Friday, January 8, 2021

Simple Carrot Salad

I'm one of those people who like raw Carrots much more than cooked Carrots, unless they are made into a soup. The other night, I needed something a little fresh and tart to go with a rich main course so I decided to make a very simple Carrot Salad. It is made with just shredded Carrots, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil along with a bit of Salt and Cumin and a little bit of grated Onion too. It was so good that I made it again the next night!  Even my son gave it the seal of approval, which means a lot as he's to a Salad lover, like me.  So, if you need a fast, easy and delicious fresh Carrot Salad, try this one!

Simple Carrot Salad

4 large Carrots, trimmed, peeled and grated

1 large Lemon, juiced (about 5 Tablespoons)

1/3 cup of Olive OIl

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/8 teaspoon ground Cumin

1/2 Tablespoon (2 teaspoons) grated Onion

Optional: a pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for at least 15 minutes or longer to marinate,

Five Element Analysis

Carrots, as root vegetables belong to the Earth Element and they are naturally sweet too. The Lemon Juice and Olive Oil add in the Wood Element and the Cumin brings in just a touch of the Metal Element with the Salt contributing some Water.  Only the Fire Element is missing, so you can add some Cayenne Pepper or serve this salad with a main dish that's made up of Fire foods. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Chorizo and Potato Soup

When I was in my 20s and first living on my own, my apartment was down the street from an amazing little Mexican Taco Stand. I used to eat there at least once a week, and often much more!  One of my favorite Tacos was Chorizo and Potato. I don't know why, but I haven't had one in years, so I decided to make some. The problem was that I only had a few Corn Tortillas that were a bit dried out so they were only good for chips, so I improvised and ended up making this deconstructed Chorizo and Potato Taco as a soup!  

Oh my, I was so happy with the flavors of this soup and it was the perfect post-Christmas meal. I made a basic Potato Soup with Onions and Chicken Broth and then cooked the Chorizo on the side and swirled it in when it was done. And, you could easily make it Vegan with Soy Chorizo and Vegetable Broth. I topped it with a quick Pico de Gallo and I crisped up the last few Corn Tortillas in Oil after cutting them in thin little strips. You can easily substitute some crumbled Tortilla Chops  It was so good! It came together in about 30 minutes and it was so delicious! 

Chorizo and Potato Soup

4 large Russet Potatoes (or up to 8 smaller Potatoes), peeled and cut into a dice

1/2 White or Yellow Onion, chopped

3 Tablespoons Butter, Lard or Vegetable Oil

8 cups of Chicken or Vegetable Broth

1 9 oz Pork, Beef or Soy Chorizo

4 Corn Tortillas, sliced into thin shreds (about 1/4 inch wide) with the larger lengths cut in half

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

In a medium saucepan, put in the Butter (or Lard or Oil) and melt. Add in the Onion and cook until they soften. Then add in the Potatoes and cook (but do not brown) until they start to get sticky. Then add in the Broth. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until the Potatoes are very soft. Cool slightly  and puree with a stick blender.

While the Potato Broth is cooking, place the Chorizo in a small frying pan and cook until it is crumbly. Remove to a plate and wash and dry the frying pan. 

Then add int he Vegetable Oil and heat. Add the Tortilla shreds, 1/2 at a time and cook until crisp. Remove to a paper cover lined plate and repeat until all are cooked. Reserve the Oil for another use. 

Make the Pico de Gallo (recipe below)

Ladle the Soup into 4 bowls, dividing the Chorizo evenly between the 4 bowls and stir in. Then add in a big spoonful of Pico de Gallo and sprinkle a few of the Tortilla Shreds on top of each. Serve with the remaining Pico de Gallo on the side. 

Pico de Gallo

3 Roma Tomatoes, cored and diced

1/4 cup diced White or Yellow Onion (from the other half used above)

1/2 of a small Serrano or Jalapeno Chile, minced (equals about 1 Tablespoon)

3 Tablespoons minced fresh Cilantro leaves

1/4 teaspoon Salt

Juice of one small Lime

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and use as a garnish for the soup.

Five Element Analysis

Soup as a liquid food, always belongs to the Water Element and the use of Pork Chorizo adds even more Water. However, the Red Chili Powder in the Chorizo also contributes the Fire Element, as does the Tomatoes and Serrano Chili n the Pico de Gallo. The main ingredient of the Soup is Potatoes, which brings in the Earth Element as do the Corn Tortillas. The Wood Element is represented by the Lime Juice and also the Chicken Broth  and a bit by the Cilantro too. The Onion adds in more of the Metal Element and the Butter and the Cilantro do too. This soup then is very balanced as well as begin delicious!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Crisp Oat Cookies

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I've been busy baking cookies. Of course, I make several of my usual favorites like Molasses Crinkles and Russian Tea Cakes (previous posts), but every year I try to add one new Cookie. This year I decided to make a Crisp and Delicate Gluten Free Oat Cookie. I made it with a Gluten Free Flour Blend from King Arthur (Measure for Measure. If this Cookie was made with regular Flour, it would be called an Oatmeal Lace Cookie. But the lack of Gluten in this version keeps it from being lacy, but it doesn't stop it from being absolutely delicious!  These cookies are very delicate so they do need some careful handling. And, you can drizzle them with Chocolate if you want and then they would be the Gluten Free version of Florentines from a Washington Post recipe. I like them just as they are, but might add Cinnamon next time. I just made sure I had a big cup of Tea to go with them. I like to nibble first on the crispy edges and work my way into the softer center. These are wonderful Cookies!

Crisp Oat Cookies (Gluten Free)

1 cup Rolled Oats

3/4 cup Sugar

1 Egg, lightly beaten

1 stick of melted Butter

3 Tablespoons Gluten Free Flour Blend (with Xanthan Gum)

1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Salt

Optional:  1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cover two half sheet baking pans with aluminum foil, shiny side up.

Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Form into round 1" balls. Place 5 on each baking sheet, separating them as much as you can so they can spread. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown. Remove from the oven. Let cool for a few minutes and take the aluminum foil (with the cookies still on them) and place on the counter. Put on two new sheets of aluminum foil and continue with the remaining Cookie Dough. 

When the cookies are cool, carefully peel them from the foil and place on a serving plate.

Five Element Analysis

Oats belong to the Earth Element and in are said to calm the Spleen in Chinese Medicine. And, because these Cookies are also very sweet, they are definitely considered an Earth food.  The Egg adds a bit of Water and the Butter brings in the Metal Element. So Tea and Coffee are good beverages to serve with them, as either would add the Fire Element. Then only the Wood Element is missing so be sure to add a Wood food at another meal.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage, Tomatoes and Zucchini

I'm very fond of sheet pan dinners as they take so little effort as almost everything cooks together in the oven and so there's also very little cleanup. So, I decided to make Gluten Free Gnocchi with some vegetables. I had read about cooking Gnocchi directly in the oven on broil, but that was for regular Gnocchi. I wanted to use Le Veneziane GF Gnocchi and I knew that it needed to be cooked first. The good new is that it only take a minute in boiling water to get it ready for the sheet pan. And, you can do it while the other ingredients are cooking on the sheet pan and then add it in for the last five minutes on broil to crisp it up. I decided to make little Italian Sausage meatballs along with Cherry Tomatoes and cut up Zucchini. I also decided not to add fresh Onion and Garlic, but instead used both Garlic and Onion Powder as I wanted the flavor and I wanted to add Maldon Sea Salt. Of course, you can add Onion and Garlic if you like and you can also add some Red Pepper pieces too.  I cooked the Sausage and Vegetables in the oven for 20 minutes and then added the Gnocchi and cooked for 5 more minutes under the broiler. It was delicious!  This is a half recipe because I made it for myself and it was fantastic heated up the next day for lunch too!  

Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage, Tomatoes and Zucchini

1 package GF Gnocchi (I used Le Veneziane)

Boiling Water

2 Italian Sausages, removed from casing and made into small meatballs

1 small Zucchini (or 1/2 of a larger one), cut into a large dice

10 Cherry Tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder

1/3 teaspoon Sea Salt (I used Maldon)

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the Water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When boiling, add the Gnocchi and cook for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes. Drain and reserve in a bowl. Toss with Olive Oil.

Place the Italian Sausage Meatballs, Zucchini pieces and Cherry Tomatoes on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil and the Garlic and Onion Powder and Salt. Placce in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Remove and turn the oven to broil.

Add the Gnocchi to the pan and put in the pan with the Sausage, Tomatoes and Zucchini. Cook for 5 - 7 minutes or until the Gnocchi starts too crisp. Serve with Parmesan Cheese if desired. 

Note:  If you would like crispier Gnocchi, cook in the broiler separately until crisp and then add back to the other ingredients. 

Five Element Analysis

The Gnocchi is made from primarily Rice Flour and that belongs to the Metal Element and the Garlic and Onion Powder add even more. The Italian Sausage was made of Pork, which contributes the Water Element. The Cherry Tomatoes contribute the Fire Element and the Zucchini adds the Earth Element along with a little fo the Wood Element too. And, finally the Olive Oil makes sure that more of the Wood Element is present. Who knew that this simple dinner could be so balanced!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Smothered Pork Chops with Gluten Free Onion Gravy

After celebrating Thanksgiving with a Chinese version, I was still craving some Dressing, which has always been my favorite part of the meal. But I didn't have any Turkey, so instead I made Smothered Pork Chops. For those of you who've never had this dish, it is a Southern specialty where Pork Chops are pan fried and then covered (smothered) in a rich Onion Gravy. And, I need Gravy on my Dressing. I made a combination of the Bread Dressing and Cornbread Dressing (previous posts). 

I haven't made Smothered Pork Chops in years and I don't know why. This was one of my Father's favorite ways to eat Pork Chops although usually he wanted Mashed Potatoes as the side dish and it would be good with Noodles too. It's comfort food for sure, but quite easy to make. All you do is fry Pork Chops on each side for about 4 minutes if you are using 1" thick Pork Chops  It takes less time for thinner Pork Chops. I like to use Boneless Pork Chops because it's awfully messy when there's a bone. Then take them out and then sauté some Onion pieces in Butter until they are lightly caramelized. Then you use Sticky Rice Flour and Broth to make the Gravy. Be sure to season it with some Pepper for an authentic taste. Then you add the Pork Chops in and cook for another 15 minutes and that's it. I'm definitely going to remember to make this more often as it's just so good!

Smothered Pork Chops with Gluten Free Onion Gravy

4 - 1" thick boneless Pork Chops
Salt for seasoning the Pork Chops
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (I used Safflower)
3 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 large Onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 Tablespoons Sticky Rice Flour (also called Glutinous Rice Flour or Mochi)
2 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
a pinch of fresh ground Pepper

Pat the Pork Chops dry with paper towels. Then season both sides lightly with Salt. Then heat the Oil in a large frying pan. Add in the Pork Chops and cook for 4 minutes, turn and cook for an additional 4 minutes (cook for only 3 minutes if using thinner Pork Chops. Remove for the pan and put on a plate.

Put the Butter in the pan and add in the Onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until they are light golden brown. Then add in the Rice Flour, stirring to combine and then add in the Chicken Broth and Pepper. Whisk it all together and cook until the Gravy thickens. If you'd like the Gravy to be thinner, add a little bit of hot Water or more Broth. Add the Pork Chops back in to the pan and turn the heat down to a high simmer. Cook for 15 minutes and then serve over Dressing, Mashed Potatoes or Noodles.

Five Element Analysis

Pork belongs to the Water Element and Chicken Broth brings in the Wood Element. The Rice Flour, Butter and Onions contribute the Metal Element and because you caramelize the Onions, it also adds Earth. Gravy is also a very Earthy food because of its texture too. The Pepper brings in only a little bit of the Fire Element, so be sure to serve it with a Fire food side dish to create balance along with the Starch of your choice. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Green Beans with Mushrooms and Fried Shallots

I got inspired by a recent recipe by Ben Mims from the LA Times (thanks Ben), which featured Green Beans with Mushrooms and Fried Onions. I thought it would be good for our Chinese style Thanksgiving meal.  But of course, my son Stephen and I had to change it up a bit. We cooked all three ingredients separately and then bound them together with a quick sauce of Tamari (GF Soy Sauce), Chicken Broth (you can also use Vegetable Broth) and sautéed Mushrooms. Where we differed from the original recipe is that used a combination of King Oyster Mushrooms and fresh Shitakes. We also used a thicker Green Bean and blanched them first and left out the Cornstarch. And, we cooked Shallots instead of Onions in Oil, which results in not only insanely delicious shreds of fried Shallots, it also leaves you with some tasty Shallot Oil, which can be used for several future stir-fries. After all three ingredients were cooked separately, we cooked the sauce and then tossed it all together. Because the ingredients were all cooked separately, it was easy to make it all ahead of time and then put it all together at the last minute. This was a big favorite and will probably become our go-to Thanksgiving Green Bean recipe from now on!

Green Beans with Mushrooms and Fried Shallots

1 pound of Green Beans, ends trimmed

8 ounces of mixd Mushrooms (we used King Oyster and Shitakes)

a pinch of Sea Salt and Pepper

2 large Shallots, sliced into thin rings (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup Vegetable Oil (we used high heat Safflower)

2 Tablespoons Tamari

1/3 cup Chicken or Vegetable Broth

2 Garlic Cloves, minced

Place the Green Beans in boiling water and blanch for 4 - 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water. Put aside.

In a frying pan, put in the Oil and add the Shallots. Cook for 10 - 12 minutes, stirring occasionally until the Shallots are golden brown. Remove from the Oil with a slotted spoon and put on paper towel lined plates to drain. Reserve the Shallot OIl.

Using 2 Tablespoons of the Shallot Oil, cook the sliced Mushrooms in a frying pan until the Mushrooms are tender, sprinkling with a pinch of Sea Salt and Pepper. Put aside.

When ready, use an additional 1 Tablespoon of Shallot Oil in a wok and add in the Garlic. Cook until you can smell the fragrance. Then add in the Chicken Broth and Tamari and bring to a boil. Put in the Green Beans and Mushrooms and toss to coat and heat them. Then put into a serving bowl and top with the fried Shallots.

Five Element Analysis

Green Beans belong to the Wood Element and Mushrooms come from the Earth Element. The Shallots and Garlic bring in the Metal Element and frying them adds some Fire. Chicken or Vegetable Broth brings in more Wood and the Tamari makes sure that the Water Element is present just a little bit too. Who knew that this one dish could be so balanced? 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Cranberry Sauce with Asian Flavors

It is Thanksgiving here tomorrow in the US and we've started preparing. My son, Stephen has decided that we are going to do an Asian version of all the standard dishes. So, for the main course, we are having Lacquered Roast Duck with Sticky Rice cooked with Chinese Sausage, Green Onions, Water Chestnuts and Ginger (previous post). For the vegetable, we are making Green Beans with King Oyster Mushrooms and fried Shallots. There will also be an Asian Hasselback Potato dish too and we haven't decided on the other vegetable, but it will most likely be a Cucumber Salad (previous post).

I decided today to make an Asian inspired Cranberry Sauce, a bit more savory than the usual and flavored with Five Spice Powder. I use the Dynasty brand and it is made up of the following warming spices:  Cinnamon, Star Anise, Fennel, Cloves, Ginger, Licorice, Szechuan Pepper and White Pepper. There are obviously more than 5, but the first 5 are the most important. These spices aid digestion and are ubiquitous in Chinese cooking. I've always thought of the popularity of Five Spice Powder in Chinese cooking as the equivalent of Pumpkin Spice in the US, only savory!  

To make this Cranberry Sauce, I first sautéed some Shallot, added in some diluted Chicken Broth (or you can use Vegetable Broth), the Five Spice Powder, Rock Sugar and a little Sea Salt too. I used half as much Sugar as is usual and the bit of Salt helps balance it all. The Rock Sugar isn't absolutely necessary, but it is a bit less sweet than either Brown Sugar or White Sugar. I buy the light golden colored Rock Salt and use it for many Asian dishes so it's worth having it around. When using Brown or White Sugar, use just a bit less. I absolutely loved this Sauce and will probably make it every year from now on. Happy Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Sauce with Asian Flavors


12 ounces fresh Cranberries

¼ cup minced Shallots

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1 cup diluted Chicken or Vegetable Broth (½ cup Water and ½ cup Broth)

½ cup Rock Sugar 

½ teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon Five Spice Powder


Rinse the Cranberries in a strainer and pick out any soft ones and rinse. In a small saucepan, heat the Oil and add in the Shallots. Cook, stirring often until you can smell their fragrance and then add in the Cranberries, Broth, Rock Sugar, Salt and Five Spice Powder. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the Cranberries pop and the sauce thickens, about 10 - 15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Five Element Analysis

Cranberries, with their bright red color, belong primarily to the Fire Element. But they are also very tart, which contributes the Wood Element and the Broth adds even more. The Shallots and Five Spice Powder make sure the Metal Element is present and the Rock Sugar makes sure the Earth Element is there too. Only the Water Element is missing, which can easily be found in one of the other dishes on the table and is why this sauce is perfect for Duck!