Monday, November 23, 2009

Spices...A Case of Mistaken Identity

I'm not sure why The Great Spirit in the Pie has it in for me, but I always manage to screw something up when it comes to baking. Most of you have, no doubt, tasted something great from my oven, Unfortunately, for every happy ending there are probably 15 flops.

Sure, everyone has had some sort of problem with a fancy fold-in-the-whipped-egg-whites kind of project. But today's adventure was pumpkin bread. No yeast to turn out dead. No egg whites to slump over. Just basic yummy things like butter and sugar, flour and spices, canned pumpkin for heaven's sake!

Oh, did I say spices? I always buy my spices in bulk at PCC because they are amazing and it is sooo much cheaper than a whole bottle of something. Long long ago I restocked my ground ginger, which I rarely use. Normally, fresh will do just fine. Baked goods, however, usually require powdered versions of spices.

This recipe had the usual cinnamon, along with other "holiday" spices like cloves and nutmeg and a bit of ginger. I'll admit, I knew something was off the second I unscrewed the cap. Knew something was seemingly off as I scooped up that 1/2 teaspoonful (I was doubling the recipe to save time). That something kept gnawing at my mind as I thoroughly incorporated those spices into the mix.

Called my friend, the pumpkin bread master. "Uh, does your ground ginger smell a lot like garlic powder?" "Hmm," she replied, "No, it smells a lot like ginger." Nuts!

Long long ago when I restocked that ginger, I must have also restocked my garlic powder. They are identical in color. But oh so different in taste, especially in something meant to be sweet.

The funny thing is, no one seems to notice. I mean, I can't get past the knowledge that the pumpkin bread has garlic powder in it. I'm sure I can smell it. But the bread is disappearing none the less. Happy accident? I think not. But I guess it wasn't too big of a flop!

"Spiced Pumpkin Bread"

1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger (careful, now)
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c canned pumpkin
3/4 c chocolate chips
3/4 c chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease one large or three small loaf pans; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the pumpkin and blend well. Stir in dry ingredients with a spoon; do not over mix. Stir in the chocolate and the nuts if using.

Spoon batter into the pan and bake for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. If necessary, tent the pans with foil. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Great with a little cream cheese.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For years, the restaurant scene in Redmond, Washington has been woefully underdeveloped. I mean, it has it's Claimjumpers and whatnot for those craving 3 meals on one plate. And Pomegranate Bistro has it's moments, but is better for the weekend brunch than the night out without the kids.

But last weekend we found a rare treasure hiding right there in downtown Redmond. As you're going down Cleveland street, look left and you'll see The Stone House, a little old home-turned-restaurant. Quaint, cute...if it were listed in a home real estate listing it would say Charming Cottage (which we all know means Small and Old).

The kitchen, as seen through the backdoor appears miniscule. The dining room isn't much bigger with seating for a tight 25 or so and a teensy bar.

We started off a little shaky with a lunch menu instead of the wine menu, but after that confusion was remedied, the night only got better.

Always a sucker for figs and proscuitto, we got a little balsamic dressed salad for starters. It was good, but lacked some acid. Next up, we shared the Red Curry Mussels, buttery mollusks in a spicy sauce. I personally would have liked a serving spoon, but that's just me. And definitely ask them for some bread to soak up the curry sauce. It's hard to get the nuances of the sauce with just the mussels.

And then (cue heavenly harp chords)...there were the entrees. Oh, the entrees. How wonderful art thou! How genius is thy chef!

Succulent duck breast rolled around a dried cherry hazelnut compote, then wrapped in thick, juicy (not too salty) strips of bacon, all served over a mixture of chanterelle mushrooms and sweet chunks of butternut squash, sauced with a sage pesto. Wow...absolutely amazing.

But there's more. Not only was my entree the best I've had in ages. My husband's meal was equally incredible.

The menu literally reads, "Chili Crusted Painted Hills Farm Beef Tenderloin with White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Local Corn and Cilantro Butter." What that doesn't say is, "This is maybe the best piece of meat in the state." Yeah, I've been to Ruth's Chris Steak House and Daniel's Broiler. They have their good points, but they can go to the back of the lunch line cuz Chef Ryan Donaldson has serious chops (and I don't mean pork). This dish is inspired. The caramelized salty crunch of crust on the melt-in-your mouth beef, a whole cob of sweet corn flavored with that beautiful cilantro butter. I mean, when I go back I want to try something new, but I don't know if I could pass up ordering this beef for myself.

The dessert menu has all the regulars (flourless chocolate cake, creme brulee, bread pudding, brown butter cake) plus a roasted banana split in a martini glass. Cute until you spill it all over the table because it is impossible to eat out of that ridiculous glass. Try their house made brownies, though. You won't be sorry (unless you each had your own dessert before getting the brownies because your waistband will be quite uncomfortable at this point).

And for aspiring home cooks, there are recipes! New every week. If you missed one, all you have to do is email the chef for it. How great is that?

So go to The Stone House. Go, go, go, and ignore the paint color in the dining room for now. Because if you keep going, they can paint over it and maybe upgrade to a bigger restaurant. We do not want this place to close it's doors without opening some new ones.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Swirl into Dinner

Chicken, chicken, how to make it more exciting...

Well, everything tastes better with some sort of salty pork product.

And there's got to be some cheese.

And then we've got to mess with the presentation a bit.

Channel your inner cinnamon roll and what do you have?

A roulade (you know it's going to taste good with such a fancy name).

Note: It's extra tasty if you get your spouse to make it.

Chicken Prosciutto Roulade

2 large chicken breasts, bones and skin removed
3-4 slices of prosciutto
a little tomato paste or some chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 c mozzarella, shredded
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Between two sheets of plastic wrap, pound the chicken breasts flat until they are about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Season with a little salt and pepper.

2. Spread some tomato paste on the chicken and top with 1 or 2 slices of prosciutto. Sprinkle on the cheese. Drizzle with a bit olive oil and season lightly.

3. Starting with the short end of the chicken, roll up the layers (think cinnamon rolls). Tightly wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so to firm everything up.

4. Remove from the fridge and remove plastic wrap. Heat a little butter and olive oil in a skillet over MH heat. Sear the rolls lightly to give it some nice color. Transfer to a baking dish, cover lightly with foil. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Check temp with a meat thermometer.

5. Remove from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. Carefully slice into 1 inch servings. Drizzle the pan juices over the slices and serve. Try it with some pasta and a salad.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Harvest Cake

Edible Seattle is one of my favorite publications. I'm sorry to say I still don't subscribe. Although, it's to their benefit because then I pay the higher price for each issue. Recently, I rescued an old copy (last fall) that was melting into the pile on my counter and remembered that there was a recipe I wanted to try.

Last year when I went to Taste Washington!, the rep for Edible Seattle gave me this particular issue and raved about the Harvest Cake. Apparently, they had a ton of positive feedback on this cake.

Since my husband's little glucose problem has changed our family's "dessert every night" policy (trust me, our pants are glad for the change), I've been looking for a reason to bake a cake. It just so happened to be my mom's 29th birthday (again) this week. A perfect occasion for Harvest Cake.

When you see the ingredients, you'll be a little puzzled. But this cake is AMAZING! I've altered the original recipe, but thought I'd put the original amounts in parentheses so you can judge for yourself. Happy Harvest.

Harvest Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Butter for the pan
2 large carrots, grated (1 1/2 c)
1 large parsnip, grated (1 cup)
1 medium zucchini, grated (1 1/4 c)
1 tart apple, grated (1 c)
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon (plus 1/2 tsp ground ginger if you want)
3 large eggs
3/4 c sugar (original calls for 1 c)
1/4 c brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c canola oil (I think 1/4 c would work just fine)

1/2 stick (4 TB) butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 c confectioners' sugar
2 TB apple cider
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x9 inch pan, line with parchment, butter the parchment. Set aside.

Whisk together the flours, soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars until very well blended. Add the vanilla and the oil, whisking until completely combined. Using a spoon, stir in the flour mixture, then fold in the grated vegetables and fruit, stirring until completely coated with batter.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake on the middle rack for 50-55 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Remove the paper, and invert again onto a serving plate. Cool at least 1 hour more.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Whip the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until light and smooth, about 3 minutes. On low, add the sugar, a little at a time, then the cider and cinnamon. Scrape down the bowl, increase speed to high and whip for 2 minutes.

Cut the cake in half horizontally, spread with frosting. Add the top layer and frost the top and sides. There will be extra. Just let it chill out in the fridge for a couple days and dip some apple slices in it.

Dare I say a "healthy cake"? Yeah, I dare. That's right. And it's oh so yummy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Trend Du Jour: The Taco Cart

Uh, ahem...hello. Is this thing on?

I know it's been a while, so let me explain. At the beginning of September, I finally left the ranks of a purely stay-at-home mom and joined the dizzying paced workforce of adjunct professordom. I have to admit, its a little strange being addressed as "Professor" (especially since that's not technically true!). I'm feeling a little old, not having the slightest idea about current music requested during studio work times.

But on top of that big change, there was the even bigger surprises my husband had in store this fall. There was a whirlwind interview out of state, an offer, some agonizing about whether to take it, then the obligatory "tears because of change", an acceptance of aforementioned job, a very long weekend spent driving (7 hours each way) and looking at new housing, then tearful goodbyes to daddy who would have to spend three months on his own in the new town. Oh, and then it was all for naught because the boss was too far gone on the crazy woman side of the tracks having misrepresented the kind of commitment she sought (both kidneys, a cornea, and the firstborn, no kidding).

So after the emotional rollercoaster (actually more like a jetliner in a lightning storm with one engine out), we have our man back, albeit unemployed. It's been a very great couple of weeks with him back. Lots of housework is getting done, my cooking load lightened. He and the baby have become very tight.

Last night, when the older kids went to Grandma's for the night, he made it all up to me (and the baby) by an all expenses paid dinner out. Nothing says love like the gas station parking lot, a little Google CEO on NPR, and the special from the taco stand in Totem Lake called Burrito Mojado.

Five meaty little tacos, a little cilantro and onion, some salsa verde, and a squeeze of fresh lime. All washed down with the included HFCS beverage in the red can. Cheap delicious eats. And he had even worked it out with the baby so that she fell asleep just minutes before we arrived and stayed asleep during the whole dinner-in-our-sweet-minivan experience. (There are tables set up outside the cart, but our car was warmer!)

And since everything is perfectly hunky dory now (at least until the next major surprise), maybe I can jump back on the food blogger train. I definitely owe it to my readers to let you in on my husband's very own Chicken Prosciutto Roulade recipe.

Hasta Luego, Amigos.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Desert Island Pizza Joint

Zeek's,'re both great. I've had a good time with you and I really like your personality. But I think we should start seeing other people. I mean, we can still be friends, can't we? The occasional visit now and then?

What? You think there is someone else, another pizza place that stole me away?

Well, I have to be honest, because we're friends and I don't want to lie. I have been seeing this other place for a couple of weeks now. Yeah, two weeks in a row, in fact. I think it is getting serious. I even bought their shirt for my son. The name is Flying Squirrel Pizza Co. and it is a keeper.

Oh, so you want to know what my new love has that you don't have? The crust, oh the light and chewy and not a speck of greasy. Yes, Zeek's...your crust is really amazing, too, but there is just something so special about my new place.

The first date was an amazing array of cheesy herbed breadsticks to dip in a downright spicy tasting sauce. My kids were a little put off, but you know how I like things spicy. After the breadsticks, we moved on to one of the specials...The Boston Spaceship, utilizing salami slices from none other than Seattle's own Salumi (think Mario Batali's dad...). And sweet onions. Wow!

And I when I asked for a little sugar at the end of the night, do you know what I got? Two fresh walnut chocolate-chip cookies (Columbia City Bakery) sandwiching some delicious Molly Moon Salted Caramel ice cream (also available in Vanilla Bean). I'm literally swooning just thinking about it.

Well, I tried to wait the customary week before calling just so I wouldn't look desperate. I managed to make it the whole week without even cyber-stalking this new place. But when the opportunity arose, I went for it.

This time, I was charmed with the very classy flavors of the Figure 8 pie...fresh figs, walnuts, prosciutto, goat cheese, and chopped arugula. I think I'm falling in love!

I can't wait to try their Washington pie...their version of the Hawaiian, but with local ham, caramelized onions, and granny smith apple slices. Or how about the one with an egg, arugula, fresh mozzarella, and red onion? And I swear I saw something with pulled pork on top.

We might as well start picking out some curtains because there are so many new avenues I want to explore (like the grown-up dessert called the Irish a root beer float only the vanilla ice cream is dunked in a pint of Guinness).

And you should be happy for's not every day that you meet the pizza joint you're meant to be with forever.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rescue from the Rut

Isn't it easy to get into a food rut? We do it all the time, mostly at breakfast. For a while it was Ancient Grain Bread toasted with butter and honey. When we lived in China it was an egg fried perfectly round in a wok with some steam bread to dip in our instant coffee (with the obligatory sweetened condensed milk).

There have been cereal streaks and yogurt with granola phases. We were really into my husband's scrambled eggs for a bit.

So, it's always nice when we have something new, something unexpected. It is especially nice when it provides some good nutrition, too.

This recipe is a great way to use up all that zucchini from your garden. I thought I had a bunch out there when I planned this recipe. Turns out my zucchini is not the big producer it is normally accused of being. But I did have a few small yellow summer squashes. What the heck, I thought, they are both minimally flavored squash. The experimenter in me went for it.

Apple Squash Muffins

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached white flour)
1/2 c oat bran
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 c plain nonfat yogurt
3/4 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 c grated squash
1 c peeled, cored, and diced apples (big enough to be recognizable)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a paper liner in each cup of a muffin tin.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, bran, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix evenly.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until light yellow in color. Add the yogurt, brown sugar, and the vanilla. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Gently fold in the squash and apples with a spatula. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just blended.

Spoon about 1/3 c of batter into each muffin cup. (I had a little leftover and used my mini muffin tin for the excess...bake the mini muffins about 20 minutes total). Bake the muffins 15 minutes, then rotate the pan, and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove muffins from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Allow to cool completely before storing in a sealed container.

They are healthy enough to eat two (less than 150 calories each with only 1.5 g of fat...more than 4 g of protein and 2 g of fiber). Have fun getting out of that breakfast rut!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gnarly Roasted Carrots

Like many others here in the Northwest, I decided to try my hand at a garden this summer. I always love having fresh herbs. And a couple of tomato plants are nice...especially the cherry tomatoes because, let's face it, they are really the only ones with much chance of ripening!

There were a bunch of rainbow carrot starts available to me this year, so I planted as many as possible in and around my other plants. My hopes were high. I had all new dirt thanks to my dad who rescued me from the poisoned dirt left by the Terminix dude. The ant hill was apparently too close to my garden so he had felt the need to spray all my pea plants this last spring. "Don't worry," he said, "the dirt is fine, just don't eat the peas from the plants I sprayed." Yeah, well, as an organic gardener, I'm not stuffing a bunch of seeds in dirt saturated with ant poison.

The dirt my dad delivered seemed to be good, as he was assured by the dirt saleswoman. And reading all those soil ammendment suggestions in my Seattle Tilth book just makes my brain shut down. I admit I'm intimidated by things like "Mix x parts per y cubic feet of dirt." So, I hoped for the best and left the dirt as it was, with the exception of a little organic fertilizer mix from a plant vendor.

I should have know better, though. The dirt did support life, but it packed down hard as a rock. Recently, I tried to shove a stick into it and the stick broke having made barely a hole. So, then there are my carrots...that need soft, finely worked soil. Half of them started to grow only to be pushed back up into the air, exposing most of the carrot root. The other half started growing great, hit the hard pan dirt and did some cuh-razy loop-de-loops. None of them were straight and strong.

So we picked them all and made a great roasted carrot side dish for our fish last night (along with a little yellow summer squash and some sweet onions).

Roasted Carrots with Cumin

A bunch of carrots, cut to "baby" carrot size
Salt and Pepper
A pinch of cumin (coriander is good too)
Olive oil (butter is great, but...cholesterol...)
A liquid (chicken stock, water, chardonnay,..)

Make a double thickness foil pouch. Pour in the carrots, season with the salt and pepper, and the cumin. Drizzle with olive oil (or set a few pats of butter on them). Pour in about a half cup or so of the liquid. Seal up the pouch and roast for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Open up the pouch and roast for another 15-20 minutes until the carrots are cooked but still have some firmness. Soggy carrots are yucky (trust me...I've made them soggy before).

I served these with a little fish. I made up the sauce...and it actually worked well, so I'm going to share it, too.

Baked Fish with Creamy Sauce

4 fillets white fish (tilapia...)
1/4 c mayo
2 tsp whole grain mustard (I'm making up the amount...I can't remember how much I used)
lemon juice (just keep squeezing until it tastes good)
lemon slices
1/2 c chopped parsley
Salt and Pepper
1 TB capers

Mix the sauce ingredients. In a 9x13 inch glass dish, set out the parsley and lemon slices. Put the fish on top in a single layer. Spread the mayo sauce over the fish. I baked them in the same 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Test them for doneness by flaking a little or checking the thickest part. Don't overcook them, though!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday Morning is Health-Food Morning

During our vacation to Sun River in July, I whipped up a full batch of my favorite pancakes. They were a huge hit...especially to the little birthday girl. We celebrated my niece's first birthday at breakfast with pancakes instead of birthday cake--a perfect time of day for early-to-bed babies.

Today is Saturday and, usually, Saturday morning family breakfasts are full-tilt carb fests. However, with the health hatchet looming over our necks, my favorite pancakes are out. Not totally, but they needed some modification. Gone are the butter and egg yolks. And in comes the fiber. I have to admit I was feeling a little sad about amending my recipe, but I enjoyed being pleasantly surprised by the healthy alternative. This version took inspiration from The Diabetic Bible

Buttermilk Pancakes (Healthy Style!)

1 c unbleached flour (sub 1 c rice flour if gluten intolerant)
3/4 c oat bran (or rice bran)
1 TB sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 c low-fat buttermilk
3 egg whites, beaten

Sift together the flour, bran, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and buttermilk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together.

Heat the griddle to about 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray or oil slightly, wiping off the excess. Ladle about 1/4 c batter onto the hot griddle and cook until the bubbles set. Flip once and finish cooking. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

This recipe makes about 8 (they said 10) pancakes. The bran sticks a little to the griddle, so be aware of that.

Serve with fresh fruit and/or a little maple syrup. And, on a side note, fresh tasty (nitrate-free at PCC) turkey sausage goes great with this...and is a totally viable alternative to pork sausage (I'll miss you little piggies, but it is better for both of us this way).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Delicious Summer Peach Crisp

There are oh so many peach cliches out there dying to make there way into this post...but perhaps the most accurate one is that I'm "up to my eyeballs in peaches." My neighbor regularly visits her family in Eastern Washington, passing right through massive amounts of orchards. I was most interested in peaches this time around and she obliged me by picking up a 25 pound box (and two for herself!).

Since getting a truckload of quart jars from my friend last fall, I've been itching to use them. Canned peaches were at the top of my list. So I got to work this afternoon slipping off skins, halving, pitting, slicing, making syrup (light and extra light are the way to go...heavy syrup is bad for the insulin deficient!).

I have the Ball book of Home Preserving. It contains so much many ideas! I filled 9 quart jars with the peach slices, running out of lids part way through...of course you knew that would happen, right? There were problems with floating peach masses no matter how tightly I thought I was packing them. And I kept having jars that wouldn't seal. Argh!

Well, after reheating various jars (quart jars process for 30 we're talking all day here), I'm down to 2 unsealed jars still! But I quit for the night. Maybe I'll open those up and make some peach jam tomorrow.

In between all that I did laundry, cooked a low-carbohydrate meal of chicken/bean/pepper/chile burritos in whole wheat tortillas, and then decided to use the last few raw peaches to make a yummy summer crisp.

Back to the cutting board. Fortunately, I had all the hot canning water still, so de-skinning the peaches was a snap. In case you don't know, to easily skin peaches, dip them in boiling water for 30-60 seconds and then plunk them into a cold water bath. The skins (usually) come right off.

Delicious Summer Peach Crisp

5 1/2 c peaches, peeled and sliced
2 TB flour (or tapioca/arrowroot to thicken)
1 TB lemon juice
1 c sugar (or 1/2 c honey, or 3/4 c maple syrup)
3/4 TB cinnamon (or 1/4 TB allspice, or 1/8 tsp cloves)

Stir ingredients into a bowl, then pour into a glass baking dish, taking care not to overfill.

Crumb topping:

1/2 c unbleached flour
1/2 c rolled oats (not quick or instant)
1/2 sugar
1/4 finely chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1/4 c butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine topping and sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Get out the vanilla ice cream!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Hey! Remember me? I know, it's been longer than the customary length of time between posts. There was vacation. And then I've been working on my upcoming classes for next year. And then it was 100 degrees for a Seattle. I kid you not. And no one has air conditioning here. My sweatbox of a house was killer. No cooking, I can assure you. I thought about being funny and posting an ice cream ad, but even sitting at the computer was pure torture.

And then there's also my husband's new dietary restrictions. You know you're getting old when you start getting bad news at the doctor's office.

Remember when you were a teen and could eat a bunch of nachos, drink a thousand ounces of Mountain Dew, and finish it off with a large blizzard? What about you boys who could consume an entire pizza accompanied with fries and chicken wings? Even in your twenties, things don't seem to count.

So maybe you don't eat like a 16 year old boy anymore, but now there is beer or wine available to you. And your refined adult taste likes cream sauces, rich meats, bread puddings, and such. You might put on a few pounds, but certainly it is just a phase because you've indulged a little too much this year or had your third baby or something. It couldn't possibly be that those extra inches are actually yours for good! You could melt them off whenever you really decided to, right? No serious harm in going up a size or two...

But, if there is a line of diabetics in your family, or a history of high cholesterol or high blood might just get a wake up call during your first physical in 10 years.

Such was the case for my husband recently. As he sat in the doctor's office, funeral dirge playing ominously in his head, he knew major changes were in the works. Of course, a good lump of guilt formed in my throat as I mentally reviewed Julie Jams for the last year.

Yeah, we've been living it up. I've become a self-proclaimed mighty fine cook this last year. However, this year's challenge will be to take those skills and direct my focus in a more healthful direction. First to go are the copious amounts of sweets, butter, and creamy desserts followed closely by mountains of bread, tortilla chips (a lunch staple here), and rice. My husband's never been a super sweet tooth, but rice will be hardest for him to part with.

Do you have any idea how much protein you are supposed to consume in one day? Chances are, it's way more than you're actually eating. Since your body doesn't store protein like it stores fat, you have to eat it regularly to keep everything in balance. And of course, fish is every health nut's crown jewel. Good thing we love fish!

I put a bunch of it on the menu for the next two weeks. First up was this Gingered Salmon. And it was great! I got it from the Moosewood Collective's "Moosewood Restaurant New Classics"...a mostly vegetarian book of recipes.

Gingered Salmon (in-a-packet)

4 - six ounce salmon fillets
1/4 c olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c grated fresh ginger root
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c rice vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 tsp dark sesame oil
2 c peeled and sliced carrots
1 c sliced water chestnuts
2 c red bell pepper slices
1/4 c chopped scallions

Preheat the oven to 450. For each fillet, fold a 12x24 inch sheet of foil in half to make a double-thick 12 inch square; set aside.

Rinse the fish, pat dry, and set aside. Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger and saute on low heat for about 1 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, rice vinegar or lemon juice, and sesame oil and set the sauce aside.

Place one fourth of the carrots and water chestnuts in the center of each foil square. Drizzle on a bit of the sauce and place a fish fillet on top. Arrange the red peppers on top of each and pour the remaining sauce evenly over all. Fold each square into an airtight packet, crimp the edges shut, and place on an unoiled baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes (or slightly less, in my opinion), until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Avoid the steam when opening the packets. Serve topped with the scallions. Great with long-grain brown rice and a bok choy stir fry!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rainbow Salad for the Maple Bar Soul

Today was D-Day for my husband...Doctor Day. My other half is one of those people who has only visited the doctor a small handful of times in his entire life. When he was a 6 month old baby, his parents brought him and his brother on a 13 hour flight from Manila to the small casino town of Reno. They were crashing at his uncle's place when my baby husband suddenly took a turn for the worse. With no job yet to pay a bill and no car to take them anywhere, his parents walked him quite a distance to the hospital. Fortunately, he recovered if only slightly orange from the copious amounts of carrot juice prescribed (for what?).

Then there was the time he fell off a swing and broke his elbow...but it took a few days to ascertain that it was broken. He might have got a band-aid out of the deal, but certainly not a doctor. I mean, what were they going to do, put a cast on an elbow??

The man hasn't thrown up since 7th grade, can you believe it?

I convinced him to visit my naturopathic doctor once, but then she got a little freaky for him when she asked him which of the bottles of supplements he was leaning toward. Like, did he have a feeling that he take one more than the other. Uh...aren't you the doctor? (on a side note...I love my doctor and think she's great, but I've never had the "make a choice" treatment)

After months of knowing for certain that things weren't as they should be, he finally decided to make the call. Nothing serious (no lumps or anything), only severe pains in his toe and thumb. New shoes were prescribed for the toes.

But the blood pressure cuff told a different did that pesky tape measure. He was solidly marching in the heart disease direction, obviously not the band he wanted to play with.

So, now I feel like I should apologize for all the butter we've ingested this year. But I'm not taking responsibility for those donuts. Let the record show that I've NEVER said, "We should make donuts, honey." And anything in the deep fryer was his, too. Unfortunately, the vast majority of heavy cream and sweets fall into my court. Say goodbye to bacon-topped maple bars.

Tonight, however, I started with vegetables and made a veritable rainbow for dinner. Beets roasted in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic. Fruit salad of nectarines, plums, and kiwis dressed with a little orange juice and some honey. Oven-roasted, then broiled, tilapia with fresh chives, oregano, and thyme from my garden.

But the show-stopper tonight was this veggie salad I improvised. And the great thing is, you could substitute anything you like in here.

Rainbow Salad

In a bowl, combine:

3 ears of corn, boiled 5 minutes, then cut the kernels off with a sharp knife.

A handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered.

1 red pepper, diced.

Saute, then add to the bowl:

1 small summer squash, chopped
1 small leek, halved and chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
a few fresh peas, shells removed

When those are tender, combine all the veggies together. Then whip up a dressing. Lime would be good, but I was out. So I made a vinaegrette.

Whisk together:

1/4 c olive oil
2-3 TB red wine vinegar (to taste)
salt and pepper

Add any of the following:

chili powder

Drizzle over the salad and mix gently. Let it sit for a few minutes to soak up the flavors.

That dinner was one step back in the right direction. I guess my Julie Jams theme this year is going to be to get on the health train. This is your body on pre-middle-age...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Anniversary Edition

Happy Anniversary! Julie Jams is officially one year old!

And what a year it's been. My baby went from zero to walking, my eldest completed kindergarten. I cooked so many new things, both successfully and of course, dismal failures. I thought a little recap might be in order.

It all started with a Julie Jams video where I demonstrated making strawberry jam. Little did y'all know, but that was my first time. And there was a screaming newborn in the background...hence the music dubbed over everything.

Julie Jams Making Strawberry Jam from Arnan Films on Vimeo.

I moved on to some of my summer favorites...Quinoa Salad, Jicama Salad. Orange Olive Salad was amazing!

There were attempts to be part of Tuesdays with Dorie. Those recipes usually went horribly wrong, except maybe for the Tarte Tatin. That was tasty. But come to find out I was doing the whole Dorie thing incorrectly anyways. Our friendship suffered because of it!

The lamb chops are one of our favorites now. Hmmm...note to self...put those on the menu soon.

Julie Jams was chosen for FoodBuzz's November 24, 24, 24 showcasing not one, but two Thanksgiving dinners prepared in my "Local & Homemade vs. Store Bought & Prepared" post. Wow, that was a ton of work, wasn't it sis?

One of the highlights for me was the Christmas Eve Beef Wellington. I wrapped my beef tenderloin in homemade brioche, copying an episode of Rick Steves' Christmas in Europe (France for this one). The meat turned out so great (praise the Lord, considering it was like an $80 piece of meat!). The N-O-E-L on top was my favorite part. This one is a tradition starter...only, I may try it with puff pastry this year.

I made biscuits and scones by the truckload.

And muffins, cookies, and cakes (Lazy Daisy Cake and Vanilla Cake came up a lot).

Bread pudding, pizza, pasta parties. Wait a I know why my jeans are still feeling tight. These recipes represent a whole lotta baking (bread and butter...those are the names of each thigh, respectively).

Oh, and a couple of Julie Jams Cooking Classes..."The Magic Chicken" showcasing the versatility of a whole chicken and "Wild and Crazy Salads".

Hunger Action Week had several local bloggers using the food stamps budget to feed our families for the week. It was an interesting exercise in planning and organization and also revealed a well of self-righteousness in my heart.

The most popular posts really surprised me....Homemade donuts tops the list. I slapped a less than stellar photo up thinking everyone would ignore it, but instead it made the FoodBuzz Top 9 for the day and has over 400 views now. It seems the simplest sweets are everyone's favorite because my Double Chocolate Cookies soared up the charts as well. What about the fancy stuff? Hmmm...I guess I should stick with the favorites to achieve popularity.

But I've never been good with popularity, hence my angsty fame-crushing post on why I don't like the label "Foodie". Oh well, at least it generated some conversation.

I love hearing back from the readers, especially those who actually made one of my recipes. And I apologize profusely if they don't turn out perfectly (I still don't know what went wrong with that Easter ham, W!). Until recently, we didn't have a commenting system allowing me to reply to least in a way where it would get sent to them. But we've updated the site, so hopefully I'll get into the rhythm of responding to everyone. Sorry if you felt snubbed in the past!

Speaking of faithful readers, or in particular commenters, I'd like to give a loud shout out to Jenn, Alice, and Gretchen for being my most vocal readers. Thanks for your feedback!

And thanks to FoodBuzz for sending me to two super cool events...Seattle Food and Wine Experience and Taste Washington! The whole VIP pass was a very rockstar moment for me!

And of course, I was super excited to be picked for June's 24, 24, 24, celebrating my 30th birthday at Dog Mountain Farm. A fabulous night.

So, it seemed fitting to celebrate my first anniversary by making a little jam. With the 1 1/2 flats of berries provided by my mom, I mashed, stirred, and boiled the night away making 14 pints...9 raspberry and 5 strawberry. I felt lucky to get those strawberries yesterday at Kirkland's Wednesday Market (there was only one vendor with strawberries). And thanks to Sidhu farms for the flat of raspberries...if you buy in bulk you may just get a little discount!

Finally, thank you to my husband for all those long hours of putting this blog together. For figuring out html code, networking tirelessly, liking all my jokes (good or bad), and dealing with "the talent" (ha!).

Who knows what this year will hold? I am going to be teaching some art classes in the fall, but no doubt I'll still be cooking. I've got the bug now...can't...stop...

Thanks for Jamming with Julie. It's been fun!
julie.jams' items Go to julie.jams' photostream

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