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!
julie.jams' items Go to julie.jams' photostream

Food Candy