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Cheap Eats

posted on December 29th, 2008 ·


New York Times has featured a list of healthy food that costs less than (or approximately) a dollar. Those ingredients are simple and versatile. To help you get started in your kitchen, I have gone back to old entries and fished out easy dishes for you to try.

Oats - Irish Oatmeal with Apple Compote
Eggs - Fantastic Scrambled Eggs
Potatoes - Shepherd’s Pie
Banana - Banana Bread
Beans - Healthy Refried Beans
Broccoli - Broccoli Soup
Rice - Bean-n-Rice with Kielbasa
Butternut Squash - Butternut Squash Cupcakes (second picture)
Sardine & Spinach - Risotto
Tofu - Sesame Tofu
Milk - Fluffy Pancakes

Do you have any signature dish made with these cheap ingredients?

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Guinea Pig’s Been Busy in His Kitchen

posted on December 28th, 2008 ·

One of my favorite parts of holiday season is cooking and eating great food. I have been spending a great amount of time in my kitchen trying new recipes. I was not looking to cook anything fancy; I just wanted to make simple and hearty meals that are usually served in many households.

Here’s a look at the food I cooked last week:

Dutch baby pancakes served with dried cranberry compote.

Breakfast fritatta with cranberry sauce and buttermilk biscuit.


Roasted duck leg with grilled vegetables


What have you made this holiday season?

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Irish Oatmeal with Apple Compote

posted on December 22nd, 2008 ·

If there’s one thing I need to have every morning, it has to be Irish oatmeal. I grew up eating Chinese porridge, which is made by simmering cooked rice in water, for breakfast. Irish oatmeal gives the same texture as Chinese porridge, creamy and silky. It is the perfect breakfast choice in winter.

Once the oatmeal is cooked to creamy and sikly consistency, I like to add fruits and syrup to sum up the hearty dish. The best way to introduce fruits and syrup to Irish oatmeal is by adding compote, made by simmering fresh or dried fruits in simple syrup until softened. Since apples are in season, they are my choice for compote in my oatmeal.

What a perfect breakfast choice when it’s snowing outside.


  • 1 cup Irish oatmeal (aka steel cut oatmeal)
  • Enough boiling water to cover oatmeal by 2 inches in a pot, approximately 4 cups
  • 1/3 cup whole milk or half&half
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter


  • Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add oatmeal and stir gently. Coat and cook oatmeal until nutty odor comes out.
  • Add water and stir oatmeal gently. Be careful, there will be a lot of steam coming out of the pan.
  • Drop the heat to simmer and put the lid back on, but leave a little slit for steam to come out.
  • Once the water is almost absorbed by oatmeal, add salt and keep stirring for few more minutes. By stirring oatmeal gently, the starch will be released and create the creamy and silky consistency.
  • Add milk once water is absorbed completely and keep stirring.
  • Add brown sugar and adjust to your taste.


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Good Bye Until Next Week

posted on December 15th, 2008 ·

I need to focus on my final exam for my biochemistry class. Therefore, I will be taking several days off (and I promise for great entries when I get back). For some quick Guinea Pig updates, which I will still keep up with, please visit Ciao!

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Rustic Italian Food: Sardine Carbonara with Roasted Vegetables

posted on December 15th, 2008 ·


When I make pasta, I prefer making pasta sauce from scratch. However, tomato sauce takes a little patience to make. Tomato juice needs to be cooked down to sticky consistency if using canned tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, cooking time will double in order to extract the flavor. But if you need a quick pasta dish with delicious sauce…look no further, carbonara (yes…it’s on the fattier side) is the choice.

Carbonara is an affordable dish that you can make on any given night. Basic ingredients are eggs, pancetta (guanciale if you can get your hands on that ingredient!),  heavy cream (I will be testing other dairy products like half-&-half, mascarpone cheese, and creme fraiche), and Parmesan or Pecorino cheese. Although you may be scared of the large amount of fat added to this dish, you do not have to eat a lot to feel full. Therefore, by eating a moderate proportion of this wonderful pasta dish will leave you satisfied but not guilty.

The basics - I added garlic for more flavor.

Canned sardine fillet. This ingredient is optional, especially for those of you who don’t like seafood.


  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream (go with half-&-half if you are really scared of the fat)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 handful of cubed pancetta or bacon
  • 1 handful of grate Parmasen or Pecorino cheese
  • 1 handful of roasted cauliflower
  • 1 serving of penne (or your favorite type of Italian noodles)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • sardin fillet (optional)


  1. Cook the noodles as instructed on the package.
  2. Saute panchett in a heavy sauce pan until fat is rendered out. Add garlic and roasted cauliflower and cook for another 2 minutes, then lower or turn off the heat for few minutes.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk an egg yolk with heavy cream and half of the cheese.
  4. Turn the heat back on and add cooked pasta. Pour 1 ladle pasta water into the sauce pan and cook until water is half evaporated.
  5. Very critical - turn off the heat and pour in the egg mixture and stir quickly. Don’t stop stirring until you see silky texture forming in the pan. If the pan is too hot, the egg will scramble. And it will not be “good eats”.
  6. Serve the pasta dish with the remaining grated cheese.


Like any other pasta sauce, carbonara can be served with any ingredients that you can find in the market. Some of my favorite ingredients are courgette, celery roots, spinach, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Go on, use your imagination and perfect this quick-fix pasta dish!

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Guinea Pig’s Water Workout #42

posted on December 15th, 2008 ·

Warm up:

  • 400 freestyle
  • 300 pull buoy with paddles

Main sets:

  • 10 x 100 freestyle
  • 200 flutter kicks
  • 5 x 200 freestylle
  • 200 flutter kicks

Total distance (in yards): 3,100

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You Gotta Slow Down

posted on December 14th, 2008 ·


Tennis is a great sport. Not only does it offer a great cardiovascular workout, but it also strengthens muscular and skeletal system.

Regardless of the level of skills that a player possesses, knowing how to decelerate from his or her forward movement on tennis court is just as critical as practicing other techniques. Proper body deceleration can enhance overall performance as well as prevent devestating injuries, such as hyperextended knees, ankles, or torn rotator cuffs.

Two general training methods, plyometrics and sports specificity, can be implemented to help a tennis player decelerate efficiently.

Plyometric Exercises:

  • Step down: start from standing 24″ above the ground and slowly jump off the box (or any stable object like a chair). Land softly on the groun with knees bended and arms coiled ready to jump back onto the box.
  • Box jump: find a box or stable landing surface, jump onto the box and come back down quickly without losing balance.
  • Lie face down on a flat surface, and have one arm sticking out parallel to the ground with a small medicine ball in hand. Drop the ball and catch it as it bounces back; do the exercise for 30 seconds.

Sports Specificity:

  • Front rotator cuff rotation: hold a light dumbbell and have elbow bend 90-degree. Slowly lower the weight until forearm is parallel to the ground and come back up.
  • Overhead shoulder raise: raise a dumbbell, without bending the arm, to above the head from the side of the body.
  • Front lunges: lunge forward with one leg and quickly explode back to the original position.

Good luck, make tennis a fun and safe activity!

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Sunday Brunch: Home Fries with Kielbasa and Romanesco

posted on December 14th, 2008 ·


Sunday brunch is one of my favorite meals of the week. I enjoy going out to eat Sunday brunch with my friends and hold interesting conversation over a plateful of hearty food.

Since my friends and I had not made plan to go out for brunch this morning, I stayed home and made myself a delicious meal with few of my favorite brunch food.

I am a big fan of home fries; their crispy surface and soft interior give every bite a nice blend of texture. Making home fries does not require any advance culinary skills; simply boil cubed, or sliced, baking potatoes (russet or yukon) until fork tender and tranfser them into a heavy skillet with oil thinly coated. Press the cooked potatoes with a spatula frequently to create nice golden crust and flip the potatoes after 4 to 5 minute, and then press the potatoes for another 4 to 5 minutes. Home fries can be served alone or with sausages, bell peppers, onions, shallots, etc.

Romanesco is in season. Its texture is exactly the same as cauliflower (I really can’t distinguish the subtle difference). I used stove top steammer, which I will teach you how to make later, and steamed the florets for 5 to 7 minutes. Romanesco is crunchy, and tastes beatifully with tiny bit of melted butter. Romanesco has abundant vitamin C, which is essential to prevent cold during the colder months.

What’s your favorite brunch food?

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Weight Training: 12/12/2008

posted on December 12th, 2008 ·

Warm up:

  • Bird dog: 1 x 20
  • Leg curls on a stability ball: 1 x 20
  • Overhead squat: 1 x 20
  • Jumping jacks: 1 x 1 minute

Main sets:

4 x 10 w/ minimal rest, 5 to 10 seconds, between each round:

  1. bench press: 95 lbs.
  2. squat: 135 lbs.
  3. military shoulder press: 25 lbs. dumbbells
  4. bend over 1-arm rows: 40 lbs.

4 x 10 w/ minimal rest, 5 to 10 seconds, between each round:

  1. incline bench press: 95 lbs.
  2. straight leg deadlift: 135 lbs.
  3. dumbbell upright rows: 20 lbs.
  4. bend over dumbell rows: 20 lbs.

4 rounds of superset:

  • 20 front crawls on a stability ball (swimmers), 2.5-lb plate in each hand
  • 15 overhead (holding a 4-lb medicine ball) sit-ups on a decline

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Rice and Beans with Kielbasa

posted on December 12th, 2008 ·


It was raining and windy outside. I was not in the mood to make the trip to supermarket and gather ingredients for dinner. Therefore, I went into my pantry to find ingredients that could be used to make a healthy and hearty meal.

I found some dried beans: kidney, pinto, and great northern. These three beans are tasty on their own, but combining them in a stew can enhance overall flavor and texture. Pinto beans provide nutty flavor. Kidney beans provide grainy texture. Last but not least, great northern beans provide soft and smooth bite (hence, people use it for making white bean dips).

To cook the beans, you can either soak them overnight or you can cook them raw; the beans will be softened regardless after 2 hours of simmering (you can do many things in those two hours, so don’t be discouraged). To flavor the stew, I use aromatic vegetables (carrots, celery, and onions), smoked bacon, and dried herbs (anything goes). This is another “dump-it-in” meal that anyone can do a great job.

In addition, I bought a link of kielbasa, Polish sausage, the other day. I sliced a portion of the sausage and sauteed them for 5 minutes, until brown on the outside, and served them on top of “rice and beans”. Hey…you have worked hard to stay in shape…so live up and eat some sausages!


What’s in your pantry? Having troubles using your ingredients? Guinea pig is here to help you create exciting dish without breaking your bank.

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