# Tuesday, October 19, 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, October 19, 2004 2:31:05 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, October 18, 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, October 18, 2004 7:49:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Monday, October 11, 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, October 11, 2004 7:33:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, October 01, 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, October 01, 2004 9:52:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, September 20, 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, September 20, 2004 9:01:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, September 13, 2004

I did a stint as the Viking Chef at an SCA demo this weekend.  Pretty fun.  Lots of people wandered by asking questions and trying the snacks.  It wasn't quite as organized as I had thought it was going to be, so I skipped the "they didn't have recipes" spiel and just answered questions.  My contributions to the snacky bits were some "Viking porridge" which consisted of bacon, onions, apples, and oatmeal, and some barley cakes (just barley flour, salt, milk and eggs) with strawberry jam.  The porridge was better-received than I would have thought, although several people reflexively recoiled as soon as they hear oatmeal and onions in the same sentence. :-) 

My son, on the other hand, came back for seconds. 

Monday, September 13, 2004 10:26:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, September 08, 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, September 08, 2004 11:36:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, September 07, 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, September 07, 2004 6:55:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
This Saturday (9/11), there's going to be an historic cooking demo/exposition at the Beaverton Farmer's Market.  There are a whole series of 1/2 hour demos planned on various styles/periods/etc.  I'll be playing the part of "Viking Chef" at around 9:30 I think.  Come on down.  There will be foods to try, cooking to watch, plus all the benefits of what I've heard is a pretty great Farmer's Market.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004 6:39:54 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, August 02, 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, August 02, 2004 9:04:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]