Monday, July 30, 2012

Roast Potatoes and Chicken with Romesco

Happy Monday you guys! This is the second Monday this summer where I didn’t have to work (the first one was the short one week break at the end of the school year), and will be enjoying this for two more Mondays. Yep, summer school is over! As much fun as that was, I need to recuperate and get geared up for School Year 2012-2013. My summer vacation will be over before I know it, so in the meantime, I will cook, read, walk, run, bike, yoga, camp, travel, sleep, and eat the rest of my summer away.

Yesterday, as I was shopping for wedding presents for two of my friends who are getting married this weekend, I bought myself a little present… a kitchen scale! Molly Wizenberg gives this advice to kitchen lovers in her book. Measuring ingredients by weight is more accurate than measuring them by volume. So, when I read that we need 1 ½ lbs of potatoes for this week’s Food Matter’s Project, Roast Potatoes and Chicken with Romesco, my spankin’ new kitchen scale was happily opened and put to use to measure the potatoes. Mireya, author of My Healthy Eating Habits, chose this week’s recipe. Check out her healthy eating website for the full recipe. Thank you Mireya for choosing a delicious recipe… DFJ and I loved it!

This recipe already sounded really good just as it is, so the only modifications I made are the following:

Green bell pepper instead of red (I do not recommend this because I think it affected the taste of my sauce a bit. The only reason I used the green bell pepper was because it was an entire dollar cheaper than the red!)

Since I didn’t have sherry or white wine vinegar, I used 1 tablespoon white vinegar + 2 tablespoons rice vinegar + a splash of fresh lemon juice.

The recipe instructed to just season the chicken with salt and pepper. That was good enough, but personally, I would have liked it better if it was marinated for a few hours in a bit of lemon juice. I was very impressed with how the chicken thighs cooked perfectly, tender and moist, almost melt-in-your mouth soft. Mark Bittman sure knows how to cook meat! Potatoes scented with rosemary are always great. It is one of the simplest ways to cook potatoes and is very homey. A note to myself though, I should have sprinkled more salt and then a little dash of smoked paprika on the potatoes for extra flavor.

The romesco sauce was new to me. It is like the love child of chimichurri and pesto. It is herby and fresh tasting with sweet undertones from the vinegars. Mark Bittman encourages the use of roasted peppers if we have it. That would be a really great addition for a nice smoky flavor. This sauce would also taste great when slathered over seafood or simply as a topping over a good sourdough or baguette. 

For other ideas on how to cook with romesco sauce, see what other FMP members came up with at our website. There are always tons of delicious surprises when these ladies are involved! Have a great week everyone!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sarah’s Key + Tomatoes

I seem to be on a book rampage this summer… I hope no one minds more book review posts in the near future.

So, here’s my review for Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, as promised.  

This book is a page turner, I finished reading it in a total of about 6 hours in less than a day. That is rare! I love reading but my attention span for books is not so great, that is why I read a couple at a time. But this one captivated me and kept me turning from one page to the next. I have never heard of the Velodrome d’Hiver Police Roundup until I started reading Sarah's Key. The Vel’d’Hiv Roundup is the history of French Jews captured by their own French police, as ordered by the Nazis in the summer of July 1942. This Jewish population was confined  temporarily in the velodrome under horrific conditions before they were sent to concentration camps. An eye-opening lesson in history that left me sad and devastated. It is hard to fathom how our fellow humans were so callous and had such disregard for thousands of innocent lives. This is fiction embedded in real history. The story of the two main characters, Sarah and Julia, intersect seamlessly in this beautiful book. Sarah is not a real person, but her experience could have easily been someone’s real experience during the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup.

I’m not going to lie, as much as I enjoyed reading this book, I felt like there was too much melodrama going on with Julia, the journalist’s, personal life. I got really curious about this historical event and would have preferred to read more details about it in the Sarah section. Other than that, this is an excellent book… great historical research, painful, beautiful, and redeeming. Sarah’s character will definitely haunt me for some time… 

Now then, on to… TOMATOES!  

Are you having an overabundance of tomatoes?

1. One of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes is to simply cut them in half and sprinkle a bit of salt on the juicy flesh. It tastes like warm sun on your skin… the taste of summer!

2. You can also dress it up by serving it fresh with mozzarella, fresh basil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, classy, filing, and delicious!

This super gorgoeus presentation is not my doing... DFJ did this. Maybe he should be a food blogger. I can cook but am so bad at food presentation. Does anyone know of any workshops here in Washington State?

3. If you have read Molly Wizenberg’s book, A Homemade Life, she suggests cutting Roma tomatoes in half, coating them with olive oil, sprinkling them with salt and coriander, and then slow-roasting them in an oven preheated to 200 degrees F for 6 hours. I did it and we savored every bit of the roasted tomatoes!     

4. Joy the Baker recently posted a recipe on Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Biscuits and after reading it, I knew I had to try it. So I did…

It is so freakin’ good! You guys are missing out on one heck of a great recipe if you don’t make this. The initial debate in my head was: go to the gym or make the biscuits and tomato cobbler… Obviously, Joy’s recipe won and I have no regrets. This is my new favorite tomato and biscuit recipe! Might be hard for me to find something to surpass both and that’s saying a lot coming from me who hardly makes recipes twice.   

I did not quite have everything on the ingredient list, so I made use of what was on hand. These were the substitutions that I made:

For the biscuits:
whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour
6 tbsp butter instead of 3 tbsp butter and 3 tbsp vegetable shortening
scant ¾ cup buttermilk
1-2 tsp heavy cream

For the filling:
Roma and Beefsteak tomatoes instead of cherry

5. There are so many other ways to take tomatoes to the next level... if you have any favorites, let me know. I would love more tomato recipes!

Enjoy your tomatoes!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Random Kitchen Tips

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! Mine has been busy with cooking, working out, reading, and teaching summer school (which will be over tomorrow). Not much time for travelling and camping (yet), but I’m not complaining. It is so hot outside that playing outdoors in this heat is out of the question. In the meantime, let me share with you some kitchen tips, food ingredient combinations, food preservation techniques, and so on. Hope you will find these tips helpful, if you are not already aware of them.

1. How to freshen up carrots that have gone soft…

If you love buying carrots at the farmers market or the organic section at your grocery store, they usually come with the greens. So you have teeny carrots hiding underneath a bush of greens poking out of your bag. This bunch then gets stuffed into the refrigerator. Apparently, carrots not separated from the greens will cause them to go soft if not used within 3 days or so, maybe less.

One thing you can do is cut the carrots off the greens before putting them away in the refrigerator. IF you forget to do that, no biggie: Just snip off the carrots and give them a nice 2-4 hour ice bath. They will firm up and become good as new. I did it and it worked!

A huge thanks to this website for the valuable information!

2. Cantaloupe and fresh mint leaves are lovely together.

Because I tend to buy too much produce during the summer, some of them get overlooked. Take for instance the baby size cantaloupe that was hidden behind a bunch of onion greens. I forgot about it and only remembered to cut it up after it has gone just a wee bit beyond its perfectly ripe stage. Even though it was a small cantaloupe, it was still too much for two people, so I planned on serving it at our dinner party anyway. Maybe with some fresh basil, my guests won’t mind the slight overripe taste?

However, DFJ suggested tossing in some mint instead. Being the good girlfriend that I am, I followed his advice. It was the best idea ever, the mint totally freshened up the cantaloupe! Even if your cantaloupe is not overripe, I recommend you try this… cantaloupe already tastes awesome by itself but the mint sure livens it up.

3. Pineapple frozen yogurt + vanilla ice cream + raspberries + few mint leaves = a very delicious ice cream shake.

I made some homemade pineapple frozen yogurt that didn’t turn out so great. But in my determination not to waste it, I threw scoops of it in the blender, along with raspberries, a big scoop of store-bought vanilla ice cream, and a few mint leaves. My oh my! It made for the best ice cream shake I have ever had.       

4. Liven up pesto based pasta dishes with some cumin, paprika, an extra dash of salt, and some fresh lemon juice.

I made the mistake of not tasting the pasta before serving it during our dinner party last Friday. The realization sunk in after my first bite… It wasn’t bad but it was bland. Somehow, I thought the salt in the basil pesto that I made was enough, but when stirred into pasta, it amounts to nothing. Fortunately, my friends still ate it and declared it good. They were just being polite. I wish I could have invited them over the next day for leftovers. The dish was so good after some add-ons of cumin, paprika, more salt, and fresh lemon juice.

5. If you want to clean your house but have zero motivation to do so, invite your friends over for an impromptu dinner party. You will then have no choice but to clean your house and it gets done pretty darn fast too. Also, dinner parties don't have to be book perfect... All you need are good friends (they have to come hungry), good food, and good wine.

6. Use your collection of old magazines.

Two years ago, my good friend, Bethany, gave me a one-year subscription of bon appétit. I love all the issues (what’s not to love about bon appétit?) and couldn’t bear to part with them or to let them gather dust.

Solution: I pulled out my copy of last year’s July issue, set it out on the counter for easy perusal access to get in-season inspirations and kitchen tips. Unlike fashion, fresh seasonal food will be the same every year. So cooking tips from July 2011 will still be useful for July 2012, 2013, and so on. This is something I will do at the beginning of each month from now on. Then, my magazines will be used over and over again!     

7. Tasteless fruit is good for baking.

We all know that overripe fruits are good for baking right? How about deceptive fruits that look and feel ripe but do not taste good? In fact, they do not taste like anything at all… just pulpy and flat. Should we consider them good for nothing except for compost or the garbage? NO! Please no! Give it a honey or sugar bath and bake it in a cake or a sweet, quick bread. The fruit will absorb the sugars and the oven heat will allow its sweetness to come out. 

8. Store your berries right and make them last longer.

First, prepare a plastic container lined with a paper towel on the bottom. Have the paper towels handy because you will need more than one.

Second, remove the berries from their container and inspect them one by one for mold (hopefully, you have time to do this as it can be tedious and will make you want to scream and pull your hair out). Place the berries on the paper towel, making sure to give them space to breathe. Put another paper towel layer and place more berries on top (if there’s more). Add more paper towel and berry layers as needed and cover with an airtight lid. Make sure there is enough space between the topmost layer of berries and the lid because you do not want to smash the berries.

Third, store in the refrigerator. Wash the berries only right before using or eating them. Washing beforehand will cause them to mush up and get moldy sooner.

9. Freeze extra summer fruits and vegetables efficiently.

It is always good to arm ourselves for the winter… especially if we have an overabundance of zucchini, tomatoes, stone fruits, and berries. The best way to do this is to freeze, freeze, and freeze. We all do this, right? I have some tips on how to freeze our bounty so we have easy access when it’s time to use them.  

Wash fruits or vegetables first and dry them well. Then cut them up (if needed) and measure them by a cup or half a cup. Put the measured produce in plastic storage bags and store in the freezer. This may be a tedious process at first. But trust me, it pays off. When you need to use these come winter, you don’t need to defrost an entire gallon bag or hack the icy stuff with a knife. That can be cold and dangerous. With your fruits or veggies already measured out in separate containers, you can just grab a bag or two of the amount you want and cook with it. Easy peasy!

10. Get a copy of A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. This is a must have in your cookbook shelf. Actually, I will have more on this in a blog post sometime this week or the next. Uh, if you’re wondering, she doesn’t know me but I am slightly obsessed with her.

Hope you guys find this helpful… if you have any tips to add on, please feel free to share! I need lots of tips!  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Sadness + Summer Buttermilk Cake

I had a glimpse of what it feels like to be depressed and it is scary. On Saturday morning I woke up dazed and just out of sorts for unknown reasons. The night before, we had some friends over for a dinner party and had some good food, great conversations, and a lovely time. Because we stayed up late, I thought maybe I was just tired… but the feeling dragged on the entire day, even after I made a good breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen. There was no strength in my body to walk on the treadmill with a book (that’s my new workout these days). At 1:00 in the afternoon, I crawled back into bed and slept for a good two hours. When I woke up, I was still sad. What the heck?

Maybe putting on a pretty dress and going to a nearby town for some liquor tasting, perusing the art walk downtown, and getting some sun would help? No, it didn’t help. When we got home, I was still feeling melancholic, listless, and hopeless.

DFJ tried so hard to cheer me up. We had dinner, watched Rain Man, had some dessert, and the sadness momentarily disappeared. But as soon as the entertainment was over, that darkness crept up again…

We talked about possible reasons for my sadness but couldn’t come up with anything. So then we started talking about reasons why I should NOT be sad. There were a lot of reasons:
1. DFJ and I have each other.
2. I have a wonderful family. They may be a thousand miles away, but I have them.
3. Everywhere I go, I have always been blessed with good people who support me.
4. I have great friends.
5. I have a very fulfilling job.
6. I eat well.
7. I am alive. Yes, I am alive and healthy.
8. …and so many more…

Being alive is reason enough to be happy. Sometimes, because of my obsessions and worries about the things that go on in my everyday life, I forget to stop and take a breath. The haste and stress cause me to lose ground and cease to enjoy the moment.

Today, I found out (through Facebook) that two of my former coworkers back home in the Philippines, one of which was a good friend, passed away. They were both still so young and they died because of cancer. It is so heartbreaking. There was not a chance to say goodbye… not even through the internet. How did I get so out of touch? Why is it hard to find time to call people dear to me or to send messages?

I can’t beat myself up though, right? Looking on the bright side, it is never too late to start anew and rekindle those connections. My friend Sally once told me some words of wisdom that I will always live by. When I first moved here and felt so heartsick because I am so far away from my family, she lovingly told me that leaving a place and starting anew somewhere doesn’t mean you lose what you have. Everywhere you go, you will meet new friends and your circle will keep getting wider.

I hope my friends all over the world know that even though I am far away and grew somewhat older (and hopefully wiser), I am still the same person they once knew and I will forever be grateful for the imprint they have left in my life. Stories, laughters, tears, and foods shared may have become rusty memories, but they are in here, in my heart.      

Let us all give ourselves the pleasure of taking time to pause, remember, reflect, give thanks, and turn our mundane tasks into amusement. Breathe… Take a walk… Do some handstands… Call a loved one and let them know you’re thinking of them… Say thank you... Invite friends over for dinner…

Bake this cake.

This cake is a slice of summer… smiling, full of life, demanding nothing from you but to be eaten and enjoyed. Fall in love with the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and red currants thrown together in a spongy and lemony buttermilk cake. The sweetness of the cake is a lovely contrast to the tartness of the berries and the light texture beguiles the rich flavors.

Summer Buttermilk Cake (Makes 2 round cakes)
Adapted from bon appétit, Blackberry Buttermilk Cake (July 2011)

a generous pat of butter to grease the pans
2 tbsp cake flour (to dust the inside of pans)

1 cup fresh red currants, (washed, dried and removed from stems)
½ cup fresh strawberries, sliced                                                        
½ cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup blueberries
2 tbsp sugar

2 1/3 cups cake flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda

1 cup sugar
zest of one large lemon
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 extra-large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (well-shaken)

2 tbsp powdered sugar (to dust the top of cake)

Generously grease two, 9 inch round cake pans with a pat of butter. Coat both pans with 1 tablespoon of cake flour each. Spread the flour by tapping and tilting the pan in all sides. Greasing the pans with butter and dusting them with flour will help prevent the cake and the fruit from sticking on the pan.

In a large bowl, gently mix all the fruit with a rubber spatula, taking care not to smash them. Spread half of the fruit mix on the bottom of each pan and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar each. Set aside.

In a clean large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Make sure that everything is sifted very well.

Pause for a second to set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Pour the sugar in a large bowl and gently massage the lemon zest in the sugar using your fingertips. Add the room temperature butter into the bowl and using a hand held mixer set on low, beat until the mixture is creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating it into the mixture on low. Pour in the vanilla and continue to mix on low until everything is well incorporated.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk into the batter, starting and ending with the flour. Beat the mixture on low until just incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan to make sure that there are no dry ingredients left.

Carefully place big blobs of the batter evenly over the fruit mixture between both pans. Spread the batter gently and smooth the top using a flat, rubber spatula.

Place both pans in the oven and bake for an hour. The cake is done when it turns a gorgeous golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Carefully move the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Scrape the outer edges of the cake away from the pan using a thin, plastic spatula. Place the wire rack on top of the pan and carefully flip the cake pan and remove it so the bottom side of the cake is up. Do the same for the other cake. Dust the tops with a tablespoon of powdered sugar each. Let cool completely then carefully slide on a plate.

Serve plain, with some vanilla whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream on the side.

Bake this cake, savor it, and share it!
Allow this summer delight to make your heart glad and someone else’s too.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dirty Life (Book Review) + Beet Greens with Garlic Cream Sauce

1. The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

This book made me appreciate organic farming and inspired me even more to buy local and support local farmers. Kristin Kimball has a way with words and descriptions that made me believe for a few weeks that I was her best friend listening to her confide in me about her falling in love with the good earth, her husband, and her new life that she never imagined she would someday stumble upon and love. Her writing is beautiful and she describes the mundane events of farm life with such vividness that I felt like I was next to her and helping with cow milking, birthing, collecting sap from maple trees, planting potatoes, and so on.

Read this book and fall in love with Kristin and her husband’s farming and feeding philosophy, learn about the pleasures and pains of farm life, and become a member of Essex Farm (if you live nearby). You don’t even know how badly I want to be one so I can enjoy their fresh, delicious, and wholesome produce all year long.

2. Recipe: Beet Greens with Garlic Cream Sauce

I don’t have very good memory for complicated things like mathematical and scientific equations, nor do I have the patience to understand them. As long as I know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, life is good. Aaaand, as long as I know how to read, survival is not a problem.

I do, however, have great memory when it comes to food. Excellent memory. My recipe inspirations come from a combination of things I have come across from leafing through cookbooks, browsing magazines, reading books, and stalking food blogs. Take for example this recipe that I am about to share, Beet Greens in Garlic Cream Sauce. In her book, Kristin Kimball talks about cooking peas in milk. That was my AHA! moment. Hmmm… cooking vegetables in milk! Now, I didn't exactly cook peas in milk, but this particular recipe somehow concocted an image of my wilting beet greens cooked with that little bit of heavy cream leftover from making scones. Don’t you just love it when book inspirations and the importance of wasting naught come together?      

Friends, you have to give this recipe a try. Beet greens are very special, and when cooked, they lend a delicate flavor. There is a slight beet sweetness reminding you that it is the same plant as the beet root and a subtle hint of bitterness that can only come from healthy greens. And oh the colors! Beet greens look so vibrant. The deep shade of green and the beautiful red vein streaks are so alluring… You can’t help but cook and then savor them.    

Bell peppers… this is one of my candy vegetables that I have to have all the time, even in the dead of winter. DFJ introduced me to the petite ones! They are so much sweeter and crunchier than their bigger sized family members. To accompany the wilted greens, I sliced up some mini sweet bell peppers that gave this dish a nice and juicy crunch.

What made this dish truly come together was the garlic cream sauce. It is delicious! How else can I describe it but creamy and garlicky? Put those two together and the result is good, so good! It is also beautiful as it cooks... The cream bubbling up as soon as it hits the hot surface of the pan and the quick color change from white to golden is almost like an art of cooking chemistry.

Another secret to how wonderful this recipe turned out was the salt. After dinner, I repeatedly asked DFJ what he thought of the amount of salt and he said it was perfect. He is right, but I am stressing over this because I felt like using half a teaspoon was too much. However, there is a time and a place for generosity with salt and this is it. If you have salt intake problems, please use half the amount or a smidgen less. In my recipe below, I will keep it loose and just say generous pinches of salt.

Beet Greens in Garlic Cream Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic
¼ cup heavy cream
3 cups beet greens (packed and stems included)
5 mini bell peppers
generous pinches of salt (I used 1/2 tsp but it will still be great with less)
a good dash of freshly ground pepper
generous pinch of chili flakes

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown. Gently pour the heavy cream and let it heat up for 15-20 seconds.

Add the bell peppers into the cream sauce and cook for a minute and a half until soft, stirring often. Toss in the beet greens and cook for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.   

So friends, save your beet greens... The farmers sell them along with the beets for a reason!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Love for Reading + Steve Jobs + Yogi's Granola

Besides teaching special education, cooking, working out, and doing other mundane things, one of my favorite pastime activities is reading. I love to read, always have since I was a little girl. During classes, I would hide a book under my desk, tune my teachers out, and get lost with the characters in my books. Much like when my students “discreetly” send text messages under the table and think that teachers can’t tell or see. This is karma and it has come after me years later! Reading was my number one entertainment and escape when I chose not to do chores or homework.

It all started when my mom took me to a book rental place and got me a membership there. In my small hometown in the Philippines, we did not have a decent library (probably still don’t). The only library I have ever been to was the one in my school. It was a sad, little library but back then, I felt like I was in book heaven. So, book rental shacks were the places I spent precious pesos on to read books that were not available at my school's library.

In my younger years, the Sweet Valley Twins series was my favorite… I followed these California twins and their friends from sixth grade to college. My heart broke when Elizabeth Wakefield and Todd Wilkins went their separate ways and fell in love with other people. Wasn’t first love supposed to be forever? I know better now! Among the many other books that I read were: Sweet Dreams, Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew (my heroine), The Bobbsey Twins (old school yeah!), and books by V.C. Andrews, Danielle Steele, Sydney Sheldon, Mary Higgins-Clark, and so on. Gradually, my taste in books evolved and now I read a variety of genres.

When I moved here and lived with my friend, Sally, I found my book soul mate in her… she lent and gave me so many books than I have time to read. In fact, after 5 years of living here, my book pile is still getting higher and wider because I keep getting more. I’m happily working my way through them. From Sally, I learned to read multiple books at a time… I never thought I would do this one day but it totally works for me! Reading one book at a time does not hold my attention for very long anymore, so I read multiple books over the course of months or weeks. Every now and then, when I come across something so spellbinding that just can’t be put down, I breeze through that in one, two, or three days, depending on how busy I am.  

Anyhoo, I just finished reading three books this past weekend and I want to share them all with you, one at a time.
1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
2. The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball
3. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Let’s start with Steve Jobs’ biography…

Before Steve Jobs passed away, I did not know him, at all. Never even heard of him. Ignorant, right? When people talked about his death, I still wasn’t quite sure I understood what his role was in the world of technology. Now, I know better. Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is incredibly well-written. He portrayed the man’s character honestly and captured his entire lifetime in 571 pages. This seems like an impossible feat to gather up all the important facts of a person's life from birth to death and sum it all up in a book, but Isaacson made it happen. Getting to know Steve Jobs, as more than the face of Apple, through this book stirred up different emotions in me. I liked him, admired him, hated him, and am deeply inspired by him.

Jobs was a phenomenal human being (let’s just set aside the fact that he was brutally honest and was not very sensitive to how his actions might affect others) who had a vision for the future and technology. Somehow, he knew what people wanted before they even realized what they wanted. He made people he worked with do the impossible when they didn’t believe in themselves. Leading his team, they were able to create and design products that are elegant, functional, close to perfection (even the parts of Apple products that no one can see are all lined up perfectly, he made sure of that) and way ahead of times. Most admirable of all, Steve Jobs loved what he did and believed in his products. He came a long way from building computers in his father’s garage to establishing Apple… Let’s hope that his legacy lives on and Apple continues to make products the Steve Jobs way!

If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend it. Buy it, borrow it, and then let’s talk about Steve Jobs. It was a slow read for me because of all the facts and the Apple timeline, but I liked knowing about the company history and the big role that Jobs played in making it become what it is now.

Before we move on to food talk, let me share some other facts about Steve Jobs. In his youth, he had a fascination for Eastern spirituality and Zen Buddhism, which actually influenced his designs and eye for simplicity. One of his favorite books was Autobiography of a Yogi. Steve Jobs also had a weird obsession with food and eating healthy (which turned out to not be healthy), he was a vegetarian and sometimes would go for days just eating carrots or apples or drinking fresh fruit juice. In honor of Steve Jobs and my yoga teacher, I am calling this granola recipe I’m about to share, Yogi’s Granola.

I gave some of this granola to my yoga teacher a couple of weeks ago and when we ran into each other at the farmer’s market the next day, coincidentally in front of a granola stand, she told me how much she loved my granola and how it saved her that morning because she forgot to eat breakfast before going to the studio. Then she looked up at the lady who sells artisan granola and told her, “You have a lot to live up to because her granola is really good”. That made my heart smile and made me wish I had given her more! Next time Jenn, promise!

This makes me wonder if Steve Jobs would have liked my granola? Hmmm, I don’t know if he even ate granola… but you might like this, my yoga teacher did!

Yogi’s Granola (Yields about 7 cups)

3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
¾ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup almonds, raw and unsalted, slivered
½ cup cashews, raw and unsalted, chopped
½ cup walnuts, raw and unsalted, chopped
½ cup sunflower seeds, unsalted

3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp agave nectar

1 tsp cinnamon

½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp chia seeds

Set a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir together the coconut oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Set aside.

In a large roasting pan, mix the oats, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and sunflower seeds. Pour in the honey and agave nectar and stir well using a rubber spatula, making sure to coat all the dry ingredients.

Pour the coconut oil mixture all over the contents in the pan and stir well to make sure everything gets well coated. Sprinkle the cinnamon and give the granola another good stir.

Cook the granola in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl, mix the cranberries, coconut flakes, brown sugar, and chia seeds. Set aside.

Carefully remove pan from the oven and stir the granola. Cook for another 20 minutes.

Without turning off the oven, remove the pan from the oven and stir in the dried cranberry mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, stir the granola and cook for 10 more minutes.

Turn off the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. Cool the granola completely before moving it to an airtight container. To speed up the cooling process, stir the granola every 5-8 minutes. This granola can be stored for up to 7 days.

Enjoy this granola with some fresh fruit and yogurt, coffee on the side, and a good book!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Corn-Avocado Salad, Tamale Pancakes, Mexican Crabmeat

Hi Everyone! It’s another Food Matters Project Monday and this week’s recipe was chosen by Jenn of Vanilla Lemon, Corn-Avocado Salad (with a Little Something Seared on Top). I was so mad at myself when I got home from the farmer’s market last Friday and realized that I did not check the FMP recipe for this week so I can get the needed ingredients. As fate would have it, I happened to buy corn, which is an important ingredient… all the rest of the ingredients for the salad like the bell pepper, tomato, avocado, and orange are always staples in our refrigerator. Lucky me! Thank you Jenn for picking a recipe that has all the ingredients that are right up my alley.

It took me a while to figure out what to do with the recipe since we didn’t have any of the “something special” ingredients (no scallops, chicken, shrimp, squid, pork chop, steak, nor tofu) that Mark Bittman suggested to sear and place on top of the salad. We didn’t have any corn tortillas to throw in either. After some mulling, I decided to use canned crabmeat to pair with the salad and make my own corn tortillas. The crabmeat happened and it was awesome. The corn tortilla however was initially a disaster. 

Once in your lifetime you come across a special person who still loves you even after you have a meltdown over corn tortilla dough that is not coming together. He stops doing an important task that he is attending to, patiently opens a cookbook, tries to find an alternate solution, tells you to calm down and stop yelling at the food, and gives you advice.

What started out as a plan for homemade corn tortillas turned into tamale pancakes. Not sure what that really is but that’s what I’m calling these pancakes. Desperation and frustration followed by some talking through with your better half is the mother of invention. These pancakes are slightly sweet, delicious, grainy, and heavy! Perfect cure for meltdowns… Who cares about corn tortillas? These pancakes rock!

Tamale Pancakes

2 cups corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
3 pinches of salt
2 ¼ cups water, lukewarm
1 tbsp honey

butter for greasing the skillet

Whisk the corn meal, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Slowly pour in the water and stir until well combined. Stir in the honey until well incorporated. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, grease the skillet with a generous pat of butter. As soon as the butter sizzles off, drop ¼ cup of the batter into the skillet. When the batter starts to form holes, carefully flip the pancake and cook the other side for a couple of seconds. The pancake is done when the underside turns golden.

Jenn has the original Mark Bittman recipe for the salad, so hop on over to her website to see it. This corn-avocado salad is fresh, summery, and sweet! It would go great with a lot of stuff: tortilla chips, tacos, nachos, or just as a side salad for barbeque dinners. I made very few modifications with mine, here goes…

Corn-Avocado Salad
Adapted from Mark Bittman, The Food Matters Cookbook

1 small Walla Walla onion, chopped
corn kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn (slice the kernels off the ears carefully so the kernels don’t fly everywhere)
3 mini bell peppers, chopped
½ tsp chili powder
1 tomato, chopped
1 tbsp dill chimichurri (*see recipe below*)
juice of half an orange
1 avocado, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

generous amount of butter (about 1 tbsp)

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, melt the butter. Cook the onion for about a minute and then throw in the corn kernels. Stir every now and then for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables turn brown. Toss in the bell peppers and cook for about a minute. Turn the heat off and move onions, corn, and bell peppers to a bowl.

Add the chili powder, tomatoes, chimichurri, and fresh orange juice. Stir everything together until well mixed. Gently toss in the chopped avocado and season with salt and pepper.

Alrighty then, hope you are all still following here… This crabmeat was my something special to go along with the salad. Canned crabmeat is nothing fancy, but guess what? It is hassle free and if done right can turn out pretty well. Just make sure you buy the real, wild caught, canned crabmeat, ok? The blend of spices and splash of lemon makes this crabmeat really awesome… easy, simple, and delicious!    

Mexican Crabmeat

olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup canned crabmeat, packed
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
lemon wedges

Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until it turns golden brown. Add the crabmeat and stir for a minute or so before adding the cumin, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes and turn the heat off.

Serve with lemon wedges. Lemon juice brightens up the crab meat and masks the crab taste that some people are not fond of. 

Parsley and dill are great together! This recipe yielded about 2/3 of a cup and I am planning on adding this chimichurri a tablespoon or two at a time in sautéed vegetables later this week. If you have salmon, this would go really well with it… yum! I currently have a chimichurri addiction and it started with this FMP recipe. Since I had a bunch of dill waiting to be used, I figured it would be great to use it in a chimichurri… and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  

Dill Chimichurri

1 cup fresh parsley, mostly leaves
¼ cup fresh dill, stems cut off
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large clove of garlic
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Place the parsley, dill, lemon, olive oil, and garlic together in a blender. Blend until everything is reduced to a sauce. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and blend for a few more seconds. Transfer chimichurri into a bowl and serve with vegetables or meat. If you don’t plan on using it right away, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

This turned out to be one of our best summer dinners! Give it a try…

P.S. Don’t forget to check out what other FMP members did with this recipe. Everyone’s creativeness never ceases to amaze me!