Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rolled Cabbage

After being sick for a couple of days, DFJ and I were finally able to go to the gym and work out yesterday. We lasted a little over half an hour doing the bare minimum and were spent. I was seriously contemplating skipping this week’s Food Matter’s Project, Rolled Cabbage, chosen by Keely Marie. However, after seeing all the delicious creations that other FMP members cooked up, I was determined to give it a go. So, I spent a good hour in the kitchen making my own version of the cabbage rolls. DFJ cooked something alongside me and we snacked on what he made while I was working away on the rolls. You guys, this is a great recipe! Perhaps a bit time-consuming, but totally worth it.  

I have only had stuffed cabbage twice in my life. The first time was at Sally’s and I remember going crazy about it with all the meat and rice goodness in the cabbage rolls. The second time was at my friend, Lori’s, when she invited me over for dinner at her house on my birthday. That was the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. I was new in town then and had just moved here for my job, friendless and awkward. It would have been a very lonely birthday for me if not for that dinner invitation. She served delicious cabbage rolls for dinner and they were amazing! Her version also had meat and rice in it. After those two good experiences with cabbage rolls, why have I not thought of making them at home? Maybe I was afraid that it would be too much work or maybe I just haven’t come across a recipe for one… That’s all in the past now, thanks to Keely for introducing me to this Mark Bittman recipe that I never even noticed as I was leafing through my book!

My bok choy rolls are filled with mashed sweet potatoes with an onion-mushroom-garlic sauté mixed in. They were delicious over a bed of spiced tomatoes! I will have to revisit my adapted version of this recipe again in the near future and tweak it some more. Although they were good, without any meat, grains, beans, or legumes, they just did not seem very satisfying. That’s definitely something I will keep in mind for later.

Please head over to Keely Marie’s website for the original Mark Bittman recipe and check out the Rolled Cabbage page on the FMP website to see what the other members came up with!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

An Engagement Celebration

Valentine’s Day was close to perfect, save for a minor hiccup that happened sometime between the end of a good work day and DFJ asking me to marry him. Yes, you read that right… we are engaged!

The proposal did not go quite the way he planned it to…
Nervous/Scared DFJ + Impatient Me = Heartbreaking Argument

So, we went on a walk to get some air and I ranted about the possibility of a breakup and gave DFJ a lecture on how no one is ever ready for anything and how jumping into the unknown is just a part of life… all the while crying and looking like a mess. We somehow ended up at our special bridge, which is the bridge that we ran to the first day we met at running club and the same bridge that we have trotted on so many times after that. When we got to the bridge, he stopped me from walking and made me look at the new moon. He asked me to smile the way the moon was smiling and I remember looking up at it but unable to smile because my heart was breaking.

Everything that happened after that was a blur… I was a jumble of emotions and shivering cold. DFJ asked me to marry him and my initial response was, “Are you joking?”… I really thought he was but then he fumbled through his shoe pocket, pulled out a Hope Trollbead (which kind of looks like a ring) for my charm bracelet, knelt down and said some very nice things about exploring the world together (and if you’ve been reading this blog you know we have hiked, camped, rafted, kayaked, and cross-country skied all over the Northwest). I still couldn’t believe what I was hearing but I said yes! Of course, yes! And heck, yes! He then told me that we would pick out the engagement ring the next day. At that point, what just happened did not sink in right away… my brain was numb with cold and I was upset-confused-happy at the same time.

We ran home to fight off the cold while I clutched on the Hope bead for dear life. The whole time we were laughing and talking about what just happened, like little kids who just got away from doing something naughty.

As soon as we got back into our warm haven, champagne was popped open and some beers were consumed while we made a fancy dinner to celebrate the next chapter in our relationship.

We looked at rings the next day at a local jeweler and found a style that I liked. But we waited to see what Portland had in store since we were going there for the weekend. I am glad that we waited because we found the perfect ring at a charming jewelry shop downtown. The husband-wife owners, David and Ronnie, of Malka Diamonds and Jewelry were very nice and helpful. We had the best time learning about diamonds and shopping for something that holds so much significance. I love my ring and can’t stop staring at it and imagining the good things that are yet to come!

The whole weekend was a sweet celebration of everything that just happened. During this time, the fact that we are now engaged slowly sunk in. I feel like I am in love with my DFJ all over again!   

We stayed at an Airbnb close to the Alberta neighborhood and got a nice feel of what it’s like to actually live in Portland. Our lovely hostess, Michelle, owns The Peoples Yoga and I got the chance to go to a great class at the Killingsworth studio (one of the perks for staying at her house).    

Here’s a rundown of the restaurants we went to:

Yakuza (NE 30th Ave and Killingsworth) – Amazing Kobe burgers and very good sushi! I love the dim, sexy, cozy interior, and the picnic bench style tables.  

Aviary (Alberta) – Fancy-schmancy… we only ordered one dish, a drink, and a dessert because everything is muy expensive… but everything we had was pretty darn good!  

Extracto Coffee Roasters (Killingsworth) – Great neighborhood coffee shop with delicious coffee and yummy treats from local bakeries around Portland.

Cha’ba Thai (Alberta) – I had one of the best curries in this restaurant. We ordered a beef and squash curry… the beef was perfectly tender and the curry was so well-flavored! I also loved the colorful plates!   

Sizzle Pie (Industrial District) – Great pizza by the slice in downtown Portland. It was the perfect spot to grab a bite right before we went to DFJ’s rock concert (Coheed and Cambria and Between the Buried and Me).

McMenamin’s Kennedy School (NE 33rd Ave) – Think: Old elementary school converted into a community center/hotel with a theater, a brewery, bars, a restaurant, a gym, a soaking pool, and function rooms. Pretty awesome!!! We had some good beers and a grilled cheese sandwich after the concert at The Boiler Room Bar.

TheWaffle Window (Alberta) – Super cute waffle shop on Alberta with delicious waffles!
Wolf and Bear’s (Mississippi Ave) – A food truck tucked in an alley somewhere on historic Mississippi Avenue. They make really delicious falafels with local and organic ingredients!
El Inka (48 NE Division, Gresham) – An unpretentious Peruvian restaurant in a small strip mall with great food. Everything we ate reminded me of the food that my mom cooked when I was growing up. Simple, homey, and delicious!


We had a wonderful time and are looking forward to so many more to come!

Cheers to us!  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pared-Down Paella with Peas, Clams, and Chorizo

We had a lovely Valentine’s dinner…

Thank you Meg, of Fledgling Foodie, for choosing this week’s Food Matter’s Project recipe: Pared-Down Paella with Peas, Clams, and Chorizo. Since clams are not available to us here, we used shrimp and scallops and used a combination of chorizo and sausage.

DFJ cooked this scrumptious meal, while I made Joanne’s (Eats Well with Others) delicious champagne cupcakes.

So, this dinner became many other meals after and it just kept getting better. On the first night, we forgot to add the lemon and parsley but it was still good. The next day, we had this for lunch with a drizzle of lime and some parsley. I like it with lime, it cuts the grease and adds an extra zing. We had this again for dinner and I threw in some kale and spinach. The next morning, I threw the little bit left with more onions, bell peppers, spinach, and poached eggs on top. Every version was delicious!

Head on over to Meg’s website for the original Mark Bittman recipe and visit The Food Matter’s Project website to see what the other members came up with.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. DFJ and I were in Portland and had a lovely, lovely time. More on that in the next post!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Food Blog Finds Made at Home

Well, well, it is time for another edition of Food Blog Finds Made at Home. There are so many creative individuals out there sharing their delicious creations that it gets overwhelming. Seriously! It makes me so sad to think that I won’t have time to make everything promising that I see or read about. However, certain recipes just grab my attention and call for me to try them, immediately.

Here is a list of some recipes I made at home after reading them online. My non-stellar pictures do not do these recipes any justice. So, I urge you to click on the links for the original source and make them!  

Perfect Roasted Acorn Squash (Eat, Live, Run)

I brought these delicious babies to our friends’ 2013 New Year’s party and it was a hit! It is so easy to prepare and takes only a few minutes. The roasting part takes a while, but it gives you time to do other things. In my case, it gave me time to shower and dress for the party! The hearty meat of the acorn squash drenched with honey, brown sugar, and butter then roasted to goodness is awesome. So delightfully filling you could eat it alone and call it dinner.

Kelsey’s beautiful post on the Sandy Hook tragedy stirred in me the need to make these cookies. Oatmeal cookies make me think of healthy snacks for children and their heartiness makes them my favorite cookie. The addition of persimmon and warm spices make these cookies extra special. Bake these for your family, I guarantee it will put a smile on their faces!    

Baked Polenta with Tomato and Basil (Joy the Baker)

As soon as I read this post, I knew it was a must try. This creamy baked polenta with tomato sauce and basil is very simple and homey. It is the kind of food that humbles you and makes you appreciate how simple ingredients can be turned into a filling and delicious meal. I followed Joy’s baked polenta recipe closely and added a bunch of good stuff in my tomato sauce, sautéed garlic, onion, mushrooms, and bell pepper.  

Orange Ricotta Chocolate Chip Muffins (Two Peas and Their Pod)

This post was bookmarked as soon as I read it! One of my most favorite things to do when baking is to add orange zest, so naturally this one caught my attention. I tweaked Maria’s recipe just a bit by using half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour, using ¾ cup sugar instead of one, and adding two tablespoons of orange juice. They turned out so perfect! These muffins are quite heavy which makes them an ideal breakfast… you get your carbs, some vitamin C, dairy, and that chocolate fix. Delicious!

Man, oh man, Deb sure knows how to make everyone swoon! I have never tried my hand at making homemade caramel and am so happy to know that it is so darn easy and tastes a million times better than the store-bought ones. I whipped it up and had it ready to harden in less than 10 minutes. There was also some tongue burning that happened in the process… friends, please don’t get too excited and start licking that spatula. Chocolate + caramel + sea salt = heavenly. If you are looking for something to make for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day, bake these sinfully decadent brownies! I promise everyone will love you even more than they already do.

Have a great Valentine’s Day everyone!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lemony Swiss Chard

I bought a bag of Meyer lemons at the store two weeks ago and forgot about them. Then my weekly Food 52 email came and featured several Meyer lemon recipes. Wow, how did they know that I have been neglecting my precious lemons?

This Pink Greens recipe inspired me to make a Swiss chard sauté with Meyer lemon juice. I love everything about this dish… it is full of healthy greens, bright and zesty, sweet, and just wonderful!  

Lemony Swiss Chard (Makes 2-3 servings)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 of an onion, sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
8 oz Swiss chard, stems chopped and leaves sliced into thin ribbons
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
few grinds of black pepper
juice of 1 Meyer lemon (or a regular lemon)

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until fragrant and golden, 30-40 seconds. Toss the onions in and cook for about 3 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the sugar and let cook for a minute, just until the onions caramelize lightly.

Add the chopped Swiss chard stems and cook for 2 minutes, just enough to soften them slightly. Toss in the leaves and cook for about 2 minutes until they are wilted. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir for a minute to allow the seasonings to soak in. Pour in the lemon juice and stir for a minute. Turn off the stove and move the pan away from the heat. Serve warm.

I think this would be a great side dish to a variety of meat entrées for your Valentine’s dinner!   

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Oatmeal Griddle Cakes

This morning I woke up awfully early… 6:00 on a Sunday. I tried so hard to go back to sleep but just ended up tossing and turning. I finally decided to get up so DFJ can get a few more hours of sleep in peace. Sleeplessness has been my enemy over the past few weeks and questions about what the future may bring constantly haunt me. I seriously need to get over this for my own sanity. There are so many things on my mind lately and to-do lists just keep getting longer and longer with not much progress on the things that I should work on. In order to get away from it all, I indulge in some fun things like baking artisan bread with my own starter (more on that in a later post), doing yoga at home after my yoga teacher introduced me to YogaGlo, endless life conversations with DFJ, playing Settlers of Catan, watching Parenthood, reading The Casual Vacancy, and getting serious advice from friends. Life is really scary, complicated, and stressful… but you just can’t let it get to you. If you do, you fail to see what’s important and overlook the simplest of things that can make you smile. I need to live by these words and do better at being in the moment, just savoring the fact that I am alive.

When I tiptoed out of the bedroom in my pajamas, I turned on my old laptop and did something that I have been meaning to do for a long time, organize pictures and write them into CDs so I have back-ups. The project is far from over but it is a start. I moved back and forth from doing that to writing a blog post that will come up later this week, while a pot of oatmeal was bubbling away for this week’s Food Matter’s Project. Quite an eventful morning!

DFJ woke up just in time to find me mixing up a batter for Oatmeal Griddle Cakes. The lovely Aura, author of Dinner with Aura, picked this delicious brunch item for this week. These griddle cakes are hearty and healthy, just the perfect fuel to start your day! Between mouthfuls, DFJ looked at me and told me he wished every day is as relaxed and easy as a Sunday. I completely agree… on Sundays, we make breakfast leisurely, sip our coffee slowly, and actually get the chance to talk. It makes for a wonderful start to our day!

These griddle cakes are the perfect use for leftover oatmeal, but since I have not made oatmeal in a long time, I made a fresh pot using old-fashioned rolled oats, a pinch of salt, and a good douse of cinnamon after it was done cooking. I followed Mark Bittman’s original recipe closely except for a few tweaks: I used ½ cup of rye flour (in lieu of all-purpose and whole wheat) and I used a combination of dried figs and golden raisins.

I love the crispy exterior and the chewy interior, the heartiness of the oats, the sweet juiciness of the plumped up figs and raisins, and the wholesomeness of these griddle cakes. A little bit of agave nectar and some fruit on the side makes it even better. A thick smear of almond butter also makes for a very delicious post-workout snack (I devoured it in less than a minute after the gym today).

Visit Aura’s blog for the original Mark Bittman recipe and while you are over there, check out her delicious recipes and gorgeous photography. Also, don’t forget to stop by the Food Matter’s Project website to see what the other members came up with.

I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s week! This is the perfect time to go overboard in letting your loved ones know how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate them. While you’re at it, do take time to give yourself some love as well, because you deserve it!

I love you guys and am so grateful to you for reading my words, listening to my stories, and checking out my recipes!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Carrot and Parsnip Salad

I have never been a big fan of raw food except for the green, leafy salads. However, I am now inspired to make more and more raw food recipes after making and savoring every bite of a wonderful salad from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison, the latest book I inherited from my special friend, Sally.

If you’re looking for a very delicious detox food after all those Superbowl snacks, this Carrot and Parsnip Salad is what you need. This is the kind of salad that can almost pass as dessert except for it is anything but! There are all sorts of healthy stuff in this salad… carrot, parsnip, dates, lemon, honey, Greek yogurt, and walnuts. Need I say more?

This salad is super fresh with delightful carrot and parsnip crunches. The honey-lemon vinaigrette gives it a bright and sweet flavor that almost tricks your mind into thinking you’re eating some sort of vegetable candy. Yum!

A feel good, sexy salad that is equal parts earthy, zesty, and crunchy… definitely the kind that you will want to eat non-stop! 

Carrot and Parsnip Salad (Makes 4 servings)
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Parsnip Salad with Walnuts and Dates, Local Flavors

1 carrot, peeled
1 parsnip, peeled
8 dried and pitted Medjool dates
zest of a small lemon, (use a Meyer lemon if you have one)
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
few grinds of black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and honey. Set aside.

Heat a small, nonstick pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, toast the walnuts for 5-7 minutes. Stir often to make sure the walnuts don't burn. Turn off the stove, move the walnuts into a small bowl, and let cool.

Grate the carrot and parsnip with a box grater, using the side with the large holes. Split the dates lengthwise and then cut into 6 pieces.

Place the grated carrot and parsnip into a large serving bowl. Add the chopped dates. Zest the lemon right into the bowl. Toss everything together with fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle the lemon-honey dressing over the ingredients and drop the Greek yogurt on top. Mix everything well together.

Cover and refrigerate if you don't serve it right away. Toss in the toasted walnuts right before serving.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cardamom-Scented Pear Crisp

Hi Everyone! The Food Matter’s Project members are baking up something oh-so-good this week. Camilla, author of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, picked a heavenly recipe: Cardamom-Scented Pear Crisp. Thank you Camilla, for choosing something so simple and so wonderful!

I love pears! They are great eaten as they are, of course. But they are also awesome in grilled cheese sandwiches, salads, pies, and tarts. I also happen to love pies and tarts, but as much as I love them, I find the process of making the dough a little tedious and it tests my patience (with the refrigerating to firm up the dough and all). When you make fruit crisps, you don’t have to deal with that! Butter, sugar, flour, and oats just get mixed together, sprinkled on top of the fruit slices, and bam, it’s ready to bake. In Mark Bittman’s recipe, which you will find in Camilla’s blog, walnuts are added in the crisp, which adds an awesome nutty crunch. 

Since this is a pear crisp, you will need a lot of pears. You know how pears can sometimes be hit or miss? Like sometimes, they are perfectly juicy and sweet and sometimes they need to sit around for a few days before they are ready? Well, you don’t need to worry about that in this recipe, once the pears cook in the oven, they will tenderize and turn out just fine! 

The cardamom flavored pear slices are just lovely. Cardamom adds warmth and spice to the pears and lets it take on an exotic feel. The crisp topping is perfect! I have never successfully made fruit crisps because the topping never turns out the way I want it to… this one turned out just right: crunchy, nutty, buttery, powdery, sweet, and everything good. Need I say more? 

This is a great dessert that everyone will surely love. It is delicious and healthy (no copious amounts of flour, sugar, and butter). Plus, it’s super easy to make!

For the original Mark Bittman recipe, head on over to Camilla’s blog. AND don’t forget to check out other FMP members’ take on this one at our website

Happy Monday you guys!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Everything Granola

I love making granola… you must know that by now (Yogi's Granola, Granola Crumbles, Easy Granola, Delicious Granola). As soon as we run out of granola, I have to make a new batch. DFJ loves it just as much as I do! This granola is not much different from the other granolas that I have made before. The process is pretty much the same, but this time I added more nuts (the more, the better), used more honey (since DFJ has an incredible attraction towards anything and everything sweet), and loaded it with different kinds of dried fruit (for extra sweetness and chew).

Granola is the perfect energy booster before starting a long day or a big workout. You can enjoy it with yogurt or milk. I prefer mine with a generous dollop of plain, Greek yogurt and some fresh fruit mixed in. DFJ likes it with milk. You can also just eat this granola by the handful to stave off that afternoon hunger. If you run out of dessert, this is a great alternative… a hefty sprinkling on vanilla ice cream, yes!

This Everything Granola is very delicious… sweetened just right with so many surprises in every crunchy-chewy bite!

Everything Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup sunflower seeds
½ cup cashews, coarsely chopped
½ cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup sweetened, flaked coconut, tightly packed
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped dates, dried and pitted
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
Position an oven rack in the middle slot and preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Place the oats, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and flaked coconut in a deep baking pan. Use your fingers to mix everything well together.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, thoroughly stir the olive oil, honey, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and salt until well mixed. Pour the wet mixture onto the dry mixture and stir, making sure that everything is well combined.

Put the granola into the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven every 15 minutes to stir the granola for even cooking.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the dates, raisins, and cranberries. Set aside. 

After 1 hour and 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven to stir in the dried fruit mixture. Bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, stir the granola, and bake for 5 more minutes. Turn the oven off and place the pan on a cooling rack. Allow the granola to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Granola may be stored for up to a week!