sauce - Hot
This is 25% chillies and as it is hot you only need a small amount for that chilli kick.

Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Premium Reserve
This is reasonablely priced, cold pressed (retains goodness) and made in Victoria, Australia. People say you shouldn't cook with extra virgin olive oil as its strong flavour is lost or its too expensive. I would agree generally but when you are cooking some garlic on low heat it adds flavour to the garlic. So there.

Sasso Balsamic Vinegar - Modena
Modena is the place where the best balsamic vinegar is made and this is one is good.

Mazzetti Balsum Wine Vinegar Dressing
This is a nice vinegar which contains grape must which adds depth of flavour. Also from Italy.

Firstly, don't ever buy oregano in a packet all chopped up. These are the leaves of the plant and have hardly any flavour. Go to a good italian deli and get a bunch of oregano which is the smaller flowers and they have a strong flavour, so you don't need much. I recently bought a bunch that comes packaged in plastic and it is very good. Previously I got a loose bunch from a local fruit and veg grocers. It takes a bit more work, as you have to remove the flowers from the stalks and branches and put them in a jar. It took me about 15 mins. It is totally worth it. It keeps indefinitely and depending on how much you use should last at least 6 months.

Bird's Eye Frozen Vegetables
I live alone so I don't buy fresh vegetables much as they don't last long in the fridge. I use frozen vegetables and am happy with the quality. This brand are made in Australia which is very important to me. Must support our farmers.

Ingham Chicken Selections - 1 piece (they vary between 110g to 130g)
Bird's Eye Broccoli Florets - 100g
Bird's Eye Julienne Carrots - 40g
Bird's Eye Baby Beans - 40g
Garlic clove - 1, minced or chopped finely.
Heinz Lite Salad Cream - 10g
Sacla Italia Classic Pesto - 10g or Always Fresh Fusions Black Olive Tapenade - 20g
Salt (sea)
Pepper (freshly ground black)
Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 teaspoon
Ayam Chilli Sauce Hot - 1 teaspoon (optional)

1. Microwave the vegetables in covered glass/ceramic dish for 3mins on high (650watt oven). I use a Pyrex glass dish with a loose fitting glass lid.

2. Whilst the vegetables are cooking, chop/mince the garlic.

3. Set aside vegetables. Microwave the chicken in a covered glass/ceramic dish for 2 mins on high. I use a bread plate covered with a desert/breakfast bowl.

4. Whilst the chicken is cooking, cut the broccoli florets and beans into smaller bite size pieces. This helps to speed the rest of the cooking, allows more sauce to cover them and is easier to eat!

5. Set aside the chicken. Microwave the vegetables for another 3 mins on high.

6. Whilst the vegetables are cooking, pour the olive oil into a medium sized solid based saucepan on low heat and put the garlic into the oil. Make sure the oil covers the garlic. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't fry and brown which makes garlic get bitter. The idea is to soften the garlic and release the flavour. Add salt and pepper to taste, the salt draws out moisture from the garlic helping to stop the garlic from burning.

7. Whilst the garlic is softening get your serving bowl (I use a deep sided round bowl as it helps in the mixing stage and saves having too many dishes to wash) and put in the salad cream and pesto or tapenade (and chilli sauce optional).

8. The vegetables should be finished cooking by now. Put them aside. Microwave the chicken for 1 min on high.

9. The garlic should be ready now. Turn off the heat but leave the pan on over the burner (if electric remove from element). Put some oregano into the pan, I use about half to one teaspoon, I use my hands and rub it between my fingers to release the oils and flavour as I put it in the pan. Mix the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and oil together and put in to the bowl with the salad cream etc. Mix it together. Add a half to 1 teaspoon of vinegar if you like. Vinegar has a lot of acetic acid which when taken with food slows the gastric acids from emptying the stomach which helps give a feeling of satiety and also acts a glycemic index lowerer as well. It is very good for you.

10. The chicken should have finished cooking by now. Remove the cover and microwave for 1 min on high. I have found that if the chicken is covered for the whole 4 mins it tends to sweat and get wet. I like it dry but moist so the last minute uncovered dries it out a little.

11. Put the vegetables into the hot pan, add salt and pepper to taste. Mix and cover. This absorbs some of the excess moisture and keeps the vegetables hot whilst finishing off the rest of the tasks.

12. The chicken should be ready now. Get a sharp vegetable/carving knife and slice the chicken so you have small bite size pieces. Put them into the pan with the vegetables and mix them together.

13. Put the chicken and vegetable mix into the serving bowl and mix the sauce through.

14. Voila! Eat a healthy meal that will stop you being hungry for awhile. For variations I alter between the pesto and the tapenade and the vinegars. Occasionally I add the chilli. I'm sure you could come up with some other flavours. Fresh basil, flavoured oils, lemon zest, lime juice etc.

If you give this meal a go I know you will enjoy it.

Rat Runs 'n' Speed Humps

Hoo-fuckin'-ray! I received a letter last week from my local council saying that they will be installing speed humps in my street and two other adjoining streets in the 'next few months'. I hope it happens. The council has known that my street is used as a so called 'short cut' or 'rat run' since 1991, that's when they did a traffic study but didn't implement any action. Although they did replace a stop sign with a roundabout at an intersection in the street which made it easier for vehicles who cut through.

They did a traffic count in 1999 which showed 563 westbound and 427 eastbound movements each day, that is 990 vehicles per day in a street that is so narrow that parking is only allowed on one side and when two cars meet each other its like a game of 'chicken'. I recently had my driver's side mirror destroyed by a vehicle passing too close to my parked car.

This is clear evidence that my local council doesn't carry out its function; that is to represent the residents and use its budget to make the area the best it can for those residents. The candidates put up at elections are not people put forward by the community in many cases but people belonging to political parties who want the responsibility and power to change things according to their beliefs. This is back to front. It is not democracy. Yes residents democratically elect councillors but the choice of candidates is not democratic if a political party puts forward a candidate for the benefit of the party first and the community second.

The speed humps were installed 3rd to 6th March in my street and two adjoining streets. It has been intersting to see the change in traffic. There has been a reduction in traffic but two months after the speed humps there are still drivers who won't go away. There are a few who try to drive as fast as they can in between humps and others who don't slow down enough at the hump and scrap their cars.
There are still the diehard rat runners who drive down my street and connecting streets to go from main road to main road. I think we need to change the streets to one way facing each other so cars cannot continue from one street to the next. Unless you make it virtually impossible to cut through streets drivers will use them.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Food Safari is Delicious

I have been watching Maeve O'Meara's Food Safari on SBS and it is the best food show I have ever seen. I have watched many food programs: Naked Chef, Food Lover's Guide, Surfing the Menu, Surprise Chef, Ready, Steady, Cook! and The Cook and the Chef to name a few. But this show is so good it makes me feel like I'm going to burst with I don't know what.

Maeve has gone to visit chefs who are passionate about food and got them to cook a few simple dishes from each of 13 culture's cuisines; Greek, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai to name a few. The ingredients are all shown and there's tips galore. Its so great to see people who love their culture, their culture's food and a host like Maeve who loves food and ingredients so much. I am totally spellbound watching this show.

If you like food you have to got to watch it. Its short and sweet, 30mins. from 7:30 Wednesday's. There's 4 more episodes to go. Lebanese is next. Even if you think I don't like that cuisine or I'll never cook that cuisine, just watch and see great cooks going at it with care and love. Its cool. if you want to check it out. Recipes are in text and video form.

Deja Vu and Prophetic Visions

I have this theory about deja vu (From French, already seen), although its probably deja vécu (already lived). Anyway, from my own experience and intuition about it, what I think happens is this: when you are asleep and in the dream state, time doesn't exist, the normal rules of awake don't apply. You therefore can experience possible futures and you don't usually remember these experiences, but occasionally you do. So the possible future you experienced becomes the actual future and when the moment arrives, and if you are in the right state of awareness, the memory resurfaces and voila! deja vu.

The same probably applies to prophetic dreams but I have found that prophetic dreams aren't as accurate as deja vecu, in that they seem a bit more unreal or symbolic.

I once had a dream that I was upstairs (at my real school at the time) in a dark classroom and that people were applauding me. When I recalled the dream I thought "that's strange, why would I be applauded in a dark classroom?". A few days later I had video class and we were got into small groups and took a video camera and made a movie in about 30mins. When we all were finished the teacher turned off half of the lights, so the room was dark but not pitch black, and then played each groups' film. Probably to give us all encouragement the teacher got everyone to clap after each movie. When ours finished we received our applause and it made an impression on me because I couldn't remember getting applauded before. As I was thinking that, I recalled the dream and put the two together and was amazed.

So from that and other prophetic experiences I know that it is possible to glimpse future events and that is how I came upon my theory of deja vu.

Another interesting experience I had involved following my intuition and a brief prophetic vision.

I was at Crossways Hare Krishna restaurant eating my meal when I suddenly thought about a particular moment in the Seinfeld TV sitcom when Kramer said something funny and I laughed. After lunch I didn't have anywhere to be so I walked to the corner of Collins St and stopped and just waited until I felt where I should go. I turned right and walked down to Elizabeth St and waited again. I headed back from where I'd come. I started walking east down Swanston Walk and thought I'll go to the gardens. When I was near the gardens I needed a pee and I knew there was a toilet down the hill in the gardens, so I headed down. As I walked down I saw a girl who was practising stick twirling where you spin one stick with the other. I thought as I walked past her "if she's still here when I come back I'll say hello". So I go for a pee and start walking back and I see she's still there. So I walk up and say hi and we start talking about her sticks and then she stops and we sit down and chat. She suddenly brings up Seinfeld and tells me about the scene I had laughed at when at Crossways. I told her about that and how I found myself in the gardens and we both were amazed. We kept talking and she told me about her plans to move north and wasn't sure about it. I think I sort of pepped her up with some positive reinforcement and typical Sagittarian optimism and she said she felt much better and it was just what she needed. I remarked maybe that's why I was meant to find her this day. Because I felt a lot better for the experience as well. I can't remember her name, I think she was an Aries or Gemini. I remember seeing her once when I was coming and she was going at Crossways and we just said hi. I wasn't disappointed, I thought it kind of felt right, like a magical moment we shared. God I sound like a hippie...

The Matrix & Maya

Whilst writing the last post, I mentioned the similarities of Maya (physical reality being an illusion) with the situation of the people in the film The Matrix. I thought I could delve into this topic a bit deeper.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

In the world of The Matrix (written by Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski) the people of earth have been enslaved by the intelligent machines they created. The machines draw their power from humans by maintaining The Matrix; a virtual reality of earth, which lets the machines connect the unconscious humans to the power system without their knowledge.

Thus, the Matrix is an artificial Maya. But in this Maya, to become liberated or self-realised is to escape the Matrix to 'reality' or the real Maya as opposed to the artificial Maya of the Matrix. Confused? That's the point. Maya is an illusion. Illusions are not real. If you believe the illusion to be real, you are confused. But for the sake of simplicity let's say the Matrix is Maya.

The following is a broad outline of the story with some interesting details.

In the film, Thomas Anderson is an office worker (in the Matrix) who is also Neo an infamous computer hacker who receives messages on his computer monitor about The Matrix. He is contacted by Morpheus who offers him the choice of seeing the Matrix or living in ignorance, he chooses truth. He wakes up in his pod connected to the vast power system and is rescued by Morpheus and his crew in a hovership. After recovering from the physical effects of being in the pod, Neo is enlightened about the truth of reality.

Morpheus believes Neo is 'the One', a special person who has the latent ability to transcend the limitations of the Matrix and defeat the machines. Because Morpheus and his crew are aware of the Matrix they can use their minds to defy the limits of the Matrix's reality to some extent and achieve super human feats.

As part of Neo's training he is asked to jump from one tall building to another, in a virtual reality similar to the Matrix, after witnessing Morpheus achieve this feat. If he believes it is possible, then he can do it. He leaps and plummets to the ground. This failure leads members of the crew to doubt that Neo is 'the One', but Morpheus is not wavered in his conviction.

When Neo has completed training he is taken by Morpheus and Trinity to see the Oracle, a psychic who has predicted an emergence of "the One" but tells Neo he is not 'the One'. On their way to their exit (a hacked telephone line) Neo notices a black cat walk past a doorway and then sees it walk past again. He mentions it to the others as 'de ja vu' and is told this is a glitch in the Matrix meaning the machines have changed the Matrix. They are ambushed by the Agents (powerful sentient computer programs in the guise of secret police), Morpheus is captured and most of the crew is eventually killed due to a betrayal by Cypher; a member of the crew who wants to return to ignorant bliss in the Matrix. Trinity and Neo escape the Agents and return to the hovership. They decide to return to the Matrix to rescue Morpheus who is being interrogated by the Agents, who believe he can lead them to Zion, the underground home of other 'freed' humans.

In an encounter with the Agents, Neo dodges their bullets by moving faster than they can hit him. Trinity tells him she has never seen anyone but the Agents move that fast before.
Later Neo is left alone on a deserted train station with an Agent. He is able to defeat the Agent by matching his speed and strength.

As Neo reaches an exit he is shot by an Agent multiple times in the chest and collapses. Back in the hovership his heart stops because if one injured or dies in the Matrix the belief is so strong that the real body responds in kind. Trinity who was told by the Oracle that she would fall in love with "the One" whispers to Neo that she loves him and kisses him. Neo's heart starts beating and back in the Matrix he recovers and stands up. He now sees the Matrix as it really is, streaming lines of computer code all around him. The Agents fire at Neo, and in slow motion, he sees the bullets heading towards him. He knows he is The One. He says 'no', puts up his hand and the bullets stop in mid air. Agent Smith attacks Neo but Neo effortlessly blocks all punches and kicks him through the air and down the corridor. Neo flies into Smith's body and it explodes into little pieces, with Neo emerging in his place. The other Agents flee in terror.

Neo reaches the exit and the crew are able to destroy the Sentinels (killer machines) that are attacking the hovership. The end.

I will now outline the points of The Matrix story that relate to the concepts such as Maya, religion, mysticism etc.:

Thomas 'Neo' Anderson living in ignorance believing in Maya as reality.

Morpheus (Roman God of dreams) as a God like figure bestowing liberation upon the ignorant.

Morpheus believing in the coming of a messiah or The One, who will rescue the 'chosen' people living in Zion (Zionism: Jewish desire to return to homeland).

Neo dying and being reborn due to the power of love and faith of Trinity.

Neo becoming self realised and liberated from Maya and able to perform superhuman feats.

Neo dying in virtual reality (artificial Maya) and reality because he believes bullets can kill him.
The Oracle seeing beyond time and into possible futures.

Neo's feeling of de ja vu after seeing the same event twice.

Neo's ability (once liberated) to see time as relative and Maya as illusion.

Plenty to think about there.