Sunday, January 25, 2009

I dream of a SMART Fridge

Every fifteen days or so either K or I undertake the Big Fridge Exploratory Tour. It is a multi-hued adventure to say the least. On an average, we find at least 5 boxes of “Stuff” that have changed shape and/or form and needs to be trashed. 

The usual suspects are fungified tomato puree, slimized dough for chapattis, a carton of cream that’s about to burst and spray its contents all over everything else because of the gas gathering inside, half a boiled potato in a cute little container that was saved with the intention of making a quick after work chutney sandwich that got pushed to the back and has now turned ickily gooey. I am sure you get the picture and are well aware of what I am talking about.

/* Side note: If I was a super-mean human being,  I’d post a picture of any one of the gross things listed above and make you not feel like eating anything for the next few hours. But I am not- so you can continue planning your next meal. End Side note */

So in my SMART Kitchen, the fridge would never subject me to the horrors it subjects me to currently. Yes-one could argue- it is not the fridge’s fault. It is those who don’t really take good care of what’s inside’s fault. But we are not going to try to find someone to lay the blame on. Enough of it happens at work already. =:>)

So let’s figure out what the SMART kitchen’s super SMART Fridge would do for me. Here is a list of what I want it to do:

  1. As soon as an item is being put in the fridge, it tags the item ( using RFID technology and User Input )and stores the following information:
    1. Name
    2. Quantity
    3. Origin
    4. Potential expiry date
    5. Calorific Value

This information is available both locally at the fridge and on-line for user to browse through to plan the menu.

One may wonder about the need for storing item’s origin. It is a necessity when you start looking at leftovers like three slices large green pepper and jalapeno pan style pizza from Pizza Hut versus Papa John’s. If it’s from the HUT- there is always a jalapeno overload, so there is absolutely no need to get the Tabasco sauce out when reheating for a meal. However the good folks at Papa John’s believe in a distribution of about 3 little jalapeno rounds per slice and without the extra hot sauce- it isn’t really hot enough for a true blue heat lover like me. So origin is important. 

  1. As the expiry date of the food gets closer the fridge will try to reach its users by sending a message and posting a message about expiring food on the home message board. The message will highlight the items expiring soon and present viable recipe options categorized by taste category, effort required in getting it to the table, and calorific value. The recipe ideas will also make use of the items available in the SMART Pantry. (More about the Smart pantry in a later post.)  
  1. If a food has expired, the fridge will trash it and if the food container is recyclable- send it to the recycle bin, otherwise set it in the SMART Dishwasher (More about the Smart pantry in a later post.) A user override is available to disable trashing of specific foods (in my opinion, if one was glutton for punishment- and wanted to see the sliminess periodically, one could do this.)  
  1. The fridge also has the ability to organize food items into user requested groups. Some ideas for grouping foods are the state of food (eg: raw- almost cooked- ready to eat), cuisine type, nutrition category (mainly proteins, mainly carbs etc). And if I was serious about watching my weight, I could request the fridge to only show me food that’s good for me. As a result, the left over slices of pizza will no longer be either visible or accessible to me.  (I just read this food policing by the fridge idea out to K and now guess what’s for dinner- Four Cheese Pizza!)

 What do you think of the smart fridge?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dim Sum and Chai

While in California a few weeks ago, our friend M took us to a neighborhood Dim Sum Restaurant- Empress Harbor.

We fell in love with the concept of Dim Sum. I believe there weren’t any tables in the restaurant like ours- where there wasn’t a single person who knew exactly what was in the carts of food being taken around by cute little old ladies who spoke very little English. 

Along with the food there was this magic tea-pot with an endless supply of amazingly good hot tea. It was like no tea I had ever had before. It was deliciously earthy and refreshing. Drinking it out of the teeny little white porcelain cups added a ton to the flavor. We finished up three pots of it the first we were there (consequently there were quite a few restroom breaks- but like a dear friend likes to say- lets please only talk about inputs- not the outputs!)

 The next time K and I stopped by for a quick brunch, we drank up another couple of pots of tea. As we got out of there, we decided we needed to find out from them what was our new found favorite was. Notice how these ideas never come to us while we are at the restaurant. We need to be at least a half hour away before brilliance strikes. Before someone mentions “But you could always call”- please know that it didn’t seem like good idea for two very different reasons. Everyone we interacted with at the restaurant spoke very little English. More importantly, why would we throw away another opportunity to go back to Empress Harbor?

 So the night before we were to get back home from the heaven that is California* , we stopped by at Empress harbor again- this time to just ask them what was the tea and may be drink a little bit of it. However, that was not to be. They had a wedding party in progress there. The restaurant now had a lot of beautiful beautiful people with stick straight hair and lots of black and gold all around. We decided not to disrupt the proceedings and stopped by at another dim sum restaurant where we drank a substandard tepid pot of tea with tonnes of server-attitude thrown in for good measure for about 6 dollars a pot. That was the end of our tea exploration in California

Once we got home, K asked the Google Gods to tell us about the tea served at Dim sum restaurants. Bo-lay tea and Jasmine tea was what Google and chowhound said.

 A quick trip to our friendly Chinese Grocery Store  saw us come home with two boxes of tea bags. One was definitely for the non-traditional folks- seeing as it was called “the Chinese Restaurant Tea”. The other was called “Puer tea”. I know we could have gotten adventurous and brought home the loose leaves- but we decided to start with stuff that could be taken to work easily as that’s where we were going to drink tea for the most part. 

These teas make me think of mushrooms and the smell of the outside after rain. As a side note, green tea always makes me think of grass. I know, I need to learn to appreciate a lot more in tea flavors- but I had to let you know of my green tea and grass connection. 

The store bought Dim Sum teas took a little getting used to, as initially I found the flavor of a little too intense. Both K and I prefer the second or third mug of tea from the tea bag a lot more than the intense flavor from the first mug. We also dilute the first brew. K actually has the first brew ratio worked out. He keeps a quarter of a cup of hot water with his full cup of tea and mixes a little tea in the hot water at a time to enjoy the tea but not get overwhelmed by it.

So now you know all about what’s keeping both K and I warm at work!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hello, World!

Every year there are probably a few hundred blogs that start up in the first few days of the New Year.

I believe it is the updated version of "I shall exercise regularly starting today”. I don't know how many of the new bloggers who have resolved to vocalize their ideas live beyond the first few posts. I don’t know if I will either. But I definitely think I need to give it a whirl. I have a dead blog elsewhere but new year- new beginnings bring me here.

Yesterday night K and I were channel surfing and stopped at Food Network where they were showing Chefography. It was a show talking about the ladies on the network like Paula Deen and Rachel Ray and their rise to stardom. My thoughts jump from one to the other- and I thought may be- they should have a show for inept (in the kitchen) people like myself called something like Cook With Me. This would be a 30 minute show where they actually do a simple dinner at normal people pace (unlike Rachel Ray though she does sort have a similar concept). There'd be a section on the website with a shopping list and do ahead prep instructions and then when the show aired- the host/hostess would cook and clean up and have dinner ready in about 30 minutes. Of course there are downsides to a show like this. For example- how are you supposed to kill time when something is sizzling in the pan for 10 minutes- or the time where one is waiting for water to boil before throwing the rice in? I know airtime is precious and all. Perhaps they could do what I do- which is empty the dishwasher and may be take out the trash and separate the laundry in three piles- need to wash or have no delicates left- Whites and Colors. But then again- not sure how many people are going to be interested in watching this. So may be they could show music videos during this time. May be it should be an On-Demand kind of a cooking show. Hey I don't have all the answers just yet. So for now- I need to think a little bit harder I promise, we'll come back to this later.

 But this led me to think of at least starting a blog where I talk about food and food related activities- plan the menu for the week for us - shop according to the menu and then, cook in the evenings and report it. Oh yes, and I am trying to watch my weight and for my weight loss goal, I need to only eat about 1200 calories/day. So I’ll try to limit my meals to be about 350 – 500 calories. Also, K needs his 2000 calories a day so you will see creative distribution to ensure he gets his 700 calories/meal and I don't.

I know there are going to be days when I am going to be lazy and busy or both but at least I will give it a whirl. The worst case scenario is at the end of the year I will be yet another dead blog- but Hello, World for now!