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Archive for March, 2011

I love muesli. It’s versatile, it’s filling, it’s delicious and it’s what got me through college.

I had never been a breakfast girl before. Give me a cup or two of coffee and I was out the door. Then it occurred to me one day that perhaps the reason why I was crashing so hard by my second or third class was, I don’t know, because I was starving? So I started eating breakfast. A giant bowl of muesli drowning in almond or rice milk, with a cup of coffee, of course, and I was good for the next five or so hours. No crashes, no hunger pains, nada.

Hmm, I thought, maybe there’s something to this breakfast thing after all.

Now I absolutely cannot go without breakfast. I may last an hour or two before I start shaking and getting grumpy, but who wants that? Breakfast is definitely a priority in our house.

The beautiful thing about muesli is that you can pretty much throw a bunch of grains, dried fruit and nuts in a bowl and call it muesli. You can definitely buy pre-mixed, prepackaged muesli, but it’s sooo much cheaper to mix it yourself. And fun to boot.

At least in my world :)

Cheers!

 

Organic Whole Grain Muesli ala Dina

I looked about my budget recently and scared myself with how much money I spend on food. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that food, especially healthy and, if you can manage it, organic food should be the top priority on anyone’s budget, but it probably shouldn’t exceed your budget. So, I’m trying to save money on food by cooking with what I have on hand. Grains, even organic grains are cheap so I stocked up on those and then threw whatever dried fruit and nuts I had on hand in the bowl.

What you’ll need~

Feel free to increase or decrease measurements depending on your needs. You can always mix up a big batch and store it in your fridge in a glass, airtight container.

One cup rolled oats (quick cooking is fine, but I used regular rolled oats)

One cup barley flakes

One cup rye flakes

A handful of two the following: chopped walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, dried goji berries, dried cranberries and/or raisins, coconut shavings.

Yogurt or milk

Maple syrup or honey, optional

Sliced up fresh fruit, optional

Stir it all together top with yogurt or milk of your choice, let sit for 5-10 minutes*, drizzle with maple syrup or honey and enjoy.

*Traditionally, you should soak your muesli for a few hours or overnight in something acidic like yogurt or buttermilk to help stimulate enzyme activity for better digestion. I usually plop a few dollops of yogurt (latest love is Greek) on top, stir it up and let it sit while I make my tea, feed the kitty, and start my day.




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The plan was to write this post on Friday. I had an early morning shoot with Bienestar and I was going to come home, make some breakfast, sip some tea and write. I had it all laid out in my head and even thought I would have time to practice yoga or go on a long walk.

Instead, I was up all night. Just couldn’t sleep. What is worse than not being able to sleep, is knowing that you have to wake up with the sun when you’re not able to sleep. Don’t you hate that?

The culprit wasn’t stress, or hormones (not yet, please!), or crazy neighbors (although that happens on occasion), no nothing as interesting as any of that. It was tea. Not too much tea, mind you,  just fancy Chinese Pue-rh tea that for some reason that few times that I have drank it, regardless of how early in the day that happens to be, keeps my up at night. And it’s not that it simply keeps me awake, it stimulates me to the point that along with my very awake racing mind is a very awake racing heart. Pounding so fast and so loudly that if I lay on my side, it’s like little bombs exploding in my head. Over and over again.

Ugh.

My day ended up going something closer to this: Crawl out of bed, make more crazy tea to get me through the morning, drive 45 minutes to Hillsboro, meet some amazing people and make some portraits, drive another 45 or so minutes to Gresham, which is on the OTHER side of Portland from where the shoot is, drop something off at Adam’s folks house, drive home, and literally fall into bed. Two hours later, I wake up, feeling not so refreshed and like I pretty much didn’t sleep at all.

The rest of the day, needless to say, consisted of reading and staring at the wall.

I’ve been waiting all winter for spring to arrive and with it spring vegetables. Although, two weeks past the vernal equinox it as wet grey and dreary as our winter was, spring produce is starting to just show itself in the stores. And what better way to brighten the lingering rain than with rhubarb. I’ve never cooked with rhubarb before, and when I came across this recipe in Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food, I quickly earmarked it for spring. It’s simple, delicately sweet, and cheerful. Perfect for dessert, or, my favorite, top off your granola or muesli with it for a tart breakfast.

Cheers!
Rhubarb and Pistachios over Greek Yogurt

Adapted from Lucid Food

What you’ll need~

4 stalks rhubarb, ends trimmed

4-5 cardamom pods, gently crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

About and inch or two fresh ginger, either finely chopped or grated with your microplane

Zest from one lemon

Salt

1/4-1/2 cup raw honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon rose-water

2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Cut your rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and place in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water.

Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer stirring occasionally.

After about 5 minutes, when the rhubarb begins to soften, stir in cardamom, nutmeg, lemon and ginger zest, and a pinch or two of salt.

Let simmer for about four more minutes until the rhubarb is completely softened.

Remove the pan from heat and let cool.

Stir in the rose-water and spoon over small bowls of Greek yogurt.

Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

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There are at least nine spellings for hummus, hamos, hommos, hommus, homos, houmous, hummos, hummous, and humus. The earliest known recipe hails from 13th century Egypt: chickpeas, vinegar, pickled lemons, herbs, spices and oil. Not much has changed since then. An at-hand ingredient may be thrown in here and there, variations influenced by one’s country or even village. But, and with good reason, the basic recipe has barely changed. Why? Because hummus is damn near close to perfect, at least in my book. Granted there are a few recipes that leave me wanting, but it is usually more of a mood thing rather than bad or good. Some days I’d like my hummus to be thick like paste and garlicky, other days, creamy and smooth like yogurt.

I’m not sure if you can even consider the following recipe hummus. I put it together based on what I had in my pantry: red lentils, garlic, pine nuts, paprika and tarragon. Call it a dip if you like, I’ll just say it’s a nod to a classic dish that, in my world, will never go out of style.

Cheers!

Red Lentil and Tarragon Hummus with Kim Boyce’s Seed Crackers

Red Lentil Hummus

I know the tarragon seems like an odd choice, but it imparted an herby and lemony flavor that really brightened the dish.

What you’ll need~

3 cups water

1 cup dried red lentils

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2-cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

5 or so tablespoons olive oil

Juice from one lemon

1-teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/4-cup chickpea, or other miso

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, plus more for garnish

1-teaspoon French tarragon, plus more for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring water to boil in a small saucepan. Add lentils and reduce to simmer. Cook until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and let cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, lightly toast your pine nuts in a dry pan, let cool, then place in food processor and pulse until pine nuts become a paste.

Place chopped garlic, sea salt and a tablespoon of olive oil in a mortar and pestle and smoosh until well blended.

Place lentils and garlic paste in food processor and pulse until blended. As food processor is running, add the rest of the ingredients until hummus is smooth.

Serve with bird crackers or pita bread.

Kim Boyce’s Bird Crackers, with variations

Adapted from Good to the Grain

These crackers require either a good, heavy rolling-pin or some upper body strength. I have neither, and despite spending much time rolling, my crackers turned out puffy like little crostinis. Not exactly what I was looking for, but delicious, nonetheless.

What you’ll need~

2-3 eggs, depending on the size of your eggs

Dry Mix~

3/4-cup buckwheat flour

3/4 cups spelt flour

1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1-tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Wet Mix~

1 stick butter, room temperature

3/4 to 1 cup almond milk or whole milk

Finish~

1 egg, for egg wash

Poppy seeds

Coarse sea salt

Fill a small saucepan with cold water and gently place eggs in saucepan. Bring water to a boil; turn off heat and let eggs sit, uncovered, for 18 minutes.
Drain water, fill saucepan, with eggs still in it, with an ice water bath.

While eggs are cooling, whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and seeds in a large bowl.

Using your fingers, break apart butter and rub into the flour mix until the butter is the size of bits of grain. Coarse and crumbly.

Peel the eggs and discard the whites. Using your microplane, grate egg yolks into flour.

Stir in milk.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface.

Fold it into itself but be careful not to over knead, unless you want your crackers fluffy like mine.

Preheat oven to 450 and line, or butter, your baking pans with parchment paper.

Roll the dough out as thin as you can possibly get it and use a cookie cutter or a knife to cut out squares.

Place dough on cookie sheet.

Whisk your egg in to an egg wash and brush wash onto cracker dough. Sprinkle with seeds and/or coarse sea salt and bake for 10 minutes, rotating tray halfway through.

Crackers should be golden and (mostly) crisp.

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I used to love winter. I would tolerate summer knowing that my desperate anticipation of fall and winter would be rewarded with grey skies and thick cozy sweaters. When I opened my eyes in the morning and saw that there wasn’t even a sliver of blue in the sky, I would smile.

After living in Portland for four years, well, needless to say, I’ve changed my tune. I find myself craving warm weather like some folks crave ice cream. If the sun peaks it’s head out from behind the ever-present clouds I instinctively turn my face toward it like a sunflower.

Today is the first day of spring and, of course, it’s cold and grey outside our open windows. But if you look close enough at the trees you’ll see little buds just on the verge of bursting into an explosion of hope and fertility. What better way to honor the vernal equinox in all her green glory than with the universal symbol of spring: the egg.

I love eggs. A perfect orb of complete protein, filling and versatile. Eggs are nature at its finest. The problem is that eggs don’t love me. I can eat them fine if they’re in foods like baked goods, and occasionally in the evening on a salad Nicoise, but to start out a morning with a couple of freshly boiled eggs or an omelet means Adam will find me bent over in the kitchen with a glass of aloe juice in one hand, baking soda in the other and the sort of look of discomfort and pain that you don’t want to see on your girlfriend’s face.

It hasn’t always been like this. Up until about five years ago I could eat eggs with wild abandon. Scrambled, poached, fried, no issues, not one. Then one day when I was living in Hawaii, and I remember the day, my mom and I were driving to Hilo to shop for a desk. We wanted to get an early start as Hilo is an hour’s drive from my folks house, so I boiled a couple of eggs for the road. By the time we arrived at the first furniture store, bad things were happening in my gut. I promise I won’t go into any vivid details, but it was not good, and sadly, in the years since, nothing has changed. About once or twice a year I give eggs another shot. Just maybe my stomach is producing the appropriate enzymes again and I can eat eggs, but soo far, no dice.

So why eggs you may ask? Simply put, it was an excuse to photograph my Puji bowls again. Adam’s folks occasionally have access to backyard eggs that are the sweetest little eggs you’ve ever seen, tiny and adorable. Each egg is a different shade of blue, white or ivory, it’s like everyday is Easter. So when I picked up  Puji’s bowls a couple of weeks ago, I immediately thought of these eggs. You can see why, no?

Cheers!

Smoked Salmon Frittata with Lemon

adapted from Food52

Whilst perusing cookbooks and online recipe sites for egg recipes I felt like it was 1978 and I was planning a swinging fondue party. Deviled eggs, frittata, poached (which I ‘m afraid to take on yet), and benedict, every egg recipe I came across just felt so cheesy. Since there was no avoiding it, I went with a classic. Smoked salmon frittata, simple and easy, perfect for just about any meal of the day and with just a burst of lemon to brighten your day.

What you’ll need~

7-8 eggs

Zest and juice of one lemon

olive oil

3 ounces fresh chevre 

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 bunch dandelion, or your other favorite greens, torn

4 oz smoked salmon

1-2 tablespoon dried tarragon

salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your broiler.

In a large bowl, whisk your eggs until it starts to bubble a bit. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice.

Crumble in the goat cheese and smoked salmon.

Warm about a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep, oven safe, skillet over medium heat.

Toss your sliced shallots in the skillet and cook, stirring frequently for about 3-5 minutes until the shallots begin to just caramelize. Add the torn dandelion and cook until nicely wilted.

Remove pan from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for about a minute, then pour the shallots and dandelion greens into the egg mixture and stir.

Put the skillet back on the heat and add a bit more olive oil.

Pour the eggs in to the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the frittata has mostly set.

Use a spatula to lift up the edges of the egg to make sure it’s cooking evenly.

When the frittata has set, place the pan under the broiler for 3 minutes. You want the top of your frittata to be golden brown and just beginning to puff up.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Flip out onto a platter and serve immediately.

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The closest thing I have to having Irish in me is a tattoo on my left arm that is Celtic in origin but art nouveau in appearance. Yes, it’s an armband and yes I got in the early 90’s, who didn’t? I think the year was 1991 and the place was Seattle. My friend Non and I took the Green Tortoise, i.e. hippie bus, from Berkeley to Seattle and then a Greyhound from Seattle to Vancouver. We were 20 and adventurous.

We stayed in a couple of hostels (I think) and wandered aimlessly. One of the few things I recall is that we lived off of fast food fish and chips from some joint that was swarming with hungry seagulls and getting got lost in downtown Seattle. While trying to figure out where to go next on our map a little old lady walked up this pair of greasy haired, pierced, tattooed girls with army issue backpacks and offered her assistance. I’ll never forget how nice she was. That was my first real impression of Seattle.

I don’t know if I was set to get a tattoo in Seattle or not, but once we got there the urge was overwhelming and it HAD to be Celtic. Did you notice what year this was? But as we know, I don’t necessarily like to follow trends, so it also had to be unique. Non and I spent hours in the bookstore and then hours in the library looking for the perfect design. What I found is something I have yet to see in any other book. The design comes from an artifact. A Celtic carving found on a scabbard discovered I wish I knew exactly where and when. Non and I purchased the thousand page book, took it the tattoo artist, whose name was Hubba Hubba by the way, and then, of course, promptly returned the book.

Hubba Hubba was a, not surprisingly, chubby little man. He sweated profusely as he was tattooing my arm and charged me only fifty bucks. He said, “because your hot”. Uh, ok?

That tattoo is set a little lower on my left arm than your typical armband and is not as ornate as the original photograph (it would have bled into a big blob) and it is, by far, the tattoo I get the most compliments on. Especially from women, for some reason.

All I really remember about the Canada part of our trip are two things. Sitting in the queue on the Greyhound bus waiting to get into Canada and watching a man and a woman run for their dear lives from (or was it to?) the border, and being held at the border when returning to the States. I had a passport (and had no problems), but Non didn’t. We are both brown and I guess they thought she was trying to deport from Canada. Does that even happen?

In honor of the Irish in (or on) all of us I made Irish Lamb Stew and Irish Soda Bread for St. Patty’s Day, with a tiny bit of a Mediterranean twist.

Cheers!

Irish Lamb Stew

Adapted from Epicurious

I went a little heavy on the spices and condiments, but, as you’ll see from the measurements, I’ve given you the option of going a little lighter.

This was, by far, the best stew I’ve ever made.

What you’ll need~

A handful or two of flour to coat your lamb

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

1-1/2 – 2 lbs lamb from a leg cut into 1-inch pieces

3-4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled

4 cups beef stock

1/2 cup Guinness

1/2 cup red wine

2-4 tablespoons tomato paste

1-2 tablespoons dried sage

1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2-4 bay leaves

3-4 tablespoons Irish butter

6-7 cups russet potatoes, sliced and halved

1 shallot thinly sliced

1 large onion sliced and halved

2 cups carrots cut or chopped into chunks

Fresh parsley

Pat each chunk of lamb dry with a paper towel and then dredge through flour. Heat the olive oil in your largest pot over medium heat. Add lamb and shallots and sauté until brown on all sides. About 5 minutes. Stir in stock, beer, wine, tomato paste, dried sage, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Let cook for an hour stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, melt butter in your next largest pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onions and carrots. Sauté until veggies are softened and golden. About 20 minutes.
Add vegetables to stew and simmer uncovered for another 40 minutes. You want your lamb to melt like butter on your tongue.

Sprinkle with a handful of parsley and serve hot.

Irish Soda Bread

Adapted from Epicurious

This bread also turned out amazingly well. I used chopped dried figs instead of the traditional currants. Feel free to use whatever dried fruit that turns you on.

What you’ll need~

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups whole-wheat flour

1/2-cup raw honey

1-tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1-teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup or so Irish butter, cut into cubes

1 cup dried figs, chopped

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 and butter a large loaf pan or two smaller loaf pans. You can also grease a baking sheet and form the dough into a boule.

In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add butter. Use your fingers to break the butter apart in the flour (one of my favorite things ever). Rub until the flour become coarse and crumby. Stir in dried fig pieces.

In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk and eggs. Briefly warm your honey on the stove or in the microwave until it is just softened. Whisk honey into buttermilk and eggs.

Stir wet mix into flour mixture until well blended.

Pour dough into bread pan(s) and use a small knife to cut and X or X’s into the top.

Bake bread for about an hour and 15 minutes rotating pan halfway through.

Serve with a generous smear of Irish butter.

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Despite Tsunami warnings lining the highway in big flashy lights on Friday, Adam, Adam’s mom, Kathy, and I headed toward the coast for a little adventure/roulette with the ocean. We arrived in the quaint port town of Astoria just after noon and starving to death. Distracted with the horrible events in Japan, we forgot to research what to do and where to eat, so, leaving it to chance, we stopped at the words “Smokehouse”. Because who doesn’t stop in their tracks when confronted with the possibilities of smoked meat. Even better, smoked salmon. Fresh, wild and sustainable, what luck that we randomly picked a restaurant that appeals to our sensibilities. Perhaps restaurant isn’t the right word for Joesphson’s.

When you walk in the door you’re greeted with the smell of fresh fish. And when I say fresh, I mean the fishermen are in the back room gutting (next time I want to tour the facility with my camera) and cleaning that morning’s catch. Walk through the door to the deli area you’ll find shelves and shelves of canned seafood, a couple of cases of smoked seafood to go, and a pair of ladies with big welcoming smiles standing at a tiny stove stirring clam chowder.

Wander a bit more and you’ll find the tiniest dining room in the world. Four, maybe five tables with chairs, a couple of fisherman in rubber boots, and a menu consisting of four items. Yep, four. And that’s all you’ll ever need. Josephson’s charms you with their food.  Paper plates and cups, plastic knives and the best friggin’ salmon burger ever. Freshly made moments before we walked in the door, a smear of mayonnaise on rye bread, also made fresh that morning, this burger is as good as it gets. Adam had the cream-less clam chowder. Big chunks of clams, perfectly pureed potatoes, so delicious and filling I seriously couldn’t tell it was dairy-free. If you go to Astoria, Josephson’s is a must.

Just a two hour drive from Portland, Astoria lies just at the mouth of the Columbia River in the very Northern corner of our state. Just a hop over the Columbia and you’re in Washington. Astoria is one of those places that is hip without the hip. It seems to have perfectly melded the modern coffee culture (boy were there a lot of coffee shops for such a tiny town) with the old school blue-collar port workers and fisherman. Good food, a relaxed vibe, and the cutest little co-op I’ve ever been in, Astoria is one of those places you move to so you can telecommute while watching the ships go by through you’re Victorian bay window.

And then go out for an evening of midget wrestling.

We spent most of the day antiquing (the three of us love to antique), so I didn’t take as many pictures as I normally would have, but hopefully these will give you a tiny taste of Astoria.

Don’t worry, we’ll definitely be going back soon. It’s only been two days and I’m already craving Josephson’s.

Cheers!

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Sometimes it takes a crêpe failure to force the creative juices to flow into a meal that is not only surprisingly delicious, but incredibly simple to make.

First, it started with inspiration. I was cruising Lara Ferroni’s blog, Cook and Eat, and came across her crêpe recipe. So simple and so beautiful. With fond recollection I remembered the last (and only) time I made crepes. It was my 38th birthday two November’s ago. Granted I was under the influence of morning mimosas, but the crêpes turned out perfectly with nary a hiccup…that I’m aware of, at least.

Kale, citrus, cipollini onion and sausage. How could I go wrong? But something went terribly astray. I don’t know if the batter was too thick or thin, if the pan was too hot or cool, too dry or too wet. No idea. Whatever the cause, I failed. Utterly. Goopy bits of crêpe batter clinging to my spatula (maybe I need a thinner spatula??), an expletive of frustration, a text of failure to Adam, and then reassessment.

I poked around in my pantry, because dammit, I was going to cook and post something today. Besides, I know you love reading about my kitchen failures. Their fun, aren’t they? And I know we all relate. It’s kinda like reality TV, but better. And less trashy.

Anyway, I put on Leonard Cohen, stepped away and made some pictures of these fantastically cute bowls I picked up from a local ceramic studio. The artist Puji is beautiful and talented. Like her on Facebook and then buy her wares.

Aren’t these the sweetest dishes ever? Irresistibly adorable. And yeah, I’m broke now, but, hey, I have cute bowls.

Cheers!

Udon Noodles with Citrus Sautéed Kale and Cipollini Onions

I think this a wonderful base for a vegetarian meal. Or to serve as a starter. Maybe add adzuki beans for little protein? I stirred in chicken apple sausage, but thought visually this dish was much prettier without it.

Also, I went a little heavy on the ground ginger and red pepper flakes to balance the sweetness of the onions and the tangerines. Definitely doctor yours to taste.

What you’ll need~

One bunch kale, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped

1 cipollini onion thinly sliced

2-3 honey tangerines, or citrus of your choice, wedges cut into thirds

Olive oil

Splash of champagne vinegar

Red Pepper flakes

Ground ginger, or fresh if you have it

Salt and Pepper to taste

One bundle, about 3 oz udon noodles

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add noodles. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside.

Warm olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions a tangerine chunks and stir until onion is translucent and tangerines start to caramelize. About 4-5 minutes.

Add a splash or two of vinegar, a generous sprinkling of ground ginger and crushed red pepper flakes.

Toss in kale and stir until it just starts to wilt.

Using your hands, because udon likes to stick together, gently pull apart noodles and drop them in the pan stirring all the while with your third hand :)

Mix it all together until well combined and serve piping hot in very cute bowls.

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