Monday, January 8, 2018

Medicinal but Delicious Poached Asian Pears

It’s that time of year when almost everyone I know has come down with the cold or the flu. So besides making Hot Lemonade with Honey (or Hot Toddies) and Chinese Chicken Soup (particularly Hot and Sour Soup - previous post) for my loved ones, I also make Poached Asian Pears. Eating Poached Pears is an ancient Chinese Medicine remedy for colds, coughs and sore throats, as Pears support and lubricate the lungs. It was one of the things I remember my Mother making me when I was a child and it’s a very comforting food.

I use Asian Pears that are big and round. It doesn't matter if the skin is brown or yellow. They are wonderful to eat out of hand as they are crisp and juicy.  But, when I poach them in a lightly sweetened syrup using Water, Ginger and Brown Rock Sugar, they become medicine. If you don't have Rock Sugar, you can use Brown Sugar, but you will need a lot less as it is much sweeter and you can also use Honey. It only takes a few minutes to poach Pears and I highly recommend this as a tasty medicine for when you get sick with an upper respiratory infection. Of course you can eat this dish anytime as it is delicious and supports your immune system, but do try to have someone make it for you if you are sick. And don't forget to drink the syrup too!

Medicinal but Delicious Poached Asian Pears

1 large Asian Pear
1 1/2 cups Water
3 heaping Tablespoons brown Rock Sugar
3 slices Ginger (about the size of a quarter) or more

Cut the Asian Pear into quarters. Then peel and core them. Cut them each again so you have 8 slices.

In a small pot, put in the Water, Rock Sugar and Ginger. Bring to a boil and put in the Pears. Return to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 - 12 minutes or until a fork can pierce the Pears.  Serve hot.

Five Element Analysis

Pears belong to the Metal Element. The Ginger is a combination of the Metal Element and the Earth Element. The brown Rock Sugar adds even more Earth.  This is no meant to a balanced food as it is designed to support the Immune System and lubricate the Lungs. But if you also have Chicken Soup, which brings in the Wood and Water Elements, be sure to add some Hot Chili Sauce or Pepper for the Fire Element and you will have a balanced meal even while you are sick.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

French Onion Soup

The first time I went to Paris, I was a young adult and completely in love with the city. I didn't have much money and was carefully budgeting, so my solution was to eat a lot of French Onion Soup for lunch. I would have my Baguette in the morning and would only eat a full meal at dinner. French Onion Soup didn't cost very much and I could eat it at sidewalk cafes and watch people walk by. The soup was so delicious and to this day, I think of sitting in Paris whenever I eat it. 

French Onion soup is rather easy to make. It's just time consuming to brown the onions to get the right level of caramelization. Then a light White Wine is added along with Bay Leaves and Thyme and Beef Broth. If you want to make it vegetarian, just use Vegetable Broth and it will still be good as the flavor is really all in the caramelized Onions. French Onions Soup is usually served with toasted Baguette slices with broiled Gruyere Cheese on top. Of course, I omit the bread and cheese for my portion, but I do eat it with buttered Gluten Free toast that I dunk into the broth so I make the soup a little bit thinner than the typical French way. Since I serve it to my family and they are not Gluten and Dairy Free, I do bake the Baguette slices and broil the Cheese on them to top the soup. I don't like to broil the Bread and Cheese in the soup as the bread gets very soggy. But, if you want to be more authentic, make sure that you have heatproof bowls. French Onion Soup is a wonderful bowl of soup and the bonus is that it brings back good memories for me of my first wonderful trip to Paris.

French Onion Soup

4 very large Yellow Onions (about 2 pounds), sliced thin
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 Tablespoons Butter
3 - 4 sprigs of fresh Thyme
2 medium Bay Leaves (or 1 Large)
1 cup White Wine
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground Pepper
5 cups of Beef Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
1 cup of Water

For serving:
6 ounces of Gruyere or Emmentaler Cheese, sliced thin
10 - 12 slices of a Baguette

In a large heavy pot, melt the Butter and then add in the Onion slices, minced Garlic, Herbs, Salt and Pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until the Onions become golden brown - about 40 minutes. Be sure to scrape the fond (the stuck onion bits) off the bottom. Then add in the Wine and bring to a boil and then add the Beef Broth and Water. Bring to a boil again and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 20 - 30 minutes. 

For the Cheese Bread:  

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the Baguette slices on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil. Place the slices of cheese on top of the Baguette slices and put under the broiler until the cheese is melted and the edges of the bread is growing. Watch carefully as this goes fast. Place 2 - 3 slices of Cheese Bread on top of each bowl of soup.

Five Element Analysis

Onions belong to the Metal Element, but when they are cooked long and slow until they caramelize, they then become an Earth food.  The Beef Broth brings in even more Earth.  The Garlic is a Metal food and so are the Herbs. Gruyere cheese adds even more Metal. The Wine brings in the Fire Element and as a Soup, this is fundamentally a Water food. Only the Wood Element is missing and the Baguette contributes some of that element. I suggest serving this soup with a leafy green Salad and you will have a balanced Five Element meal!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Cilantro Lime Sauce

I recently bought a big bunch of Plantains and I decided to make Plantain Chips (Tostones - a previous post).  However, I wanted to make a dip to go with them this time, like the one I had this summer at a little restaurant called Portico in Langley, Washington. It was a warm dip and was divine with hot Plantain Chips.  I only remember that it was green and tart and garlicky and I was pretty sure that it was made from Lime juice, Garlic and Cilantro along with Olive OIl. So, I decided to make it and it turned out so well that I am sharing it with you. It was so good!  I added just a bit of Hot Sauce, which gave it more depth of flavor. I think it would be great as an alternative Salsa for Tortilla Chips and for Tacos too. It's really simple if you have a food processor or a stick blender.  It's fresh and tart and delicious - you need to try this Sauce soon.

Cilantro Lime Sauce

1 cup of Cilantro Leaves (packed)
1/4 cup Lime Juice
2 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Olive Oil
4 cloves of Garlic
1 teaspoon up to 1 Tablespoon Green Hot Sauce (I used Callahans Poblano)

Put all the ingredients in a food process or blender and puree. Pour into a small frying pan and heat.  Stir in the Hot Sauce to taste.  Serve with Plantain Chips or Tortilla Chips or use as a Salsa for Tacos or Fish.

Five Element Analysis

Cilantro is a a leafy green so it does embody some of the Wood Element, but it is also considered a Pungent Herb so it is also a Metal food.  The Olive Oil contributes more Wood as does the Lime Juice and the Garlic brings in more Metal. The Hot Sauce makes a small contribution of the Fire Element. Served with either Plantains or Tortilla Chips made from Corn contributes the Earth Element.  Be sure to add a Water Element food in the main meal to create a Five Element balance.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Hoppin' John

There are many foods that are considered lucky on New Year's Day. Most of the dishes involve eating something that symbolizes money.  I save all my Chinese ones for Chinese New Year that usually occurs in early February. So for the Gregorian New Year that falls on New Year's Day, I tend to serve Hoppin' John, which is a classic Southern dish of Black Eyed Peas, Greens of some sort - I used Collards. As you can guess, the Greens symbolize the color of American money and the Black Eyed peas are supposed to be symbolic of Coins.  I use Country Ham although a smoked Ham Hock is probably the most traditional meat in this dish, although Smoked Sausage or Bacon are also both really good.  

Hoppin' John is most often served with Rice or Rice is cooked with the Black Eyed Peas. But, I like to make my Rice separately, so it won't too soggy in the delicious broth and then I pour it over. Hoppin' John is a relatively easy dish to make, especially if you used canned Black Eyed Peas, but with a Pressure Cooker, they cook in about 30 minutes and the rest of the dish comes together pretty fast.I also use Chicken Broth and for those of you out there who are vegetarians or vegans, this recipe works beautifully without the meat and with Vegetable Broth.  I also added several cut up Roma Tomatoes to make the broth even more flavorful. I'm quite sure to some people, this would less traditional, but it makes this dish even more delicious - you can eat it anytime and if you want to make it into soup, just add more broth.  Happy New Year!

New Year's Hoppin' John

2 - 3 cups cooked Black Eyed Peas 
1 cup cut up Country Ham (or Smoked Sausage or Bacon)
1 Onion, minced
3 Tablespoons Oil
2 bunches Collard Greens torn off the middle stem and torn into small pieces
6 cups Chicken Broth (more if making soup)
4 - 6 Roma Tomatoes, chopped (and peeled if desired)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
pinch of fresh ground Pepper

In a large frying pan with high sides (or medium size pot), put in Oil and heat over medium high heat. Add in the Onions and cook until they become translucent. Add in the Ham and Tomatoes.  Then add in the Collard Greens and cook until the Collard Greens are softened. Next add in the Black Eyed Peas and the Chicken Broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes and serve over hot Rice and Cornbread on the side..

Buttered Jasmine Rice

2 cups Jasmine Rice, washed and drained
3 cups Water
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter

Place Rice in a small pot and pour water over. Add Salt and Butter. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Turn down to a low heat for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Black Eyed Peas are a bean and so belong to the Water Element. The salty Ham adds even more Water. The Chicken Broth contributes the Wood Element and so do the Collard Greens.  The Fire Element is represented by the Tomatoes. The Rice and Onion make sure that the Metal Element is present. Only the Earth Element is missing, so be sure to make some Cornbread to go with it!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Gluten Free Nuts and Bolts

Nuts and Bolts is a recipe that once graced the back of the Cherrios Cereal box. It was a special treat to make for the holidays and of course I proudly made it at Christmas time. I was feeling nostalgic the other day and my son Stephen and I decided to make it again. But,  I wanted it to be Gluten Free and more flavorful than the original recipe. Like it's sister recipe, Chex Mix, it does include Chex Cereal and I used Rice and Corn Chex but not the Wheat Chex.  It also includes Pretzels, which are now easy to find Gluten Free and we added Pecans and left out the Cheese Crackers.  We used a bit less Butter and upped the amount of Worcestershire Sauce and doubled the Garlic and Onion Powder. We also used a small amount of Lawry's Seasoned Salt as we used unsalted Butter. Oh my, it was so good!  Not just for nostalgic reasons, it was delicious. So, I promptly made some more to give as gifts. It's about time I brought this recipe back for Christmas, or anytime!

Gluten Free Nuts and Bolts

3/4 - 1 cup unsalted Butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
2 teaspoons Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Celery Salt
1/2 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt (omit if using Salted Butter)
3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Cheerios
2 cups Pretzel Sticks
1/2 cup Pecans

Heat oven to 250 degrees.  In a large bowl, put in the Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Cheerios, Pretzel Sticks and Pecans.  Then in a small frying pan, melt the Butter and then add in the Garlic Powder and Onion Powder, Celery Salt and Lawry's Seasoned Salt. Turn off heat and mix thoroughly.  Pour over the Cereal Mixture and toss with a big spoon.  

Pour the mixture onto 2 half sheet baking pans. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and cool completely before putting into tins or plastic bags or serve.

Five Element Analysis

There are so many ingredients in this snack mix that you know that several elements will be present. The Butter, Garlic and Onion Powder and Rice Chex contribute the Metal Element.  The Water Element is present in the Pecans, Worcestershire Sauce and Salts. The Earth Element shows up in the Corn Chex. The Pretzels add even more Earth as they are made of Potato Starch and Tapioca Starch along with Rice Flour so a little more Metal. Because all the cereal is so crispy and you bake this snack, I think the Fire Element is present too. So, only the Wood Element is missing so be sure to add some vegetables later in the day.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Buckwheat Soba with Scallion Oil Sauce

Scallion Oil is one of those simple sauces that is so outstandingly good that you just can't believe how easy it is to make.  It is usually served with Chinese alkaline wheat noodles, but I like it best with Buckwheat Soba made with only Buckwheat flour so it is gluten free. I buy the Eden Foods brand at my local health food store. Buckwheat has a earthy taste and the savory Scallion Oil Sauce compliments it perfectly. All it takes to make this dish is to boil the noodles and while they are cooking, you sauté some cut up Scallion pieces in oil until they are just starting to brown. Then you add some Salt, a pinch of Sugar and a bit of Tamari.  You pour this sauce over the drained noodles, stir and serve. It is really delicious and you are just going to have to try it to see for yourself!

Buckwheat Soba with Scallion Oil Sauce

1 package (8 oz) Buckwheat Soba or other noodles
4 large Scallions, washed, ends trimmed and cut into small pieces ( about 1/2 cup)
1/3 Vegetable Oil (I used Safflower)
2 Tablespoons Tamari
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Sugar

Cook noodles according to the package directions. Drain and put into a serving bowl

In a small frying pan, heat the Oil and add in the Scallions. Cook over medium high heat until most of the Scallions are beginning to brown. Take off the Heat and add in the Tamari, Salt and Sugar. Stir to combine.  Pour over the Noodles and toss to combine.

Five Element Analysis

Buckwheat is a seed that is dark in color and is considered a Water Food.  The Tamari adds even more Water.  The Green Onions contribute the Metal Element but the other Elements are missing. So be sure to serve this with some other dishes to create a balanced meal. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Baked Creamed Baby Spinach and Baby Kale

I have this ability that is a little unusual. I somehow can pick up a favorite food of a person who is coming to visit and I end up making it for them.  It's not something I try to do, it just comes to me and it always makes me happy. I had a friend visit the other day and was inspired to make Creamed Spinach and Baby Kale, which was perfect because Creamed Spinach is one of her favorite foods. It's a really simple dish and perfect as a side dish to a steak or roast. The Baby Kale gives the dish a depth of flavor that Spinach alone doesn't and the Parmesan Cheese brings in a savory note that is a counterpoint to the sweetness of the Cream and the hint of Nutmeg.  It's a rich, unctuous way to cook greens and can easily be prepared ahead to pop into the oven while the rest of the dinner cooks.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that you love it too!

Baked Creamed Baby Spinach and Baby Kale

2 Tablespoons of Butter
1 5 ounce package Baby Spinach
1 5 ounce package Baby Kale
1/4 teaspoon Salt
A very light sprinkling of Nutmeg
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a frying pan, melt the Butter and add in the Baby Spinach and Baby Kale. Cook just until the greens are wilted and take off the heat. Sprinkle on the Salt and Nutmeg and pour in the Cream, mix to combine. Then put into a heat proof ramekin or baking dish. Smooth the top and sprinkle the Parmesan Cheese over the greens evenly. If serving later, cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Place in the oven and cook until it is bubbling and the Cheese is browned.  This takes about 15 - 20 minutes. It will take slightly longer if it has been refrigerated. Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Since this dish is composed primarily of leafy green vegetables, it is definitely a Wood Element food. The Cream, Parmesan and Nutmeg also bring in the Metal Element. So this is a very good side dish for Steak or a Beef, which are from the Earth Element or Lamb from the Fire Element.