The Lowly Cauliflower

Cauliflower is one my favorite vegetables. I like them raw, roasted, steamed, sautéed and boiled. They are good in soups, stews, chili, gratin, on the side, or as a main. They are delicious! They are high in Vitamin C and have a good percentage of Vitamin K too.

My favorite way to eat them is to gently steam them, toss them into a  hot sauté pan with butter and let them caramelize until they are a light golden brown. Served with toasted pine nuts and sprinkled with parsley,salt and pepper, they make a great dish for any reason whatsoever.

If you are a little skeptical and haven’t made friends with the lowly cauliflower yet, try using some of these seasonings: paprika, red pepper flakes, thyme, taco seasoning, sea salt and of course, butter. Everything tastes better with butter.

Enjoy!

The Lure of Good Food

I had this steaming plate of goodness at lunch a couple of weeks ago with my family, and I find myself craving exactly what is pictured here at 5:30am. The lure of good food doesn’t just begin with a craving and end with a satiated stomach, but it beckons us to share it with friends and family.

There’s almost nothing more I like than sitting down with somebody who appreciates good food as much as I do. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be good: a soft pear poached in red wine, butter and sugar; parmesan curls floating on slices of apple and drizzled with agave; a rustic potato tart with cream, butter and nutmeg.

I’ve heard the worst news over an apple martini, and shared the best news over cinnamon rolls. I’ve shared a meal with perfect strangers, the meal itself serving as an ice breaker. Food memories are how I mark many of my most meaningful experiences.

The lure of good food for me is about bringing everything into focus: the ambience, the person I’m with, the conversation, the view, the laughter.

What is your most recent food memory?

Le Grand Bistro Americain

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of shopping and dining with a good friend. Another friend of mine took some amazing photos of her lunch at Le Grande Bistro Americain, and because of those mouth-watering photos, I was looking for an excuse to go.

Overlooking Lake Washington, the Bistro is casual but elegant, making you feel welcomed and comforted. The hostess was the sweetest woman who made you feel like you were dining in her country kitchen in a village in France. I even asked her if this was her restaurant, because I could feel her passion for the place and the people. I can’t remember the last restaurant employee who took that kind of responsibility.

And then there was the food. That photo above is of seared Steelhead with sweet peppers and green bean medley, swimming in sweet pepper puree, and a dollop of micro greens. I continue to think about this meal and taste it, sort of, when I’m hungry or find myself near the restaurant, like today.

The salmon was cooked perfectly with a seasoned crust and soft, flakey texture on the inside. The beans were vibrant still encased in bright green and yellow with a crunch, but not too crunchy. The roasted pepper puree coated my mouth with a zesty flavor and a sweet punch.

It took me forever to finish this meal, because I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to lick the plate, but I thought it would be rude and reveal my rustic attitude about cooking, food and dining.

I get to go to the Bistro again with some friends for Dine Around Seattle month, where patrons can get three courses for $15 at lunch, or $30 for dinner. I’m looking so forward to it!

Black Sea Salt

I have not been this excited about an ingredient in a long time: Black Sea Salt.

Yes I know, it’s just a finishing salt, an embellishment, frivolous even, but I grew enamored with it while standing in front of the checkout line at Sur La Table in Kirkland, WA.

This sea salt is made black by the addition of activated charcoal, said to reduce impurities. Charcoal is made when wood is burned in the absence of oxygen. When charcoal is activated, the oxygen is added back to charcoal, opening up a zillion (I exaggerate) pores. These pores, or bonding sites, adsorb (no, I didn’t spell that wrong) certain impurities.

It is similar to the charcoal filter found in water pitchers like Brita. The impurities passing near the activated charcoal accumulate on one of the bonding sites. The word adsorb, means accumulation on a surface, instead of absorb, to be taken into another surface. This is why your Brita filter needs changing. Once all of the bonding sites have impurities accumulating on the surface, there is nothing else to adsorb the impurities. Go change your filter!

The Black Sea Salt isn’t going to significantly reduce impurities inside your body, however, but it will be an interesting addition to certain food. Last week I made Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies, and I think the addition of this black salt will be just… fun.

And fun is sometimes what we need to take the edge off of a long day. Why not have fun in the kitchen, embellish that snickerdoodle, salt those caramels, glitter those meringues, with edible glitter of course.

You get the idea. Have fun!

Salted Caramel Thumbprints

I had the privilege of having lunch with a good friend today. Our friendship runs deep, solidified by our love of food and eating.

Those cookies were made by her and given to me for dessert! I can’t wait to make these sinful yet delicious little cookies from Martha Stewart.

Friends don’t let friends miss out on yummy food!


And then there was just 1…

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Easy Miso Dressing

I’ve never made homemade miso anything before. Miso, along with green tea ice cream, seem like an elite class of oriental concoctions better left to the experts in restaurants. Besides, where would you find the ingredients, and summon the skills needed to make something amazing out of something so mysterious?

Enter, Gwyneth Paltrow. I have to admit I was skeptical about her cookbook when it came out. I mean she’s an actress, no wait, she’s a singer, no wait, she’s a cookbook author…what? But I really do like it. The photos, the layout, the variations, the guides, and the food is really good too.

This is her miso dressing, and it is very versatile and really yummy. Give it a try, and share. Put it in a mason jar with a pretty bow and give it to a friend.

MISO DRESSING (via My Father’s Daughter cookbook, page 68)

  • 1/3 cup peeled and roughly diced Vidalia onion
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white miso (find this with ricotta at your store)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce (I use Tamari)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (sweet vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Large pinch kosher salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

METHOD

Buzz everything but the oil in a blender until smooth. With the blender running, stream in the oil. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed. Eat, share, repeat.

How to Start Juicing

It was a spontaneous dinner out with friends, and the conversation, as usually happens between farmers and people who love to cook, ended up  on the subject of food…juicing to be exact.

Our friends had watched a documentary: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (see the sidebar), and were intrigued by the concepts set forth in the documentary. Namely, that one could lose weight, eliminate nearly all medications, and lead a healthy lifestyle by rebooting the body with juice.

Not the kind of juice you buy at the store. The kind that you get from say, extracting juice from carrots, or swiss chard, or turnips.

I was introduced to this concept about 10 years ago by some diehard friends, who juiced carrots everyday. Always excited to try something new, I went and bought a juicer. The phase didn’t last long. I was in my twenties, felt healthy, and climbing the corporate ladder. I didn’t have a lot of extra time ( or patience) to clean all the pieces.

Flash forward a few years, and I can’t sleep. I find myself watching a Jack Lalanne informercial about his new juicer. The opening was wider, and seemed powerful enough to juice anything I decided to throw at it, and looked easy to clean. So, one day at Costco, I bought one.

It has been sitting on our counter ever since, and until recently, only got played with in fits and starts. That is, until about a month ago, when we decided to watch the documentary, and tried the 30-day juicing challenge for ourselves.

We didn’t cut out food completely, like they did in the documentary. I like to cook too much for that. If there’s not something sizzling or roasting, I go into a panic. What we decided to do, was cut out the unhealthy things we were eating, and just add the juice to our daily routine. Our first recipe went like this:

  • 2 turnips
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 kale leaves
  • 2 swiss chard leaves
  • 1/2 beet
  • 1 apple
  • 1 pear
  • a squeeze of lemon

That was it. It tasted good because of the naturally sweet fruit, and allowed us to keep going for 3o days. I have to tell you that I was in it for purely superficial reasons: more energy and less wrinkles. There, I said it.

What I found was that I complained a lot about cleaning the darn thing. I decided to time myself, and it ended up being only 4 minutes. Only 4 minutes for a zillion natural enzymes, vitamins and minerals I wasn’t getting otherwise. I lost weight, the kind that sneaks up in places you aren’t expecting, and I felt better. I didn’t have the energy of a 21-year-old, but often it was the only thing I had before going to the gym, and I was able to do as well or better during my workouts.

My recommendation is to start off small. Take 5 days, or 7. Start with a few veggies and some fruit, until you get used to doing almost all veggies (I still need to throw in a pear for good measure).

And, if you want to feel like a rockstar mom…make some juice for your kids and add 1 kale leaf to start. They won’t even know it’s in there, and they might even thank you for it. Keep adding more green things as they’ll tolerate it.

Watch the documentary on Netflix, and take the 30-day challenge at http://jointhereboot.com/ It just might change your habits, and help with your resolutions!

Time to make some juice!

Rustic Shortbread

This is another easy recipe from my friend Karla! She finds the best recipes, and I have several from her. I’m thinking about making a “Karla” section in my recipe box.

This recipe comes from the book, The 150 Best American Recipes: Indispensable Dishes from Legendary Chefs and Undiscovered Cooks (150 Best Recipes) and is super easy and versatile. I hope you love it as much as I did. Make a batch and share it with friends.

RUSTIC ROSEMARY AND PINE NUT SHORTBREAD (adapted from The 150 Best American Recipes cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted for 30-45 seconds in hot pan
  • 1 stick (8 Tb. butter) cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar (more for sprinkling)
  • 1 Tb. rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup flour

Method

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat
  • Add sugar, rosemary and pine nuts
  • Then stir in flour to make a stiff dough
  • Spread into an ungreased  8×8 inch pan
  • Bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven
  • Cool on wire rack for a couple of minutes
  • Cut into bars or squares while in the pan
  • Cool for 10 minutes more
  • Sprinkle with confectioners sugar
  • Remove, eat, enjoy, repeat!

You can tell by the photo, that I didn’t follow the directions for making bars or squares. I was in a hurry (imagine that) and when I took my shortbread out of the oven, they actually had to sit for about an hour. By the time I got around to them, they had stiffened (plus, I baked them a little longer than I should have), and when I went to cut them, they crumbled slightly. So I decided to make them rustic by breaking them into pieces, and sprinkling them with confectioners sugar. They didn’t look perfect, but tasted great, and I’m going to make more today.

Raw Appetizer Cones

My husband was out of town this past weekend, so what is a girl to do but Pin favorite things on Pinterest and then cook them! I found a new favorite website called Golubka showcasing how to make raw food, even donuts. Yes, I said donuts…raw. I love that.

The recipe for these raw cones caught my eye, though. A few months ago I had an event and couldn’t figure out how to make a salad guests could hold. This would have been the ticket, and it will be next time. Of course, I didn’t have all the ingredients, and because I was so excited, I opted to use what I had on hand rather than go to the store. So the following is my improvised version.

Next time, for my kids, I’ll add more fruit to make them sweeter.  Here’s a link to Golubka’s recipe. I followed her careful instructions, and can’t wait to make more.

RAW KIWI COCONUT APPETIZER CONES

*You will need a food dehydrator for this recipes, as with most raw recipes

  • 3 cups kiwi, peeled and chopped (I had 2 cups of kiwi, and 1 cup of oranges)
  • 1/2 the juice of a freshly squeezed orange
  • Meat of 1 Thai coconut, reserve the water from the coconut
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 3/4 flax seed, ground (I just had regular flax seed, and ground them in a coffee grinder
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (I’m going to grind these with the flax seed next time)
  • 1 handful of parsley

Place all the ingredients in a Vitamix blender, or a food processor. You will start to see a paste come together. If the mixture looks like it needs some liquid to help it blend more, add a drizzle of the reserved coconut water until everything looks mixed together.

Take the mixture and spread it out onto dehydrator sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Try to make it smooth, but as you can tell from the picture, I still had some bumps throughout. No biggie. Dehydrate for 3 or 4 hours. I used two dehydrator sheets, and put them in the dehydrator for 4 hours. One was thicker than the other, so it had to go another 30 minutes or so.

Take them off the sheets, and cut them in half lengthwise and crosswise. Using a round dehydrator allows you to make a perfect cone after cutting, because the bottom is going to be smaller than the top. You will get 4 cones per sheet.

At this point, roll up the cones, and dehydrate them longer if you need to. Most of my cones were pliable and easily rolled into a cone. Pinch the bottom of the cone with the reserved coconut water, so all of your ingredients don’t fall out. If your cones fall, put them back in the dehydrator for 15 more minutes, until they stay rounded on their own. I couldn’t do this in my dehydrator because of the way it stacks, but like I said, for the most part they all rolled and stayed. You can put them in the oven, but baking above 118 degrees destroys the enzymes, and preserving the enzymes is why you are cooking raw. But it is an option.

Now you are ready to fill these adorable cones, you’ve slaved over for nearly 5 hours!

EASY MANGO SALAD

  • 2 mangos, peeled and julienned (next time I’m going to chop them)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 mangos
  • Slivered red onion
  • 1 handful parsley
  • Juice of one freshly squeezed lime

Take the julienned mangoes and sprinkle with salt in a glass bowl. Blend the other 2 mangoes with the parsley and squeeze the lime juice in the blender until it comes together. Mix this dressing with the reserved mangoes in the glass dish, and fill up your cones. It sounds time consuming and fussy as I’m writing all of this down, but do it on the weekend if you have a long stretch of time. If anything, you will have tried something new, and that’s always a good thing! Enjoy!

Healthy Hash Browns

I first experienced a form of these hash browns on Orcas Island,WA at a bed and breakfast called Cayou Cove. When my husband and I got home, the first thing I did was email the owners and ask (beg) for the recipe so I could duplicate them at home, which is impossible.

Maybe it’s because I’m not on vacation, and therefore have to serve myself and hungry family members, instead of being served by a smiling B&B owner who loves nothing more than to bring in a beautiful tray of heavenly food to her guests. But even though food always tastes better when someone else is serving, I’ve been making my version of Cayou Cove’s hash browns ever since.

Today I decided to bake them in ramekins instead of frying. I learned from watching a documentary that 500 calories of oil barely fills up the lower portion of your belly, while 500 calories of raw vegetables nearly fills it right up. One is the healthier option and one is not. You decide.

So I modified the recipe slightly, and set about cooking them my way. I think this option is slightly healthier. I say slightly for one good reason: a tiny pat of sinful butter during the last 10 minutes of cooking. What’re ya gonna do?

First, you have to peel, shred and soak the potatoes in a large bowl of ice water before you get started on anything else. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes.

Healthy Hash Browns (adapted from Cayou Cove)- from today, which I’ll be modifying soon. Makes 6 light-portion hash browns

  • 1 large russet potato
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tb. flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tb. of chopped parsley
  • Minced shallot to taste – 1 Tb.

After the potatoes finish with their soak, squeeze them by handfuls to get rid of the water. Place squeezed handfuls on top of a paper towel. When you’re done extracting all the water, place in a large mixing bowl.

Mix the eggs, flour, salt, pepper and shallot together and add them to the potatoes. Give them a stir ( I use my hands) to make sure all is incorporated. Now you are ready to fill the ramekins. Just make sure you’ve buttered and floured the ramekins so the hash browns don’t stick.

Earlier I said I was going to modify the recipe. I think I’ll use 2 potatoes instead of 1. I’d like to make them twice as thick, but for portion control, I did like the size. Although I ate 3, so my strategy didn’t work very well today. What’re ya gonna do?

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, and then…here is where they become slightly less healthy…

Those little sinful pats of butter. But they are really small, they barely even count. I think.

Put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Pop them out of the ramekins and enjoy!

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