Thursday, September 17, 2015

Craving Cured Meats for Oktoberfest

With Oktoberfest just around the corner, I find myself craving cured meats even more than usual.

Funny story: When I moved to Germany in 1997, I was actually a vegetarian (or flexitarian, as my in-laws would call it since Mom refused to believe that chicken broth or fish were truly vegetarian). But before I even moved, I decided that in order to fully experience Bavaria, I would have to give up my vegarianism. After dozens of Weisswurst, Bratwurst, Currywurst and Rostbratwurst, not to mention also discovering liverwurst and other creamed meats, I never looked back.

The above photo is not actually from Germany, because, well, it was 1997. But if ever you want two glorious pounds of housemade German sausages in Seattle, Rheinhaus on Capitol Hill will certainly whet your craving (although I would be remiss to not also mention Bavarian Meats at Pike Place Market, I just don't have a picture of their extremely authentic selection).

Despite my love of cured meats, I still haven't taught myself how to make sausages. But I did make a delicious dish with prosciutto last night that calmed my craving for the night.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken with Potatoes and Artichokes
1-1/2 pounds fingerling or new potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 chicken thighs
8 slices prosciutto
8-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
2 cloves garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss potatoes with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then roast for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wrap each chicken thigh in a piece of prosciutto, sealing on the bottom.

Remove potatoes from oven and stir in artichoke hearts, sage, and garlic. Nestle chicken among the vegetables, then roast for about 25 minutes.

Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Note: This recipe is also good with cauliflower, as shown in this Epicurious recipe, but it's even better if you add some fresh figs!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bring on the Vitamin D - An Excuse to Indulge in Mushrooms

Like many residents of the Pacific Northwest, my vitamin D levels tend to skew on the low side. It's just hard at this latitude to get enough vitamin D from the sun since we can only really process it from March to October.

Food isn't the best alternative source, but it's something. And it certainly helps that some of the foods that are high(ish) in vitamin D are also among my favorites: fatty fish, mushrooms, eggs (don't skip the yolk!!!) and beans, yum!

Maybe that's why when the days start shortening, I just can't get enough mushrooms. It doesn't matter what kind, I just want them in my belly. Since it's not quite mushroom season yet, I've been going crazy with the commercially grown portabellas and creminis.

Mushroom-Veggie Curry Pasta
1 cup mushroom (or any other) broth
2 tablespoons lime juice
*4 dates
1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
8 ounces bite-size pasta such as penne
2 tablespoons coconut oil, more if needed
4 cloves garlic, minced, separated
**2 portabella mushrooms, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
**8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 bunch lacinato (or any other) kale, stems removed and thinly sliced
1 cup soy edamame, defrosted

Make sauce by blending broth, lime juice, dates, ginger, curry, red pepper flakes and basil until smooth. Stir in sesame seeds and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add coconut oil, and stir in 2 cloves minced garlic for about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and stir periodically until mushrooms lose their water and start to brown. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add more oil if needed, then add onion and pepper to the skillet and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add remaining 2 cloves minced garlic near the end, then add kale and stir-fry until kale is wilted.

Stir in mushrooms, pasta, edamame and sauce, and serve.

*The original recipe called for 2 Medjool dates, which I would have done if I had them. It's nice to know the cheaper dates work just as well if you double the amount!

**This recipe would taste great with any combination of mushrooms, just be sure to use a lot!

— This recipe was adapted from Portabella Mushrooms and Noodles.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seaweed, Mac, Mango Salads Star at Mother's Day Luau

This time of year, I get Hawaii on the brain and am always sad when we can't spend an anniversary the same place we got married. Of course, that would be unrealistic, as well as a bit unadventurous, so I do what I can to bring a taste of Hawaii to where ever we may be.

This year, we had the honor of dual Mom visits for Mother's Day, so I planned a big Hawaiian feast that left us all a little nostaligic for the islands.

I'm not sure if I'll ever be brave enough to do a whole pig roast, but Kalua Pig in a slow-cooker whets the craving in a big way and has the added benefit of being about 100 times less difficult than a whole pig roast. Instead of using liquid smoke in this recipe, I now line the bottom of the slow-cooker with three strips of thick-cut bacon.

You can't have Hawaiian food without Macaroni Salad (pictured at right), and I like to make Lomi Lomi, too. OK, I admit this Lomi Lomi is perhaps not the most authentic recipe, but it's much easier to buy smoked salmon in advance than to find and buy fresh tuna for Tuna Poke, which I would much rather have!

And even though most people probably prefer King's Hawaiian Rolls to go with their wannabe luau, I of course choose to make my own bread using this fabulous Hawaiian Bread recipe that always turns out perfectly moist and delicious.

A couple of new additions to the table this time included Arugula Salad with Mango, Bell Peppers, Carrots and Toasted Almonds (pictured below). Check out this fabulous dressing I made to go with the salad:

Mango-Ginger-Mint Vinaigrette
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, peeled and cut in chunks
1/4-1/2 cup fresh mint
1 inch ginger, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add half the mango to a blender along with the remaining ingredients. Blend until creamy, then toss with the remaining diced mango and serve.

The only other recipe I can truly take credit for is the below Seaweed Salad, which I first created in one of my culinary classes at Bastyr where I learned about the amazing nutritional value of sea vegetables. All this time, I've had the recipe scribbled on a piece of paper, so I figure now is probably a good time to officially transcribe it into foreverdom.

Seaweed Salad
1/4 c. arame
1/4 c. hizike
3 T. brown rice vinegar
2 T. white miso
2 T. toasted sesame oil
1 T. natural sugar (i.e. Florida Crystals, Sucanat, etc.)
1 T. ginger, grated
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. carrot, grated
1 T. sesame seeds (optional garnish)

Soak arame and hiziki in warm water for 15 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, miso, toasted sesame seed oil, sugar, ginger and garlic.

Drain sea vegetables and mix in carrot, then add in dressing. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Go With the Grain with Porcini Teff

After spending three weeks eating like a single girl, I've been ready to cook up a storm since Bryan returned from his work trip to Beijing.

But this single girl did not do a good job about keeping the pantry stocked, which I discovered when I grabbed the empty jar of polenta that I normally pair so elegantly with our standby Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Vinegar Pan Sauce.

Then I remembered the delicious Amaranth "Risotto" With Mushrooms that sustained me numerous times during my elimination diet, and decided I was ready to go with another grain.

I should note here that during that time, I experimented with quite a few grains, including amaranth, teff, millet and buckwheat. Perhaps it has to do with familiarity, but I found I was unable to eat any of them plain like I can with rice and quinoa. They all just needed a little something more. Which was why the Amaranth Risotto recipe ended up on my plate so many times – without a little burst of porcini, the amaranth just didn't grab my attention the way my beloved grains were able to.

I took tonight's experiment one step further on accident when I looked in the pot halfway through cooking and thought it looked pretty dark for amaranth ... then realized it was because I had used teff instead. At first I was worried because the one time I made teff was less than impressive. But since there's nothing like porcinis to add flavor to a dish, I decided there might be hope for it after all.

In the end, it paired even better than polenta with our beloved chicken dish, but was also delicious enough to eat on its own.

Porcini Teff
3-1/2 cups boiling water
1 oz. dried porcini
1 porcini bouillon cube
1 cup teff

Pour boiling water over dried porcini, cover and let steep for 15 minutes.

Remove mushrooms from the water and chop.

Slowly pour 3 cups of the porcini water into a medium pan, being careful to strain out any sediment from the bottom. Add the bouillon cube and bring the water back to a boil. Slowly stir in the teff, then lower heat and cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes so the teff doesn't stick on the bottom.

When mixture is as thick as polenta, stir in the chopped porcini mushrooms and serve.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Visiting Vancouver, B.C.? Tips on Where to Eat!

Over the weekend, my friend Kristin and I took a road trip up to Vancouver, B.C., to visit our friend Tahirih, who I'm pretty sure has already found all of the best places to eat in the City of Glass. After living there for just over six months, she was able to take us on a foodie tour that was as much about the food as the unique culture of our neighbors to the north.

We knew we were in for a food-filled weekend shortly after we arrived and were quickly swept away to Nook, a true-to-its-name handmade pasta joint that we easily could have found by seeking out the most crowded lobby. Not that anybody minds, since it turns out the lobby is also a great place to make friends, adding even more warmth to the "hole-in-the-wall" and then some.

After dinner, we loosely planned the next day, with the only requirement being breakfast at Medina. We were warned the wait could be long, as in up to two hours, with a promise that it was worth it to try their Liege-style waffles. An upside to the wait is that it gives diners time to choose from the assortment of dipping sauces akin to an upscale ice cream joint: salted caramel, milk chocolate lavender and fig orange marmalade just to name a few.

The entree choices also abound, and although I made the mistake of not asking whether the Tagine (at left) contained cilantro (it did), it still was a delicious way to start our busy day.

Next stop: Granville Island Public Market, where we could have spent the entire day eating and also planning our meals for whole week. Spices, teas, cured meats, pastured meats, organic cheese, maple syrup (of course!), French pastries, sweet and savory pies, I could go on and on. It's hard not to draw comparisons to the Pike Place Market since it's the market I'm most familiar with, but I have to admit I was envious of its focus more on pleasing the immediate community than the tourists.

But I digress. Let's get back to Vancouver, and the fun Aquabus we took to another side of town! As a matter of fact, we took full advantage of the city's bountiful transit system, then taking the Skytrain to East Vancouver so Tahirih could show us the neighborhood the tourists don't go to. We even got stopped by a street vendor who didn't believe we were from the United States because "Americans don't come to East Van." But I came to conclusion that Tahirih is on her way to going native as we shopped among the thrift stores and ate on the brilliant patio at Havana.

Further proof was evident at our next stop: The Five Point to watch the Canucks play in a Stanley Cup playoff game. All eyes were on the exciting game (except for mine which were on the delicious mushroom pizza at right!) that unfortunately included a disappointing ending that was much too reminiscent of the Superbowl.

But we had one more stop before the night was done: Japanese tapas at the original Guu, a cultural phenomenon in Vancouver that is probably feeding Seattle's burgeoning Izakaya trend. The exciting atmosphere is booming with dance music, as the chefs bellow friendly greetings and farewells in Japanese as diners come and go. It's a place to share your food, and feed your soul.

We couldn't leave town without another fuel-filled breakfast, which we trekked to The Templeton for. Don't be fooled by the cheesy diner atmosphere, because despite its meat-and-potatoes-heavy menu, it still has fresh ideas and healthy fare including vegetarian bacon, free-range meats and tofu.

Maybe the next time Anthony Bourdain comes to town, he should go on a foodie tour with Tahirih instead of just another famous chef! Thanks to Tahirih and Kristin for the awesome weekend!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Artichokes are a Taste of Summer

Saying I grew up spoiled by Mom's cooking would be more than an understatement. I took for granted a lot of the foods that she cooked regularly, never bothering to learn how to make them because I knew my craving would be satiated the next time I went to her house.

But now that she's living 1,500 miles away, I'm finally teaching myself some of the techniques I should have been using long ago.

My whole life, artichokes have been one of my favorite foods, and can't remember a summer barbecue at Mom's without one artichoke for every one to two people. I always knew I could count on my artichoke fix the next time I went to Mom's, so I never even bothered to make one myself.

Needless to say, when I bought my first artichoke a couple of weeks ago, I was at first shocked by the cost, then by the amount of prep work they require before you can even start cooking them. First, you have to cut off all those intimidating spikes (you can see above that I left the ones in the middle — they're not quite as dangerous since they're pointing inward!). Then you have to trim and peel the stalk, which is a bit stringy but still tasty once you get toward the middle.

And after all that, your typical large artichoke takes an hour to steam. Seriously! Luckily, my trusty pressure cooker needs just 12 minutes on full blast to do the trick. The heating up and cooling down adds a couple more minutes, but it's still way short of an hour!

I've since honed my artichoke-trimming skills after discovering that Costco carries a pack of four for less than the same price of two at the supermarket. Heck, yeah, I can eat an artichoke each and every day of the week! Especially since I learned over the weekend that artichokes are detoxifying for my liver, woo-hoo! That's gotta help me get those histamines out of my system!

One more thing to note, before you melt a bunch of butter or grab the tub of mayo to go with your artichoke, try eating it alone. It tastes so delicious and already has the texture of butter, so why bother slathering on the fat? At least give it a try!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Chickpea Stew Nearly Passes the Histamine Hurdle

Looks like I'm off to a rocky start with this low histamine diet. I've been scouring my ridiculous amount of recipes for weeks to figure out which ones don't include any high-histamine foods, and other ones that I could alter.

Honestly, it has not been an easy process, so I've been anxiously awaiting an opportunity to make this Chickpea Vegetable Stew because it seemed like it would easily fit the bill. But as soon as I started cooking it, I realized that the main ingredient in harissa is tomatoes, and I really didn't want to leave its tangy, warming flavor out of the dish. Well, the recipe only calls for 1 tablespoon, so I'm hoping that's a low enough amount that it still counts as low!

Since citrus also is high on the histamine scale, I subbed out the lemon juice for apple cider vinegar, which still is on the naughty list since it's a vinegar, but it's on the more acceptable side than more fermented vinegars like wine and balsamic vinegars.

So the cheating begins, but when you calculate the amount of harissa and vinegar that will be in one bowl of this delicious soup, I do still feel that I can call it a low-histamine recipe. It's kind of like when you put a pint of heavy cream in a soup. I used to think that I would end up eating so much saturated fat by doing that, but if it's balanced out by enough vegetables and broth, you really don't end up eating a huge amount of cream.

Needless to say, the stew is fabulous! I definitely do miss the serious zing from lemon compared with the more subtle hues of apple cider vinegar, but it still balances out the harissa beautifully.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Histamine Intolerance Chronicles Begin with Granola

I'll be the first to admit that things have changed a bit since I first started writing my blog. Since then, Mom has moved to Arizona and I started working at one of the healthiest places in the world, Bastyr University. Which means I no longer am able to ruin Mom's recipes since I don't really have them anymore, not to mention that I'm not making nearly as much fattening American food as I used to. I'm not really making any, actually, especially since I realized that dairy and me just don't get along.

I figured that out last year when I did an elimination diet, which I immediately regretted not blogging about since I enjoyed it so thoroughly. Apparently, that is not a typical reaction, and it probably would have been nice for me to share some of the recipes I flourished on for those eight weeks sans gluten, soy, corn, dairy, refined sugar, and alcohol and caffeine in moderation. My apologies!

Besides discovering a sensitivity to diary, the elimination diet also revealed a possible histamine intolerance, which is an entirely bigger animal that I'm just starting to wrap my head around. Please click on the above link or Google "histamine intolerance" to read more about it because there's no possible way I could even begin to explain it. I will say that I've had some serious skin issues potentially linked to eating foods high in histamines that I would not like to repeat, and many of the other more minor symptoms listed are also present.

The problem is, foods high in histamines are yummy! They include tomatoes, spinach, many nuts, cinnamon, curry, fermented foods, vinegar, cured meats, dried fruits, soy, dairy, chocolate, bananas, avocados, citrus ... the list of deliciousness goes on and on. I've cut out the ones that are easy to do, like eggplant and strawberries, but I haven't had the courage to do a full-on histamine-free diet yet.

However, I think it might be time. Basically, to do it well, you need to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and gluten-free grains. Now that it's springtime and fresh produce is abundant everywhere, including in my new raised beds, I think I can tackle this.

I should note that long-term, the goal isn't to cut out all histamine-rich and histamine-releasing foods forever. I'm merely trying to figure out if these foods really are giving me reactions, then limit them when possible — or take a Benadryl if I want to go all out!

Anyway, this is a recipe blog, not a oh-woes-me blog, so I actually do have a recipe to share. This diet isn't going to happen overnight for me, so I'm approaching it in baby steps, And this week, I jumped the first hurdle when I finally made a granola that is free of nuts, cinnamon and dried fruit. Maybe that doesn't sound like such a big step, but after five years of making virtually the same beloved granola, I just didn't think I could make one that tasted as good.

But by combining my tried-and-true recipe with some tips from Candied Ginger, Coconut and Quinoa Granola, I created something that fills me up and is delicious, served with a ripe mango or pear and some dairy-free milk.

Granola with Quinoa, Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds and Cardamom

1-1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (or other neutral oil)
1/4 cup melted honey (or other natural sweetener)
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.

Mix oats, quinoa, seeds and cardamom. Meanwhile, whisk together oil, sweetener, water, salt and vanilla, then add to oats and combine well.

Spread the mixture evenly on the parchment, then place in the oven. Mix after 15 minutes, then check again at the 30-minute point. If granola is still moist, place back in the oven and keep checking in 10-minute intervals until mixture begins to brown.

Once granola is dry (but not burnt!), remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container.