Home Cooked Date Night on Oahu

We have been taking time away from work with my husbands’ family on the North Shore of Oahu. Needless to say, we feel so lucky to have had the chance to get away from work and our regular routine for a while. Our plates have been filled with a lot of fresh fruit and some wonderful fresh fish, not to mention locally made pickled green papaya with sweet plums – amazing.

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Last night my sweetie and I opted for a date night in and visited Celestial Natural Foods about 15 minutes up the road for some hand-picked goods. With the help of my homemade almond-lime-garlic dipping sauce, our plates of baked brown rice, sauteed broccolini, squash and zucchini with lots of garlic and onion, sprouted beans, peas and lentils and fresh sunflower sprouts made for the perfect vegetarian spread. With our chairs on the beach and feet in the sand, we enjoyed ocean-side dining at its finest, ending with a fierce game of dominoes and some Coconut Bliss Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge.

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Today, I made a creamy congee with leftovers. The house that we have had the pleasure of staying in has a plethora of amazing books: Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods and Essential Ayurveda, to name just a couple. Herewith is the recipe for my experimental congee, portioned out to feed about 8 people with hefty leftovers:

  • one heaping handful of brown rice, cooked
  • 5-6 cups heaping cups of water
  • vegetables and flavor agents of choice (we had broccolini, yellow crook neck squash, zucchini, onion, garlic)
  • sprouted peas, lentils and peas (about 2 cups works)
  • soy or tamari sauce
  • fennel seeds
  • ground mustard
  • dried marjoram
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • sprouts to garnish

congee

There are many ways to flavor or enhance congee. I simply diced and chopped the veggies, onion and garlic, threw in large dashes of the soy sauce, herbs and spices, and mixed everything together in a large pot, brought to boil and set down to simmer for about 3 hours. We ended up with a wonderful savory porridge, perfect for a light lunch before Opal Thai for dinner. Aloha!

 

Vegan banana spoon bread…that’s really good

I am taking a break from eggs right now. It seems to be the egg whites that cause the problem (I made a killer egg yolk custard that was fine). And eggs are such a perfect food in so many ways (but they are also one of the most allergenic foods out there), so it bums me out. The protein, fat, chromium (controls blood sugar levels and metabolizes cholesterol) and other important nutrients that we get from eggs make them ideal for anyone to consume, especially expecting mama’s. So egg yourself out (but not every day – I think that’s how I developed a bit of an intolerance).  Here we go with grain-less, egg-less and overall vegan, protein packed banana spoon bread, without all of the  gluten-free gums, flours and preservatives:

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  • 3 cups almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ cup freshly ground chia seeds
  • ¾ cup almond milk or coconut milk
  • 2 very ripe, large bananas, mashed
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • coconut or extra virgin olive oil, for greasing pan
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan well.
  2. Grind the chia seeds using a coffee grinder, Vitamix, or mortar pestle, mix with milk and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.
  3. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl, add chia mixture, and mix well until a batter is formed.
  4. Transfer to the greased loaf pan, and use a spatula to smooth the top.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and when a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  6. Let cool, slice and serve!

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*Adapted form Detoxinista.com. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

Yours, Mine, Ours…THE Local Butcher Shop

The husband and I call ourselves “meat minimalists.” That is why, when I walked into The Local Butcher Shop, I was so pumped when I was issued the perfect remark by Aaron, one of the co-owners of this gastro-gem. When I told him I was a nutritionist (always looking for local and small food businesses to point clients and friends towards), he replied with something along the lines of wanting people to eat good quality meat, just not as often. This was a cow moo and chicken cluck to my ears, ladies and germs. I had seen The Local Butcher Shop when in the neighborhood a few weeks before, and was sold by the name. I love it when a business knows their clientele and the neighborhood so well and are confident in the concept of selling potential customers less on a gimmick or clever marketing and more on quality. This place has a small, neighborly business attitude and modest, hard-working-folk aesthetic…which will keep me coming back again and again. And that’s not even the best part about it. The meat is.

The interior of the store is simple, very clean and, of course, drew me in with the use of green colors in shades of fresh cut grass, white and black. I am a sucker for color and ambiance…even in my local food shops, and this was no exception. Plus, when you are dealing with cutting up meat all day long, the space better be clean. They say that classically trained chef’s are judged and regarded not only by their food prep and culinary creativity, but also by the clean kitchen and workspace that they keep. From reading about the backgrounds of those that grace us with their helpful hints and recommendations at The Local Butcher Shop, I know these guys and gals are pros, taking time away from late nights in the restaurant to smelling the roses (or clean, fresh cut grass) and serving up some of the best quality meat in the Bay Area, which arrives fresh from within 150 miles of Berkeley…and they use the whole animal. Again…music to my ears.

So much to choose from…

Might have to try their pate’s someday…could any of them possibly be better than Laura Knoff’s recipe (one of my nutrition teacher’s at Bauman)!?

You learn something new everyday! Great addition to the space at The Local Butcher Shop.

Now, I am very intimidated by meat…cooking it, that is. But when I asked for lamb (which they were getting later that afternoon) and was told I should try goat (I planned on making a little roast that night for dinner), I was pumped. As you might recall, I posted a few weeks back about my obsession with goat butter, needless to say goat cheese, so I was game to give goat meat a try. I asked about prepping in my cast iron pot with veggies and herbs, and was told to give it about an hour, after searing the outside of the roast. I got about 1 1/2 pounds of goat, and it worked out perfectly for dinner that night and leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day. My once a month meat craving was perfectly satisfied and happy with this purchase. Here is the “recipe” for roast goat, after being given tips by the butcher. Make it as you read it, and feel free to fudge a few things:

Chop 5 small carrots, 1 purple onion, 1-2 leeks, some oregano, thyme, a bay leaf (cut in half), and prep the roast by rubbing it liberally with pink salt, fresh ground pepper and olive oil. Best part? I cut up about 5 garlic cloves, put half of them in the pot, and then cut little slits into the roast and stuffed the rest of the garlic halves in. I heart garlic, though.  ; ) Dump everything in your pot (I have a larger, signature oval “french oven” Le Creuset…gotta have at least one from their set. This is kind of a fun color) and nestle the roast in the middle of the veggies. The roast can be seared on the stove top or not…I forgot to sear it, but it still turned out great. Searing helps to bring out the natural juices and flavor to prep it before major heating happens, I think.

Let the goating begin

Let the goating begin

Prepared, seasoned and ready for the heat.

Add 1 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup red wine to your pot, and cook at 375 degrees in the oven for about an hour (depending on how you like it cooked. I would check on it after an hour).

The whole house smelled so deeelish. Goat is super flavorful. I am sorry for the cute little guy/gal who made it to our table, but we paid very close attention to thanking him/her for gracing our palates with such amazing meat (with chard and brown rice on the side)

Ah, yes. I KNEW you would ask about the pricing at this oh so worth it spot. Here is where I get on my short but sturdy soapbox and say it is pricey…but (and that’s a big rump roast of a butt. Sorry, had to) keep in mind you aren’t paying .$99 cents for, say, a 1 1/2 pound of goat like you would for a Burger King purchase (especially when you are getting the added benefits of the pink slime in that burger. Mmmm hmmm). Michael Pollan once said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” When your body craves something (something that is ultimately good for you, like greens or an apple or beets) that usually means that your body needs the vitamins, minerals, macro-and micro-nutrients that that particular food has to offer. I crave meat because I can tell my body needs a bit of a vitamin B12 and iron boost once a month or so. When you crave processed foods, like salty or sweet cookies, crackers, cake, etc. that usually is just a sign of an addiction, even if it is just a short lived one. For real! It’s all about balance.

So go to the The Local Butcher Shop. Talk to the butchers about their biz, buy an amazing cut of meat, some liver for your homemade pate, bones for your bone broth, stock for a soup or one of their ridonkulous looking chocolate chip cookies (90-10 rule, my friends. 90-10), and thank me later. My ONLY complaint about this joint would be that they are farther away from me than I would like…but I suppose it keeps any cravings I might have to eat meat when I don’t REALLY need it at bay. EMBRACE YOUR INNER MEAT MINIMALIST!

Boxes, Black Beans and Blood Oranges

This past weekend, two generous and talented friends came over to help make one of our dreams into a reality. One of our urban homesteading dreams, that is. We are SO blessed to have friends who care about our desires to produce our own food and set a small, but to us important, example of what it means to live (or at least eat) off the land in a small town where we hope more and more food is being grown. We are hoping to gently influence some of our East Bay/Piedmont and Oakland neighbors to perhaps carve out a few feet of space to grow some herbs, maybe even some kale (of course KALE), if they haven’t already. The anticipation and anxious feelings surrounding growing our own food is so exciting.

My father-in-law said something a few weeks ago that keeps sticking out in my head. He said that we as American’s, and the way our society and culture dictates change, seems to be driven by emergency situations. To that point, just because there isn’t a war, i.e. World War II, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to develop our own ways of being self-sufficient. This is where the concept of the Victory Garden popped into my head. Taking any space that you have, even if it’s in the form of pots in the windowsill of your studio apartment, or on the kitchen table. Historically, the Victory Garden was supposed to boost morale and empower all citizens to take advantage of their own backyard resources, supporting themselves and the war effort by growing food, raise certain animals and live off of the land, to a certain degree (or even pots or planter boxes). For more information on what’s going on in places like Oakland in regards to urban farming and Victory Gardening, there is a lot to thumb through at The Victory Garden Foundations’ website, and this amazing website. I found this through catching up with works by artist Amy Franchescini, whom I saw at the SFMOMA and who has been honored for the SECA award in the past. TRULY innovative and artistic eco-creative stuff, but I digress a bit.

Blog title item #1: BOXES. We now have one of two planter boxes built and ready for sealing, concrete laying (we have to with our webs of redwood root-age. No wonder redwood trees are so resilient, large, ancient and amazing. Their roots go EVERYWHERE!) and planting. I think we need starters (not seeds) and will go for tomatoes, carrots, LOTS of greens (lettuces, kale, chard, kale and more kale) and maybe try our hand at some blueberries under the redwood trees. Apparently they like acidic soil. SO many possibilities! But we did get the Sunset Western Garden Book, which is basically a bible to grow anything. I have also heard that Golden Gate Gardening is a must buy for growing food and any plants in the San Francisco Bay Area, since our climate is so diverse (and amazing – no bias here).

Felled redwoods from a nearby vacant lot. Friends asked for permission to mill the wood, we paid the friends for the service and amazing skill with which the wood was milled and cut, and here the redwood planks await…for planter box making!

Russ, Scotty and Tim savoring one of the finished boxes, after Scotty and Tim produced a beautiful piece. We watched and provided food (Thanksgiving sandwiches, anyone?) beer and cold water, and Russ lent a hand and helped with heavy lifting and other tasks. Can’t mess with perfection, ladies and germs. I hope Tim and Scotty aren’t annoyed at how in awe I am and how I ask constantly how they know so much about so much. ; ) They are amazing friends.

If you build it, they will come! And now…if we grow it, we will eat!

We were fortunate to have great friends helping us out, who knew how to deal with dimension, measurements very accurately…and had the tools. Scotty and Tim are really talented people.

On to the topic of black beans. I found a recipe in a magazine that I usually toss aside (I won’t say which one…but I have narrowed my view since I started subscribing to Whole Living, which I love). The night of the box building, we were having friends over for dinner. I haven’t done too much with any regional South American themed recipes, and I still have so much to experiment with and learn. This recipe was one of those you look at with uncertainty, with about 50 kagillion ingredients that you know you probably don’t have in your pantry. But…I decided to take it on and give it a makeover. The recipe was for pork and plantain enchiladas with black bean puree. I had black beans already, and a good amount of ingredients it called for, but wanted to make it a bit more simple…and vegetarian. So, from this recipe, I just dropped a few things and, even though it was still a bit complicated (sort of like Thanksgiving in a dish, with multiple components to coordinate at once), I still had a lot of fun doing it.

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 chopped yellow onions, divided
  • 1 2/3 cups organic chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 6 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans organic black beans, rinsed and drained (Eden Organics brand does not have BPA lining in the cans – that’s a GOOD thing). Or you can cook your own beans (soak and sprout) which ups their nutritional value. I didn’t have time this week.
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 soft sweet, ripe plantains, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas (try to get as “clean” as you can. Many seemingly pure corn tortillas usually have lots of other additives in there.
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • Sour cream or “crema,” which is basically cream that some South American cuisine’s use for garnishing. I added a little honey to make it sweet to complement the plantains
  1. For tomatillo sauce: combine 1 choppped onion, 1 cup broth, tomatillos, 1 garlic clove, and serrano in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tomatillos are tender. Cool for 10 minutes. Combine tomatillo mixture, cilantro, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a blender; process until smooth. Pour into a large measuring cup.
  2. For Black Bean Puree: Place skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add the remaining onion; cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add remaining garlic clove; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add remaining 2/3 cup broth, and cook for 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add black beans; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool slightly. Place black bean mixture in blender. Pulse 15 times, scraping occasionally until mixture is a thick puree.
  3. For Plantains: Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Combine 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, honey, and plantains in a medium bowl, tossing to coat plantain. Add plantain mixture to pan; sautée for 3 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Cool slightly; finely chop.
  4. ASSEMBLY TIME: Next, I heated the corn tortilla’s slightly in the oven to soften them up, and then keep them warm. I put out a buffet of all ingredients for everyone to pile onto their tortilla’s, like soft tacos (including the brown rice, plantains, tomatillo sauce, black bean puree, crema, and garnish with more cilantro.
  5. TIME TO EAT!

The spread (salad, tomatillo, crema and cilantro), brown rice, black bean puree (under foil) and plantains in the foreground

A simple side salad of mixed greens, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds and simple, homemade mustard vinaigrette dressing (my favorite!)

To accompany? Friends Ryan and Liz (Liz is a culinary student, and amazing cook, in Napa, so it was fun to get her input on the meal) brought fixings for blood orange margarita’s. I love them…and not just for their creative booze concoctions.  ; )

Blood oranges await their fate: freshly squeezed juice for us!

The mixologist hard at work

SO refreshing. Tequila, agave syrup, Cointreau (I think?) and fresh-squeezed blood orange juice

And that was our weekend. Fun times, good friends, great food and the pursuit of happiness through planter box building. EMBRACE URBAN FARMING and stay tuned for more on our journey towards home-grown kale and farm fresh eggs.

Cooking Bonanza: Part II

The Cooking Bonanza for the month of March turned out to be a random but fun and interesting hodge podge of people with a variety of dishes. We went vegetarian, and created some colorful and delicious dishes, loved by all. And, I was introduced to one of the newest loves of my life: the garbanzo bean chocolate cake.

To start, I had Casa Sanchez Totopos chips out on the counter to snack on while cooking, which I always have on hand and I could (and have) eaten whole bags of in one sitting. This was then accompanied, unexpectedly, by kale pesto I had made for the brown rice spaghetti. Yep! Kale pesto* as a dip. I don’t recall exactly when the kale pesto idea came into my life, but I am hooked…and have found a great recipe to sneak into people’s diets who don’t otherwise enjoy denser green leafy’s. And the kale is in its raw form when blended into pesto! Thus, it is at its best. I have graced you with the recipe and a photo of the green wonder dip/sauce below:

Before pulverization!

Before pulverization!

Makes about 1 cup. You will need the following:

  • ½ cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, long stems chopped off, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Chop garlic. Add kale, walnuts and cheese and about half of the olive oil and pulse until chopped. You may have to open the top of the blender or food processor to assist in mixing, and push the kale down toward the blades.
  2. With the food processor or blender low, add the rest of the olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency you want. You may add a bit more oil if desired.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper (always taste before you season!)
  4. Serve with chips or raw veggies as a dip or over brown rice, quinoa or brown rice pasta. YUM!

 

Why is kale so awesome? First off, it is an amazing source of vitamin K, A, C, manganese and fiber. Why do we care about vitamin A or K? Many specific reasons, but all you need to remember is that your body needs everything all the time, to quote one of my teachers’ at Bauman College. A few more kale facts: it contains cancer-preventing phytonutrients, is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and a great source of fiber. The darker the green, the better. Lacinto, or “dino”, is my favorite, but there are other varieties that aren’t as dense. That was quick and painless, right?

On to the food. There was quinoa with some great herbs and spices that Heather and Karen made, that was hot, and I mean HOT pink. Only nature could come up with this color: beets! Mixed with melted goat cheese. Heather had lightly steamed carrots and, I believe, added some rainbow chard – they were refreshing and naturally sweet.

Yum to the beet.

ORANGE you glad we got some carrots in there!? Next to the cauliflower dip, homemade super simple sauerkraut with hijiki and tamari sesame seeds – a great topping for any dish.

Next we had another superbly savory dip from Annaka, shown above next to the beet quinoa. I think it was pureed cauliflower, but I don’t know what else she used to make it into the creamiest, yummiest thing I have ever had. Thought she couldn’t top the “cream” of mushroom soup? Think again.

Veronique made a super fresh salad with greens and lettuce from Monterey Market in Berkeley, which I have yet to visit and have heard is beyond legendary. Heirloom tomatoes and fresh, homemade honey mustard vinaigrette. Less is always more with salads. Veronique is one of my favorite people. She is spreading the word about her practice, as well, and continues to inspire me.

I tell you. Quality of ingredients really showed through here. That lettuce was delectable…and that’s a lot to say of lettuce.

And, of course, because who doesn’t like garnet yams (more popularly knows as sweet potatoes), we had two dishes of roasted sweet potatoes, one with onions, rutabaga and fresh herbs and mine with a honey miso marinade.

I love, I love, I love

Dig in, my lovelies.

Last, but absolutely not least, we have my friend Karen’s chocolate garbanzo bean cupcake recipe. I think I’ve made it about 5 times since the first time I was introduced to it, and that was only about three weeks ago. And they weren’t necessarily delivered to anyone or made for anyone…sometimes, you just need a friend…in chocolate. Need I say more? Check out the recipe, slightly modified from the original (and I always double the recipe to make close to 30 mini cupcakes). THANKS KAREN!

  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is good – and if you are sensitive to dairy, gluten or soy, there are some brands out there that don’t contain these common allergens, such as the Enjoy Life brand)
  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (or you can cook your own. If you purchase canned, be sure to get the BPA free canned beans, such as Eden Organics brand. Many cans contain plastic in the lining that has BPA, or bisphenol-A, an endocrine disruptor chemical in many plastics that has been linked to cancer and other human diseases)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Place chocolate chips in food processor or blender first, then beans, then baking soda, then eggs.

2. Pulse mixture until it starts to turn chocolatey brown and the chips break up nicely. They don’t all have to be completely broken up, as they will melt when cooked. It will look like cake batter.

3. Grease cupcake or cake tin (8×8 square pan). Pour batter in.

4. Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes, cupcakes for 15-20 minutes. Check if inside is cooked through by sticking a knife into cake – it should come out clean. The cake will be springy but firm on the center, just like a cake made with flour! YUM!

Beauties! No joke, they really look like this.

*The kale pesto was adapted from this recipe: http://www.tastespotting.com/features/kale-toasted-walnut-pesto

Super Simple Sauerkraut

When I was volunteering with OBUGS in the garden this past summer, we were scheduled to help the kids make sauerkraut one morning for camp. I had never made kraut and had never thought of the process of making it as an easy process. I also didn’t realize just how important fermented foods, in moderation, are for us. Probiotics, baby! Probiotics!

Probiotics are the good bacteria we need to balance our gut, and to breakdown food and absorb nutrients properly. The more obsessed I get with nutrition, the more intrigued (and obsessed) I get with the gut and the liver. Without the proper maintenance and care of these two digestive super heroes, our bodies are in serious trouble. Basically, fermented food create a Frankenstein of living goodness, which we need to give our bodies to balance the gut. Many of us know probiotics in relationship to kombucha drinks and yogurt. Good quality yogurt should have the bacteria lactobacillus. This bacteria converts the lactose and other sugars in the yogurt to lactic acid, which in turn makes its environment acidic, inhibiting the growth of some harmful bacteria. The good, the bad…and hopefully the balance – gotta have them all. If you look at your yogurt container, it usually says what bacteria it hosts. Oh, and do yourself a favor: go for the good stuff with yogurt. Try to stay away from products like Activia. There’s just too much sugar and other weirdo’s lurking around in there (BTW, “weirdo’s” are what I am going to call non-food, chemical ingredients in food products from now on. I think it’s appropriate). St. Benoit is hella good – and super simple (sense a theme here?). Their honey flavor uses local honey from Marshall’s…and they themselves are a local company (to the Bay Area). I am lactose intolerant, and usually eat goat products, but found St. Benoit to be fine in moderation for me  (no more than 1/4 cup per day).

Fermented foods such as kraut have the same effect. Since the bacteria stimulates stomach acid, it’s best to eat a spoonful of a fermented food prior to or with a meal to aid in digestion. You can buy some great krauts at the store, although please read the label to make sure there are no weirdo’s in there . OR, you can make your own! Again…super simple. I made my first batch today and we will see how it turns out after it has gotten to stew for a while. All you need is:

Cabbage

Colored sea or mountain salt (preferably high quality, hasn’t been iodized, pink Himalayan or gray). I use a larger chunked pink Himalayan salt that I grind myself. A little bit should go a long way!

Large-mouthed mason jars or a crock (large ceramic jar for pickling and kraut)

A kitchen mallet, or meat tenderizer (I used a wood, non-handled rolling pin)

Take off two or three outer leaves and set aside. Cut cabbage into thin strips and then cut those strips in half so they aren’t too long. Put in a bowl, add one or two tablespoons of salt and start to crush and pound the cabbage with a tool like a meat tenderizer/mallet-type object, or with your fist. You want to crush the cabbage just until you see it glisten; water is being released and it is softening. This is fun for kids, if you have the cabbage in a large bowl. The cabbage can jump around a bit.  : )

Crushing away with the rolling pin.

Next add salt to the bottom of the jar (I added about 1/2 tsp). The amount of salt you add throughout packing the jar with cabbage is really up to you. I packed the jar about a third of the volume with cabbage. Then sprinkle another 1/2-1 tsp of salt on top of the layer, pounding down the cabbage. Keep layering (you will probably only have 3-4 layers) until you have about half an inch of room between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar mouth, pounding down the cabbage after every layer.

All packed.

When you have filled the jar, with room at the top, start pouring some water into the jar slowly (filtered water if possible), making sure your cabbage is submerged. One trick I found, if you don’t have a weight to hold down the cabbage, is to use a full cabbage leaf to hold down stragglers of cabbage strips that want to float to the top. Let your kraut sit at room temp for about a week, or longer. Open it up and try it out! Refrigerate. Done and done.

Putting a plate or tray underneath your packed jars can help if they lids are looser than you think and water spills over.

DON’T FORGET! For all you fancy pants peeps out there, you can add all kinds of things to your kraut. Beet strips, grated carrots, chopped scallions, onions, garlic, fennel seeds, turnips, apples, caraway seeds, sea veggies or other herbs and spices, added to the cabbage. I’ve had beet and apple with fennel seed. Tasty stuff.

“Food Angel” Reporting for Duty

My mother gave me a new book by Tyler Florence for my birthday, Family Meal. She has become quite enamored with his story and his food, not to mention his kitchen store in Mill Valley (which we plan on hitting up before or after climbing the Dipsea Trail). The book also has a unique ode to family dinner, incorporating recipes that Tyler collected from neighbors that he invited over for a family dinner potluck one evening in Mill Valley (intimidating? Not for epicurean Bay Area folk). A grid-like photo montage in the book of each “family,” with culinary creations to share in hand, really inspired me – and my husband and I hope to host our neighbors, friends and family in a similar way sometime soon. If they are pumped to sit on the floor, we are pumped to cook and nourish! In this way, and others, my husband and I have decided to get more active in our new neighborhood (we are moving!). We hope to be useful and meaningful contributors to our new community by being active in different ways…one being preparing healthful and tasty food for our neighbors and friends.I signed up to be a “Food Angel” at our church, which I was really excited about. Getting an assignment to cook for a family in need of some comforting grub? Right up my alley. And it gives me an excuse to try out new recipes.

The family I was assigned to were going through some physical trauma, so I decided to go for a warming and healthful meal. A particular hearty, winter soup recipe caught my eye, after perusing one of my favorite cookbooks given to me by my nutritionist (and mentor, really) Catherine Ziegler of Crave Health: a pinto bean and yam soup, adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook (they have a great blog, as well)

The grocery run (I went with canned tomatoes and beans which I try not to do too often – BPA lined cans – watch out!)

2 cups dry pinto beans, soaked overnight (if you do not want to cook your own beans then use 3 cans of organic beans)
6-8 cups water
4 cloves garlic, peeled
one 2-inch piece kombu seaweed (optional, if cooking beans)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small garnet yams, diced (leave skins on)
3 carrots, cut into rounds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
8 cups bean cooking liquid and/or water
1 28-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes (or plain diced tomatoes)
1 small bunch kale, finely chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced (optional)
2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt

Rinse and drain soaked beans, place into a 6-quart pot with the water, garlic, and kombu; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for approximately 1 hour, or until beans are soft. Remove pot from heat. Drain beans and reserve the cooking liquid.

To make the soup, heat olive oil in a large 8-quart pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute for about 5 minutes. The add the garlic, yams, carrots, cumin, paprika, and chipotle chili powder. Saute and sir for another 5 minutes then add water. Mix well to remove any spices that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Lots of chopping

Smelling delicious

Yum

Add the cooked beans, bean cooking liquid or water, tomatoes, mix well. If the soup needs more liquid, then add more water. Cover pot and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Then add chopped kale, chopped cilantro, lime juice and sea salt. Simmer for about 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust salt and lime juice if needed. Enjoy!

One for me, the rest for you

The deets on why certain ingredients are helpful to the system overall:

kale: DARK, LEAFY GREENS ARE GOOD – need I say more? Full of manganese and has tons of vitamin A, K, C. Kale full of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates. Without sufficient intake of such antioxidants, our oxygen metabolism can become compromised, which we call “oxidative stress.” It only takes 100 calories of kale to provide us with 25-35% of the National Academy of Sciences’ public health recommendation for the most basic omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA). And they are a great source of fiber.

pinto beans: great contributors of fiber, folate, magnesium and potassium. It has been estimated that consumption of 100% of the daily value (DV) of folate would, by itself, reduce the number of heart attacks suffered by Americans each year by 10%. Just one cup of cooked pinto beans provides 73.5% of the recommended daily intake for folate. Pinto beans are also a good supplier of magnesium, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and potassium, an important electrolyte involved in nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles.

In addition the dietary fiber found in pinto beans helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, pinto beans can provide steady, slow-burning energy. *Pre-soaking has been found to reduce the raffinose-type oligosaccharides, or sugars associated with causing flatulence.

cumin: is an excellent source of iron, a mineral component to hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is a part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. Additionally, iron supports the immune system. Research has shown that cumin may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, compounds necessary for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation.

Thank you whfoods.com for your ENDLESS amounts of relevant information on the world’s healthiest foods!

Warm and ready for delivery

The truffles – healthy fats and a little sweet to finish off the meal

I included a mixed greens salad with goat cheese, apple slices and homemade mustard vinaigrette dressing to toss together, and my raw almond butter, coconut and honey truffles for dessert. The thank you note said it all: “we would LOVE the recipe, please!” EMBRACE YOUR NEIGHBORS!

Neighborly love note

An Unexpected Combo

We all know that one of the greatest sweet and savory combo’s is that perfect salty smokey flavor and smell of bacon with the sweet, significant, but subtle maple syrup. There are bacon maple cupcakes, ice cream, chocolate bars (now THAT’s a sweet tooth) and so many other creations.

I was craving a warming, sweet and savory something, a dip to be exact, to bring to a friends’ house for a potluck. My friend Tara was bringing  Zachary’s pizza (even though I can’t eat the crust anymore, that stomach ache from all that cheese is DEFINITELY worth it for Zachary’s deep dish), Meg was bringing salad (and she’s a pro at the salad) and Molls, chips and guac (ALWAYS a good choice). I had some garnet yams in the produce bowl at home. What to do, what to do…

I have been obsessed with goat cheese lately (and goat milk butter – but that’s a whole other blog posting). I looked up some recipes for a sweet potato goat cheese spread or dip. I found some good contenders, but decided to make up my own concoction. The portions in this recipe don’t really matter – it’s as indulgent and cheesy or sweet as you want to make it.

What to throw in:

  • Two large garnet yams
  • One large log of goat cheese from Whole Foods (just their generic brand, I think it was around $3; we are trying to really watch the budget these days)
  • Pepitas (the pumpkin seedlings that are a light greenish color)
  • 1 tbsp + 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp maple honey
  • Pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Puttin’ it together:

Preheat over to 325 degrees. To start, cut up yams into 1 inch cubes (skins left ON) and toss in 1 tbsp of the olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Next, roast yam cubes on a non-stick cookie sheet for about 15 minute or until soft enough to mash.  Next toss pepitas in remaining olive oil, salt and pepper for just under 5 minutes. Take out of over and let cool. Set aside.

Take out the yams, put into a bowl or blender, whichever is easier for you to mash them with, and mash until very smooth, like mashed potatoes. Spread into a casserole or dip dish (this will be your first layer of the dip).

Next take the cheese and, with a fork, start to crumble as much goat cheese as you wish over the mashed yams. I covered the yams, but could still see a bit of the orange peaking through. It depends on your taste.

Ready to chow

Depending on where you are going or if you are serving this at home, it should be warmed up RIGHT before serving, so plan on having an oven available. Warm up in a low temp oven (300 degrees) for 5-10 minutes, checking to see if it’s warm enough for your taste. Take out, sprinkle with pepitas. I served it up with Totopos, maca quinoa corn chips, from Casa Sanchez – my favorite chips in the entire universe.

The greatest chip of all time

Clearly no one liked it…

Now for a few tid-bits on why this is a fun alternative to your store bought dips and spreads:

Garnet yams, with skins on (the best part, where all the nutrients from the soil have been leftover and the garnet’s themselves are a great sweet without being refined and a great source of beta-carotene, found in our orange produce; squashes, carrots, etc.

Goat milk products are great alternatives for cow milk cheese and butter if you can’t do the dairy, like me. They have shorter chain fat molecules which are easier for humans, in general, to digest. Many people don’t realize they are not ALLERGIC to milk, but are intolerance of its properties. And it’s hard to give up for anyone.  ; )  There are so many fun herbal flavors, such as those from Cypress Grove in Arcata, CA. I have also heard that this place is legit, just up from the Bay Area in Bodega Bay: http://www.bodegaartisancheese.com/index.html. Worth the visit!

I have to admit I am not a huge fan of pepitas and the way they taste raw, although they are really good for you (and good when roasted). In addition to their anti-imflammatory benefits found for arthritis patients, they are a great source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and are a solid source of iron, copper, protein and zinc. Throw a quarter of a cup into a salad, or roast them lightly like I did for this recipe). To read about even more fascinating health benefits from pepitas, visit: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=82.

EMBRACE GOAT CHEESE YAM DIP!

Holy Soaked, Sprouted and Dehydrated Buckwheat, Batman!

The above is a pop culture reference. I know, I know. You shouldn’t even attempt a joke if you have to explain it. But this headline popped into my head, so I had to use it because it was so absurd and way too long. Just go with it, people.  :)

I recently embarked on a seemingly laborious task recently: making buckwheat flour from scratch (the scratchiest of scratch), and then making the most EPIC buckwheat pancakes imaginable. Who knew it would take a few weeks.

The story began around my birthday (January 8th). We went down to Carmel Valley with a few friends, and all I wanted to do for the big 3-0 was cook ridiculously scrumptious food. I had the idea to make buckwheat pancakes from scratch, or getting raw buckwheat groats, soak them, sprout them, dehydrate them and then grind them up into flour (using the VitaMix, for the right consistency). This was a task that wasn’t so much laborious as it was time consuming. I went into soaking the groats thinking I could get all of this done in a day, but without a dehydrator, like the one’s found here that all of my vegan friends say are the top of the line: http://www.excaliburdehydrator.com/, there wasn’t enough time or experience. And the real questions are: why soak? Why sprout? Why dehydrate? To make the flour, I had to dehydrate. But sprouting essentially wakes up a dormant seed that you are getting ready to consume, making it easier to digest and absorb. According to our friends at The Nourishing Gourment, taking advice from Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions (an amazing cookbook and reference guide) it makes sense to eat grains, legumes, seeds, etc., that have been sprouted because this brings them back to life, for one, and because there are coatings that can be released from encasing some grains that inhibit proper absorption of the nutrients you are expecting to get from those foods in the first place…and soaking them before sprouting releases these inhibitors. Phytic acid, or example, keeps the body from absorbing some essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and zinc, two of the most important. Sprouting can also produce more vitamins and minerals in the seed, packing that particular grain, seed or legume with more of a nutritional punch. How can you go wrong?

This leads me to the fundamentals of taking this project on. I soaked my buckwheat groats overnight, in the fridge (I think ideally you leave them out,at room temp, covered with cheesecloth or something of the sort) and submerged in water. Then I put them into a very fine meshed colander to dry out and help the oozy, mucosa (sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?) drain out. As this was an experiment, I didn’t realize that buckwheat had such a think substance that was released through soaking, so I drained it with water a couple of times, running my hands through the grains with water running to get most of this substance loose and draining. Then I left the buckwheat in the fridge overnight and it sprouted very quickly. Ideally, they should be left in a jar, or a similar container, to germinate at room temperature. Check them often, as you should use them for cooking JUST as they start to sprout (or sprout them all the way FOR sprouts, for a salad or sandwich!)

The groats close up, with the sprouts showing quite nicely. It’s ALIVE! And healthful

The sprouted groats, not as yellow as they seem in this photo. Pre-dehydration.

Next, after spreading the groats out on a non-stick baking sheet, I set my oven to the lowest temperature it would go to: 170 degrees (again, I am without an Excalibur at the moment). True raw foodists, who do a LOT of soaking, sprouting and dehydrating, won’t go above 118 degrees and stay within the range of 104 and 114 degree usually (for more detailed information, check out this reference site. VERY informational: http://www.rawfoodlife.com/Articles___Research/Science_of_Raw_v__Cooked/science_of_raw_v__cooked.htm). Cafe Gratitude-style food prep! I doused the sprouts in about 2 tbsp of cinnamon before dehydration, coating the groats, and dehydrated the groats for what seemed like about 5-7 hours. My husband and I were in the house all morning, so it wasn’t a problem, but you can see why a dehydrator can be a really useful tool. You don’t have to watch it, and you can leave it unattended overnight or throughout the day, just like a rice cooker. Just ensure that your machine is in a well ventilated spot on the kitchen counter.

5-7 hours later, after checking to make sure there was less and and less moisture surrounding the groats (I would check them every hour or so), I took them out, let them cool for about 30 minutes and tossed them into the VitaMix. After a quick minute on speed levels 6-9 in the VitaMix, I had BEAUTIFUL fresh buckwheat flour, perfectly ground. It was a REALLY wonderful feeling to see how smooth and fine it turned out.

On the grind…and half way done!

Finished and lookin’ fine!

Use some now and save some for later. Looks just like store bought – but without fillers of other flours and from sprouted grain!

So, you may be saying that this just looks like a ridiculous project. Let me challenge you to think back to your first history class, where we were learning about people living on the prairie, or farmer’s working the fields hundred of years ago…thousands of years ago. The native’s of this country; they respected the bounty of the land and got as much out of it that they NEEDED, not that we WANTED or DESIRED or thought they deserved. This is old school, folks. One recipe for grinding your own flour also suggested used a grinder, a hand mill, which can take a really long time and grinds in very small quantities. THIS was even less time intensive than it could have been…and was a wonderful lesson in what goes in to making food products, and processed food, even at the most basic level.

Carrying on…now it was time to showcase the flour and test it out. I found what will now be a staple breakfast recipe in my household, and one that you could easily turn into a savory recipe, that tasted MUCH like a particular 9 grain skillet pancake that my husband and I enjoyed at the famous Big Sur Bakery down HWY 1. I definitely recommend making a trip down to Big Sur not only for the camping, hiking and views, but for this gem of a spot for the pancake. And be sure to share it with at least one other person.  : ) My recipe, adapted from Ester Perez at http://supermilkmama.com/sprouted-buckwheat-pancakes-vegan/. Thank you Ester! What an amazing recipe:

Buckwheat Pancakes (Gluten Free & Vegan)

  • 1 1/2 cups of water (next time I am going to try half of this water and half almond milk, just to make it creamier)
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1  cup of our homemade buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 heavy dashes of each: cinnamon, fresh ground nutmeg and cardamom
  • pinch of Himalayan Salt (I use larger pink chunks that I have in a salt grinder)
  • 2 tbsp raw honey, melted on VERY low temperature on the stove top, slowly
  • 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I love Bragg’s)
  • 3 Tablespoons of unrefined, raw coconut oil, melted with the honey)
  • Goat butter (SO delicious) or raw butter
  • Coconut nectar or Grade B Maple Syrup

TO MAKE:

  • Heat griddle or cast iron skillet on medium heat.
  • Put chia seeds in water, mix and set aside for 3-5 minutes (photo below)
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, spices, salt and baking soda.
  • Stir chia seed and water mixture and add to flour mixture.  Add honey, oil and vinegar.  Stir well with a fork and taste for flavoring.  You may want to add more spices.  Batter should be on the thinner side. (photo below)
  • Use a ladle to pour the pancake batter onto the griddle.  When bubbles cover pancake, flip over gently but quickly.  It is about 10-15 seconds per side on medium heat.  Pancakes will be medium brown when ready, but don’t overcook (photo below).
  • I like to serve these with maple syrup and the goat butter – it adds a really nice tang. (photo below)

The chia’s soaking. Ch-ch-ch-chia!

Readying the batter, and some of our ingredients.

See the bubbles? The more they rapidly pop as they surface, the more ready the pancake is to flip. We used a non-stick pan, but the use of your cast iron skillet would make it even tastier.

They came out a bit dark, from having the pan heated a bit too hot, but you can play with the temperature to see what works best for your taste. The slower and not as hot the better, though!

Our friend Tim came over to test them out, and with my husband’s famous slow cooked, soft scrambled eggs (THE best ever) served on the side, it turned into a wonderful breakfast for him. He seemed very happy with the texture and the taste.I was also thinking they could be manipulated into a savory pancake recipe, as well. Cutting out the coconut oil and using extra virgin olive oil, and cutting out the honey might work to prep the recipe for other ingredients. For example, you could put some cheese in there, some fresh herbs and spices, chives and sour cream (if you aren’t vegan) or a savory cashew cream topping. Perhaps some grated sweet potato or zucchini? You could also turn this into a great latke recipe. Just some food for thought!  :)

Until next time…EMBRACE YOUR MULTIDIMENSIONAL, HIGH MAINTENANCE RECIPES!

Warming Persimmon Cinnamon Apple Sauce

SUPER easy to make, especially if you have a Vitamix. It grinds those apples up in no time and leaves you with a perfect consistency.

I used organic Fuji apples (they are SO sweet. This recipe is in no need of any added sugar in any form).   :)

What you’ll need:

  • 6-8 organic Fuji apples
  • 2 large persimmons, or 3 Fuyu variety of persimmons, ripe (you can tell if the 2 larger persimmons are ripe if they are COMPLETELY squishy to the point that they feel gelatinous. The fuyu are usually ripe if they are slightly soft).
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger root
  • 1 tsp salt (Pink Himalayan is my favorite)
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice apples into about 8 slices per apple, leaving skins on, and line them up on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Take out, let cool for 10 minutes. Slice persimmons in half, leaving skin in. Throw both into blender with ginger, cinnamon, salt, water and persimmons. Blend on low starting, then ramp up to medium and high until apple sauce consistency desired is met. I like mine slightly chunky.

Fuji’s awaiting their fate…

The apples ready for baking

This applesauce was plain apple ginger. The persimmon version came out a rich, bright orange. And in this batch, I tried lime juice (too limey, but lemon zest might be nice) and I added in ground clove and nutmeg. Very festive for the holidays!

Now, I always get questions about organic vs. non-organic. Of course, most people just don’t want to buy them because of the premium that they think they are paying. On the contrary; non-organic apples,for example, are on the Dirty Dozen list (referenced here http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list/) so be sure to buy your apples and other fruits listed in the Dirty Dozen organic at all times. There are certain foods that are ok to buy off the shelf without the organic certification. And the BEST way to shop for produce, which is more sustainable, local, fresh AND organic all in one swoop, is subscribing to a CSA in your area (http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/) or visiting your nearest farmer’s market. Here is a little article that I put together on a friends’ blog that gives you the haps on why going organic is better for you and better for your wallet in the long run: http://inthiscitysf.com/2011/10/25/why-organic/). EMBRACE ORGANICS!