Saturday, May 29, 2010

Summer Dinner Ideas

Summer Dinner

I have heard some really positive feedback from a few people about the recipes and food pictures I have posted. Thank you for that! Your comments and feedback are so great to hear and read; I really appreciate knowing that my creative endeavor, both with this blog and the stuff I post on it, is enjoyed by others.

Because I know you all love food as much as me, this post is about some of the dinners I’ve made lately. Nothing super crazy or exotic, just some good, basic food that turned out delicious.

First: Portobello Mushroom “burgers”

Okay, I know the photo doesn’t really look all that appealing, but trust me, these were quite tasty! I had never made Portobello mushrooms before, so I have to give a shout out to my friend Alison who gave me some tips.

This is what *I* did, so any errors or incorrect procedure is mine completely.

Take two Portobello mushroom caps and clean the gills out of the underside with a spoon. Place the cleaned caps into a bowl with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic and pepper. To that bowl add 1 red/orange/yellow bell pepper (seeds and membrane removed). Toss to coat.

Turn on your broiler to high heat. Place the mushrooms and the peppers on a baking sheet under the broiler for about 5 minutes, flip over and stir around the peppers. Broil for another 3-5 minutes, or until the peppers are starting to char a bit.

The rest of the recipe is adapted from another Cooking Light recipe. I took a thin bun and placed some raw cheddar goat cheese, the mushroom cap and half the peppers on one side and put the other bun on top. Place these back on the baking sheet. Put another heavy pan on top of the “burgers” and kinda smoosh them down. Leave the pan on there (I used another big broiler pan-you could use a cast iron skillet, too) and broil for another few minutes, flipping part way through, until they are heated through, cheese is melty and they look done.

Remove, careful of the hot pans, and ENJOY!!

Second: Marinated Pork Chops

Chris said these might have been the best pork chops he has ever eaten. Well, I don’t know about that, but they were pretty damn tasty. Remember, most of my measurements are approximate. I usually just toss some in there and mix it up. Season to YOUR taste!

2 boneless pork chops
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Pinch of dried rosemary

Place all ingredients in a zip top bag, close bag and shake around real good to mix everything up and coat the pork chops. Set aside while you make the rest of your dinner and prepare your grill. Periodically go shake up the bag a bit and flip it over to keep the marinade coating the meat.

We cooked these on the bbq, but you could broil or pan grill them, too. Cook 8-10 minutes per side, depending on thickness of chop and your preference on doneness. Pork should be white throughout and heated to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

I served this on a bed of red rice, with some crisp steamed green beans and a salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

As I said, Chris loved these, so they might be worth a try!

Third: Barbeque Chicken

This was a pretty tasty dinner, too. If I make it again I might add a little sweetness to the rub, maybe some brown sugar. The bad part about adding any kind of sugar to a rub is that sugar burns very easily on the grill, so adding sugar can be tricky.

Chicken Pieces (I used 4 drumsticks and 2 bone in chicken thighs, but you can use whatever)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon paprika
½ tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
Sprinkle of dried sage
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Place spices in zip top bag. Add chicken pieces (patted dry if you washed them or they are wet from defrosting-this helps the rub stick). Close bag and shake it around like crazy to coat the chicken pieces. Place the chicken pieces on a hot bbq grill, just off to the side of the heat so they don’t burn. Bone in chicken cooks better over an indirect heat to start with as this allows the chicken to cook through without burning the outside. Cook until the juices run clear. NO pink!

I used a store bought bbq sauce at the very end of cooking time. Take a little less than a tablespoon per piece of meat and mop or baste with the sauce. Cook a bit longer on the grill so the sauce kinda cooks on the chicken. Watch for burning! Most barbeque sauce has sugar in it, which again, burns quickly! After the glaze has kinda set, you are ready to eat!

Using both a rub and a sauce on the chicken gives them a bit deeper flavor seasoning, in my opinion. Otherwise, if you just use a sauce, once you eat the skin off, the rest of the chicken doesn’t have any of that yummy barbeque flavor. A rub helps that flavor permeate the meat a bit more and it sticks to, not only the skin, but the flesh underneath as well.

Of course, barbeque chicken is awesome with any summer side like grilled corn on the cob, baked beans, coleslaw or pasta or potato salad.

I hope you enjoy some of these dinner ideas! Let me know if you try them and how they turn out!

Garden Starts a Growin'

Garden Growin’

The weather the last week or so was very typical spring weather, cool and wet. Now it’s Memorial Day weekend and the skies have cleared, the sun is out and my garden is looking pretty happy!

We went a few days ago and purchased some more starts to plant. The basil and chives we planted with seeds in April never sprouted, neither did most of the acorn squash, and most of Chris’ peppers. So we decided to buy starts of those things and few others to fill up the rest of our boxes.

New additions to the garden: 3 varieties of basil, including lemon basil, chives, some new lettuces, edamame, purple cabbage, another acorn squash start, a whole bunch of pepper varieties, a watermelon, a cantaloupe, and a spaghetti squash. (I think that’s it!)

I planted the edamame in the same box with my corn, so I’m now calling that box the “Monsanto” box, due to evil Monsanto Corp. being the monopolistic producer of genetically modified corn and soy beans. Since my corn and soy are in one box…it’s the “Monsanto” box. ;-)

Everything we planted, with the exception of the watermelon, is looking good. The watermelon looks a little wilty. I hope it perks up. I went and messed with it a bit, but who knows?

I pulled the broccoli as it was just going to flower. We didn’t really get anything from that, I think we planted too late.

I spent some time the other day trimming some of the lettuce, harvesting some lettuce and radishes! Look at those beauties!

I also found a bunch of slugs trying to feast on my radishes and lettuce. So, I went and poked around through the lettuces and radishes and pulled the slugs off. Fun!

The potatoes have gotten huge! I have hilled the dirt up around them and, I guess, we continue to do that until they flower.

The potatoes are a pretty interesting experiment! As another experiment Chris wants to plant some garlic, so I might pick some up at the store this weekend.

We found a couple of nightcrawlers the other day so we tossed those in the garden to help with the soil.

We are not sure how our lemon is doing. A few weeks ago it had a zillion fragrant blooms, and then a bunch of little tiny lemons, but they look kinda black now. Not sure what happened or if that will perk up in the heat or what.

We are really enjoying our garden. We put a couple of chairs out there and spent about an hour out there tonight enjoying the sun, the plants and nice beverage. It is relaxing and peaceful.

As for the harvest, well, I figure we’ll either end up with so much stuff that we will be buried under produce, or we’ll end up with stuff not turning out. It’s a fun process for us anyway.

We are contemplating a few other fruit bearing plants as well, so I’ll keep you updated if we decide to do any of that.

Enjoy a few photos of the boxes just after planting the other day.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mead-Part Deux

Mead-Part Deux

Last time I gave you some history of mead, and told you about our initial recipe. We left off with the brew being placed in the initial fermentation container (carboy).

To refresh: the honey, water and yeast are blended together. The yeast feeds on the sugar in the honey, thereby causing fermentation. We did not add any additional nutrient to the mix. Nutrient helps the process go faster.

The brew was started on April 3, 2010. It was off-gassing at a rate of about 12-13 seconds, which means that the vapor lock would have a little bubble pop up every 12-13 seconds. This means that the fermentation process is happening.

After about 5 weeks in the original carboy, Chris decided it was time to transfer the “wort” to a secondary fermentation container (carboy). This carboy is a large glass jug. Sometimes, depending on the process, the wort may need to be transferred multiple times.

Here are some pictures of the process of getting the wort from the white bucket carboy to the clear glass carboy.

The glass carboy is, again, topped with a secure vapor lock to keep air and bacteria out of the mix. The wort has continued off-gassing at about 12-13 second intervals up until the last few days, when it has slowed to about 20 seconds between bubbles. The fermentation process is starting to slow down just a bit, which means it is almost ready for another transfer.

Mead is a brew that takes a long time to make. Unlike beer, which can be done in a few weeks, mead regularly will take several months to a year, to finish fermenting. The longer you leave it the clearer and crisper the color and flavor of the mead. So, we won’t be drinking any of this mead for quite some time.

However, we did take a tiny sample when we were doing the initial transfer. Wow…it was very tasty!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

How does your garden grow?

I thought I’d post a little garden update. It’s been just over a month since our first planting.

We have had some great success! Most things have sprouted at least a little bit, with a couple of exceptions, like the basil which has done nothing, and the chives, which have also done nothing.

A few things succumbed to the frost, one of the pepper starts, one of the tomatoes and two of the cucumber starts. One of the tomatoes and one of the pepper starts survived and are growing again.

Some stuff has gone crazy, especially in the last week or so with the warmer weather. The lettuce has gone bonkers and I have already clipped several colanders full and have used them for salads and on sandwiches. The lettuce from the garden is so fresh! It doesn’t taste anything like what comes from the store.

The cabbages and brussel sprouts have also taken off this week! They are getting big.

The radishes are going bonkers and the potatoes, I swear, grew like 4 inches overnight. I took these pictures on Sunday and today the potatoes are sticking over the top of the grid!

Sunday we did some re-planting and some additional planting. We replanted a tomato and some cucumbers. I also decided to get corn and bean starts, instead of using the seeds, so we planted those. I picked up some beet starts, too.

I re-seed planted some of the pickling cucumbers, the chives, some parsnips (one box has come up, the other-nothing). I planted some more radishes, too.

We have tiny little pepper sprouts starting, an acorn squash sprout is up, the peas are doing well. The onions have sprouted and I hope they do okay! I have lots of cilantro starts. I think the broccoli got in too late in the season, so it is trying to bolt and bloom.

I still have lots of space to plant, so am planning on planting another couple squares of carrots in another week or so. This will help give me a longer harvest time. I am thinking of getting a couple of melon starts and seeing how those do. I’m not sure what else, but so far we are having fun and enjoying ourselves!

Our lemon plant is living outside full time now. It doesn’t like the cold, so all spring we had been putting out during the sunny days and bringing it in at night. It went gangbusters a few weeks ago and was covered in little white flowers. They were soo fragrant! I could smell them throughout the house! Very tropical and sweet… Now most of the flowers are gone and there are a whole bunch of little tiny, baby lemons on there! Exciting! We shall see if we get any lemons to grow, maybe we can make lemonade.

That’s all from the garden for today! Check back for more garden updates!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spicy Meatloaf Burgers

Spicy Meatloaf Burger

Tonight’s dinner is my own creation. Yes, I do adapt recipes for my own use, and sometimes even create my own from scratch.

This recipe is adapted from my mother in law’s meatloaf recipe. It is a great meatloaf all on its own, but a few years ago I started mixing it up, adding various things to give it some different flavors. I would add barbeque sauce and some brown sugar to give it a barbeque smoky flavor. Or I would add Italian seasonings to give it a more Mediterranean flavor.

One of Chris’ favorite incarnations was when I added an ancho chili canned in adobo sauce to the meat mixture. This gave it, not only a smoky flavor, but also a nice kick of spicy!

Well, I wanted to make meatloaf for dinner this week, but it was so nice and warm out I didn’t really feel like making it in my oven. Meatloaf is such a comfort food, I typically think of it as a fall or winter food.

What to do? Well, I decided to make burgers with the meatloaf recipe! Genius! Here’s what I did:

1 lb lean ground beef
1 egg
½ cup quick cooking oatmeal
Couple squeezes of ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
A squeeze of mustard
A sprinkle of garlic powder (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1 ancho chili canned in adobo sauce, chopped
½ cup chopped onion
A sprinkle of ground cumin (to taste)

mix together. get your (clean) hands in there and mix and smoosh it all together! Form into patties.

Grill on a nice hot barbeque grill.

I also added a side of basmati rice. Cook the rice, 1 cup rice to two cups liquid. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until all liquid is gone. Add approximately ¼ cup chopped green onion and 1 small ancho chili in adobo sauce. Mix and serve.

Plus I had the most wonderful, delicious, fresh from my very own garden, salad! LOOK at all the greens I cut! And, there is a whole bunch more that is ready to be cut! My lettuces are doing so awesome!

I put the burgers on the last of the ww thin buns, with a smidge of mayo and some lettuce fresh from the garden. Oh wow….yum! The texture was like meatloaf, and the flavor was awesome!

Chris gave it a definite 5 stars (out of 5) and said we have to have that again.

So, our new summer “meatloaf” is Spicy Meatloaf Burgers!

Oh, one more thing. The ancho chili canned in adobo sauce definitely has some kick to it. I only use one out of the can. The rest I put in a sealed plastic container in the fridge. It keeps in there for a really long time. If you like your food really spicy, use two chili's! whew!


Mead-Part One

Mead: The Honeymoon Brew

Mead. Most people have never heard of it. In its simplest definition, Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from yeast fermented honey water. Sounds appetizing, no?

Mead is as old as history itself. Because of the simplicity of ingredients, the stability of honey (honey never spoils), and mead’s mythical properties of being an aphrodisiac and increasing the likelihood of giving birth to boy children, mead has been around for thousands of years. Mead is found throughout history in cultures around the globe, from the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Aztecs and Incas, and from the Vikings to the Australian Aborigines.

Mead is thought to have been used, not only as an alcoholic beverage for celebration, but also for medicinal purposes. Honey has antiseptic properties and different cultures would add various medicinal herbs to the mead to treat disease or infections.

Ah, but mead is a romantic beverage. Mead has been touted throughout these ancient histories as a drink that promotes pregnancy resulting in a boy child being born. Boy children were very important for the carrying on of the legacy and lineage of one’s family in ancient times. Also, many of these ancient cultures, like the Vikings, Greeks and Romans, were warring cultures and they needed boy children to continue to be able to go “aViking!” which is what the Vikings called it when they went and attacked and raided other cultures.

Back to the romance; before a man could get the woman pregnant with that healthy boy to carry on the family lineage, there had to be a wedding! After the wedding, and for one lunar month, the father of the bride would throw a feast and serve mead to the groom so that 9 months later a baby boy would be born. This lunar month of mead drinking, celebrating and feasting, is the origin of the “honeymoon”. Mead is a honey beverage provided after a wedding for a “moon” or month. Ah, romance!

Now that you know some history, don’t be expecting to run off to the local convenience store, bottle shop, brew store or pub and pick up some Mead. It just won’t happen. Mead is simply not made for mass production. Most people that have ever tried mead have home brewed it themselves, or like us, tasted it from a friend who home brewed. And, upon tasting the sweet honey brew of the ancients, people are hooked and have to brew their own!

That is what happened to Chris. A good friend, and coworker, of his made some mead. Chris was hanging out and playing Rock Band one night, when his friend broke out some home brew mead. It was mead flavored with ginger. Wow! What a flavor! What a punch! Oh, did I forget to mention that mead is pretty stout when it comes to the overall alcohol content? Yeah, it packs a punch! Well, after that, Chris was hooked and started talking about making his own home brew.

First he had to get the book: “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing” by Charlie Papazian. Then he had to get the tools, which included a brew making kit, a big huge pot, like a turkey frying pot, the cooking stand and honey. Oh yes, don’t forget the honey. For the recipe Chris is making he ended up needing a lot of honey. More on that in a minute.

Before we get into our recipe, there is some terminology to know. Straight yeast fermented honey water is just called mead, but if you add fruit to it, it is called melomel. If you add grapes to your melomel it becomes pyment. Adding herbs and spices makes it a metheglin. Apple juice with your honey creates cyser. For our first attempt at mead making we decided to go with similar mead to the one Chris’ friend home brewed.

Lemon Ginger Mead – April 3, 2010

12 lbs alfalfa honey
3 lbs clover honey
6 lemon tea bags
1/3 lb fresh ginger
1 slap pack of champagne yeast
distilled water

Yes, as you can see, 15 lbs of honey. That is a lot of honey.

First, Chris heated about 2 gallons of water and all 15 pounds of the honey until it came to a boil. This time, he boiled it for about ten minutes. There is some controversy whether boiling is necessary. Chris says next time he probably will skip this step.

Meanwhile, make a tea with the lemon tea bags and the grated ginger.

Add the boiled honey, the lemon-ginger tea, and enough additional water to a “carboy”, to equal 5 gallons of liquid. A carboy is a sealed container that is used for fermentation, aging and storage of the brew.

Then the liquid has to cool to about 70 degrees so the yeast can be added. The temperature cannot be too hot or the yeast, which is a living thing, will die. Once the yeast has been added, it becomes “wort”. The wort must be stirred for a couple of minutes to activate the yeast. Then the carboy is sealed and a vapor lock is installed. This ensures that no air or bacteria gets into the wort, but allows gasses to escape.

When the yeast starts eating the sugar, the wort starts off gassing. This can take about 24 hours to start. This particular mead, Chris did not add any additional nutrient to the mix. The nutrient assists the yeast in the fermentation process, which makes it happen more quickly. This particular mead will take longer to ferment because it does not have any nutrient added.

The wort stays in the carboy, preferably at a temperature of about 70 degrees, until fermentation is complete. This typically takes 2- 4 weeks.

This is the first stage in our mead making process! It has been exciting watching the vapor lock “blurp” little bubbles of gas as the fermentation occurs. It has steadily been “blurping” along at about 12-13 seconds per bubble, which is good consistent fermentation timing.

Check back for updates as our mead making journey continues!

Medford, Oregon

Medford, Oregon

This post is for my hubby.

This time last year, my life was pretty calm and normal. I had a house and a job and a car I liked, in a town I liked. I had friends and social activities and cultural events to go to. The city was pretty and within an hour or so I could be at a mountain, a river, a lake, or the ocean. A couple more hours and I could be in the desert or at Puget Sound. I was comfortable. Life was good, even in the midst of economic turmoil and hardship for many.

In the end of August last summer my husband was talking with a guy at work. Things with my husband’s company had gotten slower, like many companies, and the company wanted my husband’s coworker to take a job in Southern Oregon. His coworker was not happy about it and really, didn’t want to. The job was different than what he had been doing and would have required uprooting and moving 300 miles away.

During this conversation, Chris remarked that it didn’t seem like such a bad gig.

The next day, as the saying goes, Chris’ phone blew up! The office was calling him to find out if he was *really* interesting in the Southern Oregon job. I received a phone call at work (this was a Thursday) telling me that I should think about it. Huh? I should think about what? “Moving to Southern Oregon” was the reply. What?? Yeah Right. I have a life here!

About an hour or so later, he calls me again! Telling me that he has received more phone calls from the office and that I *REALLY* need to think about it. Uhm, excuse me. I can’t just decide to move to Southern Oregon on 15 minutes notice. I’ve never even been there for crying out loud! Oh, well to resolve that issue we took a road trip that very weekend. Hello Southern Oregon, Roseburg, Grants Pass, Central Point, Medford, East Medford, Phoenix, Talent, and Ashland. Chris had to convince me that there were actual stores, towns and people.

Fast forward a few weeks to find Chris living out of hotels in Southern Oregon, working his new route, and me at home getting the house in Tigard prepped to sell, telling my friends I’m leaving, and telling my boss that I’m leaving. It was a very emotionally trying time and also, very busy, with much work to be done. Chris would drive home on the weekends from Medford (about a 4.5 hour drive) to help me with the house and packing.

By mid-October, Chris was done living in hotels. He was tired of it and of driving back and forth every weekend. The house was prepped and it was time for me to move south. This was a scary time for me. I am not good with change, and I am not good with the unknown. I didn’t have a job, I was selling my car, and I was moving 300 miles away from all my friends. It’s a good thing I have Chris!

We found a house to rent short-term, made a couple of long haul moving trips so we had necessities and started our life here. It took a few months for the Tigard house to sell and another month or so to close on the house we bought here. But, by about the end of January, first of February, we were in our new house, our Tigard house was sold, and we were getting settled in Medford.

At this point, I still wasn’t convinced that this had been the best choice. I mentioned I don’t adapt to change well. I was very lonely. I didn’t know anyone; I didn’t know where anything was; it was not home.

Chris would ask me if I was happy periodically, and I would reply evasively with responses like “there are good things and there are bad things”. He knew I wasn’t 100%. He, on the other hand, LOVED it, almost immediately. We thought we were close to things before, HA! Here we are 10 minutes from a mountain hiking trail, and 45 minutes to the ski slope, we can be at the river in minutes, the ocean in a couple hours. The beaches are better, the weather is better and warmer, there is a dirt biking place close by, along with different car racing and go kart racing tracks, we live right by the airport, so Chris can watch airplanes and helicopters fly in and out all day long (which he loves!). Chris was happy with his job and the move and the house and everything, right away.

It has taken me a while (7 months), but I, too, am really starting to like it here. I love the weather. I love that we can go hiking, biking, and walking all the year around. I was going on walks in December and February because it wasn’t raining every damn second! We have gone on bike rides, a couple of hikes, we have gone fishing, and Chris has gone snowboarding. I have a patch of space behind my house that has a bunch of wild blackberries that I am looking forward to picking this summer. We could plant a huge garden that is going to get lots of sun and good growing weather.

Just in the last week or so, I have really started to realize that I like it here. I am happy here. I am glad we moved. Our lives, in so many ways, are improved and much simpler. We were able to go for a hike after work one night this last week because it’s less than 15 minutes away. We went for a bike ride because there are wonderful trails just a few blocks from our house. Maybe the change in attitude is because of spring time and sunshine. Maybe it is because enough time has passed and I have accepted and adapted to the change. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am happy we moved. I really like living here, I love my house, and I love how much more relaxing our lifestyle is. Of course, I miss my friends and Sushi Hana, but I am happy here in Medford with Chris. I am glad we decided to move and make the jump.

So there you go, honey. The answer to the question: Yes, I am happy here, with you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More Dinner Makin's

More Dinner Makin’s

Okay, so in addition to our Mudammes, we made one of our favorite dinners. Mediterranean Turkey Burgers, as adapted from Cooking Light magazine.

Tangent: I really like Cooking Light. They have a lot of good recipes that are relatively easy, quick and full of flavor. I hardly ever find something in Cooking Light that I am disappointed with when I make it. I also like that the calorie counts and nutrition info is on every recipe, so even if they have a dessert or something I can easily see if it is something I can fit into my eating plan for that day or week, or if it will need to wait for another time. Many of their recipes are in the 300-400 calorie range, so perfect for someone like me that needs to stay within a 1200-1500 calorie range most days.

Anyway, Mediterranean Turkey Burgers are O M G good! I, of course, make them a little different every time, and some ways turn out better than others, but they are still magically delicious!

Start out with a pound of turkey. I buy the leanest turkey I can find, which does tend to be a bit drier when cooked than a higher fat content turkey, but in this recipe it hardly matters. Then to the turkey add:

½ cup panko bread crumbs
Couple tablespoons diced red onion (optional, if I have it great, if not, no biggie)
Four or five green or variety olives, chopped (also optional, they add awesome flavor, but no biggie if you don’t have them)
Couple teaspoons, or to taste, minced garlic
¼ cup feta cheese (I accidentally bought gorgonzola this last time, which is a little strong for my taste, but still delicious)
A couple tablespoons, or more, of homemade or store bought pesto. I use more and typically make homemade: just basil, garlic and olive oil in the food processor until smooth.

Add all this delicious goodness to the turkey and mix together.

Just use your (clean) hands and get in there and mix and smoosh it all together.

Once you have the smooshed turkey, form it into patties, round or oval depending on what you are serving the turkey patty on,

and then toss them on a hot grill or broil. I don’t know how long… 10 minutes or so, just until they are looking golden brown on the outside, are cooked through and the juices are clear. Don’t overcook them! They will be very dry if you do that.

Now in the past we have served this in a whole wheat pita with some mixed greens and tzatziki (homemade) sauce. They are very good this way, however, the pita sometimes falls apart, which I find annoying. Also, if you are using a pita it helps if you create the turkey patties in an oval shape, rather than round.

This time we bought some of those thin buns, the hamburger buns that are thinner than sandwich bread. I made homemade tzatziki sauce with 1 cup of Greek yogurt and ¼ cup finely diced cucumber with a small dash of cayenne pepper. Spread the tzatziki on the bun, add the turkey burger, and top with mixed greens, or this time I used arugula.

Eat and enjoy!

Foul Mudammes

Have I mentioned that I love to cook?

Well, I love to cook. And, I am a darn good cook, too. Just ask my husband, or any number of people I have fed over the years. Good cooking runs in the family genes. I have good cooks on both sides of my family. Plus I am a Cancer Crab, and one of our personality traits is the want to nurture and care for others. In me, this manifests itself in cooking! Food is love people! My brother is also a very good cook, so it’s not just the women that are blessed with this good cookin’ gene.

Actually, I think my brother is a more creative or inventive cook than I am. I think he is much more willing to try something out of the ordinary, whereas I like to try new recipes, but I don’t like to do anything that I feel is too complicated or where the ingredients might be too hard to source. So, in that way maybe I’m a lazy, good cook. HA!

My darling husband, Chris, can be a good cook, but only stuff that HE wants to cook. He likes to cook on the barbeque grill, or he likes to smoke things, and he is far superior to me in cooking fried eggs over medium. I have no idea WHY, but I am unable to cook a decent fried egg, over medium. I try all the time, but if you want your eggs over medium, you should just have Chris make them for you.

Chris also is an adventurous cook, like my brother. Chris has made things over the years that I would never have attempted. One time he made absolutely delicious Cambodian meat skewers with a lemongrass marinade? Oh my gosh…so yummy! Time consuming though, and not something I would have undertaken.

Chris has been wanting to make Foul Mudammes, an Egyptian dip somewhat like Hummus except made with fava beans. You know, fava beans, as in the famous line by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, “I’ll have some fava beans and a nice Chianti” or whatever it is he says. The problem has been finding the fava beans. We have looked and looked at multiple stores (I would have given up long ago…the difference between being a lazy cook and an experimenting cook!) when finally we found some fresh fava beans. $6 bucks for two little packages of beans!

Fava beans look like an overgrown green bean, with a thick pod that is cottony on the inside. First we had to shell the beans from the pod. Then we cooked the beans, with a small potato, until the beans were soft.

Then we had to shell the beans, again. They have another hard fibrous shell around each individual bean. Apparently fava beans are very concerned about a nuclear attack or something. After multiple shelling sessions, we ended up with this:

That’s about a cup of cooked, peeled fava beans. Huh. That was a lot of work already (says the lazy cook)!

After the beans are cooked, we sautéed some onions

and garlic and tomatoes until they were all soft and the tomatoes were getting mushy.

Then we added the cooked fava beans, the potato, and seasonings: cumin, cinnamon, curry power, chili powder, and turmeric to the mix along with some lemon juice.

This cooks for about 15 or 20 minutes to mush everything up a bit more and blend the flavors. At this point it starts to smell amazingly good! Then it all goes into the blender. Whir!

The final product looks like this and is so delicious.

We served it with heated, store-bought naan bread, brushed lightly with olive oil.

As you can see, it made quite a bit, and we ate all the naan bread up and a good amount of the dip.

I’m glad Chris is an adventurous cook otherwise I would not have been able to enjoy this delicious dip. This is something he wanted to make that we cooked together, and it turned out to be very easy, outside of the tedious shelling of the beans. We have found a solution to the tedious shelling, though! While grocery shopping yesterday I located dried fava beans sold by Bob’s Red Mill. They are already shelled and ready to cook!

A side benefit of the Mudammes is that it is a relatively healthy dipping option, excluding the bread. It has good fats of olive oil, good spices, onions, garlic tomatoes and beans. Not a lot to make it a heavy calorie dip.

Egyptian Foul Mudammes is definitely something we will be making again.

Garden Update :(

Garden Update :(

Well my friends, I have some bad news about my garden.

We had four days of frost in a row, in MAY!

This is what frost does to sensitive little plants, like cucumbers, pepper and tomatoes:

So sad and pathetic looking…..

But, the news is not all bad!

Other crops are not affected by the cold, like my lettuces! They actually seem to like it and are thriving! So much so, that I was able to clip my first harvest! Less than one month after planting I was able to make myself a beautiful garden fresh salad with my own, home grown lettuces!

Isn’t it beautiful!?!

It was so delicious. Nutritionist foodie people always say that fruits and vegetables start to lose their nutrients from the moment they are harvested. I would believe it, just based on the amazing flavor packed into those little leaves versus what is found in the stores!

I added a few things to make my salad a little more substantial, but overall it was a delicious lunch and a great way to start my garden harvesting!

As for the frost burned items, it is likely that we will do a replant next weekend. We should be past frost danger at that point.

In other positive garden news, we have sprouts of the onions, cilantro, dill, some pickling cucumbers (though some of them got frosted, too), carrots, parsnips and the potatoes look like they are doing something!

I bought corn seeds and some bush bean seeds and will likely plant those next weekend as well.

All the other starts we planted seem to be doing quite well. They look hardy and happy!

More updates on the garden will come along as things progress.

Cleanse Complete! Whew!

Cleanse Complete!

Well, I finished up my Spring Cleanse Thursday night. I ended up having just enough drops to make it through the last day, but barely.

For me, as I’ve said, cleansing is about removing toxins from the body, but also it is away to refocus my eating habits. I try to eat a fairly healthy diet, most of the time. Some days I do better than others. Sometimes I eat too much and sometimes I eat just right.

This is a journey for me. Sometimes it is a struggle because I really enjoy food, and I really enjoy cooking, so trying to keep my eating habits in check can be a challenge. Over the past few years I have learned a lot about food and about what is and is not healthy, what is and is not good food advice, and I’ve learned a lot about myself.

Completing a cleanse for me is a way to take the good information I have about food, about health and nutrition and vitality, and refocus my energy and get my diet in better balance. It is interesting how easy it is to veer off course of healthy eating. Bad food and non-food is everywhere, and it’s cheap and it tastes good! But it is so bad for our bodies. One of my main motivations for eating healthy is that I do not want to battle Western Metabolic Disorder diseases. You know the diseases that anyone eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) suffers with. Things like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cancers. More and more research supports the fact the mental disease, bipolar, depression, ADD/ADHD in children and even diseases on the autism spectrum, are in direct relation to the chemicals and processed corn and soy products that are in the food we consume every day.

I, for one, do not feel that it is necessary for me to give up my right to a healthy life to the food conglomerates that don’t care about whether I’m healthy or not, they only care about the dollars in their pockets. So, I choose, more often than not, to avoid their non-food, in an effort to protect myself from debilitating disease.

Side effects of healthy eating include more energy, weight loss and natural body weight maintenance, better mind acuity, clearer skin, and no medications!

This time around, my cleanse did all of the things I hoped it would do. I lost a few pounds, my skin is clearer, my mind feels sharp and my energy level is up. I am incorporating more activity into my every day. I am looking for ways to be more active. Take the stairs; walk from the back of the parking lot, all that stuff.

Most importantly, my food is clean, healthy and natural. I am back on track. I am eating good food, in good portions and I am feeling better every day. I think most people who eat a SAD would be shocked to realize how much better than can feel if they really, truly ate a clean and healthy diet.

At any rate, my spring cleanse is over. I feel good and happy. And, I’m glad to be able to eat eggs again! I missed eggs.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cleanse Day 12- Food Diary

Cleanse Day 12

12 down, 2 to go!

I fear that I am going to run out tomorrow of the Red Clover drops. I will probably have enough for the morning, but unlikely to make the afternoon. I’m going to stick with the program through end of Thursday (Day 14) regardless. If I’m really lucky, the set I ordered from will show up tomorrow and all will be well.

I thought I would take the opportunity to share an entire day’s worth of food. This is somewhat typical, but as you have seen in earlier posts, many days we had fish for dinner. I was getting tired of fish, so decided I would mix up my dinners a little bit and get my protein from beans and grains instead. I have salmon defrosting for tomorrow night, and likely will have salad and Chinese peas to go with it.

Dinner is always the biggest “planning meal” of the day because I need to feed Chris, too. The rest of my meals are pretty simple because I don’t have to be concerned about making sure he has enough food, or making sure it is something he will like or eat. Although, I must say that he is not a picky eater and would pretty much eat whatever.

I have made separate dinners the last two nights for him. This is what Chris' dinner looked like from Sunday night:

My dinner from Sunday night:

Today’s Food (a photo collection)

Juice: 5 kale leaves, 2 carrots, 2 celery, 1 lemon, 1 apple, 1 cucumber, 1 beet

As you can see, the beat really changes the color of the juice! Very tasty!

Lunch: 1 orange, 1 large banana, 10 strawberries, sliced and mixed

So pretty and so yum!

I didn’t eat all of this at lunch, so had the rest for a snack after school.

Followed by: quinoa and kidney beans.

The quinoa was leftover from earlier in the week. I just mixed some kidney beans and warmed it in the microwave.

Later: finished the rest of my juice from this morning and then had some Miso.

I was hungry this afternoon. The juice and fruit from the morning had worked well until about 3:30 or so, after I was done at the gym.

Dinner: The last of the leftover quinoa with some more kidney beans, broccoli and coleslaw.

The coleslaw is just the bagged kind you buy at the store with no dressing. I added sliced fennel (LOVE fennel!), red bell pepper and a purple radish. No dressing. It is so flavorful all on its own!

I’m finishing up my day with some nice warm tea.

That’s it. That is my food journal for the day. As you can see, there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, a small amount of grains and little bit of protein. Some days are higher on the protein, less on the veggies, but this is a pretty reasonable representation of the type of food I’ve been eating the past two weeks, along with stuff I’ve posted previously.

Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow and that would normally mean a lovely Mexican dinner and margaritas, but I’m sticking with my plan and eating my good food. This weekend I might make some enchiladas or something to celebrate.

I haven’t really missed anything too much the last couple of weeks. I feel really good and that is a great motivator, plus I’ve been sleeping really well. There have been a couple times that I have wanted something like cheese, or eggs or just some protein other than fish. What I have really been wanting though is sushi! Man I miss my Sushi Hana restaurant! So far, I haven’t found a good, cheap, easy sushi restaurant here in Medford.

But, I have not been craving bread or sugar. I think that is awesome for me, because I really use bread a lot for quick snacks and meals.

One of the big keys for me though, in avoiding the food I don’t want to eat, whether it’s now while I’m cleansing, or just in general, is having the good stuff on hand and readily available. For example tonight, I was getting pretty hungry feeling, and it was still a while till dinner. I was wandering around in the kitchen…just…you know…looking. I was also feeling a little cold so I didn’t want to eat cold veggies. Then I remembered the Miso. Perfect! 50 calories, 2 minutes to heat the water and voila! Quick, tasty, appropriate, and healthy and it filled me up.

Having the right stuff, the good stuff, on hand, ready to go, is critical for me.

I’ll wrap up the cleanse Thursday night and post some overall thoughts after that.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spring Cleanse Day 10

Over halfway done!

Cleansing is a way to detoxify the body from chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday lives. We are exposed to chemicals and toxins in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the products we use to wash our clothes, homes and bodies. Cleansing or detoxing is a way for me to use natural herbal supplements to help remove these toxins from my cells.

A lot of people are skeptical about cleansing, and there are a lot of wacky cleansing/detox programs out there. If you are looking at doing a cleanse you can do a quick Google search on the word “cleanse” and come up with 10,300,000 results in 0.17 seconds. That is a lot of cleansing! It seems that every health food store, drugstore, and celebrity has their own version of cleanse or detox available.

Many people have heard of the Master Cleanse, which is a very restrictive cleansing program. I know it entails lemons, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and not a lot (if any?) food. This is not an acceptable way to cleanse. Personally, cleansing is about nourishing and restoring health and vitality to the body, not creating more stress to the system by starvation and burning your colon!

As I said earlier, I am using the Supreme Cleanse by Gaia, as it was recommended to me by a naturopath physician. I have had great success with this product in the past. The fact that it allows me to eat real food on a regular basis and does not have the side effects of other cleanses is a major plus. (Some cleanses are pretty harsh on the system and they cause a significant increase in elimination of wastes from the body-read: lots of time in the bathroom.)

The Gaia package supports two full weeks of cleansing, but there is enough left over to do almost another two full weeks. Almost. The cleanse package that I am using this time is my second time using this package. So, as I’m getting to the later stages of my 14 day cleanse, it appears that I am getting low on a couple of the drops. As I went to the internet to purchase more (there are no local suppliers to purchase from) I see that Gaia has done us all a favor! They have changed their program to be liquid capsules instead of various drops, and they have changed the regimen so that the capsules only need to be taken twice a day, rather than the drops which were taken multiple times a day! YAY! This will be so much more convenient! I ordered from because they had a very reasonable price of about $29.99. I hope it gets here before I run out so I can finish my full 14 days.

What else is going on? Well the cleanse itself has been going well. By day 8, I was getting tired of eating the same stuff (veggies, salads, fish), and was fantasizing about what I was going to have for dinner this coming Friday, when I am no longer cleansing! And let me tell you, the things I was thinking of were NOT healthy! But by day 9 I was over that, and going along on track.

I have been exercising regularly, sleeping very well, and feel just generally “lighter” in my insides. It’s a hard thing to describe, but I can certainly tell that the cleanse is working and that I am less bloated, and again, my insides just feel “lighter”.

I had a smoothy of frozen blackberries, organic strawberries and a banana for lunch the other day. I just add a little water to the fruit to get the right consistency.

You can see how much this made.

I also have been making my green juice. I start out with something like this:

and end up with something like this:

This usually makes about 2 ½ glasses of this size

So today is day 10, I have to finish today and have 4 more to go. I have been dairy, wheat, sugar, alcohol, coffee, caffeine, meat, nut, and processed food free for 10 days (13 days for the coffee). I find it to be interesting how easy it is to avoid these foods when I have the added incentive of being on the cleanse, but if I were not on the cleanse, avoiding all these foods would seem very difficult. Interesting how our brains work, eh?

Chris has been a trooper. He has been getting lots of fish and veggie dinners through this process. It’s a good thing he likes fish! I have made him other things and I have just had salad and veg on those nights. It’s a good compromise.

Plus, he is the bestest boyfriend in the world because today he made ME breakfast!

Orange, pineapple, banana smoothy with ice. YUM!!