Archive for summer

Recipes: Asian-Inspired Deconstructed Cabbage Roll

Posted in Recipes with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2013 by KarenElizabeth

I’ve probably mentioned it many times before, but I am not a fan of summer.  The sweltering heat, the choking humidity and poor air quality, the burning sunlight — it all makes me pretty unhappy.

One of the many things that annoys me about summer is the difficulty of cooking decent meals.  Living in an apartment building, barbecue and outdoor cookery is not much of an option for me.  But being in the kitchen for any length of time heats up the entire apartment and just adds to the general discomfort of the season.  As a solution to this, I’ve developed a lot of recipes that take less than 20 minutes to prepare.  The less time spent in the kitchen, and the less time spent with the stove or oven running, the more comfortable I am with this whole “summer” thing.

Today’s recipe was a bit of a make-it-up-as-you-go affair, and it came out beautifully.

deconstructed cabbage roll

Feeling headachey and gross from a combination of heat and tiredness and depression, I was craving some sort of homey comfort-food.  Lasagna.  Meatloaf.  Cabbage rolls.  But all of those things take a lot of oven-time, which was obviously not an option in this weather.  A dig through the cupboards, though, revealed a package of rice noodles — what could I possibly do with those?  Some ground beef, Asian spices, and veggies later, I’d created something delicious.

The Ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced.
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped.
  • A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root, diced small or grated.
  • 1lb ground beef (or other ground meat or meat alternative — pork, chicken, or turkey would work just fine here, or go with tofu for a veggie option).
  • A splash of sesame oil.
  • A couple tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces.
  • 1/4 of a large cabbage, roughly chopped.
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce.
  • 1/3 cup lime juice.
  • A splash of fish sauce (omit for vegetarians).
  • Asian 5-spice blend of your choice (I make my own with cinnamon, dried chilis, anise, ginger, and tumeric — and I go heavy on the ginger and chili.  You can buy a pre-made mix or combine your own flavours).
  • Rice noodles (any style)

The Method

Heat up the olive oil and sesame oil in a large pan or wok, at medium-high heat.  Add in your onion, garlic, ginger, and beef.  Lightly brown these ingredients, then turn down the temperature to medium-low.  Add your soy sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, and spices.

At the same time, bring water to a boil in a separate pot.  The rice noodles only need to cook for about three minutes; as soon as the water is boiling you can drop them in, but don’t forget about them or they’ll turn to mush!  Rescue & plate them as soon as they’ve gone soft.

Cook your meat mixture for about 5 minutes to combine all of the flavours, then toss in your cabbage and zucchini (alternatively, you can use other veggies like eggplant, bell peppers, bok choy — whatever catches your fancy).  Stir the mix so that the veggies cook evenly, and as soon as they start to get nice and soft, it’s ready.  Spoon the meat mix over your rice noodles, and serve immediately (garnish with more chilis and a slice of lime if you want to get fancy).

This makes about 3-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are.  And it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare!


Any leftover meat mixture can be wrapped up in cabbage leaves and kept in the fridge to snack on cold the next day.  But this stuff is so delicious that you might not have any leftovers.


Hypohidrosis, or Why I Don’t Like Summer

Posted in Ramblings, Rants with tags , , , , , , , on July 23, 2011 by KarenElizabeth

In case you’re not aware, North America is currently in the grip of a massive heat wave.  Here in Toronto, the temperature reached 38 degrees Celsius, with a humidex of 48 (meaning that with the humidity, it feels like 48 degrees instead of 38).  In Fahrenheit degrees that works out to a peak temperature of 100 with a humidex of 118, in case you’re someone who works better with Imperial measurements.

My body does not cope well with warm temperatures.  When the temperature rises much above 25 degrees I tend to feel nauseous, feverish and overall icky.  Couple this with the fact that my fair, Irish-Canadian skin burns like toast, and add in the fact that I can’t sleep when it’s hot out and I get emotionally unbalanced when I don’t sleep, and you’ve got a recipe for someone who really, really, really doesn’t like summer.

One of the main reasons for my dislike of summer is that I suffer from hypohidrosis (a lack of sweating).  I’m that friend who everybody hates — the one who doesn’t get all sweaty and gross when you’re all working out together.  It’s not that I don’t sweat (I don’t have full-on anhidrosis), it’s just that I don’t sweat as much as other people do.  When everybody else is positively dripping, I might have a wee bit of under-boob sweat going on, but my t-shirt’s still pretty much totally dry.  This means that my body really, really sucks at thermoregulation, and I’m much more prone to heat stroke than most other people.  I also tend to get rashes and eczema breakouts whenever I do start sweating (my legs and back are super, super itchy right now), so it’s all pretty unpleasant.

In essence, while you’re thinking “ugh, I’m so sweaty, I could really use a shower”, I’m thinking something along the lines of “guzzzzubuhARGHHHHSOITCHYeeeeeeeeduhbuhderpderpderp” because my brain is being cooked by my rapidly rising body temperature and my skin is reacting badly to the salt I’m sweating out.  My sweat glands quickly become blocked, causing heat rash, and if I don’t get into the shade, spray myself down with water, and do everything possible to cool myself off, it’s very likely I’ll get heat stroke.

For all that the heat makes me quite sick and unpleasant, though, I still have a huge difficulty justifying ever getting an air conditioner.  It’s a huge energy drain.  AC units use greenhouse gasses like HCFCs for their cooling (yes, I realize that HCFCs are over 90% less ozone depleting than the CFCs they have replaced, but they’re still greenhouse gasses and overall unsustainable).  And, of course, many of my pets are cold-blooded:  they love the heat, and if I were to install an AC unit in my apartment, I’d also have to up my energy use even further by turning their heating pads and lamps up to compensate (at the moment most of them are turned off, as it’s warm enough without them, so I’m actually using less energy than I would at other times of the year, despite the fact that I’ve got a couple of fans going at full speed).

I’m also really not a fan of swimming.  Immersing myself in frigid water as a solution to the heat?  Great.  Now I’ll freeze to death instead of going into a coma from severe heat stroke — not much of a solution.  While I’m supposedly quite good at swimming (years of lessons as a child left me qualified to get my lifeguard certification, although I never pursued it due to lack of interest), and will happily splash about in the shallows for a game of football or dive off a dock a few times with friends, it’s really not something I’m going to go out of my way to do.  Being in the water for very long tends to make my joints ache and my muscles go all wobbly, and my lips turn blue in pretty short order.  Blue hair I’m okay with.  Blue lips?  Not so much.  And heated swimming pools aren’t much of a solution either — chlorine burns my eyes and skin, strips the colour out of my hair, and the stink stays on you for a week.  As a band-aid solution when it’s crazy-hot out, a cool shower works all right, but how much can you really get done in a day when you’ve got to go hop into the shower every couple of hours to keep from passing out?  It’s all pretty annoying.  Water?  You fail at making me like this season.

Pretty much the only thing that I do enjoy about summer is the fact that it’s camping season.  Out in the woods, the heat doesn’t seem so bad, because the trees shade a lot of the sun’s nasty rays.  And if you’re camping on a lake, which I usually do, the breeze coming over the cold water can help to cool things down as well.  Of course, since moving to the city I haven’t exactly done much camping.  My last trip was almost three years ago, and while I had a lot of fun, it doesn’t make up for all the summers of nastiness.  If I were independently wealthy and could afford to spend my summers camped out in the northern woods somewhere, you might get me liking this season after all (even with the black flies and mosquitoes).  Until that day comes, though, not so much.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go lie down in another cold shower.  See you when the heat wave’s over.