To nourish your mind as well as your body

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.

-Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, January 29, 2010

Take Two! More Fortunate Fortune Cookies

Undaunted by our previous failure this evening (given the fact that we ended up with some delicious new cookies in the process), we decided to start from scratch and try again. With a little research sur la internet, we decided to return to the original plan but add much, much less flour. And by the last batch of cookies, we'd finally figured this thing out. :) Now I'm going to tell you how to make these so you don't have to do all the trial and error that we did.

More Fortunate Fortune Cookies (still with ginger)

3 egg whites
3/4 cups organic powdered sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp chopped ginger
10 tbsp whole wheat flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix all ingredients together until very smooth. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and spread out into a very thin circle using a flat knife. You're only going to want to put 2-4 (maximum of 4!) cookies on a sheet at a time. I'll explain this later - just trust me. Bake these in the oven for about 6 minutes, or until the edges have turned just turned brown. 

Now you have to move fast, which is why I said 2-4. We did four cookies at a time, but there were two of us each with our own jobs, and it was harrowing even then.
Put on a pair of *thin* cotton gloves. Remove the tray quickly (but carefully) and immediately: 
1) flip each cookie over
2) place a fortune on top of them
3) fold them in half over the fortune and then fold them back together, pinching the top to hold it in shape
4) finally, place each cookie inside a muffin tin space to cool. 

They will need to cool for 1-2 hours. They harden as they cool, however ours still retain a certain chewy moistness - delicious and pleasing, but still not exactly the consistency you'd expect from a fortune cookie.

And now we know how to make them for next time. This round, we wrote silly fortunes, but the next round is Valentine's Day.  Any suggestions for Valentine's themed fortunes?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Failed Fortune Flats, or Ginger Dollars

My roommate and I are planning a Valentine's Day/Chinese New Year menu so I thought we could make some Valentine's Day-themed fortune cookies. I altered Brooke McLay's yummy Vanilla-Ginger Fortune Cookie Recipe slightly, to bring a slightly healthier version with a little different flavor.

The only problem?  There was no flour in Brooke's recipe and the "batter" was really just yellowish water. Not very bake-able at all. So we added some flour, like you do. We just added a bit too much.

Our cookies came out as small, sand-dollar sized, slightly spongy cookies, with a gentle ginger flavor and a texture not entirely unlike a thin madeleine. Well. They were VERY tasty, but they certainly didn't fold into fortune cookies! So my roommate Janet says to me 'hey, I think we've just invented a new cookie!' - and so we had. Like the old saying goes, one woman's failure is... that same woman's fortune.

Failed Fortune Cookies, or Ginger Dollars

3 egg whites
3/4 cups organic powdered sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp chopped ginger
1/4-1/2 cup whole wheat flour (Start with 1/4 and then add by the tbsp until you have a thick-ish consistency.)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Mix all ingredients together until very smooth. Spoon 2 teaspoons onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper and spread with a flat knife until you've created very thin circles of batter. Bake in oven about 5 minutes, or just until the edges turn brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a drying rack to cool. They'll be edible in minutes.

Janet shaped the one in the middle to look like a heart and it came out really well, so these are eminently shapeable cookies. Next time, I will try them with a mold and see how they take. I think these would be delicious with some ginger or vanilla ice cream, or topped with a small sliver of caramelized ginger. But Janet and I found them utterly delectable all on their own.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Easy Cashew Chicken

Hello! And welcome to another episode of: What's in my Kitchen?

Cashews, in the pantry, leftover from my trail mix. Chicken, in the freezer, leftover from making chicken satay the other day (which was delish, by the by). Edamame, in the fridge, because it's an awesome snack food. Ginger and garlic, also leftover from chicken satay making.

So. What to do... Cashews. Chicken. Aha!

Cashew Chicken de ma cuisine
(Makes 4 servings)

2 tsp dark sesame oil (I always have this in my kitchen. It's a great base oil for stir-fry)
1/4 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.6 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into cubes
1 cup raw cashews
~1.5 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock (can use vegetable stock if you want)
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup edamame (I buy the already shelled ones from Trader Joe's. They're yummy, but have a short shelf life.)

Put 1 tsp of dark sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet. Set the stove to medium low.  Add the diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the onion to brown - just cook until soft and translucent - should take 6-8 minutes. Remove the onions into a bowl and set them to the side.

Add the second tsp of dark sesame oil and tilt it around the pan, then add the minced garlic and cook that for about 4 minutes until the garlic has softened somewhat. Don't let the garlic brown either. No browning - this is not one of my crispy dishes!

Turn up the stove to medium heat and add the chicken breast, cashews, and ginger to the skillet. Cook all together, stirring frequently to avoid browning and burning, until the outside of the chicken is all cooked.

Now, stir in the chicken broth, soy sauce, and maple syrup. [Note: the chicken broth totally softens up the chicken. You have no danger of tough chicken with that in the mix.] Next, add the onions back into the skillet and cook for another five minutes. Keep stirring, mixing up all those yummy things and making sure all the chicken gets nice and juicy.

Finally, you add in the edamame and cook it with all the rest for another 4-8 minutes. I did 4.5 minutes, but I figure different stoves cook differently, etc. The main thing is you'll want to check and make sure all the chicken is cooked through.

I served this over leftover brown rice (from chicken satay night) and then sprinkled it with a few roasted sesame seeds. It had a nice combination of sweet and savory, soft and crunchy - yum. :) And best of all, it only took about 20 minutes (not including the time it took to defrost my frozen chicken breasts). I bet it would be really good served over cooked green beans or asparagus, too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. This holiday, celebrated annually on January 26th, commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, the hoisting of the British flag there, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia (thanks wikipedia).

I do not know much about Australia besides the following facts: it has some of the deadliest creatures on earth, it's the home of the best shiraz in the world (thanks to all that great volcanic soil), they have kangaroos, and my longtime net pal Yuhan lives there.

So, in honor of this national holiday, I asked Yuhan (who happens to be a kitchen guru in his own right) to jot down one of his favorite recipes for me to share with you all today. Here it is: 

[translations available in brackets]

Strawberry Cheesecake

500g Cream Cheese
300 ml Cream
3 Eggs
250g Plain Biscuits
125g Butter, melted
Sponge Finger Biscuits
1 Punnet Strawberries [approximately 1 pint]
Dash of Sherry (or other fortified wine)
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
90g Icing Sugar
4 Tsp Sugar

Ginger Snap Biscuits
Lots of other berries

First make a Strawberry Syrup:
Halve/Quarter some of the larger strawberries (you will use them for presentation later). Place them in a saucepan. Add Sugar, Water and Sherry. Boil for a few minutes, leave it to cool.

Crumb Biscuits for the cheesecake base (digestive biscuits are great for this).

OPTION: crush some ginger snaps and pecans and add them to the mix.

Mix the biscuit crumbs with melted mutter. Press the mixture into the base of a medium spring base tin - put it into the fridge to harden.

Whisk cream cheese, cream, lemon juice, eggs and icing sugar until smooth.

Take the strawberries out of the syrup and place them on the cake base. 

OPTION: add extra berries at this stage - blueberries work well here.

Pour half of the cheese mixture into the pan.

Dip sponge finger biscuits into the syrup and place them on top of the cake mix (they should rest on top of the cooked strawberries). 

Mix the remaining syrup with the cheese mixture for colour and pour over the sponge biscuits.

Bake the cake @ 210 degrees Celsius [410 F] for 10 minutes, and then @160 degrees Celsius [320 F] for 45 minutes.

Note: The sponge finger biscuits are not essential, but give the cake another layer of texture and support the cake structure itself. It is possible to use other biscuits (like ginger snaps), but sponge fingers will hold their shape better due to their thickness. If using a different biscuit (or not using the sponge layer at all) the cake may still be custard-like in the centre after baking. In this case, place it in the fridge to set before serving.

Serving suggestions: dust with icing sugar and garnish cake slices with fresh mint.

Happiness 101

It's so nice to appreciated - especially when the source of that appreciation is a woman I so strongly admire.  Phoenix is one of those people who simply inspires loyalty and love; she is thoughtful, warm, and truly one of the most serious-hearted human beings I've ever met.

Since I was part of the passing on portion of the program, I thought I would mention ten of the things I do to keep in joyful spirits.

1) Bake. There is nothing that brings a smile to my face like the smell of a delicious, naturally sweetened something baking in my oven; and the smiles on my friends' faces when I offer them healthy, yummy things only serves to brighten my day further.

2) Tell someone wonderful in my life how wonderful they are. (If you make a habit of this, they might eventually stop asking what you want in exchange.)

3) Meditate. I know it sounds corny, but sometimes all you need to get a brighter view of your situation is a few minutes of silent contemplation.

4) One of the things that gives me the warmest feeling is wearing my joyful green hat that my good friend Ben knitted for me. It's warm, it's cute, and every time I wear it, I think of how awesome my friends are.

5) Send someone you haven't spoken to in a while a letter or a note (and I don't mean e-note). I know that hand-written cards and letters have gone out of style in this age of bytes and sites, but sitting down with a pen and a card and writing an honest little note to someone actually has a really centering effect on me. Not to mention, I love thinking about how surprised and pleased they'll be when they open their mailbox to find real mail in addition to the usual bills and advertisements.

6) Exercise. I'm not crazy; exercise actually raises your endorphin levels because - guess what? - your body actually wants you to be healthy. So you get a nice, natural chemical buzz and you burn a few calories in the mix. (Which lets you go back and practice #1 again!)

7) Take a walk when you have nowhere to go. We get so wrapped up in goal-setting and getting to places these days. Americans are all workaholics in comparison to most other world cultures. So, for once, put on your walking shoes, go out in the sunshine, and just wander. Absorb how fascinating and functional (and dysfunctional) the world around you really is.

8) Read. There is little more satisfying than curling up with a mug of tea and a good book. When I'm feeling down, I go the children's book route. I swear, if you don't have the Winnie-the-Pooh chronicles or at least one other children's book or story in your home, you live in a dark place indeed. Aside from the wonders at Pooh corner, I'd recommend... a) Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulas (my go-to happy tale after Winnie). b) Shel Silverstein is simply the best. Of his works, my favorites are Runny Babbit, The Giving Tree, and The Missing Piece. c) Anything by Edward Gorey. I don't know why, but these macabre, illustrated tales titillate me to no end. d) And last but not least, my latest favorite - The Wee King o' the Midden, Manky Mingin Rhymes in Scots. Yeah, it's just wonderful.

9) I hit a speedbump on this one and asked my boyfriend what he does to feel happy. His response was that he doesn't try; he just does what he feels like and happiness generally follows. (You light up my life, B.) The lesson to be learned from this, I think, comes in two parts. Part 1: don't worry so much, be yourself in the moment, and just follow your instincts. Your heart knows, better than me or anyone else, what you need. And Part 2: ask someone who loves you what they do to feel happy. I'm still grinning like a loon from being first on that list.

10) Last, but not least by any means, if you're feeling down - friends. Friends and loved ones have been the cures to every major setback, disappointment, misery, and terror I've experienced in my life. Talk. Open. Sometimes it's hard, but I swear to you, the worst thing is to be alone with a dark feeling. Even sharing it with one person you trust will lift some of the pressure from your shoulders and move you towards a proactive, brighter tomorrow.

Thanks again, Phoenix, for making me think about all the shimmering, wonderful things in my life. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Garbanzo Poppers

Ok. This is by far one of my favorite recipes. It's ridiculously easy and simply delicious - as well as utterly mutable for whatever occasion you like. I've baked batches of these for party snacks, movie treats, side dishes, even decorative toppings for main dishes and salads.

Why Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) rock the kazbah:
These little guys are one of the best things you can eat. They're a good source of cholesterol reducing fiber and also help to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly.  They're virtually fat-free, high in protein, and are an excellent source of iron and manganese. And best of all - they are super yummy!

Garbanzo Poppers
( ~ 3 servings)

1 can garbanzo beans
1 tbsp olive oil
a sprinkling of salt

Optional additions: rosemary, garlic powder, cinnamon, sage, mint, curry, or anything else you can think of

Set your oven to 400 F.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat it lightly with olive oil.

Open the can of garbanzo beans and rinse them well in a colander. Shake all the excess water free, then dump the rinsed beans into a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil. Stir the olive oil and beans well, then pour through the colander again to clear out the excess olive oil. Return to the bowl and salt. Add any other ingredients you want to here. [I've used all of the above listed components and they're all yummy - just don't mix them all together! I tend to add maybe 1-2 tbsp garlic powder or 2 tbsp minced garlic because I'm a garlic fiend.] The key is - with whatever ingredients you choose to add - make sure the additional flavoring is well combined so that every bean has a little bit on it. Stir until the beans are all well coated.

Now, using a spoon with holes, transfer the beans to the baking sheet - careful to not transfer too much (if any) of the leftover olive oil. Any extra oil that pools on the tray will keep the beans moist, rather than crispy.

Now pop the tray in the oven, on the top rack, for 20 minutes. [Note: Different ovens take different amounts of time. If this is your first time, just keep an eye on them after 15 minutes have passed and see how they go.] Depending on how much oil you've gotten onto the parchment paper, you may want to put them in for another 5-8 minutes to attain the right browning. Sometimes I take the whole tray out and prod one or two of them with a toothpick to check if they've gone to crispiness yet.

Once they're nice and brown and yummy crispy, take 'em out, and enjoy. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sunflower and Garlic Baked Sea Bass

In 2008, my parents and I went to Alaska and went deep sea fishing. The enormous amount of fish I caught on that trip has filled my freezer ever since, but its lifespan is now coming to a close (3 years in freezer is the maximum, I think). So today, I thought I'd make use of one of the remaining packages of sea bass (or rockfish).

I also had a cup of raw sunflower seeds leftover from my sunflower/date truffles, and not much else in my pantry. So here's what I did:

Sunflower and Garlic Baked Sea Bass

2 lbs sea bass, sliced into fillets
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
7 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp sunflower-garlic-salt breading

1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray a shallow glass baking dish with olive oil spray.
Note: When cooking fish, you must remember to cut off all the brown bits. They're not bad for you but they are responsible for the "fishy" taste you want to avoid. You will probably buy your fish from a store, but you will still want to check for those brown layers and cut them off. If you buy from a store, the fish will probably already be filleted as well, but if you're like me and need to cut your hunk o' fish into usable proportions, remember to feel the fish and cut it in accordance to its already predetermined breaking points. I had planned on 4 big fillets and ended up with 6 smaller ones.
2. Place the fish in the pan with an inch or two between each fillet.
3. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl - then rub this mixture into the fish fillets. If you want that nice browning glow on top and you're worried you haven't used enough olive oil, just spray another light layer over all the fillets.
4. Bake the fish, on the top rack of your oven, for 15 minutes.
5. Now take 1 cup of sunflower seeds, 3 tsp salt, and 3 tsp garlic powder and blend together in a food processor until all powdery and delicious smelling.

5. When the timer for your bass goes off, take out the pan and sprinkle the fillets with the sunflower/salt/garlic mixture and then return to the oven for another 5-8 minutes. You'll know the fish is done if you stick a fork in the biggest meatiest part and it falls apart.

Ta da! Okay, the picture doesn't make them look that good because I couldn't get the lighting right, but they were beautiful and smelled divine. And tasted even better. The lemon cuts through and gives the whole meat a nice fresh bite and the garlic is, well, garlic. Delicious, as always.

Serve with simply roasted veggies. I tossed some cauliflower and zucchini with olive oil and roasted them in the oven for 20 minutes along side the fish. Magnifico!

Lose Yourself

"The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have." -Norman Vincent Peale
The universe is expanding at this very moment. And this one. And this one. And every moment it expands, it comes closer to the moment when it will collapse in on itself to begin anew. The exhausting, amazing largeness of existence is immeasurable. Imagine a geometric plane of empty black space going on in every direction forever. It's terrifying; it's incredible. It makes me feel weightless and scattered and grounded and ephemeral.
I am an amoeba on the speck of dust that is the earth, in the raindrop that is the galaxy, in the neverending, all-encompassing universe.

I am a finite creature in an infinite space; I exist solely for the moment of my existence. How radically cool is that? How incredibly awesome (in the original sense of the word) is this world we live in?

So often, we focus on the terrible things that happen - which is important. We should look the terror and pain of life straight in the metaphorical face, if only for the sake of trying for a moment to absorb some of that terror and pain from those in crises. See and act. Yes. But then open your eyes wider. There is nothing wrong with looking for the miracles of life when faced with so much human suffering.

We live in a world where ants raise aphids as pets, sheltering them from the rain with leaves and herding them from tree to tree. We live in a world where creatures communicate with songs. We live in a world where it's been proven that bacteria can make complex decisions. We live in a world where two objects, regardless of their size and weight, fall at the same speed. Just think about the wondrous complexity that surrounds us.

Humans can fly to the moon, we can sail on the sea, we can do anything and everything we put our mushy gray minds to - eventually.

In the wake of the tragedy in Haiti, I think it's incredibly important that we all remember that. We are capable of anything. We, as a species, have survived worse tragedies and will do again - because we act as a community. We survive as a community.

So do what you can: donate cash or goods to UNICEF, to CARE, Yele Haiti, the Red Cross, World Food Program, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, the International Rescue Committee, or any other reputable relief organization. And don't stop there. There are people in need right here; spend a day at a soup kitchen, help build a house, be a mentor, be a friend.

Today, I pledge to let my heart open and join with those who are struggling today, in Haiti and closer to home.  And then, I pledge to remember those infinitesimal, decision-making bacteria and the astounding, glory-inducing cosmos.

Lose yourself to this incredible, inexplicable world with me. We'll make a moment of it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Tale of Murasaki

Izukata no kumoji to kikaha tazunemashi tsura hanarekemu kari ga yukue wo
I yearn to ask what path it followed through the clouds - the wild goose that flew off, leaving the flock.
- Murasaki Shikibu

If you're a fan of haiku, as I am, I recommend you read the book The Tale of Murasaki, by Liza Dalby. It's a fictional story, based on the reassembly of fragmented historical knowledge about Murasaki Shikibu - who wrote the famed Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari) back in the 11th century.

My parents gave this book to me back in 2001 and I've read it too many times to count in the years since. It's an interesting look at how haiku evolved, the life of a court lady in 11th century Japan, and oddly calming to read.

Enjoy. :)

Raw Cinnamon-Sunflower Truffles (now with almonds)

A coupled days ago, I made the Cinnamon-Sunflower Truffles posted by The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen with a couple small changes and brought them to a party at a friend's house with excellent results. All credit goes to them. For their blog and their exact recipe, click here. And go check out the rest of their recipes - I've tried several of them and they are all supremely superb.

Raw Cinnamon-Sunflower Truffles
[Note: You'll need a food processor to make these.]

2 cups raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw unsalted, sliced almonds
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
~1 cup pitted medjool dates (I used a few more than called for)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup (Can also use dark agave syrup)
~ 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut powder (The recipe calls for shredded coconut, but I was unable to find any shredded that was unsweetened, so I used the powdered kind. The texture, I thought, was better than it would have been with shredded, but it's up to your taste.)

Place the sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and sea salt into a food processor fitted with the "s" blade. Process until seeds are very finely ground (~2-3 min). 

Then add the pitted dates and olive oil. Process again until combined and sticky. The recipe said only to add the agave maple syrup if need be - but the dates I had were not squishy enough to moisten the mix. The best way to gaugue whether you need the extra sweetener is to check to see if you can form a ball by rolling a spoonful of the mixture in your hands. If it falls apart then add more sweetener and process again.

Scoop out the sunflower mixture by the large spoonful and roll into balls. Then roll in coconut powder. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days. We ate them on the second day and they were delicious. 
[Original source:]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Surviving the Sicky Season

I was so sorry to hear (very late, I might add) that my long-lost friend Phoenix was ill last week. Winter's gray skies tend to put us all in a slightly dampened mood and it's also, unfortunately, a common time for sniffles and bleary eyes. A couple weeks ago, I, my boyfriend, my father, and my grandmother all came down with varying degrees of gloomy flu-fulness. Here's a couple things to try to lift your health and your spirit. [*Remember, if you're really feeling sick, go see a doctor. Drugs are good, sometimes. The following suggestions are things that will keep your fluid intake high (even medical doctors agree this is an important step in overcoming colds and flus), and also will hopefully give you an immune system boost.]

Lemon Chicken Soup
(*This recipe was adapted from Giada de Laurentiis's Food Network Recipe.)

6 cups low sodium chicken broth
.75 cup fresh lemon juice
1 dried bay leaf
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup whole wheat spaghetti, broken into two-inch pieces
2 cups diced, cooked rotisserie chicken
kosher salt
1 two-inch Parmesan cheese rind, optional (The rind is actually a very nice addition. You end up taking it out at the end, so it performs more like the bay leaf as a flavoring additive. But you don't have to use it if you don't want to.)

In a large stock pot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind (if using) to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and simmer until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Then add the broken pasta and cook until the pasta is tender (check the package instructions for the pasta you use, but it should take about 4-8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the diced chicken and heat through, about 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and the Parmesan rind, discarding both. Season with salt, to taste. Enjoy.

Why is it good for you?
We all know chicken soup is good for the soul. But did you know that's not just because it's warm and yummy to your tummy? Chicken contains an amino acid called cystaine that gets released when you cook it. This amino acid thins mucus in the lungs, aiding in the healing process. In addition, research has proven that chicken soup breaks up congestion, eases the flow of nasal secretions, and may even be responsible for inhibiting the white blood cells that trigger inflammatory responses (which in turn eases sore throats and the production of phlegm).
Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C, are a proven antiseptic, and a renowned anti-scorbutic (remedy preventing disease that assists in cleansing the system of impurities). Lemons also have noticeable levels of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. They help to fix oxygen and calcium levels in the liver because they regulate blood carbohydrate levels which affect blood oxygen levels. Not to mention, they smell great - which, by the way, some folks say acts as a homeopathic healing element in and of itself. The smell of lemons tends to make people feel happy. Go figure. Maybe we know a good thing when we smell it.

Ginger Tea
2 tbsp grated ginger root
2 cups water
1 tbsp honey, optional

Boil the water in a small saucepan and stir in the ginger root. Drink straight, or add lemon and/or honey.

Why is it good for you?
One of the active ingredients in ginger is a compound called gingerols, which acts on a specific receptor in the body called the vallinoid receptor. The vallinoid receptor sits on pain nerve endings and normally react to pain and acidity. Yes, that's right. Ginger is a natural pain-reliever. Cool, right? And not only does it relieve pain, it also reduces inflammation. So while it dulls the 'ouch' sensation, it's actually healing you, too. Ginger also is known for reducing dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating.
Have you noticed how a lot of cold remedies involve adding honey to teas? It's not just because it's sweet and tasty, and it's not because it coats your throat. Honey is actually anti-bacterial. The Bedouins in Israel have used it for - gosh, a really long while - in conjunction with other herbs on cuts and burns, because it helps to prevent bacterial infections. Why? Well, it contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide. I know, right? Freaky. Honey is also hygroscopic, which means it naturally absorbs moisture from the air - okay, that doesn't apply so much to cold symptoms, but it's cool, isn't it? Open wound? Smear some honey on it - it'll keep the area mostly free of bacteria and help prevent scarring by keeping the skin moist and encourage the growth of new tissues. Just avoid hungry bears...

Infusions to Try
Lemon Balm is an herb that promotes sweating and is traditionally considered to eliminate toxins from the body. You can get tea empty tea bags from lots of stores, including Teavana and, I think, Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They're useful to have around, if you like that rich flavorful quality that you really only get from loose teas. Simply take the herbs (fresh or dried), slip them in the tea bag or put them into a diffuser, and wait 2-3 minutes for delicious tea.
Catnip is another herb that promotes sweating, which can be very good when you're fighting off a feverish cold. Follow the same instructions as listed for Lemon Balm.

Wishing you a healthy, happy post holiday season. :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Throat Choke Romance

mine is a throat-choke romance
a hefty bag tightly closed and plastered to my nose and mouth
roses painted on my eyes, beneath the lids
squirming into the hidden corners of your heart
yearning to turn and tangle like a bored kitten
tearing through books and poems that cannot comprise this sweeping, swelling want
swearing that i'll never let go

mine is a finger sprained friendship
pinky sworn into obscurity and bandaged thick and sweaty
daisy chains around my wrists, pretty fragrant handcuffs
awakened to a dizzy dream of compliance
taken down a twisting, wonderwalled path
dared to wander through this darkened wood, wolf in hand, wailing
waiting for the shimmering reflection to finally clear


A Whole Life of Cooking

My wonderful friend Alison and I made a kickass dessert over the holidays called a Lemon Teascake - which is basically a gluten, egg, and dairy-free lemon cheesecake. Amazing, delicious, and guilt-free. The recipe came from a book called The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. Which I now have my very own copy of. The book is chock full of delicious, wholesome recipes, which I will doubtlessly be trying out on people in the coming weeks. But if you're interested, you can visit their blog [] for recipes and whole life cooking tips.


Falstaffe Sauce

After three long, wonderful weeks up in Washington with my family, my long absent heartmate, and his family, I have finally returned back to Los Angeles. My first thought upon disembarking from the plane was 'wow, I don't need my coat down here'; the second, 'thank God - I'm only twenty minutes from my kitchen!'

In case you haven't seen it, my kitchen is, frankly, a wonderland. At least it is to me. Every tool and gadget is exactly where I expect it to be - because I put it there - and I know for a fact that everything I own is well within it's expiration date (don't ask). Now, having only recently arrived, I made do last night with a bowl of Trader Joe's Miso Soup and some popcorn that my friend Megan brought over. But today, I hit the store and let my stifled creativity loose on an old favorite. I used what I remembered of an old Emeril pasta sauce recipe and then added two of my favorite things. Broccoli and cauliflower. Broccli is good for you and delicious in any capacity, but especially when roasted. Cauliflower has this amazing capacity for creaminess when cooked just right - you can even use it as a replacement for mashed potatoes! But here, I use it to turn my homemade marinara into a decadent fake alfredo.

I call it Falstaffe sauce for two reasons. 1) Because Falstaffe (Sir John, from ol' Shake's Henry IV 1-2 and Merry Wives of Windsor) was aware that life is a charade and would probably appreciate the sneaky nature of this misleading recipe. And 2) because poor, portly Sir John wouldn't have been nearly so portly if he'd been eating this instead of butter and cream sauce. :)

Falstaffe Sauce

Broccoli and cauliflower, lovingly mixed in olive oil and balsamic, roasted and then blended with tomatoes and garlic to make a delicious, creamy pasta sauce.

1 head broccoli
1 head cauliflower
3 heads roasted garlic (or more if you like)
1 large red onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
.25 cup tomato paste
1.5 tsp salt
.25 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
.25 tsp italian seasoning
.25 tsp dried basil
2 cans whole italian tomatoes with juice (28 oz each)
Salt and pepper to taste.
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Prep- Wash and cut broccoli into 1 inch thick pieces. Wash and cut cauliflower into 1 inch thick pieces. Chop large red onion into 1x1 inch pieces (or smaller if you prefer). Open both cans of tomatoes and pour into a mixing bowl, juices and all, and crush (either with your hands or with a potato masher).

Roasted garlic: Peel the outer layers of garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the cloves intact. Cut off about 1/4 inch of the tops of the cloves, exposing the individual cloves. Place the garlic bulb in a baking pan. [If you're making a lot of these, then use a muffin pan. If not, then just toss them in a small bread pan or something similar.] Drizzle olive oil over each bulb and make sure it's well coated, then cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bulbs feel soft when pressed. Take the pan out, and set it to the side. If you're serving folks, you might want to make a few extra bulbs and let people munch on the delicious roasted garlic as an appetizer. Just remember to save three of them for the recipe.

Broc and Caul: Mix cut broccoli in a bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Repeat for cauliflower. Use olive oil to coat a couple baking pans and use one pan for the broccoli and one for the cauliflower, trying to keep from making any puddles of olive oil on the pan. Put both pans in the 400 F oven for 20-30 minutes. [I like my veggies a little crispier so I tend to leave them in 10-15 minutes longer, but its up to you.]

Sauce base: While that's cooking, take out a large saucepan and saute the chopped red onion in olive oil over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes. Add 1 tbsp minced garlic and cook with the onion for another minute. Then add tomato paste, salt, balsamic vinegar (I love this stuff), crushed red pepper flakes, italian seasoning, and basil, and cook for a minute. Smell that. Awesome, right? Now add the tomatoes you prepped earlier, juice and all, and stir with all the other ingredients so they're all well combined. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take out the broccoli and cauliflower when they're done and empty the entire cauliflower pan into a bowl along with the non-leafy broccoli parts. For this portion of the program, you're going to need a nifty thing called an immersion blender [if you don't have one, buy one - it's one of the most handy tools I own]. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can throw the aforementioned things into a food processor or blender, but you'll have more clean up than me. Blend all the cauliflower and the broccoli stems together. Serve the leafy parts of the roasted broccoli on top of the pasta, or mixed with the sauce, as a side dish, or stick them in a tupperware box and eat them later as a snack. Heck, eat them while you're cooking. They're delicious.

Back to the sauce. Add the roasted garlic cloves you made first to the simmering sauce and stir to combine. Simmer for another 30-40 minutes, or until you taste test and find all the flavors alert and marching on your tongue.

Now. Add the cauliflower/broccoli blended mixture and stir. See how that marinara just turned into a soft pink creamy looking sauce?

Serve over pasta (I use whole wheat spaghetti or vegetable rotini), and enjoy. :)

Note: This recipe makes about 1.5 quarts of sauce. You can also use it as a creamy pizza sauce or a topping for steamed or roasted vegetables.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

December 2009 Haiku yoink

As I replace the lovely little December haiku with a new one for the next year, I've decided to post it here in case anyone would like to reference it again. Cheers, and happy new year!

席つめてください山はすでに雪  鹿又英一
seki tsumete kudasai yama wa sudeni yuki
please sit closer—
the mountain is already covered
with snow
Ei’ichi Kamata

The Moon and the Stars

If you haven't heard me pontificate on the wonders of the Herbfarm Restaurant in person, you'll get a taste of the glory now.

The Herbfarm is a lovely little restaurant hidden in Woodinville, Washington. It's a one dining room experience, with maybe thirty tables maximum, and their food is to die for. One of the reasons I love their restaurant so much (aside from the charming atmosphere and the wonderful service) is their theme: that no meal is better than its ingredients, and that the best ingredients are usually local - a sentiment I agree with whole-heartedly. Every one of their gourmet, tasting dishes features items made from the provisions of local farmers, foragers, cheesemakers, wineries, and fishermen - and what they don't get from the locals, they make themselves from their extensive gardens and their very talented chefs. Every bite and taste is like a little journey through the northwestern country side for your taste buds.

This evening, my parents, my grandmother, and my cousin Kelly went for the dinner themed "The Moon and the Stars" which was a celebration of the new year through culinary art. I do not use the word "art" here lightly. As always, I was impressed not only with the delectable (and original) morsels the chefs laid before us, but also with the incredible aptitude of their sommelier (Michael Kaminski), who can find the most unlikely of local vineyards and create pairings that leave your tongue simmering.

There were three wines this evening that stood out above the pack, which I feel honor bound to share with whoever might read this:
The first was a delicious little Gewurtztraminer from Phelps Creek Vineyard, Columbia Gorge (2008). The vineyard is in Washington while the winery is in Oregon. Never have the two states collaborated so nicely. If you're familiar with Gewurtztraminer, you know that it usually has a very big bite to it. It's nose is usually rather sour, and its taste makes you want to blink repeatedly. Not in a bad way just in an "ah, I've just been attacked by something indiscernible" way. Not so with this little gem. With a warm, enveloping nose and a smooth finish, this wine is a delicious addition to light pastas, breads, probably anything in a cream sauce. It had a scent like peaches, apricots, and a mild tangerine and a taste that reminded me of warm summer days, despite the cold of the northwestern evening outside. Fantastic.
If you know me, you know I love sweet wines. So it shouldn't surprise you that my next two "wows" go to dessert wines. The first of these was a superb "Night Harvest" viognier from the RoxyAnn Vineyard in Rogue Valley, Oregon (2008). This, I declare, truly is a nectar from the gods. Sweet, but not sickeningly so, with a overhanging aura of freshly cut pineapples that literally transport you to another realm entirely. I can't really describe it better that that, so if you have a chance to taste this awesome accomplishment, do.
I have saved this last simply because it downright odd. A recent winner of the World Wine Championships Award, this selection, entitled ChocoVine, is literally a blend of Dutch Chocolate and a fine French Cabernet. It sounds disgusting, and we ordered a small glass of it out of curiosity alone... and then proceeded to get more for the table. It was rich, subtle, with a sweet little zing of an afterburn, and a delicious warm coating feeling for the tongue. We had it simply in a glass at room temperature, but the literature speaks of using it more like a chocolate liqueur than a wine. Take your pick.

I will not belabor each section of the meal - every dish was fabulous and unique - but I will add one more comment on the front of imbibition.

If you have not had Madrona Bark tea, I implore you to try it. Herbal coffee replacements are few and far between. Dandelion tea is one, which is very good, but can be bitter if not watched carefully. But Madrona Bark, which is a west coast tree (Arbutus menzesii), when made into a tisane is simply lovely. Dark, woodsy, with that slight zing that I, as a coffee lover, always look for. It's decaffenated, but the taste is slightly energizing, even as it centers you. Very pleasant.

That's all for now.

Happy New Year! Go on, have a peace. :)