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Friday, November 11, 2016

Random Food Fridays - Red Lentil Coconut Dahl and Raisin Almond Quinoa

It really is Fall here in the Valley. Our street-side leaf pick-up has begun. Chinese pistache and liquidambar trees are alight. Our big ol' plane trees are dropping their giant, leathery leaves. There is no nip in the air. Not yet. This is California, after all. We're expecting a high of 77 tomorrow. I'm ready for some chill!

I'm also ready for some soup! This dahl is not quite soup, but it is an amalgam of this red lentil soup recipe from Under Cover Caterer and this recipe from kiwiandbean. It is hearty and spicy and a little bit sweet. Like many of the recipes I share, this is one you can make your own.

Red lentils are easy to work with and a great dried legume for beginners. There is no presoaking and I've never had to do any of the sorting or washing that is necessary with larger beans.

Also, they are pretty.

We've been moving into lower carb eating these days. (More to come on that situation.) However, I know that I can never go so low-carb as to give up beans. This dish is full of fiber, nutrients and healthy fats and spices. This is my idea of real comfort food.

Red Lentil Coconut Dahl
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. sweet curry powder (I like Penzey's)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. dried ground cumin
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes and their juice
1 can full fat coconut milk (around 13 oz.)
3 cups water
1/4 cup unsweetened dried finely shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
1 tbsp. lemon juice
t tsp. hot sauce (I like Tapitio)
Salt and Pepper
2 tbsp. butter or coconut oil

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper and garlic. Saute over medium heat until beginning to turn translucent. Add the spices and stir to coat the veggies. Stir and cook for a minute or so, until the spices become fragrant. Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, coconut milk and water. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the lentils. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until it is thick and the lentils are tender. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice and hot sauce to taste. (To my palate, beans need salt, so don't be shy.) Once the seasoning is to your liking, finish by stirring in the butter or coconut oil. Serve with hot grains of some sort. Try this quinoa:

Raisin Almond Quinoa
2 cups flavorful broth - chicken or veggie
1 tsp. diced dried onion
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt, to taste (omit if your broth is salted)
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Place the broth in a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the dried onion, raisins, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil. Stir in the quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to cook, covered for 15 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and stir in the almonds.

This is a perfect compliment to this red lentil dish, but is a quick and easy side dish for any meal.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sauerkraut with Apples, Fennel and Onions

Sauerkraut is so easy! I had to screw up my courage for a long time before I risked making my first batch. This is only my second batch (it takes a long time eat up 2 cabbages) and it is even more delicious than my first.

The idea for this flavor combination came from my friend Marina. Her dad is Persian and her mom Russian. She said that her mom used to make sauerkraut with cabbage, onions and apples. I thought that sounded great and threw in a fennel bulb that was in the fridge. This ends up hitting salty, sour, sweet and umami flavors - Yum!

Because I didn't grow up with sauerkraut, except on the occasional hot dog, I wasn't quite sure how to serve it. I am delighted to say that it is easy to eat in lots of ways! I don't heat it, because I want the probiotic boost. It has become an easy default side dish. Also, I love this in my sandwiches! It's like a good crunchy pickle! It is a pickle, actually, of the sour fermenty kind.

I used this large glass pickle jar for my first batch of sauerkraut. It got the job done, but made it more difficult than necessary.

It was easy enough to stuff the salt massaged cabbage into the jar, but the opening made it hard to get things weighted down and covered with liquid. I used some of the larger cabbage leaves in place of a plate and weighted them down with a clean jar full of water. Like I said, the end product tasted great, but this required a lot more watching as the leaves kept curling up and needed to be pushed down over and over.

So, I invested in this large, food-grade plastic container. It's easy to tamp down the kraut, monitor and clean up. This picture shows that this recipe makes about 2 quarts.

Once the kraut is pushed down and compacted, a saucer is the perfect size to hold everything down.

 In this container, I am able to use a larger, heavier jar to weight things down.

 It just needs a larger cover. Cheese cloth is perfect!

This is a yummy, if predominately yellow, supper - brats and onions, mashed potatoes, saute'ed veg and sauerkraut. Yum!

Sauerkraut with Apples, Fennel and Onions
2 small green cabbages
1 fennel bulb
1/2 sweet yellow onion
2 Fuji apples
About 2 tbsp. salt

Wash, core and peel the veggies and apple. Slice very thin. Add everything to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. salt. With very clean hands, massage the salt into the mixture until it starts to release some liquid. Give it a taste and add more salt, a little at a time, until it tastes good to you. Massage some more. Transfer to a very clean fermenting container and press down thoroughly. The juice should rise each time you press it down. Place a very clean saucer or small plate on top of the mixture and press down very hard so that the liquid comes up over all. Fill a very clean jar with water and cover with a lid. Place the full jar on top of the saucer to weigh down the veggies and try to keep them covered with their own liquid and not exposed to air. Cover lightly with a loosely woven cloth. Stir, taste and mash back down daily until the desired sourness is reached. My first batch was made in Winter and took about a week. This Summer batch was ready in three days due the warm temperatures. When the taste is to your liking, move to storage containers and keep in the refrigerator. This will keep for several months if you are careful to prevent cross contamination.

Makes 2 quarts

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Random Food Fridays - Soba Salad

A while back, my friend Larry, gave me a wonderful, two hour, astrological chart and reading. I've always wondered about some of the background influences in my life, because Cancer is so up front. Dwayne and I are both Cancers and we are both a foodie, homey, nurture-fest. I learned a lot about myself that day and became more patient with some of my less favorite impulses. Larry is very knowledgeable and compassionate - A good friend to have on the A-Team.

Because we both have many talents, we made it a trade and he didn't want to cash in his trade right away. He said he'd think of something, and he did. He celebrated his 60th birthday yesterday and will have a big party today. He called in my trade chip for party foods and I'm delighted! There will be a barbecue and lots of good fun. We are expected to have a high temp of 101 today, so some cold foods are in order!

Last night I made four salads - macaroni, potato, three bean and this soba salad. This morning, I have braved the oven and have a sour-cream raisin pie and fresh peach pie in the oven. Larry grew up in Pennsylvania and requested an old fashioned raisin pie, which is sometimes known as Funeral Pie in Mennonite or Amish communities. Here is the recipe I used. I haven't tried it yet, but all the reviews are happy ones.

Larry, his wife Soleil and I all belong to a drum circle that meets twice a month. It is a lovely meeting of the minds and we always start with a pot luck. The first time I made this salad, it was, as usual, the result of my poking around the house to see what I could put together for one of our pot lucks. As luck would have it, it came out splendidly swell and Larry and Soleil added it to their list of requests for his birthday party. Their request offered me the opportunity to pay attention to what I was doing and write it down for sharing.

Soba Salad
2 bundles of soba noodles
1 cup celery, sliced thin on a diagonal
1 cup carrot, shredded long on a mandoline or spiralized
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, sliced thin
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup cucumber, sliced thin on a diagonal then cut into strips
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
1/2 cups toasted cashews
cilantro to garnish
1/2 to 3/4 cup Sesame Dressing (recipe below)

Place a large pot of water on the stove to heat. Meanwhile, slice all the veggies and make the dressing. When the water boils, add the soba, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Do not over cook. Drain and rinse the soba and add to the veggies. Add the dressing and sesame seeds and toss. Just before serving, toss in the cashews and cilantro to taste.

p.s. I forgot to add the sesame seeds before I took the pictures. They were all added before the party!

Sesame Dressing
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a tight-sealing jar and shake. This makes enough for this salad, plus leftovers for another use.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Random Food Fridays - Fettuccine with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

This is one of those dishes that came together quickly on a weeknight, with handy ingredients, and turned out delicious. You can see that there is more to it than just fettuccine, chicken and sun dried tomatoes, but I didn't want one of those paragraph-long titles like one sees on restaurant menus. Most of these ingredients are pantry staples for me. If you don't keep a jar of sun dried tomatoes around - Do so immediately.

I have to share the story of how I cam by that giant jar of sun dried tomatoes. I've always bought them in the little octagonal jars, julienned and packed in olive oil. They can add a rich and tangy interest to many dishes. One day, my BFF, Miss Paula (sometimes called Powla, by me and no one else) was helping me take care of some chores around the house. One of the chores was cleaning the fridge. Sometimes we all need fresh eyes to help us reevaluate our malingering things. She saw my little jar of sun dried tomatoes and saw the solidified olive oil and thought they had gone bad. (I found out later that she also just doesn't like them in general.) She said things like, "You won't use those!" "How long have you had them?" "What are you going to use them in by the expiration date?" In a moment of weakness, I let her throw them out. Later we talked about it and I explained how much I liked them and that I would, in fact, use them. (Not to serve to her, of course!) She ended up feeling badly and ordering me another jar online. Imagine my surprise when this box was delivered to my doorstep...

with a 35 oz. jar of sun dried tomatoes! 

The good news is, that when you have a 35 oz. jar of sun dried tomatoes, your rationing days are over! Use them hard, use them long and don't hold back! It will be many months before I do not have a substantial amount of sun dried tomatoes available in my pantry!

Please consider that this entire dish was based on what I could forage around my house. You may have different, but just as tasty, findings in your home. Don't be afraid to make it your own!

Fettuccine with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes
1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
1 cup of your favorite vinaigrette*
8 oz. sliced mushrooms - I used crimini
1/2 cup julienne sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup sliced green onions
3 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 white wine
1 lb. fettucine
Parmesan cheese to serve

Cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl along with the vinaigrette. Set aside.

Set a large pot of water with a good pinch of salt on the stove to bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and allow to cook while you prepare everything else. Cook according the package instructions and drain.

Prepare all the vegetables as described above and set aside.

Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the mushrooms to the dry pan. Allow them to brown and release their moisture. Once they look a bit dry and leathery add the sun dried tomatoes. Their flavorful oil will help you to pick up any of the good mushroom flavor that has stuck to the pan. Add the garlic, chicken (with vinaigrette) and green onions. Cook until the chicken shows no pink. Add the zucchini and wine and allow to simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the zucchini tender. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir the cooked and drained pasta into the pan and toss. Heat together for a few minutes to allow the pasta to absorb some of the liquid.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4, or us twice.

* My Favorite Vinaigrette 
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. course Dijon mustard

Place all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake like crazy.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Random Food Fridays - Pina Colada "Gello"

I love this "gello" snack! This new-style "gello" has ingredients that are more readily available than my last "gello" post and it tastes great. I hope you will try it!

Pina Colada "Gello"
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 15 oz. can of crushed pineapple, packed in juice
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 tbsp. gelatin
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I use sweetened, as for baking. No additional sweetener is needed, unless you want it.)

Drain the pineapple well, reserving the juice. Dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water until softened. Combine the softened gelatin, orange juice, lemon juice and reserved pineapple juice in a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Stir and heat just until all the gelatin is dissolved and no lumps remain. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl that holds 6 to 8 cups. Stir in the coconut milk and place in the refrigerator to cool. Allow to cool until it is at the blob stage. Gently fold in the crushed pineapple and coconut. Pour into serving dish(es) and chill until firm. This make about 6 cups.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Random Food Fridays - New Style "Gello"

My family and I went to Disneyland during December and had a wonderful time. It was my first time to attend Disneyland with my daughter as a grown up lady. We took her when she was 4 and then 10 years old. Now, at 29, Miss Madelyn is still a very good time! There was only one bad thing that happened, and it was oh so bad... I got food poisoning! I'm so glad it was on the last day of our three-day park hopper. I'm also very glad no one else got sick! I had a harrowing night at the hotel. We were all worried that I wouldn't be able to endure the long drive home (6 hours) the next day. Fortunately, I did as well as could be expected on the trip home and Mr. Dwayne drove as fast safety would allow.

The result of this was more than a few days of feeling yucky, it really knocked my immune system for a loop. I didn't realize this kind of illness could result in a compromised immune system until I caught every virus I remotely encountered for the next three months! I was sick or getting better from being sick most of the first quarter of 2016. This had to change! So, I started more juicing and launched a diet rich in probiotics and gut healing foods.

Two of the things that have helped me the most are Bio Kult probiotics and grass fed gelatin.
Gelatin is an animal product, so the way the animals are raised makes a difference. You can make your own in the form of homemade bone broth or you can purchase plain grass fed gelatin. Vital Proteins and Great Lakes  both offer great choices.

I'm still a beginner at gelling. I'm looking forward to making gummies and to adapting some of my family's traditional jello recipes. Those traditional recipes have a lot of sugar and all those crazy colors. Food coloring truly creeps me out! This "gello" is yummy and full of good stuff, including enough healthy fat and protein to make it a snack with staying power.

 New Style "Gello"
1 lb. strawberries
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp. raw evaporated sugar
1/2 cup room tempurature water
2 tbsp. plain gelatin
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice or other fruit juice
1/2 cup ginger bug liquid (or more fruit juice)
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Wash and hull the strawberries and place them in a large bowl. Add the maple syrup and sugar and mash with a potato masher until the juices start to release. Set aside.

Dissolve the gelatin in the water and set aside.

Strain the juice from the strawberries and place in a small sauce pan. To the strawberry juice, add the lemon juice and softened gelatin. Over a medium heat, simmer and stir just until the gelatin dissolves completely. Remove from the heat. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Stir in the ginger bug liquid and the vanilla. Place the "gello" in the refrigerator to cool. When it become thick but still soft, fold in the strawberries. Place in a serving dish and chill until set. Makes 6 cups.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fukushu Kumquat Marmalade

My BFF, Paula, called me from a Santa Cruz farmers market and asked me, "Do you need kumquats? These are the biggest I've ever seen!" Now, need may not be the exact word to describe my relationship with kumquats, but the question resulted in 3 lbs. of these beauties, gifted to me.

We have a lot of citrus in Sacramento. All kinds of citrus trees line our downtown streets as understory trees beneath the great Plane and Sycamore trees. As I take my lunch time walks, I often spy out oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, mandarins and kumquats. (I have the eyes of a forager!) In all my yard-food spying, I have never seen kumquats like these. They are much larger than what I usually see and have previously preserved. They are also softer, more pulpy and very fragrant. Based on a google search, I think these are Fukushu Kumquats - a hybrid of kumquats and mandarins. I don't know for sure, but the descriptions and photos make this my best guess.

These seemed too big to preserve in halves, as I did in Kumquats Preserved in Honey and Rosewater.  They also seemed too small to separate the zest and segments, as I do for most of my marmalades. What I ended up doing is cutting them into quarters, lengthwise, cutting away the tough center membrane and popping the seeds out with the knife tip.

I then sliced the rind and pulp that remained into thin strips. 

As is often the case, I made this marmalade over several days. Not because the recipe requires it, but because I was busy and received them during the week. One night, I quartered and seeded the fruit. Another night, I cut the thin slices and simmered them with water. I then added the sugar and popped the sweetened fruit back int he fridge until I was ready to can. Everything goes in the fridge between each of the steps, of course. 

Even though the processing had some delays, the flavor is bright and fresh. I think that having the peels sit around for a while also made them more tender. They still give a nice bit of bite, but do not disrupt the overall texture of the marmalade as you chew.

If you happen to come by these unusual fruits, this marmalade is well worth your effort to try!

Fukushu Kumquat Marmalade
3 lbs. Fukushu or other larger kumquats
4 1/2 cups sugar

Thoroughly wash and dry the kumquats. Slice lengthwise into quarters and cut out the tough center where the membranes meet. Pop out the seeds. Slice the remaining quarters into thin strips. The prepared fruit should measure to about 5 cups. Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Remeasure the cooked mixture. It should equal about 7 cups. Add 4 1/2 cups sugar.

When ready to can, prepare water bath canner, 8 half-pint jars, lids and rings. Place some saucers and tea spoons in the freezer.

In a very large sauce pan, bring the combined fruit and sugar to a boil. Once boiling, keep a close eye on it and stir down occasionally. It foamed up quite a bit for me. The foam will subside near the end of the cooking time. When the marmalade begins to thicken and the bubbles are glossy and not foamy, begin to test for set. You can also use a thermometer and start checking when the temperature reaches 220 degrees. To test for set, scoop a bit of the marmalade out with one of the spoons from the freezer. Place it back in the freezer on one of the saucers and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Remove from the freezer and tip the spoon onto the saucer. Does it drop thickly? Does it wrinkle when you push the blob on the saucer? If it does, it is good to go!

Carefully fill the hot, prepared jars and wipe the rims. Top with lids and rings and process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove carefully and place them on a tray lined with a tea towel.

Makes 7 to 8 half pint jars.