Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Japanese Braised Kabocha Squash

I always like to have an Asian side dish at Thanksgiving to honor my heritage. I'm half Chinese and  spent my early years in Japan so I usually add a vegetable that is Chinese or Japanese. The one that I will make this year is Japanese Braised Kabocha Squash. It's very easy to make and only takes about 20 minutes to cook and the prep can be done in advance. The Kabocha Squash is cooked in broth (usually Dash, but I used Chicken Broth  and sometimes use Vegetable Broth for my Vegan friends) seasoned with Tamari, Mirin and Green Onions. I like the savory flavor for Squash more than sweet and this braise gives it a wonderful exotic taste just perfect with Rice, which of course I do serve along with the Dressing!

Japanese Braised Kabocha Squash

1 Kabocha Squash

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Green Onions, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
1 1/2 Tablespoons Tamari
1 1/2 Tablespoons Mirin or Rice Wine
1/2 cup Chicken Broth, Vegetable Broth or Dashi
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Sugar

Cut the Kabocha Squash in half and remove seeds. Then cut into wedges (about 2 inches wide).  Peel each wedge with a vegetable peeler and then cut in half to make them about 3 inches long.  

Mix the Tamari, Mirin, Broth and Sugar together in a small bowl. Taste and add more Sugar if desired.  

Heat Oil in a frying pan with a lid. Add the Green Onions and cook until you can smell the fragrance. Add in the Kabocha Squash and then add in the Broth mixture. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until fork tender.  

Five Element Analysis

Squashes are very sweet and orange so they belong to the Earth Element. The Chicken Broth contributes the Wood Element. The Tamari belongs to the Water Element. The Mirin or Rice Wine is from the Fire Element and the Green Onions bring in the Metal Element. All the Elements are present in this one dish!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Chard with Balsamic Glaze and Pine Nuts

I've been auditioning vegetable dishes to add to my Thanksgiving table next week. I like to change up the vegetables every year since the main dishes are always the same - Turkey, Dressing, Gravy, Mashed Potatoes and Cranberry Sauce. So the other night I decided to sauté a big bunch of Chard with Garlic and added some Balsamic Glaze and toasted Pine Nuts. Balsamic Glaze is reduced and thickened Balsamic Vinegar so that it becomes sweet and tangy. If you can't find it, you can make your own by boiling down Balsamic Vinegar until it becomes thick. This dish takes so little time to make and was so good that I ate the whole thing by myself in one sitting. So this dish is definitely showing up next week and I will have to double or triple the recipe so everyone !can have some!

Chard with Balsamic Glaze and Pine Nuts

1 large bunch Red Chard or Rainbow Chard
1 large Garlic Clove, minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon of Balsamic Glaze
1/4 cup Pine Nuts

Wash the Chard and pull off from the Stem and cut into bite size pieces or ribbons.  

In a frying pan, toast the Pine Nuts over medium heat until they are lightly toasted and reserve.

Heat the Olive Oil in the same Pan and add in the Garlic, cooking until you can smell the fragrance. Add in the Chard and stir quickly to sauté all of it.  Sprinkle on the Salt and add the Balsamic Glaze. Stir thoroughly and plate.  Sprinkle with Pine Nuts and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Chard is a leafy green vegetable so it belongs to the Wood Element but the red undertone gives it a bit of Fire too.  The Balsamic Glaze contributes the Wood Element because it is made from Vinegar although the sweetness also gives it a bit of the Earth Element. The Garlic brings in a little of the Metal Element. This dish is mostly from the Wood Element so it contributes well to any meal needing more of that Element.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Chopped Larb Salad

I love Chopped Salads as you get so much more of everything in each forkful. I make them frequently. But yesterday, I was in the mood for some Thai Flavors and so I combined the traditional ingredients of Lamb with the accompanying vegetable pieces all together. Larb is ground Chicken or Pork sautéed with Shallots and then mixed with a Thai Vinaigrette of Lime Juice, Brown Sugar and Fish Sauce. It usually comes with a hunk of Green Cabbage, a few slices of Cucumber and some wedges of Tomato. So I put them all together in little bits! I used both Green and Red Cabbage since it is so much more colorful along with some Green Onion tops, chopped Tomatoes, chopped Cucumber, Mint and Cilantro.  I think this might work really well with cooked Quinoa too. I loved this Chopped Larb Salad so much that I will probably never make Larb again the traditional way!

Chopped Larb Salad 

3 1/2 cup Green Cabbage, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup Red Cabbage, cut into small pieces
1 small Cucumber or 1/2 large Cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large Tomato, seeds removed, cut into a dice
2 slender Green Onions, green part only cut into small pieces
1/2 cup loosely packed Mint Leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed Cilantro Leaves
1 Shallot, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 pound of ground Chicken 
1/2 teaspoon Salt

For Dressing:

1/3 cup fresh squeezed Lime Juice (the juice of about 1 1/2 - 2 Limes)
2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 - 2 1/2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
pinch of Chili Flakes

Mix tougher the Cabbages, Cucumber, Tomato, Green Onion pieces along with the Mint and Cilantro Leaves in a large salad bowl.

In a small bowl, mix tougher the Lime Juice Fish Sauce, Brown Sugar and Chili Flakes.  

Heat the Oil in a frying pan and add the Shallots. Cook until they just become translucent and then add in the Ground Chicken and sprinkle with the Salt. Cook until the Chicken is no longer pink.  Add in the Dressing and stir quickly.  Then pour her the Salad ingredients and toss. Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

This is a colorful salad so you can be sure that it covers most of the Elements. The Cabbage, Cucumber  and Brown Sugar all bring in the Earth Element, whereas the Chicken contributes the Wood Element along with the Lime Juice. The Fire Element is present in the Tomatoes and the Chili Pepper Flakes. The Green Onions, Shallot, Mint and Cilantro contribute the Metal Element and the Fish Sauce makes sure the Water Element is there too. This then is quite a balanced Five Element meal all by itself!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Creamy Vegetable Soup

I was teaching my Master Face Reading Certification Program in Bath, England last week and we were staying in an AirBnb because I prefer cooking most nights to going out for so many meals. It was really cold so that meant I needed to make some soup. I gathered together various vegetables we had bought and created a Creamy Vegetable Soup that was comfort food in a bowl!  With a side of English Bacon, a Green Salad and toasted and buttered GF Bread from Marks and Spencer, it was the perfect meal!  I used Chicken Broth made with Bouillon for the base along with Potatoes and Shallots. I cooked them until they were soft and mashed them with a Potato Masher. Then I added in Carrot and Parsnip and cooked them until they were just softened and finally, just before serving, I tossed in some cut up Kale. This Creamy Vegetable Soup was wonderful!

Creamy Vegetable Soup

4 medium Potatoes peeled and cut into cubes (buy a kind good for mash, like Russets)
3 large Knorr GF Bouillon Cubes (or equivalent Bouillon in US - 6 cubes)
6 or more Cups Water
3 Tablespoons Butter
2 small Shallots or 1 large Shallot, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 Parsnips, trimmed, peeled and cut into slices (large pieces cut in half or quarters)
2 large Carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into slices (large pieces cut in half or quarters)
2 cups Kale, removed from stem and cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon Salt 
Optional:  Fresh Ground Pepper

Heat the Butter in the bottom of a soup pot. Add in the Shallots and cook until soft. Then add in the Potatoes and cook until they become coated in butter and become slightly more translucent. Then add in the Water and the Bouillon Cubes. Bring to a boil and return to a simmer, cooking for 20 minutes. Use a Potato Masher and was the Potatoes as much as you can. Turn heat higher and return to a boil. This is the time to add more Water if you like a thinner soup. Add in the Carrots and Parsnips and turn down again to a simmer. Cook for an additional 15 minutes. Then throw in the Kale, stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Pepper, if desired and serve.

Five Element Analysis

As there are so many Root Vegetables in this soup, you know it has to belong primarily to the Earth Element. However, Soups of any kind are considered a Water Food as well, although this one is very thick  The Kale adds the Wood Element and the Shallot and Butter contribute the Metal Element. Only the Fire Element is a bit deficient as it is only represented by a sprinkling of Pepper so add a Green Salad with Cherry Tomatoes. I also enhanced the Water Element with Bacon and the Metal Element with Rice Flour based Bread to balance out the Elements.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Simple Green Tomato Relish

We had a wealth of Tomatoes from our garden this summer, but the last ones on the vine just aren't going to ripen anymore so it was time today to pick the Green and semi-red Tomatoes off the vine  They were all too small to make good Fried Green Tomatoes (a previous post) so the only thing to do was to make Green Tomato Relish.  This is something that my Pennsylvania Dutch Grandmother would make and I've always loved it. Of course, she canned it so that it would be available all winter long, but I made just enough for one quart jar and I think it will go fast. It's a sweet and sour and tangy condiment with just a hint of Allspice to liven things up. It's great with Sausages  or Hotdogs - it's kind of like a Green Ketchup and it's also wonderful on Cheese. There's a certain satisfaction with making your own condiments using up your homegrown produce and it is delicious too!

Simple Green Tomato Relish

2 pounds Green Tomatoes and partially Red Tomatoes
1 White or Yellow Onion
3/4 cup - 1 cup Sugar (use less if you have more Red Tomatoes)
1 cup White Wine Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt
1/3 teaspoon Allspice

Cut off the stem of the Tomatoes and chop into rough pieces and then chop the Onion. Add to a sauté pan along with the Sugar, Vinegar, Salt and Allspice. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Take off the lid, increase heat to medium and stir frequently for another 10 minutes. Let cool and spoon into a quart Mason Jar.

Five Element Analysis

Tomatoes are usually a Fire Food and the red ones still are, but because they are sour when Green, they also bring in the Wood Element. The Vinegar adds even more of the Wood Element. The Sugar contributes the Earth Element and the Onions and that little bit of Allspice bring in the Earth Element. Only the Water Element is missing, which is why it's so good with Pork Sausages, which are a Water Food.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Roasted Parsnips and Celery

I truly love my Sheet Pan and try to use them whenever I can. I also love roasted vegetables and tonight I roasted Parsnips and Celery together. Both of these vegetables don't often get enough credit for being delicious and they are! When you roast them together, the Parsnips get caramelized and chewy-crisp and the Celery gets soft, yet stays juicy. It's a wonderful combination!  I very simply drizzle them with Olive Oil and since I love to roast Celery when I roast a Chicken, I used Chicken Salt that I brought back from Australia to season them. But, you can use any Seasoned Salt or just Salt. The secret to this dish is to roast the vegetables for nearly an hour and then put them under the broiler for the last several minutes. They are a perfect combination for me!

Roasted Parsnips and Celery

4 Parsnips, ends trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 - 5 stalks of Celery, washed, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Chicken Salt or Seasoned Salt or Salt

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle a sheet pan with 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil and then put on the Parsnip and Celery pieces.  Drizzle with the remaining Olive Oil and sprinkle with Salt. Place in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn over all the pieces with a spatula. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 25 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil and cook for an additional 3 - 4 minutes or until the Parsnips start to brown.  Serve hot or warm. 

Five Element Analysis

Parnsips are a combination of the Metal Element because they are a white food, but also grow in the ground so they embody the Earth Element too. Celery is part of the Wood Element as is the Olive OIl. Roasting these vegetables brings in the Fire Element. The Water Element is the only one missing so this would be a good side dish to Pork or Fish or another Water vegetable like Eggplant. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Tomato Sauce with Chicken and Arugula

You know those days when you don't know what to cook and you need to cook something fast? That's when I check out what's hanging out in my refrigerator and my cupboards and then I throw something together. I'm almost always surprised when it turns out really well and this Sauce is a prime example. I had a bunch of Roma Tomatoes, a single Chicken Breast and some wilting Arugula, so I knew I could make a Pasta Sauce. And, I found Cauliflower Gnocchi (which is technically a dumpling) from Trader Joe's in the freezer that I had forgotten that I bought.  This Sauce turned out so wonderfully that I decided to share it here and so I remember how I made it!  The one thing that I did that was unusual was to puree the cooked Tomatoes with the Shallot and then I pushed it through a stainer so that it was a completely smooth sauce before I added the Chicken in. You can skip that step if you want or you can just peel the Tomatoes before chopping them up. If I hadn't found the Gnocchi, I would probably have served it with Fusilli. I discovered that I love cooked Arugula, maybe even more than in a salad so it may become a staple in my Pasta Sauces!

Tomato Sauce with Chicken and Arugula

1 boneless, skinless Chicken Breast half
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
1 Shallot, minced
6 Roma Tomatoes, stem removed and chopped coarsely
1/2 cup dry White Wine
3 cups loosely packed Baby Arugula
1/2 teaspoon Sugar

Cut up the Chicken Breast into thin slices about 1 inch long.  Season with Salt.

Then heat 1 Tablespoon of the Olive Oil in a sauté pan and add the Shallots. Cook until softened. Then add in the Roma Tomatoes and cook until the Tomatoes start to get soft. Add in the wine and continue to cook until a sauce is formed. 

Puree the Sauce in a Food Processor or Blender and strain to make smooth, if desired.

Add the additional 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil to the sauté pan until hot and add in the Chicken. Cook until it is no longer pink. Then add the Sauce back in and bring to a boil.  add in the Arugula and take off the heat, stirring until the Arugula wilts. Serve with the Pasta of your choice or Gnocchi.

Five Element Analysis

Tomatoes are part of the Fire Element and so is the Wine. Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and the Olive Oil and Arugula add even more. The Metal Element is represented by the Shallot. I served it with Cauliflower Gnocchi, made of Cauliflower and PotatoThe Cauliflower brings in more Metal and the Potato adds the Earth. This then ends up being a family balanced meal!