# Thursday, 06 December 2007
Yesterday I was reading an article on the NY Times about Hanukkah recipes, and decided to whip up some latkes for dinner, since even picky eater girl loves a good latke.  I grated a couple of sweet potatoes, salt, pepper and cinnamon (Vietnamese cassia) and mixed with 3 eggs and maybe 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.  They fried up beautifully on the cast iron griddle, and were a big hit as usual.  I like the sweet potato better than standard for these, as they are easier to cook and the sweetness works well with the cottage cheese.  

Anyway, I had hit upon this plan relatively early in the day, and was wondering what to make to go with them, when I remembered the forlorn can of pickled beets in my pantry at home.  Borscht!  Vikki favors a good cold borscht, so I made it so.  I tossed two small diced yellow Finn potatoes and about 5 cloves of garlic into 3 or so cups of chicken broth, and cooked until the potato was soft, then cooled it down with ice.  When it was cool I added the juice from the pickled beets, as well as the beets themselves (chopped), salt, pepper and the juice of one lemon, as well as about 4 more cloves chopped raw garlic, and some fresh dill.  To serve, I added some sour cream (low fat) and some homemade sauerkraut which was very chunky and crunchy.  I'll definitely be doing this one again.  It was fantastic.  Sweet, sour, crunchy, beety goodness with just enough bite from the garlic.  When we were first married, we lived up stairs from a nice Russian lady who really liked Vikki and was always bringing her food.  This was a lot like I remember her cold borscht, only hers was clear.  I used Pacific Foods organic chicken broth which was not clear, and I'm not much for the skimming.  But the flavor was pretty close, I think.  If only I could find some good dark rye...

Thursday, 06 December 2007 20:01:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 03 December 2007
I had some leftover kahlua pork, so decided to try some kahlua pig and cabbage, which is basically just that.  Leftover pork with cabbage and onions in a little chicken broth.  Very easy, a great way to stretch leftovers, and just the thing to go with kimchi.  I had some from the store that was getting a little old, and yesterday I made up two big batches of napa kimchi with some nice locally grown napa cabbages I scored at Uwajimaya.  Since I was in the mood I hacked up the cabbage I didn't throw in with the pork and made a batch of sauerkraut too.  It's always nice to have a few crocks of something bubbling on the counter top. 

I also had my first taste of full-on poi this weekend.  I've cooked and mashed taro a bunch of times, but never had official poi until I found some at the store this weekend.  It's certainly bland, but it went really well with the pork and cabbage, and is very filling.  And supposedly it's really good for you.  Plus, there's something just plain cool about purple food.  :-)

Monday, 03 December 2007 22:56:05 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 29 November 2007
...unless you happen to be veggie, of cource. :)

Vikki has declared a Tiki Christmas this year, so I decided to start practicing for Christmas dinner and made my first batch of kahlua pork last night.  It worked out super well.  A while back I got gifted this "indoor BBQ" which is basically a big-ass crock pot designed to hold ribs.  That seemed like the perfect vehicle for experimentation.  I got a super-cheap pork picnic roast which came in two pieces.  I wrapped each piece in foil after slathering with a little liquid smoke and Hawaiian red salt, then tossed in the cooker, turned on low, before I left for work in the morning.  By dinner time, the pork was completely falling apart, just like it's supposed to be, and turned out very tasty.  Served with some rice and greens (spinach and mustard greens) cooked in coconut milk with some totatoes and Hawaiian salt.  Mmmm.  The only thing that would have made it better is if I'd had some ti leaves lying around.  You are supposed to wrap the pork in ti leaves before the foil, but Uwajimaya is far from here, and I had to make do without.  

For XMas, I'm thinking of applying the same principle to a turkey instead of pork (since it's Christmas, after all) with maybe some mashed taro and sweet potatoes with pineapple.  And maybe the same greens but made with taro leaves (which are super good, and available at Uwajimaya) instead of the supermarket greens.  Hmmm.  I'll need to come up with some genre appropriate dessert too.  Possibly involving coconut.  The flaming bananas Foster with coconut icecream at the Luau the other day was pretty awesome...

Thursday, 29 November 2007 20:38:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 20 June 2007

At last night's Tuesday night market, we picked up a mixed flat of cherries, strawberries, gooseberries, red and yellow raspberries, and some boysenberries to boot.  I think the mulberries come later in the season.  The possibilities are endless, but I like either fresh berries by themselves, with some yogurt, or with barely sweetened home made whip cream.  A quick dessert that you can whip up as the mood strikes.

Also at the market was a guy selling game meats (from a ranch in Bend).  He had waterbuffalo, bison, elk, and even yak in a number of different cuts.  I was most tempted by the elk ribeyes.  The elk stew meat started at around $7.50/lb, which isn't too unreasonable, considering the limited market.  There might be some Viking food in there somewhere.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007 18:39:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 12 March 2007

Greek Gods yogurt is a fairly recent arrival at our local New Seasons, and I've got to say, it's the BOMB.  Wonderful texture, firm, not runny.  Not too sour.  I'd been impressed enough with the plain, but today I picked up a carton of the "fig" flavor.  Fantastic!  Honey flavored yogurt with a fig paste at the bottom.  Not too sweet, and very flavorful.  I have yet to try to pomegranate flavor, but I have high hopes.

Monday, 12 March 2007 06:28:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 15 February 2007

Last night for Valentine's Day, I made Vikki a batch of tempura soba using (no kidding) pink soba noodles.  I thought it was pretty apropos.  The soba, as it turns out, is plum flavored.  Vikki was worried that they would be sweet, but they were obviously made using something like pickled plums, not at all sweet, but the plum flavor was definitely evident, and they were very fragrant.

The tempura to go with them included sweet potato, green and regular onions, mushrooms, and green beans.

The noodles were good enough that I won't wait until next Valentine's day to try some more. :-)

Thursday, 15 February 2007 18:01:36 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 01 February 2007

For my birthday back in December, I got a new cooking gadget from my father-in-law (thanks Terry). 

It's an "indoor BBQ pit".  Hmmm.  Unsafe, you might think.  Can't possibly work, you might assert.  Actually, it's pretty cool. 

True, you won't get any smoke flavor, but there are creative ways around that.  My personal favorite is Spanish smoked paprika, or some chipotle chilies in the sauce.  The thing is basically a big crock pot, with some racks that fit inside to either hold ribs upright, or hold a roast, a chicken, or a brisket off the bottom.  I've done ribs, pork roast, and brisket in it so far, with (I think) pretty decent results.  It's supposed to hold two whole chickens, but I haven't tried that yet. 

The ceramic liner comes out, and is dishwasher safe, although my one gripe with the whole setup so far is that slow-cooked barbeque sauce is nearly impossible to chisel off the interior of the "pit".  Long soaking and serious scrubbing are required, but it's still fun to use.

Thursday, 01 February 2007 18:14:48 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 24 July 2006

I took my daughter on her first overnight backpacking trip this weekend, which would have been fantastic had it not been for the mosquitoes.  Other than that, it was a lovely trip, just to the Southeast of Three Finger Jack. 

Anyway, in preparing for the hike I spent some time researching good backpacking food.  One thing I had to work to keep in mind, though, was that much of the literature assumes that you are thru-hiking, or taking longer, more arduous trips that you can with a seven-year-old.  If you are only walking 3 miles a day, you have to watch out for the high-calorie, low space/weight stables common in the hard core hiking literature.  Since my daughter’s a bit “particular” we opted for Mountain House’s freeze-dried mac & cheese for dinner, which went over well, and was tasty enough, although their sweet and sour pork is still my favorite.  I want to try experimenting with some cheaper alternatives, like ramen and freeze-dried veggies/tofu, or instant refried beans and rice, which are pretty easy to come by. 

I also tried “Ultralight Joe’s Moose Goo”, which is 2 parts honey, 2 parts “corn flour” or masa harina, and 1 part peanut butter.  Joe suggests putting it on tortillas, which is what I did.  Tasty, callorie dense, and pretty stable.  Much less gooey than peanut butter by itself, and pretty easy to work with, at least when it’s 80° out.  According to the literature, it’s pretty much immovable below about 40°. 

Also a big success was Alacer Corp.’s ElectroMIX:  basically unsweetened electolite powder that you mix into a liter of water.  It tastes great, with none of the cloying sweetness of Gatorade.  Just the thing for hot weather, and it weighs practically nothing.

 

Monday, 24 July 2006 20:52:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 11 July 2006

It’s been a weird time for me food-wise lately, so I haven’t had much to say.  I’m doing an SCA feast this weekend (North Indian/Mughal) which should be big fun, and I’m hoping to get some pictures.  Luckily most of it can be cooked ahead of time and frozen. 

I’ve gone back on the low-glycemic wagon, so expect to see more on nutrition as the days go by. 

I’m also doing some experimenting with lightweight backpacking, so I’ll probably have some pack food experiences to report soon. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2006 19:20:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 23 May 2006
I love turnips, especially the baby ones, so I had to try the Mughal style baby turnips as described by She Spills the Beans.  This one’s definitely a keeper.  I loved it, and my son did too.  I really liked the depth of flavor, and the spicy-sweet combination combined with the bitternes of the turnips.  I didn’t have any spinach, so I substituted some romaine lettuce that needed to go, which worked out pretty well I thought.  I served it with some heat-and-serve bhatura from the local Indian grocery, which were a bit hit.  I’m thinking collard greens would also work well here.  I’m not usually a fan of mustard greens, but they might actuall work in this dish.  Hmmm.  An excuse to experiment. 
Tuesday, 23 May 2006 17:49:38 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 16 May 2006
Last night, Vikki and I taught the first version of a class on “survival cooking” for our local CERT program.  We talked about scenarios to plan for, what kind of food to store in case of emergency or disaster, and how to cook it once you find yourself there.  If you are interested, the handout from the class (with references) is here.  The class went quite well, and we got to eat the fruits of our labors. :-)  The biggest learning I came away with is that Datrex brand survival rations are much tastier than I would have thought. 
Tuesday, 16 May 2006 21:46:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 09 May 2006

Over the weekend I tried making a few new (to me) snacks.  I made a batch of dahi vada from Kitchenmate.  I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough (mea culpa) and so ground the onions and chilis with the urad dal mixture.  I think this led to the batter being too wet, and I couldn’t get it to make donut shapes without completely sticking to my hands, so I went with just plain lumpy shaped ones.  However, they were still a big hit.  My son liked them so much he begged for the leftovers to take to school for lunch.  Always a good sign.  I can definitely see the usefulness of a “wet grinder”.  I had a hard time grinding the dal in my food processor, and I don’t have a blender.  Could be the next kitchen appliance purchase. 

I also tried a batch of ponganalu, using Indira’s recipe.  These came out really well, and were a really big hit with my wife, who also really liked the accompanying peanut chutney.  I didn’t have a ponganalu pan, but I had one that I bought for ableskiver.  Turns out to be pretty much the same thing, and it worked beautifully.  Again, since I don’t have a wet grinder, I wimped out and used idli rava and urid flour, but hopefully the results are similar.  Definitely something I’d make again.  Very easy and tasty.

Tuesday, 09 May 2006 17:59:18 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Monday, 24 April 2006

I had some time to kill Sunday morning, so decided to try something new for breakfast.  I tried my hand at dhokla, a steamed bread-product native to Gujarat (I think).  You make a thick batter of besan (garbanzo bean flour) and spices, then steam it in a cake pan.  It comes out (at least texture wise) like a really big idli.  I really liked the flavor and texture of it, and it went very nicely with the pepper rasam I made to go with it.  Rasams are, I think, my favorite Indian soups, very brothy and usually pretty sour.  Very pleasing. 

It took me a while to find something big enough to steam the dhokla in, but I finally settled on my (very big) pressure cooker, and just left the weight off the steam vent.  Worked pretty well.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take any documentary pictures.  Maybe next time…

Monday, 24 April 2006 22:51:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 19 April 2006

I’ve been inspired to cook a lot lately, and it’s largely due to the increase in the number of food blogs I’ve been reading.  I’m really impressed with the quality and diversity of the food blogging out there.  And I’ve learned that apparently if you want a really sexy food blog, you have to take pictures.  To that end, I’ll try to post more images of stuff that I cook, although I have to admit that looks is not what I optimize for. :-)

I updated the blogroll on this site to reflect the foodie blogs I’ve been reading.  Check them out.  I’m particularly interested right now in the profusion of food blogs written by Indian women.  I love cooking (and eating) Indian food, and I’m also really passionately interested in the food that people really eat at home rather than restaurant of Americanized cookbook food, and these blogs totally fascinate me.  Take a look at a few, and I think you’ll be as hooked as I am. 

Blogging is a great medium for this kind of study, since people mostly post about the food they really eat everyday.  At least I know I do.

I've attached the OPML for these blogs as an Rss enclosure for those who aren't looking at the HTML.

Wednesday, 19 April 2006 21:45:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 13 April 2006

Sigh.  I don’t get why our culture encourages peole to think that somehow cooking (unlike every other learned skill) is just something you are born with.  Our chimpanzee ancestors didn’t (and hopefully still don’t) make flan, people.  It’s not instinctive.  So “I can’t cook” usually means “I can’t be bothered to practice”.  I don’t see how a tool like the one below is going to solve anything.  But then again, maybe that’s why everything tastes like chicken.
 
No amount of hours spent in front of Iron Chef and Good Eats will a good chef make, friends, but perhaps one might consider the employment of one MIT Media Lab experiment by Connie Cheng and Leonardo Bonanni: the Intelligent Spoon. This, um, intelligent spoon has zinc, gold, zener diode, and aluminum sensors to detect the temperature, acidity, salinity, and viscosity levels of the human-feed it's currently stirring, which it then sends back to a host computer for processing and direction. We're not sure this would help us to add a certain subtlety or trans-cultural flavor adaptation to the sweetbreads we were planning on whipping up tonight, but it might just do the trick in keeping you from over-salting that pancake mix on a Saturday morning. [via Engadget]

Thursday, 13 April 2006 18:15:33 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 03 April 2006

This weekend Vikki and I got a chance to go to a Scotch tasting event put on by the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society of America.  It was held in the very lovely Ranier Club in Seattle.  We had fun getting dressed up and hobnobbing over dinner, lots of Scotch, and cigars (although under WA state law, you couldn’t actually smoke the cigars :-) ).  While not an inexpensive event, it was an oppurtunity to try some Scotches I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.  I’ve been known to buy the (very) occasional ~$100 bottle of Scotch, but $250 – $300 is pretty much out of my price range.  Some of the real standouts were the Balvennie and Highland Park 30yr., the Balvennie 25yr., and a Talisker special addition 175th anniversay bottling.  The kind of stuff that would run you $25–$30 a shot in a bar, if you could find it.  The Macallan 17yr “Fine Oak” was also very nice, as was the Glenrothes “Special Reserve”. 

Anyway, much fun, good food, good friends, and some truly amazing Scotch to boot.  What’s not to like.  If you get a chance, and you’re into such things, check out their calendar of events on the website for a venue near you.

Monday, 03 April 2006 21:09:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 28 March 2006

The AeroGarden is a little self-contained hydroponic growing system designed to sit on your kitchen counter along with other appliances.  It’s a pretty interesting idea.  They have seed packs for things like salad greens, chili peppers, herbs, and cherry tomatoes along with flowers, etc.  For $150 it’s not the kind of thing I’d jump into right away.  Rainy Day Magazine has a blow by blow on actually growing with one, so I’ll check back to see how it works for them. 

It’s a pretty neat idea to be able to grow food indoors.  Since I don’t have a yard anymore, it’d be fun to grow stuff inside.

Tuesday, 28 March 2006 19:36:25 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Friday, 17 March 2006

Since I’ve been testing out my new iPod the last couple of days, I’ve been checking out some podcasts (the new iTunes/iPod support for podcasts completely rocks), and I found one that I totally dig.  It’s called “Eat Feed”, and it has all kinds of food related content, including recipes and (best of all) food history.  I listened to their latest show this morning, which focuses on winter-time “comfort food” but also has an interview with author Jackie Williams, author of the very good books (I’ve read them both) Wagon Wheel Kitchens: Food on the Oregon Trail and The Way We Ate: Pacific Northwest Cooking, 1843-1900.  Ms. Williams had some very interesting things to say about eating in the Northwest in the latter half of the 19th C.  Very cool stuff.  I had no idea that people in Washington State were exporting oysters to the California gold fields in 1850. 

Anyway, if you’ve got any way of playing MP3 files (iPods included) check out the Eat Feed podcast.

Friday, 17 March 2006 21:04:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 29 November 2005

For the first time in years I got a chance to cook Thanksgiving dinner at my house, and it was a blast.  I tried something I don’t think I’ve ever done before, and made an entire menu out of a magazine article.  I made pretty much the whole Thanksgiving menu from the latest issue of Chow magazine, which is rapidly becoming my favorite foody rag. 

I did the “turkey two ways”, which involves removing the legs, brining the carcass, and cooking the legs separately in a confit, i.e. covered in oil in a casserole and baked.  The legs especially were a big hit, as it’s something out of the ordinary.  I’ve never tried a confit of duck before, but I think now I may give it a try some time.  I’ll also never cook a turkey without brining it again.  It came out moist and juicy, with a fabulously crispy skin. 

The stuffing was also a bit hit.  It included some Italian sausage, fresh sage, and chestnuts.  Very flavorful, and easy.

I think the biggest hit with the crowd was the corn dish, which involves heavy cream, roasted red peppers, and chevre.  Very much more interesting than the standard corn with butter, or creamed corn.  (We won’t even talk about corn souflee/hot dish.)  I also made the green beans with bacon (can’t go wrong there) and the acorn squash with red onions and currents, which I liked but didn’t go over with the crowd.  Winter squash can be a hard sell, which I don’t get, as I love it. 

In addition to the magazine recipes, I also made some sweet potatoes, which I chopped into bite-sized pieces and then tossed with some sliced banana and a few prunes in some heavy cream with a little honey, rosewater and cinnamon and then baked until tender.

We rounded out the meal with my Mom’s wonderful pumpkin cheesecake, and her (justly) famous cranberry chutney (which, sadly, is almost gone already).

The menu worked out so well I’m really thinking about trying their Cuban Christmas menu next month.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005 23:19:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 25 October 2005
Scott turned me on to Slashfood this week.  What a great site.  They just finished a whole day of pumpkin recipes, and some of them sound like real winners.  Yay for food!
Tuesday, 25 October 2005 17:39:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 10 October 2005

Having grown up on hippy vegetarian food, I just can’t resist the allure of trashy food.  Many of the American classics that I never got to eat as a kid, I can’t pass up as an adult.  Meat loaf, biscuits and gravy, CFS (Chicken Fried Steak to the uninitiated), etc.  I even have a soft spot (as I discovered eating in the college cafeteria) for chipped beef. 

This weekend I indulged in that most sublime of all sausage-based dishes, the chili cheese dog.  There’s nothing about those that isn’t good.  It’s important to use really cheap ingredients.  I went with Tillamook Cheddar instead of the classic American, since I just can’t bear to buy that stuff, but cheap trashy hot dogs and canned chili are a must.  I’ve tried using home-made chili and good sausages, and it just didn’t do it for me. 

I remember as a kid we’d go visit my Aunt in Anaheim, where they had Der Wienerschnitzel franchises.  Best chili cheese dogs EVER.  Guaranteed to be all over the inside of the bleached white paper bag by the time you’d gotten 10 feet from the drive-in. 

In the summer when I was a kid we’d stay with our grandparents in Sacramento, and one of my Grandpa’s favorite hangouts what a place called Vick’s.  Classic diner.  Homemade shakes, all things grilled, everything came with Lay’s potato chips.  We invariably ordered these hotdog sandwiches that consisted of Oscar Meyer weiners on Wonder bread with American cheese(food) and French's mustard.  With iceberg lettuce for good measure.  The whole thing went into the grilled-cheese sandwich machine.  Ahhhhhh.  Nothin’ like it in the world. 

Quite a change from the bean spread and green onion sandwiches at home. 

Monday, 10 October 2005 18:50:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 07 September 2005
OK, call it a niche market, but if you really want it, you can get Hufu, a soy based product that “tastes like human flesh”.  Their website claims that, contrary to common wisdom, human flesh doesn’t taste like chicken.  Apparently it tastes like Hufu. :-)  I’ll take their word for it, I think. [via Strange New Products]
Wednesday, 07 September 2005 17:56:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 29 August 2005

Last night I tried making liver and onions for the first time (never eaten it either).  Why, you might ask?  Well, we bought a half of a cow a couple years back, and lurking in the deep freeze was a package of pre-sliced liver.  So I thought I’d give it a go.  The recipe I found suggested soaking the liver in lemon juice for a few hours before cooking, then dredging in flour, salt and pepper before sauteeing.  So that’s what I did. 

The end result?  I don’t much care for liver and onions, I now know.  You never know ‘til you try. :-).  My wife, who has had it before, said it was a good batch.  I’ll stick to chicken livers.

Monday, 29 August 2005 19:29:33 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 04 August 2005
This stuff is really good!  I’ve been using it on sandwiches and hot dogs.  Nice, cholesterol free alternative with a very good flavor.  I’m a big miso fan anyway, but I think this has a wider appeal.  I found it at New Seasons.
Thursday, 04 August 2005 00:25:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 07 July 2005

The party this weekend was quite a success, much food and much fun was had.  Here are some pictures of the spread.

chicken

On the far side are some spicy kebabs and some chicken wings, then a few cheese and olives (the small bowls) some kibbeh on the green platter, and various fruits.

more food

more of the chicken and kebabs.

The dessert table.  Baklava, semolina cakes (behind the candle stick), some fried cheese pastries, and a chocolate cake in the background.

At the far end are hard boiled eggs and veggies, in the middle are hummus and baba ghanouj and more veggies, then a great mess of pita.

Feta, olives, felafel and pickles.

Thursday, 07 July 2005 03:41:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 28 June 2005

In preparation for the party this weekend, I spent pretty much the whole day yesterday cooking, which was a lot of fun, if tiring. 

I made vats of hummus and baba ghanouj, as well as some cheese filled pastries, a semolina-based dessert (think coconut and rosewater brownies) and most labor-intensive of all, some kibbeh. 

In making the hummus, etc. I have rediscovered how much I love my Braun hand-blender.  Love it.  I could make a whole big bowl of hummus at once instead of slopping batches in and out of my food processor or blender.  Goodness. 

This was the first time I’d attempted kibbeh, and now I remember why.  :-)  It’s very labor intensive.  You have to puree ground lamb (I actually used beef, since Anne’s allergic to lamb) with bulgur and onions until you get a very doughy meat-porridge.  Mmmmm.  Thank the heavens for latex gloves.  Then you make a separate filling of sauteed meat, onions, garlic, pine nuts, cinnamon and allspice.  The “dough” gets filled and you end up with little football shaped packages that will get deep fried on site.  I’ve had them in restaurants, and they are fabulous, so with any luck mine won’t suck. 

It looks like there’s going to be some serious eating, drinking and being merry!

Tuesday, 28 June 2005 00:01:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 27 June 2005
As lame as it is, I’m getting too much comment spam, so I’m disabling comments until I can find time to upgrade to dasBlog 1.7, which should fix the issue.  I’ll get the comments back on as soon as I can.
Monday, 27 June 2005 23:51:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 24 June 2005

I’ve become completely entranced by- and infatuated with kefir. 

Having been raised on hippy vegetarian food, I was familiar with kefir from early on.  Always Alta-Dena brand, preferably strawberry, although my Dad favored the boysenberry.  It’s basically like yogurt with a consistency like a thin milkshake.  Tasty.  Apparently it’s an acquired taste though.  My wife Vikki can’t stand the stuff.  She says if it tastes like yogurt is shouldn’t be drinkable.  Just wrong. 

Anyway, I’ve always been a fan.  And lately I’ve been reading the odd article on the wonders of “probiotic” foods, a.k.a. those foods that contain live bacteria that are supposed to be living in our guts.  “Intestinal flora” as they say.  These can be wiped out by antibiotics and all the preservative-heavy food in the modern American diet, which leads to all kinds of problems.  So now you can buy “probiotic” yogurt and kefir, presumably with extra bacteria.  Or you can take “probiotic” bills that contain dried bacteria.  It’s all good. 

So back to kefir.  I’d always assumed that kefir was just yogurt that had been mixed up with stuff until it was runny.  And for many commercial brands that may in fact be the case.  But “traditional” kefir is made quite differently from yogurt.  It comes from the Northern Caucasus originally, and has been known historically around that region.  The word “kefir” itself comes from Turkish apparently.  The secret is what are called “kefir grains”.  These are actually little colonies of a bunch of lacto-bacteria with some yeasts that form little balls (the “grains”).  These balls grow and divide naturally until they look kind of like a cauliflower.  The kefir making process is quite simple.  You acquire a set of grains from somewhere, and stick them in a jar of milk at room temperature for around 24 hours.  They you pour your newly cultured kefir through a strainer to recover the grains for the next batch.  Very cool. 

I had to try it, so I got some starter grains on eBay and started production.  It looks like there are several suppliers who sell on eBay, or you can try G.E.M. Cultures (www.gemcultures.com).  There are also kefir-grain-sharing networks that you can find on the internet.  The grains grow quite quickly, so pretty soon you have more than you can handle, which is a good time to give some to a friend (or apparently to sell them on eBay).  I’ve only had my grains for a week, and with one batch a day, the grains have more than doubled in size. 

The taste is not nearly as sour as I would have guessed.  Fresh from the 24 hour culturing cycle the flavor is very mildly yogurt-ish, with a very slight taste of yeast.  It makes great smoothies, and is good on cereal.  If you like that kind of thing. :-) You can “cure” it further if you want it more sour, but I haven’t tried that yet.  You can also get it to carbonate, which sounds pretty fun.  I’ll have to try that soon.  Also, supposedly the little critters are just as happy in soy or even coconut milk, which could be interesting. 

For more information on kefir than most people could possibly absorb, check out Dom’s Kefir in-site.  Highly informative, with lots of tips and tricks, and recipes. 

Friday, 24 June 2005 23:14:58 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 13 June 2005

After musing about bread the other day, this weekend I hauled out and dusted off the old bread machine.  Not counting the recent pizza incident, I haven’t done any baking at all in years.  I think maybe it’s time again.  I made a loaf of 100% whole wheat, mostly to see how it would come out.  Not bad overall.  A bit heavy, but as I recall from days of old, bread takes practice.  I just got some “white whole wheat” flour, so maybe I’ll try another batch with that and see how it compares.  The loaf I did make went very well with a batch of lightly curried lentil soup with ham.  The weather’s been pretty crummy around here lately, so soup seemed like a good bet.  Worked out pretty well.  I used French green lentils, which I really like for soup because they hold their shape very well, unlike red lentils which turn to mush.  The regular brown ones hold out OK, but they tend to be a bit squishier.  The green ones stay more distinct. 

Sunday morning I made a batch of yeast-risen pancakes.  (Can you tell I’m on a baking kick?)  Again, I think some practice is involved, but the kids wolfed down enough of them to make me think they weren’t too bad.  I think the next steps in this direction are to get a sourdough starter going, and to crank up the old grain mill.  It, too, has been languishing lately, and I think I finally have a table I can reliably attach it too.  Nothing like freshly ground buckwheat pancakes.  And since you have to work for them, they are all the sweeter.  :-)

Monday, 13 June 2005 23:58:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 10 June 2005

This isn’t too food-related I guess, but it struck me as really funny, and well informed.  The guys at w00t are selling a bread machine today, and their copy starts thusly:

The ancient Egyptians knew the value of warm, wholesome bread. No gooey, cakelike Wondercrud for them – they’d sow, tend and harvest the wheat, and then grind and pound it into a fine flour, and finally bake it for hours in clay moulds on an open hearth. The inevitable tiny stones and grains of sand baked into the bread ravaged the teeth of the Coptic panophiles, hastening tooth decay and, ultimately, death.

But not for you. Thanks to the Salton Breadman TR4000 Ultimate Dream Machine Breadmaker, you can smother yourself in fresh, pliant bread with little more effort than it takes to make a cup of coffee.
[w00t]

I’ve been thinking a bit about bread lately.  How and why we eat it, how it’s made, etc.  Probably sparked by last weekend’s demo at Champoeg State Park on how the early Oregon settlers harvested and processed wheat.  Bread has been such an integral part of our diet ever since people started organizing themselves into cities.  At least in the Western world.  It’s still a pretty integral part of our diets today.  In fact, most people probably eat way too much white bread now since it’s so easily available.  Cheap calories, my friends.  Don’t do it.  But I digress. 

I’ve been thinking about fermentation a lot lately too.  Kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and yes, sourdough bread.  I haven’t done any baking in years, but I think I may take a stab at it again.  I want to try some of the cultures you can get from Sourdoughs International.  They have some new ones that work well with whole wheat and spelt flours, so it might just be time to start doing some baking.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, 10 June 2005 18:24:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 08 June 2005

We’re throwing a huge bash for my friend Anne’s 40th birthday over 4th of July, and I got put in charge of organizing the food.  This is a new one for me, as I’ve never tried to come up with “snacks and finger food for 200 people” before.  I’ve done dinner for 50, but this is a bit different.  So now I’m trying to balance time/money/labor to figure out how much is too much.  The biggest challenge is figuring out what can be done ahead of time, how to store it if I do, and how to keep the cost down and still have it dazzle people.  Plus, as with the feast I did, it’ll be at an SCA event, so everything has to be done with camp kitchens. 

I’m going to focus on Arab snack/street food.  I think a lot of it can be done pretty cheaply.  I found a recipe for various spice/nut powders for dipping hard boiled eggs into which sounds both easy and cheap, so I think that one’s a go.  I think in the interest of cost/time/inclination we may end up with some Indian or Greek options thrown in, but hey, the Arabs were/are a pretty cosmopolitan bunch, right?

I’ll let you know how it works out.  If I think of it I’d like to get some pictures too.

Wednesday, 08 June 2005 00:24:33 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 25 May 2005

It’s been ages since I’ve made pizza from scratch.  Like a really long time.  Back when my wife and I were first married (lo these 13 years ago) I used to make pizza all the time.  Like once a week.  And I’m not talking putting stuff on a pre-made crust, I’m talking from flour and yeast to the pizza stone in the oven.  But I remember it being a lot of work, and ever since I started seeking out low-glycemic foods, pizza pretty much fell out of rotation.

You can probably see where this is leading, but I’ll cut to the chase.  My daughter has been suggesting (forcefully) that she really wants me to make pizza, so last night I dusted off the old peel and went to work.  It wasn’t as much work as I remembered, possibly thanks to the dough hook on my trusty KitchenAid, although it did make quite a mess. 

I decided on one half “just cheese” and half Hawaiian for the kids, and a whole wheat version with mushrooms, olives, red onion and sausage.  Overall, it went pretty well.  The dough came together easily, I found all the tools, etc.  I think the white flour dough was a little too soft, however, which combined with my lack of practice with the pizza peel to pretty much explode the first pie all over the inside of my oven.  There was much wringing of hands and recriminations (all on my part, my daughter was un-phased), but I managed to salvage most of it.  It was an awfully strange shape, but pretty edible according to reports.

The second one came off without a hitch, thanks to stiffer whole wheat dough and way more flour on the peel. 

It was easy enough that I just might have to try it again.  My son’s been demanding a taco pizza, so maybe that’ll be the next round.

Wednesday, 25 May 2005 23:42:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 13 May 2005

Big success last weekend.  I made a big batch of Persian Rice and Lentil pilaf.  You cook the rice and lentils, and separately back some lamb or chicken with onions and spices, then serve them together at the end.  It came out really well, and we had so much rice left over that I cooked up a second batch of meat a few days later. 

Persian pilafs are a lot of work, but well worth the effort.  You boil the rice with lots of water like you would pasta, about 6–10 minutes, then drain it, and pile it in a mound in a heavy pot with lots of butter.  Then you let it steam over low heat for about an hour.  The result should be very light and fluffy rice with a hard crust on the bottom that is the best part.  I’d never tried it with lentils before.  It made a nice contrast in color and texture. 

The meat was super easy.  Throw some stew lamb, shanks, whatever (or chicken parts) in an oven proof container with some salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, tumeric, and some onions and garlic and bake at 350 for 2 hours.  Simple goodness!

Friday, 13 May 2005 21:53:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 06 January 2005

I have no idea how they got into my house, but I recently discovered a jar of pickled green peppercorns in my pantry, so I decided to use them. 

I’ve been reading Dangerous Tastes: the story of spices by Andrew Dalby (which is a very interesting book, BTW) and he mentions that once upon a time preserved green peppercorns were very popular in Europe, but that they’ve mostly been replaced by the dried form we’re used to.  Anyway, it got me interested, so I put some in a spaghetti sauce last night, which came out quite well, I thought.

I started with some onions and garlic, then added the green peppercorns, maybe a 1/2 tablespoon or so, and healthy amounts of basil, oregano, and some fennel seeds (which I love in spaghetti).  Then in went some celery.  When it all cooked down, I threw in some meat balls, and a few tablespoons worth of capers.  It went over pretty well with the family too.  Ivan even wanted some for breakfast this morning, so it couldn’t have been too bad. :-)  I’ve been using Westbrae Natural’s whole wheat spaghetti, which has a very nice texture.  Their spinach spaghetti is also really good, but Gwyn tends to freak out over the green noodles, so there are days when it’s just not worth it…

So if you happen to come across some pickled pepper (not pickled peppers, mind) give them a shot.  They added a very nice, mellow peppery taste without much heat.

Thursday, 06 January 2005 18:28:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 21 December 2004

One of the new foodie books I got the other day is “In the Devil’s Garden: a sinful history of forbidden food” by Stewart Lee Allen.  What an interesting book.  It’s all about the history of food taboos, and how we relate to the food we eat.  I’m just about done with it, and it’s been a very fun read. 

The book is organized into the Seven Deadly Sins, and each chapter contains info about food restrictions/taboos that relate to that sin.  So under “Lust” he talks at length about foods that were off limits to various peoples because they might induce impure thoughts (think chocolate, among others). 

I read a few of the reader comments about this book on Amazon, and several people expressed concern with some of the authors research, and the fact that he tends to speculate.  I think they are missing the point.  This book is not meant to be a scholarly research work.  It’s meant to make us think about what we eat, what we don’t eat, and how we relate to our food and the foods of others.  In that context, speculation isn’t really a problem, since it encourages critical thinking.  I appreciate the fact that during these bouts of reflection, the author never tries to convince us that he knows “the facts”.  It’s a very conversational work.  When pursuing this kind of book, I don’t think it matters if the author puts down unverified tidbits of information, or things based on annectdotal evidence.  The fact that they are annectdotes (which came from a person) is interesting in and of itself. 

This topic is a favorite of mine, since I’m continually fascinated by the topic of why people do or don’t eat things, and this book has provided a lot of food for thought (pun intended).  And it’s a very fun read.  Mr. Allen has a fine sense of humor, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. 

Tuesday, 21 December 2004 23:50:02 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 17 December 2004

One of my other interests (besides food) is disaster preparedness.  I'm a member of my local CERT team and have spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to protect myself and my family (and neighbors) in the event of a major emergency. 

One of the big concerns in time of emergency is food, so I thought I'd share some info and observations on survival food. 

Cans

One of the things people most often think of as "emergency food" is canned goods.  Things like tuna, SPAM, beans, etc. are all things that will keep well are easy to store.  They are also a pretty good food source, having plenty of protein to keep you going.  The downside to cans is that they are both bulky and quite heavy.  Many kinds of canned food are also less appealing cold, although tuna, SPAM, fruit and veggies can be eaten cold and aren't too bad.  Cold chili or baked beans from a can will keep you alive, but not so tasty.  On the other hand, cans stand up to some pretty wild methods of heating, potentially including open fire, or the ever handy engine block.  I keep some canned food at home for cases where we might have no power/running water but don't have to evacuate.  In the case that you have to leave your home for an emergency, you don't want to drag canned food with you.

MREs

There are lots of places now where the public can get hold of military MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat).  They will keep for several years, and provide plenty of nutritional value.  I've never actually eaten one, so I can't comment on their appeal.  They are generally intended to be heated, and you can get water activated chemical MRE heaters that will bring them up to a reasonable temperature (in theory).  One thing to keep in mind, though, is that they do have their full water content, so they are heavy.  Not as heavy as cans, probably, but not light.  A good thing to keep in your house for power outages, but again limited use for evacuations, unless you keep some in your car.

Freeze Dried

Several companies, including Mountain House and AlpineAire make freeze-dried meals for backpackers.  They also cater to long term food storage buffs like survivalists and the LDS.  Both companies sell products ranging from single service pouches (which will keep for 5 years or so) to #10 cans that will keep for 30+ years under the right storage conditions.  I've had several of these meals while camping, and have nothing but good things to say about them.  They are light, easy to transport, and really tasty.  You can get vegetable or meat dishes, pastas, and even eggs and sausage for breakfast and some pretty good desserts.  One thing to keep in mind is that you MUST have a way of boiling water.  If you use these with cold water, you'd stay alive, but they would be VILE!  If you have are setup for an emergency supply of water and a way to boil it, these meals make a great solution.  The big cans make a perfect buy-and-forget solution.  with 3-4 cans you can provide food for 4-5 people for 3-4 days, and it will keep for 30 years.  Very handy.  You can also buy them in pre-arranged packs for a week, month, year, etc. and get a pre-picked set of breakfast/lunch/dinner items that are designed for long term storage.  So far, Mountain House's sweet and sour pork, and their eggs and bacon are my favorites.  My son also really liked them.  The blueberry cheese cake is an interesting experience also. :-)

Energy bars

In just about any grocery store these days you can find a huge selection of energy bars.  These are great for things like your "ready bag" or "disaster kit", since they provide a great source of calories, and most are vitamin-fortified.  They are light, easy to carry, and many of them taste great (although there are also some pretty bad ones).  If you are buying them for emergency food, don't get lo-carb ones.  In the event of an emergency, you'll want those carbs to stay warm.  Plus a higher percentage of the lo-carb ones taste gross. :-)  One thing to keep in mind is that these bars have a limited shelf life.  If you keep some in your ready bag, remember to change them out every so often, or they'll go bad.  However, there are a few companies, such as Mainstay, that make special energy bars for emergencies.  They have a long shelf life (usually 5 years) and are packed to provide all your food for a three day period (for one person).  I have a couple of these that I keep in my ready bag and my car just in case.  I haven't cracked them open yet, so I can't comment on the taste.  They are also Kosher, Halal, and vegetarian, so just about anyone can eat them if you have to share.  One of the big benefits of the energy bars is that they are pretty light, and don't require any water or heat. 

You'll also need a supply of emergency water in case your home water supply is compromised, but that'll have to wait for another post...

 

Friday, 17 December 2004 23:29:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 06 December 2004
I’ve picked up several new food history/culinary literature books in the last few weeks that look really good, on topics ranging from the history of coffee and bread to spices and daring eating.  I’ll post more info on them as I start reading.  I found a great one this weekend at the Cannon Beach Bookstore, and I’m almost half way through it already.  “Are You Really Going to Eat That?” by Robb Walsh.  It’s subtitled “Reflections of a culinary thrill seeker”, and that’s a pretty accurate summation.  So far I’ve read about Mr. Walsh’s trip to Jamaica for a cup of coffee, Santiago Chile for conger eel stew, Thailand for the infamous durian, etc.  It’s a great read if you are into eating crazy stuff, of if you wish you were.  Mr. Walsh approaches tracking down these famous food items with a single mindedness that makes me wish I had a lot more time and money to do the same. 
Monday, 06 December 2004 22:40:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

I spent this weekend in Cannon Beach with my extended family, and we had some pretty good eats…

Friday night we ate at the Warren House pub, which is just across from Tolovana Beach (a bit south of central Cannon Beach).  It’s run by the same people as one of our favorite Cannon Beach hangouts, Bill’s Tavern.  The food was very good.  I had some really nice pork ribs, which were well cooked and very tasty.  The biggest hit was the salads that came with our dinners, which were possibly the best side salads I’ve ever had in a restaurant.  An amazing assortment of greens, onions, tomato, kalamata olives, and sunflower seeds.  Yumm.  Their beer is also really good (brewed at Bill’s).  Their holiday beer, “Auld Nutcracker” was really nice this year.  I’m also a big fan of their “Ragsdale Porter” which is a smoked porter after the fashion of the one from Alaskan Brewing

Lunch on Saturday saw us at Bill’s, where my son’s very favorite meal in all the world lives.  He always gets a bowl of their most excellent clam chowder (some of the best I’ve had) followed by a shrimp sandwich, which is a toasted sandwich piled high with bay shrimp and melted Tillamook cheese.  I usually go for the fish and chips there, but this time I decided to try the tuna sandwich.  It was very nice, with a hint (but no too much) of curry powder in the tuna, which worked nicely.  Chased with their Golden Rye beer.  Mmmmmm.

Dinner was at Clark’s, which is a new-ish place at the north end of Cannon Beach.  Pretty log building that features a really nice bar, some pool tables, and a big stone fireplace, which was unfortunately not lit.  We got an order of onion rings, and Vikki declared them to be “possibly the best she ever had” which is high praise as she’s quite the afficianado.  I had an impressively large chicken fried steak (I have a terrible weakness) and it was great.  Mine is better, but not by much.  Perfectly crunchy on the outside, quite tender inside, plenty of nicely salty gravy.  Heaven from the frier.  And it came with some really nice steamed zucchini, which was done perfectly.  Not the least bit squishy. 

For breakfast yesterday morning we hit Pig-n-Pancake, which is pretty much an Oregon staple, right up there with Elmer’s.  Not amazing, but good solid diner food.  The buckwheat pancakes where pretty good. 

All in all, some pretty great food.  And the weather was pretty decent to boot.

Monday, 06 December 2004 22:29:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and best of all I wasn’t responsible for this one.  (Thanks Ted.)  My wife and I hosted T-Day for our extended family for years and years, starting in college.  Starting way back then, I instituted a policy of multi-culturalizing our holiday feasts by picking a different culture every year for Thanksgiving and for Christmas dinner.  This resulted in (I thought) some pretty spectacular feasts.  I did Russian food one year, Scandinavian, a great Mexican Christmas dinner complete with stuffed chiles with walnut sauce…

And somewhere along the line various outlying members of the family started to rebel.  People would show up at my house for Thanksgiving dinners with turkey breasts and “request” that I cook them, since they “had to have” turkey at Thanksgiving.  I complied, but it pissed me off to no end, so at some point I just gave up and went back to traditional “Thanksgiving food”.  Which isn’t to say they haven’t been good.  A year or two back we compromised and I barbecued a couple of ducks instead of the turkey.  There are plenty of interesting things that you can do with “traditional” recipes, but sometimes I miss the variety.  The other advantage to non-traditional options is that it saved us from the traditional argument over whose grandmother’s stuffing we were going to make.  At least we don’t have to go through that anymore. :-)  Naming our children was easier than choosing the stuffing. 

I’m considering doing something wacky for Christmas dinner this year.  We’ll see.  Medieval French?  Hmmmm. 

Tuesday, 30 November 2004 18:35:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 19 October 2004

I'm a big fan of whole grain cereal, particularly raw, sugar free muesli types.  These days I have a new favorite though.  The clever people at Food For Life have come up with a new flourless, sprouted grain cereal that I really like.  It's basically their Ezekiel Bread, ground up and dried until it's crunchy.  It's very reminiscent of Grape Nuts (tm), only it's all organic with no additives, sugar, preservatives, etc.  It's great with a little soy milk and some bananas and raisins.  Very crunchy.  While obviously full of dreaded “carbs” it's all made from low-glycemic sprouted grains, which are high in both protein and fiber.  Godd stuff.  And it takes a bit less chewing than muesli. :-)

Tuesday, 19 October 2004 02:31:05 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 18 October 2004

I love squash season.  There are so many great things you can do with them, and they are really easy to cook.  The hardest part tends to be cutting them up to clean them.  The worst offender in that arena that I know of is the kabocha, the Japanese pumpkin.  Little green guys.  Hard as a rock.  I've resorted to hatchets. 

Last night I went with the common (and often under appreciated) green acorn squash.  I cut them in half and cleaned them, then baked them until very tender (put them face down in a pan with 1/4 or so of water in the bottom, 350° for about and hour and a quarter) then turned them over and brushed the faces with a mixture of

  • almond butter
  • sage
  • salt
  • pepper
  • honey

Then put them back in the oven (turned off) until the rest of the food was ready (mushroom barley soup and corn on the cob).  It worked really well.  The squash came out very creamy, and played will with the almond butter.  I used just enough honey to make it sweeter than just almonds, but not too sweet.  It got rave reviews from the family, so I guess it's a keeper.  Hazelnut butter also works really nicely.

Monday, 18 October 2004 19:49:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Monday, 11 October 2004

Our friend Bill was celebrating his birthday this weekend up in Olympia, so we headed up to wish him the best.  He arranged to borrow the outdoor masonry oven at the local bakery for the day, which was totally cool.  He spent the morning firing it up and then sweeping out all the ashes, etc.  Then people brought over all things bakeable for the rest of the afternoon and we just hung out baking and eating and gabbing and baking and eating some more. 

There were spelt pizzas, baked vegetables (asparagus, tomatoes, winter squash, Italian frying peppers), little pies filled with leeks, fresh herbs and kalamata olives, calzone filled with ground turkey, onions, fresh mushrooms and parsley with yogurt (mmmmmmm), a casserole of roasted peppers, pine nuts, cheese and rice, a very tasty strawberry/rhubarb crisp with shortbread on the bottom, the list goes on.  It was all amazing.  We left just as they were getting ready to put 15 loaves of bread into the oven, made with the spent grains from the previous day's beer brewing. 

The oven was amazing.  We left around 5:00 in the afternoon, and the oven was still around 500°.  Bill estimated that they could keep baking until 9-10 in the evening.  Now if only I had space for one in my backyard.  :-)  While there, I was checking out a cool book called the Bread Builders, on making traditional bread and constructing masonry ovens.  Neat. 

I also got a chance to check out the garden at Bill's house.  He and his housemates have a pretty amazing setup, complete with chickens, and a huge garden with just about everything good growing in it.  They still have about 30 pepper plants with lots of peppers on them, as well as kale and other nice Fall/Winter goodies.  I'm jealous.  I don't have any space in my yard for much of anything, let alone something on that scale.

Happy birthday Bill, and thanks! 

BTW, if you are in need of any fabulous jewelry, check out Bill's site.  He's an amazing artist.

Monday, 11 October 2004 19:33:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 01 October 2004

We're lucky enough at my workplace to have quite a nice employee cafeteria (which is actually open to the public as well).  Paul, the food service genius who runs the place, comes up with some really great stuff. 

Today he had a "lo-carb luncheon" that consisted of your choice of ham or chicken, with garlic spaghetti squash and some steamed broccoli. 

It was the spaghetti squash that really caught my eye.  I totally dig it.  My mother never went within 100 yards of one as far as I know, so I am one of the (apparently) few who was never traumatized my childhood exposure to this oft-maligned squash.  I don't cook it very often at home, largely because my wife is one of the traumatized, but I think she's starting to get over it.  It's a great vegetable.  You can do just about anything you would with pasta, only it's not full of bad-for-you over processed white flour and dreaded carbs.  This was very well executed, plenty of garlic, nicely al dente.  Mmmmmmm. 

Do yourself and your palette a favor and check out a spaghetti squash near you.

Friday, 01 October 2004 21:52:58 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 20 September 2004

I tried something new this weekend that I thought I'd share. I was cooking over an open campfire, so it didn't turn out quite the way I'd been shooting for, but was still pretty good.

My wife had made some cheese earlier in the day, so we had some leftover whey, which makes a great base for soup, so I added to the whey some onions, a couple of nitrate-free ham hocks, some turnips, and about half a dozen Italian prune plums (all chopped).  I let that simmer (or as close as possible on a fire) then added some beef broth and some lentils. 

I think everything boiled a bit more vigorously than I had intended, so by the time it was done it was more casserole than the soup I was going for, but still quite tasty.

Monday, 20 September 2004 21:01:18 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 08 September 2004

Portland's weather has been a bit more reasonable (by our standards) this week, and it makes my thoughts turn to cooking.  I tend to do much less cooking in the summer time, since I'm loath to pump any extra heat into my kitchen.  I realize there are plenty of things you can cook without resorting to heat, but that takes some sort of forethought and planning, both of which I've had in short supply this summer.

One of my favorite cool weather dishes is soup, of just about any kind.  Way more than my family wants to eat usually.  My top favorite soups:

  • Chowder, of just about any kind.  Fish, clam, etc.  My son's totally wild for clam chowder.  I prefer cod chowder myself, with salt pork instead of bacon.  Check out Jasper White's 50 Chowders
  • Caldo gallego (or caldo verde in Portugal).  A fabulous soup of spicy sausage (linguisa or spanish chorizo is best, I often settle for andouille, since I have a good source) with potatoes, white beans and kale or other greens.  I usually use a nice dark beef broth, and "dinosaur" or "lacinto" kale, which has very dark, long thin leaves.
  • Gulyas (aka "goulash").  I like the Hungarian version, with little egg noodle dumplings and lots of paprika.  There's another Hungarian soup that I almost like more that involves lots of smoked pork products and sauerkraut, but I can't think of the name right now.  It's supposed to be a great hangover cure.
  • Borscht.  Love it.  Especially with both beef and ham.  And a really lot of beets.  I also like to add apples and white beans, and lots of garlic.
  • Pozole.  A Mexican dish, often with pork, lots of hominy, and lots of toppings that you add as you like, such as lettuce, cheese, lime juice, tomatoes, avocados etc.  Very tasty, and can be bland for those who like it plain, to jazzed up with extra ingredients for the more daring.  There was a great little Mexican hamburger place down the street from my house that had great pozole.  Unfortunately they closed, so I'm looking for a new source.  I make it at home a fair amount too, since it'd dead simple.  Use lots of Mexican oregano (not the Mediterranean kind). 
  • Kimchee and tofu soup.  One of my favorites, with pork, and possibly white fish.  Very tasty, and warming.

This isn't even taking into account bean dishes that might be soupy.  I'll address them some other time.  Mmmmmm, beans...

Wednesday, 08 September 2004 23:36:23 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 07 September 2004

I'm always on the lookout for a good plate of biscuits and gravy.  It's one of those dishes that can either be really great if properly executed, or something you'll regret for the rest of your day.  Given today's dietary trends, it's pretty much on the outs, since it tends to be loaded with both fat and carbs.  I've tried lo-glycemic biscuits and gravy, and had some pretty decent successes, but most restaurants go for the old fashioned fluffy white biscuits.  As an occasional indulgence, I'm willing to take the hit.  This weekend I happened to be in lovely Port Gamble, WA, and found quite a lovely plate of said delicacy at the Port Gamble General Store.  They have an all you can eat breakfast buffet for a very reasonable $5.95 on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  If you happen to be in the neighborhood, check it out.  You can also get a good plate of b&g at the RV park just north of Kalama, WA, or at least you could a few years back. 

If you want to make lo-glycemic biscuits and gravy at home, here are some suggestions:

  • don't skimp on the biscuits.  I like Bob's Redmill Lo-carb baking mix, but I've made them from scratch too.  I go heavy on the barley flour, since I'm more interested in glycemic index than in no-carb.
  • for the love of heaven don't use weird lo-carb thickeners.  I've had gravy thickened with xanthum gum instead of the traditional roux, and it's VILE.  No flavor at all.  Yuck.  I use something lower-glycemic like barley or whole spelt flour, since if you aren't going to make a roux, it's not gravy, it's greasy soup.  If you are that concerned about carbs, do yourself a favor and eat something else.
  • soy milk works OK.  It comes out pretty well.  However, make sure you use unflavored.  My wife made a batch from vanilla soymilk once, since it's all she had.  The result turned out to be way better over oatmeal than biscuits. 
  • the better the quality of your sausage or bacon for the gravy, the better the result.  I like New Season's bulk pork breakfast sausage. 

All these gravy tips apply equally to the even more ambrosial dish, chicken fried steak, which is well worth making at home if you like that kind of thing.  I realize many people just don't, but I was raised by hippy vegetarians, so chicken fried steak, or even chipped beef on toast is and exotic slice of heaven as far as I'm concerned.  :-)

Tuesday, 07 September 2004 18:55:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 02 August 2004

If you ever happen to be in The Dalles, OR and you're looking for a good cup of coffee, check out Holstein's Cafe ( 303 E 3rd Street). 

I myself just happened to be in the Dalles yesterday, and looking for a good place for a post-camping trip breakfast, stumbled upon Holstein's.  A fine double latte, and some of the best biscuits and gravy I've had in a while.  Nice fluffy biscuits, not too soda-y (as cheap ones tend to be).  The sausage gravy was of the perfect saltiness, with nice, evenly sized bits of good sausage.  Fluid enough to work with but not runny.  In short, a fine hearty breakfast. 

On the subject of biscuits and gravy...  I love 'em.  My wife's family is from Oklahoma, where people know a thing or two about gravy, and they turned me on to the whole b&g thing.  Unfortunately, I never got a chance to try the ones made by her Grandma, since no one since has been able to duplicate her gravy perfection.  Vikki's brother is also a big fan, and since he's into Atkins, we've done some experimenting with lo-carb biscuits and gravy, with varying levels of success.  The biscuits aren't too hard.  I prefer Bob's Red Mill low carb baking mix, which makes really good biscuits, especially with home-rendered lard.  The gravy is slightly harder. 

Personally, I'm more interested in low-glycemic than low-carb per se, so I use a little spelt or barley flour to thicken the gravy, which works out pretty well.  Ted uses Xanthum gum, which I think makes the gravy way too tasteless, and the texture is weird.  I'm willing to use a little flour to get the taste right.  Plus I like more sage in my gravy. :-)

I've tried similar things with another perennial favorite, chicken-fried steak.  Unfortunately that's one thing Vikki doesn't share my love of, so I get less chance to experiment.  I've several good runs using good quality pounded round steaks with a coating of barley flour, salt and pepper, and plenty of sage.  Fry those puppies up to a nice golden brown and coat liberally in gravy.  That's good eatin'. 

Monday, 02 August 2004 21:04:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 15 July 2004
At this week's market I was lucky enough to find some purple gooseberries.  I've had the usual green ones several times, but hadn't seen purple before.  They were tasty.  Quite tart, and pretty sizeable.  They color was kind of like purple grapes (the light ones, not like concords).  The same vendor also had mulberries, which I don't think I've ever seen for sale around here before.  I didn't try those, although now I wish I had.
Thursday, 15 July 2004 23:38:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 24 June 2004

While I can't stand sweet coffee, I must admit to a craving for sweetened tea that I picked up while in Ireland a few years back.  There are some food stories there that I'll have to post some time.  Anyway, I love the occasional sweetened tea, but I'm pretty much totally off of sucrose.  The idea of adding aspartame to a hot beverage fills me with dread (it's not good for you) so I mostly just don't drink sweetened tea anymore.

Recently I decided to try stevia, which comes from a plant, is much sweeter than sugar, and comes from a natural source.  It also has 0 calories and supposedly 0 effect on blood sugar.  I got some packets of stevia mixed with FOS (a soluble fiber that's supposed to promote the growth of healthy GI bacteria) for bulk.  It's quite lovely in tea.  No after taste that I can detect, it's quite sweet.  I use a really big teacup, so a whole packet is OK, but in a regular sized cup it would be too sweet for me.  I haven't tried it in any cold drinks yet, but will soon.  I want to see if I can make it work for sekanjabin, which is one of my favorite summer beverages.

The only thing about it that inspires caution is that it hasn't been approved as a sweetener by the FDA, but I would tend to agree with some web sources that the lack of approval probably has a lot to do with the fact that stevia is a plant that isn't patentable and therefore doesn't benefit big chemical companies (the ones with all the lobbyists) who make stuff like aspartame and sucralose.  There are some references to studies on stevia.net that suggest that it's pretty safe, but of course many such studies can be made to reach whatever conclusion you want.  The fact that the FDA hasn't approved it as a sweetener (although they OK'ed it as a "dietary supplement") won't keep me up nights.

Thursday, 24 June 2004 23:01:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

This weekend I'm going backpacking for the first time in probably 12-13 years.  I'm ardently trying to remember what kind of food is good for backpacking that isn't the hideously priced stuff they sell in outdoor stores.  I'm just going overnight, so weight is important, but not crucial.  The classic macaroni and cheese is just a bit too high-glycemic for me.  There are several good brands of sealed and irradiated Indian food that might be good.  Not as light as dehydrated stuff, but tastier, and not nearly as heavy as cans.  You just boil them right in the package and out comes delicious veggie Indian food.  There are even some rice dishes now, although they don't survive the process quite as well.  Peanut butter and jelly works well, and keeps well.  Not too heavy.  Hmmmm.  Some low-glycemic, whole wheat pasta might work.  My son requsted alphabet soup.  We'll see how that works out...

For breakfast there's the classic instant oatmeal.  There are several good organic, not-too-sweet brands.  Salted cashews make a good snack, or jerky. 

Luckily I still have a few days to decide...

Thursday, 24 June 2004 00:29:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

You don't often see this groovy green globes for sale, but luckily I found a lovely 1/2 pint of very fresh, bright green goose berries at my local farmer's market last night.  "What to do with them?" you might ask.  Some classic examples are jam, or the very brightly colored "gooseberry fool".  I put them on cereal. :-)  With some blueberries and a nice purple plum.  Very tasty, and quite a different texture from other berries.  More watery that a blueberry, and fairly tart. 

 

Thursday, 24 June 2004 00:20:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 17 June 2004

Woohoo!  It's finally berry season.  We went to the Hillsboro Tuesday farmer's market this week, and scored some really nice berries.  Red and yellow raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and some blackberry-like things (ollalieberries, maybe).  All were fantastic.  I love berry season.  I'm a big fan of fruit and cereal for breakfast, and I've been existing on pretty much apples, pears and bananas all winter.  Not only is it exciting to get some new variety, but the berries don't require cutting up before they go on the cereal, which saves me a bunch of time.  Soon it will be stone fruit season (I got some early plums, but they were less than amazing) and then it will be plums, peaches, nectarines, etc.  I'm particularly fond of those little donut peaches on cereal.  They have a very subtle flavor that comes through well at room temp, and they tend to go really well with the vanilla soymilk. :-)

My kids are pretty gaga for the berries too.  Always nice to get something non-starch based down them.  They've been begging to back to the market (next one on Saturday) to get some more.  OK by me!

Thursday, 17 June 2004 23:31:40 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 14 June 2004
There I was, all ready to host this year's Cast Iron Chef competition.  Piled beside me was 75lb. of secret ingredient (no I'm still not telling).  NO ONE SHOWED!  Slackers!  We waited 1 1/2 hours to see if maybe someone would show up.  Nary a one.  Maybe we'll try again later in the year.  Very disappointing. 
Monday, 14 June 2004 20:21:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 09 June 2004

One of the strangest things (to me) about the way we eat is why we (Westerners in general, American's in particular) have such hang ups about breakfast food.  In most other parts of the world, what is for breakfast is pretty much what's for lunch and dinner.  There's no concept of sacrosanct "breakfast food".  Many Americans get whigged out at the idea of eating something for breakfast that isn't eggs/bacon/toast/cereal. 

I'm not one of those people. :-)

One of my favorite things for breakfast ever since childhood is hotdogs.  Preferably wrapped in a tortilla with some cheese and hot sauce.  Mmmmmm good.  Of course, my wife and kids think I'm a total freak, but I can live with that.  Which isn't to say that I never eat breakfast food.  I'm pretty big on cereal too, but I often go through long periods during which I just don't want to eat cereal for breakfast.  Then it's back to hot dogs, burritos, ramen noodles (although I've given that up as too high-glycemic) or whatever else strikes my fancy.  When I lived in Japan I reveled in the "Japanese breakfast" of rice, fish, seaweed and miso soup.  That's the way to start your day. 

Of course, there are times when I want cereal for dinner.  Last night, in fact, I couldn't decide what to eat and ended up settling for some imported Swedish muesli with some nice vanilla soy-milk.  My kids thought I was completely off my rocker, but as people who often start their days with frozen bean burritos, I don't think they really have a leg to stand on.

Wednesday, 09 June 2004 18:35:02 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

Just a few more days until this year's Cast Iron Chef competition.  The secret ingredient has been finalized (still not telling) and we're hoping to get a good turnout.  It looks like the weather might even be nice :-).

In years past I've been really impressed at how creative people can be.  The first year we did onions as the ingredient, and we got some truly amazing food, including onion desserts.  One team even went so far as to dye their table clothes with the onion skins prior to judging.  Last year it was prunes, and again, we got some amazing entries.  Everything from game hens stuffed with prunes, to some North African food, to a pie decorated yellow and white checky with a lion's head rendered in prunes (the An Tir device).  I'm looking forward to seeing what people come up with this year.  I'll post some of the examples next week.

Wednesday, 09 June 2004 18:25:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 03 June 2004

I think I'd have to say that Lebanese food is some of my very favorite, especially when the weather turns warm.  Last night I decided it was Lebanese food weather (it's in the mid 70's, which is pretty nice for Portland this time of year). 

So, I cooked up some

  • Fried eggplant with pomegranate sauce: fry up some slices of eggplant in a fair amount of oil until tender, then drain on paper towels.  The sauce is pomegranate molasses mixed with some chopped garlic, good olive oil, salt and pepper, drizzled over the eggplant slices.  Puts eggplant in a whole new light.  I've served it to people who swore they didn't like eggplant (my sister in law :) ) and had them come back for seconds.
  • Cucumbers in yogurt: just chopped cucumbers in yogurt (use laban if you have a Middle Eastern grocery around, or drain the yogurt for best results) with garlic, dill, salt and pepper.  I mixed in some Italian parsely and just a touch of Spanish smoked paprika with fine results.
  • Lamb patties: I was lazy at this point, and just mixed up some ground lamb with some of Penzey's "Turkish Seasoning" and chopped garlic, then pan-fried them.  Would be good as kabobs too.
  • Whole wheat pita.  I got some "Bible Bread" from Garden of Eatin'.
Thursday, 03 June 2004 22:58:25 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 25 May 2004

Bliz is at TechEd (Microsoft developer's conference) and he's been taking a break from posting on technical stuff to talk about the food.  I think it's a great idea.  I've been two a bunch of conferences, and the food can make a big difference in how enjoyable it is.  The food at TechEd last year (in Dallas) was not so good.  But the first time I went to a TechEd in Dallas ('99 maybe) the food was pretty good. 

Anyway, you can find Jim's pictures of the food at TechEd here.

Tuesday, 25 May 2004 19:15:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 21 May 2004

Asparagus has to be one of the stranger things we eat.  I guess they basically look edible.  Either way, they are one of my favorites, and I'm pretty psyched that it's finally their season.  Sure, I know you can get fine Chilean asparagus in the depths of winter now, but frankly that's just plain wrong.  Not only is it ecologically unsound (think of how many resources were expended to get them here) but I think there are some things that should remain seasonal.  Now-a-days the only things that are really seasonal any more are things that don't travel well (cherries being a fabulous example).  I think that's unfortunate.  It's nice to be able to look forward to a specific time of year when you can eat certain things.  Again, cherries are a great example.  I anxiously look forward to cherry season every spring (not too much longer) then eat all the cherries I can find for the three or four weeks they are around.  I hit all the farmers markets in my town hoping to find some fresh cherries.  I especially like the yellow ones like Queen Anne or Ranier, which have an even shorter season than the usual Bings.  But when they are here, it's something to get fired up about.  Nothin like a big bowl of muesli with fresh cherries for breakfast, with a little vanilla soy milk.  The hint of vanilla sets of the cherries (or strawberries for that matter) just perfectly. 

Sorry, I realized I started this talking about asparagus.  Got a little carried away with the whole cherry thing. 

In the last few years, I've switched from steaming asparagus to grilling or broiling them most of the time.  I like the way the texture comes out better, and it's harder to turn them to mush that way.  I just toss the whole spears with some good olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe a little garlic, then either throw them on the grill or bake them on a cookie sheet.  Either way, then they start to wrinkle a bit and get browned and tender, yank 'em out and have at it.  Super easy and less time-sensitive than steaming them. 

What got me thinking about it was the entree in our cafeteria here at work today.  Ancho-grilled pork chops with asparagus and some couscous.  It was a great combination.  The couscous was done just right, light and fluffy with just enough green onions and tomato to make it interesting but not soggy.  Very nice. 

Friday, 21 May 2004 21:41:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 20 May 2004

Sorry, pretty much nothing new to report.  Once again, I've gotten totally swamped with life in general, and real food has gone pretty much by the wayside.  Sigh. 

The secret ingredient for the Cast Iron Chef competition has been chosen (obviously I'm not going to divulge what it is) and I think it should generate some pretty interesting entries this year.  We've gotten some pretty amzing things out of people the last two years, so hopefully we'll get as good a turnout this time.

Scott's back from Africa, and I have some more of his pictures to post (sometime).  Also, he had some interesting insights into eating in South Africa that I'll post some time. 

Thursday, 20 May 2004 20:48:40 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 10 May 2004
For anyone who reads this and happens to be in the SCA in Antir, this year's Cast Iron Chef competition will be held at the Kriegstreiber Memorial Multi-Weapon Tourney Saturday June 12th.  See here for more details. 
Monday, 10 May 2004 17:54:18 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

Got down to some pretty decent cooking this weekend.  I made spaghetti on Saturday night, with tomato sauce dominated by ground lamb and kalamata olives.  Conservative, but quite tasty.  Mother's Day breakfast-in-bed for my wife consisted of crepes filled with yogurt, strawberries, blackberries and peaches.

Last night I did a pork roast in chile sauce that we used for tacos.  It came out really well.  It was a little boneless shoulder roast that I put in the oven in a sauce of ground anaheim chile, garlic, Mexican oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, and a bottle of beer.  The roast was fork tender and the sauce came out well.  Mmmmm.  I'll have to do that again some time.  I tend not to think far enough ahead for roasts, but I should try a little harder.  They're cheap, and easy to prepare.

Monday, 10 May 2004 17:46:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 30 April 2004

It's 76° and lovely here in Hillsboro and I'm already salivating for the burgers I'm going to make for dinner.  This is totally the weather for BBQ.  I got lucky with the burger, in that we have some friends who have a few cows, and a couple years in a row we went in on half a cow.  Not just any cow, but half a grass fed outdoor living no antibiotics cow.  Makes for some really great burgers. 

Since it looks like the weather might stick around for a while I think I'm going to have to experiment with some of the different burgers in the (fabulous) works of Stephen Raichlen.  He's written some of the best BBQ books around, from how to, to a world tour of BBQ styles.  Well worth reading just for the travel info, let alone the great recipes.

Friday, 30 April 2004 00:35:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 27 April 2004
A while back I posted on the idea of mindfulness as applied to eating.  There's an interesting article on Yoga Journal that takes that idea to the next level. 
Tuesday, 27 April 2004 23:24:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 26 April 2004

The Culinary Ithra went really well this weekend, and was a lot of fun.  I taught three classes in a row, and was pretty hoarse by the end of the day, but I really enjoyed it and people were really engaged, which always makes it easier. 

Best of all, I just happened to score the leftovers from one of the classes of the lovely and amazingly talented Baroness Anne-Marie d'Ailleurs for lunch.  I left home in a hurry and hadn't had time to put anything together for lunch, so Anne-Marie's mushroom pie, stuffed eggs, smoked halibut, et. al. was a lovely surprise.  Mmmmmm.  French Medieval goodness.

Between the lovely lunch and prepping for my classes I got all fired up to try some more historic recreation cooking.  If I get to it I'll post about the results. 

My handout for the Viking Food class ended up pretty lame (poor preparation on my part) but I'll post what I have soon.

Monday, 26 April 2004 18:35:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 23 April 2004

I'll be teaching three classes at tomorrow Culinary Ithra

  • Viking food: a reconstruction from available sources (which I'll post soon)
  • Cooking for cultures with no extant recipes (here)
  • The evolution of food processing techniques (here)

Should be a lot of fun.  There are still spots available if anyone who happens to read this today is interested. :-)

On a completely separate note, I've recently aquired some pretty good new (to me at least) historical cookbooks, which I'll post reviews on soon (maybe this weekend).

Friday, 23 April 2004 21:08:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

Sorry there hasn't been much in the way of new content here lately.  I'm pretty swamped with life right now, and haven't had a lot of time for food.  Unfortunately.  I did take the time to make a giant bowl of cereal for dinner last night, which was really good, and just what I was craving.  It's what my son calls "healthy breakfast". 

  • fruit (whatever is in season.  right now mostly apples and pears, sometimes a banana, but in the summer time berries, peaches, plums, you name it)
  • raw grain cereal.  I use Bob's Redmill Muesli, which has several kinds of raw grain flakes, some sunflower seeds, raisins, etc.
  • extra nuts (often I use walnuts, but lately I've been using organic raw cashews)
  • milk, soy milk or yogurt (soy or dairy).  I've tried kefir a few times, but found it too sweet.  I use mostly unflavored or vanilla soy yogurt.
  • extra rasins (if I've a mind)
  • flax seed oil (for extra omega-3s and a nice texture)
  • sometimes I add whole flax seeds for a nice crunch

good for you, filling, and relavitely low on the glycemic index.

Friday, 23 April 2004 17:57:26 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 14 April 2004
The NYTimes has a very interesting article (reg. req.) on a kind of "truffle" which is vaguely related to the French kind that grows in the desert between Syria and Iraq.  Cool.  What's even more interesting is that the article says the Bedouin say the truffles are more prolific if there's more thunder in the Spring, and it turns out there's a scientific reason why that's really true.  Even cooler.
Wednesday, 14 April 2004 21:19:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 08 April 2004

Unfortunately, my life has been pretty much crazed lately, and as a result I've been eating a lot of really crappy food.  It's hard to motivate yourself to cook when you get home at 8:30 or 9:00 at night (and have to get the kids to bed, etc). 

Last night I rebelled against fast / frozed food (which unfortunately has been my mainstay the last few weeks) and brought home a giant pile of salads and fresh veggies.  Inside of 15 minutes I had raw celery, cauliflower, carrots and mushrooms, some goop to dip them in, coleslaw, and some French bread and whole grain roles.  Good eats, simple, fast, and (relatively) nutritious.  And the kids totally went for it, which was an extra bonus.  I threw in some string cheese for variety and for the pickier, although she pretty much ate her veggies too :-)

 

Thursday, 08 April 2004 18:24:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 24 March 2004

The New York Times (reg. req.) has a great article about halvah, the sweetened sesame seed confection common to healthfood stores and Middle Eastern markets.  It talks about the nostalgic effect halvah has on lots of people, and I'm one of them. 

In my hippie vegetarian youth, my sister and I weren't allowed "regular" candy like chocolate, etc.  I don't think I had a snickers until I was in High School.  What we had instead were things like carob bars, honey/sesame candy, and halvah.  Halvah was always one of my favorites.  It's made from ground seseme seeds (tahini) sweetened with sugar or honey and pressed into bars.  Great stuff.  The texture is fantastic.  It's grainy, sticky, melting...  Boy, now I'm jonesing. 

 

Wednesday, 24 March 2004 20:30:48 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 09 March 2004

OK, "riblet" is a pretty bizarre word, but the meatless ones from Gardenburger are really good.  I've seen them around for a while, and finally took the plunge last night.  Not only were they really tasty, but very easy to work with.  They come in little bags, which you can microwave or boil (I boiled).  There were also cooking instructions for grilling them, but I'd be concerned about them drying out. 

Anyway, they're great.  Very nice texture, reasonably like ribs (only there's no mad soy disease) and the BBQ sauce they come packed in was very flavorful. 

Even my (extremely) picky, sauce-phobic 5 year old daughter loved them, which is saying quite a bit.  We threw them in sandwiches with some cheese, lettuce and pickles. 

Way less work then actual ribs, and by far superior to things like McRibs. 

Tuesday, 09 March 2004 19:29:28 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

I couldn't help myself.  I know it's still pretty early in the year, but my local grocery store finally got in some organic asparagus, the first I've seen this year.  They were pretty thick, and priced somewhere around gold bullion, but it was totally worth it. 

I was time contrained, so I ended up stir-frying the asparagus with a little chicken, some ginger, a dash of dark soy sauce and some hoisin sauce.  Very tasty.  Just what I wanted.  Chicken and asparagus was something my Mom used to make a lot when I was a kid, and it always reminds me of big Chinese food dinner parties.  And it's amazingly easy.  Added to that I whipped up some stir-fried cucumber with chili-bean sauce (cucumber is really good cooked) and some bean sprouts.  Total cooking time was probably on the order of half an hour, and I dawdled. 

Sometimes I forget how quickly you can make real food.  But I'm always glad when I do.

Tuesday, 09 March 2004 19:23:52 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 26 February 2004

Sorry I haven't posted anything in a while.  It's been a heck of a week or so, and I've been pretty much treading water.  Not much time for exciting contributions to world cuisine :-)

This has been a week of sausages and from the can minestrone (although I threw in some farro I had lying around which made a great textural addition). 

I'm hoping to break loose long enough to do some cooking this weekend.  I've been craving a nice pork roast in chile sauce, or some such.  Made chile verde?  Only time will tell.  At the same time, I'm desparately craving Korean food, but I may cop out and just go out for some.  Portland has some pretty decent Korean restaraunts. 

I just re-picked up Mark Kurlansky's Choice Cuts which is a collection of essays and excerpts from various culinary writers.  Mr. Kurlansky's books are pretty much universally great, so I'm expecting to be entranced.  Cod is pretty much one of the best food books I've ever read (if you haven't, you should).

Thursday, 26 February 2004 19:40:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 17 February 2004

A three day weekend is always a good excuse for lots of cooking, so I did some. 

On Saturday night I tried a pork chop recipe from the new Cook's Illustrated.  Very nice.  Sauced with brandy, prunes and shallots.  Very tasty.  And their recommendation to start the chops in a cold pan worked out beautifully.

Sunday morning saw some Parsi egg curry (scrambled eggs with onions, and a little coriander, tumeric, ginger) and some fruit salad (with a little Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey's, makes all the difference)

I have absolutely no recollection of what I made Sunday night, but I recall it being good.  Hmmmm.

Last night was salmon fillets baked in parchment with some salt and pepper, a little tarragon, spinach and watercress, and a few nameko mushrooms.  That worked out fabulously, and was even popular with the picky 5 year old.  To go along with it I made some rice and lentil pilaf (just rice, lentils, chicken broth and a little curry powder) which also went over well with the troops. 

 

Tuesday, 17 February 2004 19:08:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 12 February 2004

I've been trying to encourage my son (who's 8) to take a bit more responsibility for getting his own food.  So far we're pretty much only up to breakfast, but that's a start.  What really impressed me was that when he got into making his breakfast the other day (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) when his sister showed up (she's 5).  He gave up his hard won PB & J to her, and started in making another one. 

Does my heart good. :-)

I started cooking pretty seriously around his age (fried eggs being my specialty) and I remember even then the sense that food you make yourself tastes that much better.  I noticed that he devoured that sandwich with relish.  Never too early to start.

Thursday, 12 February 2004 20:39:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 11 February 2004

Over the past two or so years I’ve lost over 50 pounds (yea me!) and the first thing that people I haven’t seen in a while ask is “are you on ‘the Atkins’?”.

Nope.  I think the Atkins diet is bad for you, and has long term consequences for your health that you may not notice for years to come.  It makes people sick.  Don’t do it.  I know there’s been a great deal of controversy on this particular issue, and I don’t have tons of statistics on my side.  Mostly instinct.  We’re not made (evolutionarily speaking) to eat that way.  Meat is hard to catch.  The other big problem is that people do lose weight on the Atkins diet quickly, and that’s pretty encouraging.  I just don’t think it’s worth the eventual consequences.  It teaches people to forget that in the long run, at the end of the day, you have to expend more calories than you eat every day, or you won’t lose weight.  That means that just because you’re eating too many calories that all came from fat you won’t lose weight any faster than if you’re eating too many calories worth of white bread. 

My dieting strategy has had much more to do with the theories behind books like The New Glucose Revolution.  The key issue to be concerned about is not whether or not you are eating carbohydrates, but what those carbohydrates are doing to your blood sugar.  Eat carbs all you want, but choose carbs that have less impact on your blood sugar (and therefore insulin) levels.  Wheat bread instead of white bread, rice instead of potatoes, whole grain cereals like musli instead of cornflakes.  These are pretty simple changes to make, and they make a difference.  I think this route leads to much healthier eating than does the Atkins diet.  We’re supposed to be eating things with carbs.  Look at pre-industrial society for clues there.  We’re just not supposed to be eating refined carbs like white flour and sugar. 

Anyway, I think that no matter which diet you choose, the single biggest factor is what I think of as “mindful eating”.  I realize that sounds rather Buddhist (and it is, I suppose), but it makes a huge difference in how you feel and how much you weigh.  Just think about what you’re putting into your mouth.  It’s as simple as that.  Ask yourself questions like

  • Is this good for me?
  • Is this bad for me? (chemicals, artificial ingredients, etc.)
  • If so, how bad?
  • Am I going to expend this many calories today?
  • Do I really want to eat this? Or is it just habit?
  • What’s really in this? (possibly the most important one)
  • Is there an alternative that would be better for me?

I’m not suggesting that you adhere slavishly to the answers to any of those questions, but I think you’ll find that just by asking them, you’ll eat better, and probably lose weight, if that’s your goal.  I think way too many people these days eat horrible food because they don’t stop to ask these questions.  I mean not just horrible in terms of health concerns, but just plain gross food.  Take a look at some of the junk in the grocery store. 

On that note, please take as much care about asking yourself those questions before you give food to your kids.  They depend on us to feed them food that’s healthy and won’t harm them down the road.

I think if you get in the habit of asking yourself about the food you eat, you’ll find yourself eating more whole foods, and more food that’s better for your body (and your wallet, but that’s another story).  You may decide that you worked out extra hard, and you just feel like a chocolate bar today.  OK, eat it, but just think about why you're eating it, and what it means to your body.

One last note: I had been excersing pretty regularly for a couple of years, and not losing any weight until I changed my diet.  Now that I've lost the weight, I find that how much I excersise makes a bigger difference now than it did before.  Even if I eat mindfully, I still have to excersise or I'll start gaining weight.  Remember, if calories in > calories out, you'll gain weight, no matter where the calories came from.

Wednesday, 11 February 2004 21:38:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 10 February 2004

I’m going to post a bunch more on this particular topic over the next month or so.  I’m teaching a class on Viking cooking in late April, and I’ll be organizing my thoughts and opinions as I write the class, which should result in some interesting stuff.  Watch this space. 

As just a quick note, though, basically my thoughts about Viking cooking run like this:

  • The Vikings didn’t use recipes
    • So we aren’t going to find any
  • We know what ingredients they ate from the archeological record
  • We know what tools they used for cooking from same
  • We have some idea about their tastes from contemporary literature (know your sagas!)
  • We know what modern Scandinavian food is like
  • Given the above, we can recreate Viking food with a fair amount of confidence
  • The foremost barrier to recreating Viking food is that many modern people think it sounds gross
    • I happen to like oatmeal and onions, but many don’t :-)

 

More on this topic hopefully soon.

Tuesday, 10 February 2004 21:23:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 06 February 2004

I’ve mentioned in several of my previous posts that I favor organic ingredients, and I felt it was time for the full-on rant.

<rant>BUY ORGANIC!  Do yourself, your family and your planet a favor and buy organically grown produce.  It’s gotten popular enough now that it doesn’t really cost all that much more than conventional, and in my experience it’s often better and fresher, which means you’re more likely to actually eat it before it rots, making it less expensive (since if it rots you get 0 benefit).  It’s better for you.  Some studies have shown better vitamin content than conventional produce (I can’t vouch for how scientific those studies are, so consider that bit hearsay).  They obviously have way less pesticides and chemicals, which aren’t good for you, your kids, or your local watershed.  Organics are getting easier to find.  My local Costco has started stocking a number of organic products, like peanut butter, oatmeal, and others.  Don’t judge organic produce by the crap they sell at Safeway.  They go out of their way to buy crummy looking organics so you’ll buy the (much cheaper and higher margin) conventional produce.  Go find a store that cares about organic food.  We can’t afford to keep intrusting our food supply and the health of the environment to agrobusiness, which have demonstrated their lack of concern for anything except profits.  And while you’re at it, support your local organic farmers and farmer’s markets.  Find out where there’s one near you, and start going.  May small organic (and conventional) farms offer subscriptions, where you pay a fixed price each month for a share of their crops.  They get to support their family farm, and you get good healthy, locally grown food to eat.</rant>

OK, I’m finished now.  Back to your regularly scheduled food related stuff.  I just had to get that out of my system.

Friday, 06 February 2004 18:10:20 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 03 February 2004

I’m not sure how, but some how or another Jason went from chicken livers to rhubarb, so now I’m thinking about rhubarb. 

Makes a fine pie, especially with strawberries or blueberries.  I’ve also had good luck with strawberry/rhubarb crisps or crumbles.  Up the topping over what you’d use for apples, since rhubarb gives off a lot of liquid. 

My absolute favorite rhubarb thing is a Persian lamb (or beef) and rhubarb stew (or “khoresh”).  Truly amazing.  Take some cubed lamb or beef and brown it with onions, then add some cinnamon, preferable true cinnamon from Penzey’s or your favorite serious spice source.  Add water or stock to cover and then simmer until the meat is tender.  Then add some cut up rhubarb, and lots of parseley, like a bunch worth or more, and some fresh or dried mint and salt & pepper to taste.  Cook until the rhubarb is just tender, then serve up with Persian saffron rice.

Truly amazing.  It’s worth getting the good cinnamon for, and some quality mint.  I use dried Bulgarian spearmint, also from Penzey’s. 

There are some other really great Persian meat/fruit combinations, like chicken and pomegranate, and beef w/ peaches.  Check out Najmieh Khalili Batmanglij’s New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies for all this and more.  It’s my favorite Persian cookbook.  I have a couple others that I can’t think of titles for right now.  Maybe it’ll come to me.

Tuesday, 03 February 2004 22:23:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

OK, I’ve already gotten one semi-snide comment about the chicken liver and smoked pork pie.  As I said, I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but I thought it was really quite tasty. 

And as long as I’m here, let’s talk about chicken livers.  My parents aren’t fans, and so I’d never really had any exposure to the little death bombs until I was in my teens.  My stepmother’s family is big on rumaki at New Years.  If you haven’t tried them, they’re worth the effort:  sauté some chicken livers (do yourself a favor and try to get organic ones, for the sake of your own liver) wrap them up in some bacon with a piece of water chestnut, and broil until the bacon is done.  Best served with some Chinese-style hot mustard.  For the faint of heart, green olives make a fine substitute for the livers.

My son, who is 8, loves rumaki with a passion.  This turned out to be the first time in many years that we didn’t spend New Years with my stepmother’s family, so he begged me to make him some myself.  I’ve got to say, cooking chicken livers is pretty nasty, but they tasted great. 

I’ve been wanting to try making some Jewish-style chopped liver, and just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  The grocery store we frequent (New Seasons Market) only has large quantities of organic livers every once is a while, and I haven’t gotten the timing right yet.  Maybe for Passover.  I’m not Jewish, but when it comes to food, I try to hit all the holidays regardless of denomination.  :-)

Tuesday, 03 February 2004 18:38:37 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 02 February 2004

The SCA household we belong to (Ulfredsheim) held their annual mid-winter feast this weekend.  It was big fun to see everyone, and there was (as usual with our household) a really lot of really good food.  Some highlights for me were some period gingerbread, a Roman honey cheesecake (mmmmmm) a flourless almond cake with caraway, and a very tasty pie of chicken livers and smoked pork products.  That last one was not for the weak of palette, but I thought it was great.  I love to see people recreating historical recipes, and it’s even better when I get to eat them. 

Vikki and I still aren’t quite sure where / when we’ll do this year’s Cast Iron Chef contest, but I’ll try to keep everyone posted. 

Monday, 02 February 2004 22:18:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 January 2004

Back in my wayward youth in the far off 70’s I was raised pretty much exclusively on hippy vegetarian food.  Seeing as I grew up (through my elementary school years) in Marin County, CA, and it was the 70’s after all, that seemed to me the norm rather than the exception.  I’m talking old school hippy vegetarian, the likes of the original Moosewood cookbook, and lots of things involving tofu, wheat germ, and (heaven forefend) carob. 

The result of such an upbringing was that when I went away to college, I thought things like chicken fried steak and chipped beef on toast were exotic and fascinating, but that’s another story.

Occasionally I miss those old standbys of hippy vegetarian comfort food, and lately I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with peanut butter balls.  For those of you who aren’t into such things, peanut butter balls basically consist of some peanut butter, with some other binding agents and something to dry them out enough so that they don’t stick to the hands of children or nostalgic adults.  Back in the dim time, dry milk powder and wheat germ were popular additives. 

When you’re done, you get little balls of peanutty goodness, just bursting with protein, some fat, and just enough sugar (usually honey) to make them attractive.  A great snack for kids on the go, since they’re full of energy and not full of sugar and starch. 

Anyway, I’ve been experimenting a bit, and have come up with a pretty decent combination of stuff. 

  • Peanut butter (my personal favorite is Maranatha organic)
    • I’ve also tried adding some sesame butter (also Maranatha brand) and almond butter with good results
  • Wheat germ (adds fiber and has a nice texture)
  • Flax seeds (a nice crunch, and lots of Omega-3s)
  • Barley malt (a nice mellow sweetener, and lots of vitamins)
  • A little honey or agave nectar (a low-glycemic alternative to honey)
  • Dry whey powder (protein, nice filler, I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
  • Instead of whey powder, I’ve also used soy grits (about the texture of fine cornmeal) which was good but adds a very slight bitterness
  • I’ve also tried substituting some flax seed meal for some of the wheat germ, which adds some nutrition and didn’t seem to affect the taste.
  • Raisins (my favorite are organic “flame” raisins)

 

Mix all that up in a bowl, check the consistency (should be like playdough) and roll into little balls.  I’ve tried rolling the balls in either wheat germ, or coconut, which makes them less sticky.  My kids especially liked the coconut.

A quick, nostalgic (at least for some of us) and healthy snack.  Mmmmmm, good :-)

 

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 18:11:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Monday, 19 January 2004

Welcome to my new “food blog”. 

I'm completely entranced by food.  I love to cook it, I love to eat it, and I love to read about it.  If I won the lottery tomorrow and could do whatever I wanted to, I'd go back to school and get a degree in culinary history. 

I'm also very interested in nutrition, probably stemming from the fact that my mom has been teaching and learning about nutrition for the last 30 years or so.  I think that many of the problems that plague our society and our world stem from food, either the lack of it, or the commercialization of it.  So many of the health problems in this country (U.S) stem from the fact that people don't eat right. 

On the historical front, I'm active in the SCA, and do my best to recreate times gone by, specially the Viking Age in Scandinavia.  I've been working for several years now on trying to piece together the kinds of food that the Vikings ate, what they cooked it with/on, etc. 

So... 

Look to see all kinds of ramblings here about food, nutrition, recreating historical foods, and anything else I can think of that relates.  I wanted to separate this content from my other blog, which I'd like to reserve for more work related (although not exclusively) stuff.

Monday, 19 January 2004 19:57:05 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [2]