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.