Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chocolate Meringues with Cherry Bits



Every year at Christmas, I try to make a new cooke and since I've gone completely gluten free, cookie making has become something of a challenge. But I got inspired by meringues, which are naturally gluten free and they are easy to make too!  So, I created this recipe with the tastes of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice Cream.  I added little bits of dried tart Cherries and white chocolate chips to mimic the vanilla ice cream. And, they turned out wonderfully - chewy, chocolatey and sweet. They are very easy to make as long as you have an electric mixer to mix up the egg whites. If you need to make Gluten Free cookies, I think you will love this recipe! And, if you don't need to avoid gluten, they are a delicious cookie that just happens to be Gluten Free.


Chocolate Meringues with Cherry Bits


12 ounces Bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup White Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup tart Dried Cherries, cut into small pieces


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over simmering water (or use a double boiler). Remove from heat and add in the Vanilla Extract. Let cool while you beat the egg whites until foamy with an electric mixer. Then slowly add the sugar until soft peaks form.  Fold in half of the chocolate carefully and then add in the other half gently. Add in the White Chocolate Chips and the Cherry pieces and stir lightly to combine.  



Line baking pans with parchment or Silpat liners. Spoon heaping Tablespoons of the Chocolate Meringue onto the pan several inches apart.  Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool fully before serving.



Five Element Analysis



Both Bittersweet Chocolate and Dried Cherries belong to the Fire Element.  The Vanilla Extract and White Chocolate ring in the Metal Element. There is plenty of Sugar to represent the Earth Element. And the egg whites bring in the Water Element.  Only the Wood Element is missing so this would be a good dessert after a meal that has a lot of Wood foods in it.




Sunday, December 27, 2015

Almost Nando's Peri Peri Chicken



My daughter in law remarked recently that she had enjoyed Nando's Chicken when she was living in Australia and wondered if there were any nearby. She was disappointed to learn that this South African chain has not made it to the West Coast of the US yet. So, we decided to make it ourselves as best we could. Peri Peri or PIri PIri is the African name for hot red Bird Chiles and this dish originated with the Portuguese. It involves marinating chicken in a mixture of Chiles of course, some lemon and some herbs. Then it is grilled or broiled. I couldn't find Bird Chiles at my local market, so I substituted Red Jalapeños and I didn't use too many as I can't take things too hot. If you wan to make it more authentic, feel free to use real Bird Chiles - anywhere from 5 to 10 of them. I also don't have a grill, so I baked the chicken first and then ran it under the broiler for the last 5 minutes. I served it with French Fries and a salad and it was delicious! The sauce was thinner apparently, but it had the right flavors and we were licking our fingers and spooning more sauce over every bite. This is a wonderful marinade for chicken and it's going to become a frequent meal for us!

Almost Nando's Peri Peri Chicken 

4 Chicken Legs and 4 Chicken Thighs with skin on 
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 Garlic Cloves
2 Red Jalapeños, stem end removed (or 5 to 10 Bird Chiles)
Juice of one large Lemon or two small Lemons
1 teaspoon of dried Oregano
1 heaping Tablespoon Paprika
1 Bay Leaf, crumbled
1/4 Red Onion
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric

Place all ingredients except for the Chicken into a food processor or a blender. Puree and then pour the sauce into a large Ziploc Bag. Add in the Chicken, seal and shake to coat evenly. Place in a large bowl in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 4 hours up to overnight. Turn every few hours.  

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place Chicken on a parchment lined baking pan, skin side up and pour the remaining sauce over.  Bake for 50 minutes. Then turn the broiler on and cook until the skin starts to blister and get brown. Serve with Potatoes.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and the Lemon Juice adds even more. The Hot Chiles and Paprika contribute a lot of the Fire Element too. The Onion, Garlic, Herbs and Spices bring in the Metal Element. The Earth Element is barely present, which is why we served it with Potatoes and the Water Element is missing as well, which is why we served it with a Lacinato Kale Salad with lots of Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds to create a balanced Five Element meal.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Palmiers



I was going to go to a party for Christmas Eve, but came down with a cold so I ended up staying home with my son and daughter in law and we had a lovely quiet dinner. I hadn't thought about making any kind of dessert for them, so I quickly made what I think is the easiest cookie in the world - Palmiers. All they require is some Puff Pastry and Sugar - that's it! They used to be one of my favorite cookies, but I no longer eat Gluten and I still like making cookies for those around me who do. These are buttery, flaky, sugary with just a hint of caramel baked in too. I once loved them right out of the oven when they were still hot and a little bit soft in the middle. They crisp up a lot after they cool down and they are still delicious that way too - especially with a cup of tea.  You've probably seen these in bakeries and you can make them for a lot less. They are so pretty and that's always a good thing, as we also eat with our eyes too!

Palmiers

1 package frozen Puff Pastry, unthawed (2 sheets - I used Pepperidge Farm)
1 1/2 cups of Sugar, divided in half (3/4 cup in each bowl)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. On a large cutting board, sprinkle 1/2 of the sugar from one bowl in about a 12 inch square.  Lay one sheet of Puff Pastry on top of the sugar and sprinkle the rest of the sugar from that bowl evenly on top of the Puff Pastry. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12 inch square. Then, from one side, roll the Puff Pastry to the center and repeat on the other side.  Cut into 1/2 inch pieces and place each cookie on a baking sheet covered with  a Silpat baking liner or parchment paper.  Press down on each cookie slightly to flatten and then take some of the sugar left on the cutting board to sprinkle over the top of each cookie. There will be extra sugar left over - don't worry about it. Just repeat the process with the remaining Puff Pastry Sheet and the additional Sugar.

Bake for 5 - 7 minutes or until the bottom of the cookie is browned and caramelizing, but not too dark. Turn and bake for an additional 5 - 6 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet and put onto a wire rack to cool.  

Five Element Analysis

Cookies and all very sweet foods always belong to the Earth Element and there is plenty of sugar in these cookies! The Puff Pastry is made from Wheat Flour which contributes the Wood Element and Butter, which adds the Metal Element. These are best served at the end of a meal where the missing Fire and Water Elements are present. Tea or Coffee add the Fire Element so that's a good addition!



Thursday, December 24, 2015

Roasted Eggplant Spread



Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating! One of my family's favorite treats is to have Charcuterie for dinner on special occasions So, I buy an assortment of cured meats and cheeses and a variety of crackers. Then I make some spreads and dips with as many vegetables in them as I can, so that it becomes a healthy meal. I usually chop up some Tomatoes to make Bruschetta and today I decided to add a Roasted Eggplant spread full of colorful Roasted Peppers along with lots of Garlic and Red Onion, also Roasted. I roasted the Eggplants separately so that they would get good and soft and also so the onions wouldn't burn. Then, when it is time to add them, I pureed the Eggplant first before adding the other vegetables. Eggplant when it is roasted is so creamy that I don't think it needs any yogurt or sour cream or even Tahini. I just add some ground Cumin and some lemon juice to give it a vaguely Middle Eastern flavor and it turned out to be delicious! It's important to make this spread ahead of time so that the flavors can develop. And it would also be good to bring to a Potluck!

Roasted Eggplant Spread

2 Medium Eggplants, stem end removed and cut into chunks
3 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow or Orange Pepper, stem end and seeds removed, cut into small pieces
1 medium Red Pepper, stem end and seeds removed, cut into small pieces
6 - 8 garlic cloves
2 additional Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 scant teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Cumin
Juice of 1 small Lemon
Optional:  1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put Eggplant pieces on a  baking sheet and drizzle with the Olive Oil and half the salt. Place in the oven and cook for 40 - 45 minutes. Turn occasionally.

Put the Peppers, Onion and Garlic onto another baking sheet and drizzle with the additional 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes, tossing the vegetables every 10 minutes so that they don't stick to the pan.

Using a Food Processor, add the Eggplant, Lemon Juice, Cumin and 1/2 teaspoon of Salt and Cayenne Pepper. Puree. Then add the Peppers, Onion and Garlic and mix in, processing for a very short time. If you don't have a Food Processor, mash the Eggplant with a fork and then add in the other vegetables, but cut them smaller before you roast them. Serve with Crackers

Five Element Analysis

Eggplant belongs to the Water Element. The Peppers bring in the Fire Element. The Olive Oil and Lemon Juice contribute the Wood Element and the Garlic, Onion and Cumin add the Metal Element. Because the onions caramelizes, it adds a bit of the Earth Element. So, I served this spread with Almond Rice Crackers as Almonds belong to the Earth Element so that it created a Five Element balance just with this one dish!



Monday, December 21, 2015

Sharon's Roasted Garlic





















I recently had a meal at an Italian restaurant where the flavor of Roasted Garlic stuck with me and I have been craving it ever since! I don't know why I don't make it more often, as it is so good and my friend Sharon once taught me her special way of making Roasted Garlic that I think is the best way out there. She tops the garlic with a big piece of Salted Butter and then surrounds it in Chicken Broth, covering it while it bakes in the oven. I think this is the most flavorful method of roasting garlic. I think the Chicken Broth makes it more savory.  If you don't want to use Chicken Broth, I'm sure Vegetable Broth would be good too. Once the Roasted Garlic is done, there are so many things you can do with it. One of the best is to make it into a garlic spread to eat on top of crackers or toasted baguettes. It's also wonderful in mashed potatoes or other mashed root vegetables or as the base of a pasta sauce. You can use it as a base for a white pizza or as a pizza topping or mixed with mayo for a sandwich spread. It can be mixed with butter for a vegetable sauce or eaten straight out of the oven. Roasted Garlic gives you the flavor of Garlic in a luxurious sweet, smooth and mellow way. The magic is in how it caramelizes in the oven. The longer you cook the Roasted Garlic, the deeper the color and the milder the flavor. I like my Roasted Garlic to just start caramelizing as I think it has the most Garlic flavor at that  point. Roasted Garlic is so easy to make and so delicious, it needs to be something I make much more often!

Sharon's Roasted Garlic

1 large head of Garlic
1 slice of Salted Butter
Chicken Broth - approximately 1/2 cup

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the Garlic under warm running water and pull away most of the outer skin. Make sure to wash the root end thoroughly. Then take a sharp knife and cut off the top 1/4" of the top of the head of Garlic.  Place in a small baking dish and put the slice of Butter on top of the cut side of Garlic. Pour Chicken Broth around the head of garlic until it comes halfway up the side.  Cover and bake in the oven for 40 minutes for a small head of Garlic and 50 - 60 minutes for a large head. Cook until the center garlic clove is soft and the individual cloves start to brown and caramelize.  Cool and use by pulling off each Garlic Clove and squeezing the Roasted Garlic out.  

Five Element Analysis

Garlic belongs to the Metal Element and this cooked Garlic still retains some of it's pungent flavor, but because it cooks so long and gets so soft, it becomes an Earth food. The Butter contributes more of the Metal Element and the Chicken Broth brings in the Wood Element.  Roasted Garlic certainly needs to be served with other foods, but adds a good amount of Metal and Earth when used as a flavoring in a meal.



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Arepas con Perico - Venezuelan Corn Flatbread with Scrambled Eggs



I am currently in love with Arepas. For those of you who have never had them, you must try them!  They are a kind of flatbread that is a staple food in Venezuela and also in Colombia. I think they taste like grits made into bread!  Since I was raised on grits, that's a really good thing. They are probably most similar to Gorditas from Mexico or Pupusas from El Salvador, but are made from precooked cornmeal instead of Masa. I buy the P.A.N. brand from a Latin American store at Pike Place Market. They are extremely easy to make and naturally gluten free.

Arepas  are made to be sliced in half and filled with any number of fillings. The most classic fillings are with Eggs scrambled with Onions, Peppers and Tomatoes known as Perico (recipe below) or Reina Pepiada or Chicken Salad made with Avocados and Onion.  I use them to eat Ropa Vieja (a previous post) and I think they make a delightful replacement for English Muffins and I also like to eat them like an Egg McMuffin filled with a fried Egg with Sausage or Bacon. They are also good with just butter and/or jam and some people love to fill them with cheese. Anyway you serve them, they are delicious!




Arepas


2 cups Venezuelan Harina P.A.N. - Cornmeal

2 1/4 cups Water
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

In a large bowl, mix together the P.A.N. Cornmeal with the water and salt. Let rest for a minute until it thickens. Then knead it slightly with your hands. Divide the dough into eight pieces and then roll each piece into a ball and press it down in your palms until it forms a circle about 1/2 inch thick.  Continue with the other pieces of dough.  Then heat a Cast Iron Skillet and pour on 1 Tablespoon of Oil.  Add four of the Arepas and cook until one side becomes golden brown - about 3 minutes.  Turn over and cook the other side until it also becomes golden brown. Remove to a plate and cool slightly. Place in a warm oven (250) degrees until ready to serve.  Repeat with the remaining 4 Arepas. When ready to serve them, slice in half with a serrated knife and fill as desired. Arepas can be reheated in a toaster as long as they have not been cut.


Perico - Venezuelan Scrambled Eggs


4 Large Eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup minced Red Onion
1/4 cup Orange Bell Pepper (can also use Green, Red or Yellow), diced
1 small Roma Tomato, cut into small pieces
1 Tablespoon Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a frying pan, melt the butter. Add in the Onion and Bell Pepper. Stir and cook until the onion is wilted. Add in the Tomato and cook for an additional one minute.  Pour egg mixture over and fold the vegetables into the eggs. Start to pull the egg back from the sides and let the runny part of the egg mixture fill in. Let cook until the bottom of the eggs just begins to set and then turn over in pieces. Break the pieces into smaller pieces and put onto a serving plate. It will look like you are undercooking the egg but they will continue to cook for a few minutes after.  Serve as a filling for Arepas and add hot sauce or salsa as desired.


Five Element Analysis


Cornmeal belongs to the Earth Element so that element is covered. The eggs contribute the Water Element, the Onion adds the Metal Element and the Bell Pepper and Tomato bring in the Fire Element. Only the Wood Element is missing so serve this with something sour, like pickles or citrus, like Orange or Pineapple Juice to create a Five Element balance.



Friday, December 18, 2015

Stir Fried Lettuce, Chinese Style


I read recently that Nigella Lawson was criticized heavily for putting lettuce in the oven. I see absolutely no reason why you can't cook lettuce, as the Chinese have been doing it for a very long time! They usually stir fry it and it is absolutely delicious. It was also one of my favorite dishes when I was young. My Mom usually made it when we ran out of any other fresh vegetables, but I was always happy to eat it. This is my Mom's recipe and she always used Iceberg Lettuce. I'm sure you could use Romaine as well, but I wouldn't use any other lettuce as the dish requires the Lettuce to stay somewhat crunchy as that texture is important. My mother used to tell me that this was like the Chinese version of Wilted Salad.  It comes together in literally minutes as it is a super quick stir fry with a quick sauce tossed on at the end that is composed of a tiny bit of Sugar, Salt and White Pepper along with Tamari, Rice Wine and a bit of Sesame Oil - that's it. If you would like to make it a bit fancier, you can add some sliced garlic or some thin cut Scallions, but I've always been fond of the plainest version. With a little meat and a little rice, I'm always delighted to eat Stir Fried Lettuce. I think you may be surprised by this recipe!

Stir Fried Lettuce, Chinese Style

1/2 head of Iceberg Lettuce, cut into bite size pieces and rinsed
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
1 pinch of Salt
Sprinkling of White Pepper
1 teaspoon Tamari
1 teaspoon Shaoshing Rice Wine
1/2 teaspoon toasted Sesame Oil

Mix together the Tamari, Rice Wine and Sesame Oil in a small bowl.

In a non-stick frying pan, heat the oil and add in the Iceberg Lettuce. Sprinkle with the Sugar, Salt and White Pepper while tossing the Lettuce.  When it has just started to wilt and brown slightly on the outside of the leaves, pour the sauce over, toss to coat and remove to a serving plate. Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Lettuce belongs to the Fire Element and the Rice Wine adds even more.  The Tamari and Sesame Oil bring in the Water Element. The other seasonings add only a trace of their Elements so this dish is best served with some Rice that brings in the Metal Element and a main dish from the Wood Element - Chicken would be good for example and also a dish from the Earth Element, an Earthy food like Mushrooms would be good to create a balanced Five Element meal.  



Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies with Apricots and White Chocolate




















I've started making cookies for Christmas, but now that I am eating Gluten Free, I feel like it's time to make some cookies that I can actually eat!  So, today I revised an Oatmeal Cookie recipe to be made totally out of Oats and Oat Flour and I livened it up with pieces of Dried Apricot and White Chocolate Chips. I only made  small amount as I am making so many other kinds, but this recipe is easily doubled. Now if you want to make it Lactose Free, leave out the White Chocolate as it contains milk powder and you could substitute some other dried fruits or nuts. This cookie is so delicious! It has all the crispiness that you want to have at the edges and all that soft pillowy goodness in the center. The combination of Apricots and White Chocolate really worked for me and next time, I think I am going to put in some dried Tart Cherries as well. If you are looking for a good Gluten Free Cookie, I think you will be happy with this one!

GF Oatmeal Cookies with Apricots and White Chocolate

1 cups Oat Flour (you can also make this flour in your food processor)
1/2 cup Rolled Oats 
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 stick unsalted Butter softened (1 cup)
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 large Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup White Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Dried Apricots or Cherries, cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and the two kinds of sugar together. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Then fold in the Oatmeal mixture, 1/2 at a time until thoroughly combined.  Mix in the White Chocolate Chips and Apricots until combined.  Drop by heaping Tablespoon onto a Silpat or Parchment covered Baking Pan with a few inches between cookies.  Bake until the edges are browned and the tops are just starting to brown - between 15 - 17 minutes.  Let cool and then put on a wire rack to cool completely.  

Five Element Analysis

Oatmeal is an Earth Element food and there is a lot of sugar in these cookies as well.  But, the Apricots contribute the Fire Elemnent, the Cinnamon, Vanilla Extract and the White Chocolate add the Metal Element along with the Butter.  The Water and Wood Elements are not present so serve these cookies after a meal that incorporates foods from those Elements to create a balanced Five Element meal. 



Saturday, December 12, 2015

Garlicky Hasselback Potatoes
















I've been in the  mood for Potatoes and tonight I made Hasselback Potatoes for the first time and my son liked them so much that he asked me to post the recipe. For those of you who have never made them, they are extremely easy even though they look hard. The only important thing is to not cut all the way through the Potato and my trick is to put a chopstick on either side of the Potato while I am slicing. Then you drizzle some Garlic Butter (mixed with a little oil so it doesn't burn) between the slices and bake them. That's it! It takes up to an hour depending on the size of the Potatoes and I like to leave the skin on as I think is turns out wonderful that way. You can make these Potatoes cheesy if you want by sprinkling on almost any kind of cheese in the last few minutes of baking and that is something that I think would dress up the dish for company. This is such a beautiful Potato dish and it would go perfectly with a roast. Now that I'm thinking about it, it would be good to make it again to go with our Christmas dinner - perhaps with a little sprinkling of bacon bits and green onion to make it red and green!

Hasselback Potatoes

4 medium Russet Potatoes, washed
4 Tablespoons Salted Butter
2 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt (like Maldon's)

Lightly oil a baking dish with 1 Tablespoon of the Oil and turn the oven on to 425 degrees. Take each Potato (one at a time) and put a chopstick on either side. With a very sharp knife, cut down in 1/4 slices. Place in the baking dish and lightly open up each slice being careful not to tear the potato slice away from the bottom. Repeat with the other 3 Potatoes. 

In a small frying pan, heat Butter until melted. Then take off the heat and add in the remaining Oil. Using a spoon, drizzle 1 Tablespoon of the Garlic Butter down each slice of one Potato. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.  Sprinkle the Sea Salt over the top of each Potato and put into the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Then remove from the oven and baste the Potatoes with the Butter Oil mixture in the bottom of the baking dish.  Bake for an additional 15 - 30 minutes (depending on the size of the Potatoes) or until the Potatoes are tender and the upper part is browned and crisp.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes are part of the Earth Element so this is a very Earthy dish and a good side to a Lamb Roast or Ham or a Roasted Turkey.  The Butter and Garlic bring in the Metal Element and the Salt contributes a small amount of Water. But it clearly needs to be part of a meal where there are other vegetables or a salad and a main dish that bring in the other elements to create a balance Five Element meal.  



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pressure Cooker Pork Belly with Japanese Flavors




















I've fallen back in love with my Pressure Cooker and have been cooking a number of dishes in it these last few days.  I forgot how incredibly fast it is for braising. I've had my trusty Kuhn Rikon for nearly 20 years but somehow I left it sitting on the shelf a lot until recently. I pull it out whenever I want to cook Pinto Beans for Refried Beans but otherwise, I don't think of it much. But since I recently cooked Chicken in it (previous post), I decided to try it with another favorite meat - Pork Belly. I picked up a piece at Uwajimaya, but I was there late in the afternoon and I wanted to eat it long before the 3 hours it usually takes to braise. So, I tossed it into my trusty Pressure Cooker with some Japanese seasonings - Mirin (a sweet Japanese Rice Wine), Tamari instead of Soy Sauce to keep it Gluten Free, Water, Green Onions and Ginger. I also added a sprinkling of Togarashi - a Japanese Pepper blend but if you don't have it, a few Chili Flakes would work as well. And I added a bit of Sugar as that makes it taste even more Japanese. Then I cooked the Pork Belly for only 45 minutes, cut it up and then browned the pieces in a small bit of oil. It was fantastic!  I then thickened the sauce just a little with a bit of cornstarch so I could pour the sauce over the crispy pieces of pork belly.  I served it with sticky rice and some sautéed greens and I was in Pork Belly Heaven! You could make this with Chicken Thighs instead and I'm sure you will love that too!  

Pressure Cooker Pork Belly with Japanese Flavors

1 piece of Pork Belly  - about 1 - 1.5 pounds
3 Green Onions
3 slices of fresh Ginger, ends trimmed and cut in thirds
1/4 cup Mirin
1/4 cup Tamari
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1 cup Water
1 - 2 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Togarashi or Red Chili Flakes

2 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Water

Mix the Mirin, Chicken Broth and Tamari and Sugar together - taste and adjust Sugar if desired.  Place the Pork Belly in the Pressure Cooker with the sauce mixture and the Green Onions, Ginger, Cover and bring to the point where the steam starts being released. Turn down to medium low and cook for 45 minutes.  Run the pressure cooker under cold running water to release the steam before opening.  

Remove the Pork Belly and cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat the 2 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil in a frying pan and add Pork Belly pieces and cook for a few minutes, tossing to brown them. Remove to a plate. 

Strain the cooking liquid in the Pressure Cooker and return to the pot. Add in the Cornstarch Mixture and cook over medium heat until thickened. Pour over the Pork Belly to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Pork Belly is a Water food and the Tamari adds even more of the Water Element so this is primarily a Water dish. The Chicken Broth brings in the Wood Element. The Fire Element is represented by the Togarashi and the Mirin although it is so sweet that it adds a bit of the Earth Element as does the Sugar and Cornstarch.  The Metal Element is brought in by the Green Onions and Ginger.  This then, is a nearly balanced Five Element food and serving it with Rice and Sauteed Greens makes a pretty balanced meal!



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sauteed Pea Vines




















One of my favorite vegetables served at Chinese Restaurants is Sauteed Pea Vines. I rarely make them at home because Pea Vines (or Pea Leaves) are not a usual vegetable at my regular grocery store. But last night, I checked out a new Asian Market and saw beautiful big bags of Pea Vines - the ones with little tiny leaves and narrow stems and I just knew I had to cook some. Like all Chinese Sauteed Greens, all it takes is a hot pan with some oil, some garlic, some wet greens (very important so they don't get scorched), a little chicken broth and a few drops of Sesame Oil to finish. But because I wanted to make the greens extra special, I added a little bit of Shaoshing Rice Wine and some sliced Ginger too. They were so delicious that I had to share the recipe with you. I might add that they were so inexpensive and so easy to cook that I now question why I order them so often in restaurants when I can make them at home. This recipe will work well with any greens, whether Spinach, Collard Greens, Kale or Bok Choy. But with those vegetables, be sure to add a pinch of sugar as Pea Vines are naturally sweet.  

Sauteed Pea Vines

3 Big Handfuls of Pea Vines, rinsed and drained (with water still clinging to the leaves)
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
3 Garlic Cloves, sliced
1 inch knob of Ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 Tablespoon Shaoshing Rice Wine
2 Tablespoons Chicken Broth
1/8 teaspoon Salt (about 2 pinches)
1/4 teaspoon Sesame Oil (a little drizzle)

Heat a big frying pan or Wok and add the oil. When the oil is hot (it sizzles with a small drop of water), put in Garlic Cloves and Ginger Slices. Cook until you can smell the fragrance. Then add in the Pea Vines. Toss until the Pea Vines wilt. Then add in the salt, the Rice Wine and the Chicken Broth. Cook for a minute and then drizzle with the Sesame Oil and serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Pea Vines are fast growing and are a leafy green vegetable so they clearly belong to the Wood Element and the Chicken Broth contributes even more Wood. The Garlic and Sesame Oil bring in the Water Element and the Ginger adds the Earth Element.  The Rice Wine adds the Fire Element. Only the Metal Element is missing so serving this dish with Tofu, a Metal Food, would make a balanced meal. 


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Radish and Broccoli Stalk Salad with Sumac




















I'm not exactly doing a cleansing diet after Thanksgiving, but I am craving foods that are clean and pure, so I decided to make a Radish and Kohlrabi Salad similar to one I had at the wonderful Mamnoon Restaurant in Seattle recently. I enjoy replicating good restaurant recipes and this salad was one of the highlights of my visit there. I didn't have any Kohlrabi so I substituted Broccoli Stalks, as they taste very similar to me and I didn't have the beautiful red fleshed radishes they had, so I combined Daikon White Radish cut in pieces with regular red Radishes along with some Lemon, Olive Oil and Sumac - a tart flavored spice made from berries often used in Middle Eastern cooking - usually as a seasoning for rice or kebabs.  While this salad wasn't exactly the same, it was very close and it made me very happy as I love Radishes. They are also very good for you. They are thought to help remove stagnant food and help the lungs dispel mucus. I love their crispness and pungent flavor. This salad also has a tartness that livened up my palate and is no doubt making my liver happy too after all the overindulgence of Thanksgiving. I liked this Radish Salad so much that I will be making it again and again!

Radish and Brocoli Stalk Salad with Sumac

1 bunch Red Radishes, stem ends removed and thinly sliced
1 small Daikon Radish, about 5 - 6 inches long, peeled, sliced and quartered
3 Broccoli Stalks, peeled and cut into thin slices
3 Green Onions - green tops only - sliced thin
1 loosely packed cup of Parsley, chopped fine
Juice of 1 large or 2 small Lemons
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 heaping teaspoon Sumac

Combine the Radishes and Broccoli Stalks with the Parsley and Green Onions in a serving bowl.  In a small bowl, mix the Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, Sugar, Salt and Sumac together. Pour over the Radish mixture and stir to coat.  Refrigerate and let marinate for at least one hour before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Radishes are pungent vegetables so they belong to the Metal Element and the Green Onions and Parsley add even more. The Broccoli Stalks contribute the Wood Element along with the Olive Oil and Lemon. The Sumac, even though it is tart, is a red berry so it brings in the Fire Element. The Earth and Water Elements are only present in small amounts with the Sugar and Salt so be sure to serve this with foods from those elements to create a balanced meal.  


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lactose Free Pumpkin Pie




















I love to cook for the Holidays as then I know what ingredients are in everything I make.  As tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I am making a completely Gluten Free and Lactose Free Dinner. I decided to share this recipe for Lactose Free Pumpkin Pie with you even though most of you probably won't have time to make it. But, I think it is a good pie anytime. I use Soy Milk in place of Evaporated Milk or Half and Half or Cream. It has the right consistency. Don't substitute Almond Milk or Hemp Milk, as it just won't turn out right - I've tried. I also used a Gluten Free Pie Crust  and in the interest of time, I bought a frozen one from PCC - a NW Health Food Store.  For the Whipped Cream, I am going to use a can of Coconut Cream that I will whip up with a little Sugar. If you've avoided Pumpkin Pie because you are trying to avoid Lactose, this recipe is for you!  And for those who don't know that it's Lactose Free, they really won't be able to tell. Happy Thanksgiving!

Lactose Free Pumpkin Pie

1 15 oz can Pumpkin Puree
1 1/4 cups Soy Milk
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Cloves
1 9" unbaked Pie Shell (Gluten Free if desired), thawed if frozen

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the Soy Milk with the Eggs and Spices.  Add in Pumpkin and stir until well combined. Pour into the Pie Shell and place in oven on a large cookie sheet. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Cook for 45 minutes - one Hour more or until the center looks set and a knife inserted in the middle comes out with only a little pumpkin on it.  Remove and cool on a wire rack until cool.  Serve or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Five Element Analysis

This is a sweet dessert so you know that it is part of the Earth Element and Pumpkin is also an Earth Food.  The spices bring in Metal Element and the Soy Milk adds the Water Element.  The Wood and Fire Elements are missing but this pie usually comes after a meal of Turkey, which is part of the Wood Element and also other sides like Cranberries to create a balanced Thanksgiving Day feast!


  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Spatchcocked Turkey with Gluten Free Gravy
















I remember making my first Thanksgiving Turkey when I was a teenager and it felt like I got up in the middle of the night to start things. It was obviously a big turkey and my family wanted to celebrate with a late lunch.  That Turkey took 6 hours to roast   I was terrified and that it wouldn't turn out right and t remember basting and basting that thing. The good news was that it turned out well, especially considering we previously had dried out store bought cooked Turkeys, so there wasn't any real competition. Everybody was happy, but I've been looking for a faster way to make Turkey ever since!  

Last year, I decided to try Spatchcocking the Turkey and it was wonderful! The Turkey cooked in about half the time and because more of the skin was showing, it browned up crisp and really tasty all over - enough for everybody!  There were still plenty of juices to add to the gravy and because I cut out the backbone, I had Turkey Broth made by the time the bird was done.  

Spatchcocking is really easy.  You take a big pair of kitchen shears and cut out the backbone on both sides. Then save it to make Turkey Broth and then Gravy.  I did this on the large sheet pan. Then you turn the Turkey over and arrange the legs so that it looks like the knees are touching and you press down hard on the breast until you hear a crack. Then you rub Olive Oil or melted Butter all over and season it as you like. I prefer Lawry's Seasoned Salt mixed with a little Garlic Powder and I probably always will.  You can get as fancy as you like. You can put the Butter with Sage Leaves under the skin and you can use any other herb or seasoning combination that you like. You also cook it on fairly high heat so it takes as long as roasting a chicken.  

Spatchcoking works for me since I no longer stuff the Turkey. I make Gluten Free Cornbread Dressing (previous post) or Sausage and Gluten Free Bread and Sausage Stuffing (see Stuffed and Baked Delicata Squash but double the recipe). And, I no longer have to get up early to make the Turkey - it only takes about  1 1/2 hours!  I'm posting this before Thanksgiving to encourage you to try roasting a Turkey this way.  For those of you in the US, I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Spatchcocked Turkey

1 12 pound fresh Turkey
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoons Lawry's Seasoned Salt (can also use just plain Salt or other Seasoning Mixture)
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

For Turkey Broth and Gravy:

Turkey Back and Neck (roasted or unfrosted)
3 cups Water
1/2 Yellow Onion
1 Carrot, Chopped
1 Celery Stalk, Chopped
Salt to Taste
1/4 Tablespoons Cornstarch mixed with 1/3 cup Water


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the Seasoned Salt and Garlic Powder.  Put the Turkey on a large Jelly Roll Pan.  Turn over and cut out the back bone down both sides with a strong pair of Kitchen Shears. Turn the Turkey over and press down on the breast bone until you hear a loud crack (you may have to press several times). Rub oil all over the Turkey and then sprinkle with the Seasoning Mixture.  Put into the oven and cook for 30 minutes.  Baste and reduce oven to 350 degrees. Cook for another 45 - 60 minutes more, basting one more time or until a Meat Thermometer reads 165 degrees in the thickest part of the Thigh. Start checking after one hour of cooking. Let rest for 15 - 20 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, add Turkey Back and Neck to 3 cups of Water in a pot. Add 1/2 of a whole onion.  Add neck if desired as well although I usually roast it and then add it after for about 10 minutes at the end for a better flavor. Once the broth is done, strain and put back into the pot. Then, pour off the Turkey drippings from the pan making sure you scrape of the crusty bits and then strain the fat. Add drippings to the broth. Taste for salt level and add more if necessary.  Turn on heat and bring to a boil.  Add half of the Cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened. If it is not thick enough, add the rest of the Cornstarch Mixture and cook for a few minutes longer.

Five Element Analysis

Turkey is considered part of the Wood Element, like most fowl and none of the Seasoning add much of the other Elements. Luckily, Turkey is the main dish so be sure to add lots of side dishes, like Mashed Potatoes for the Earth Element to put the gravy on, cranberry sauce and/or a Green Salad that adds the Fire Element. Dressing with Pork Sausage or Oysters that contributes the Water Element and all the rest of the classic dishes that we serve here in the US to make a Five Element feast!



Friday, November 20, 2015

Pressure Cooker Chicken Stew




















I was in a bit of a hurry tonight to make dinner, mostly because my writing was going so well that I just didn't want to take much time to make food - most unusual for me actually.  I had some Chicken Drumsticks thawed out, so I threw them into my trusty Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cooker, adding some Onion, Garlic, Tomatoes and Bay Leaves and 30 minutes later, I had delicious Chicken Stew!  The soupy sauce that was created by cooking the chicken this way was so good that I wanted to drink it.  Luckily, I also managed to boil some potatoes in that time too, so I mashed them to sop all the delicious gravy. I think it would be good with noodles too. It was a super fast meal that I just loved.  If you have a pressure cooker, it's an amazing cooking tool and you need to try this dish soon!

Pressure Cooker Chicken Stew

1 package of Chicken Drumsticks - about 1 pound
3 Large Tomatoes or 6 Roma Tomatoes, stem end removed and chopped
1 large Onion, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 large Bay Leaves (or Thyme, Rosemary, or Oregano)
1 teaspoon Salt
Sprinkling of Black Pepper

Place Chicken, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Salt and Pepper into the Pressure Cooker. Toss with your hands to mix everything thoroughly. Seal the Pressure Cooker and heat on high until steam comes out. Turn down and cook for 25 minutes. Release steam and open. Serve with Potatoes or Cooked Noodles.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element so that element is covered. The Onion, Garlic and Bay Leaves contribute the Metal Element. The Tomatoes add the Fire Element. This method of cooking is very Watery as it keeps all the nutrients in the broth that forms and the Salt adds even more Water. So, only the Earth Element is missing, which is why this stew goes so well with Potatoes.



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Kelsey's Leftover Oatmeal Crackers
















I have this very frugal part of me that comes out whenever I am confronted with leftovers. I simply can't stand to throw things away when I just know that with a little creativity, they can be repurposed. Sometimes I find that the new dish made out of the old ingredients is even better than the original dish and that was the case with these Oat Crackers. While I was in Germany visiting my son, my daughter-in-law made Oatmeal for breakfast and we had a lot left over since my son didn't want any.  So, I suggested that we try to make Oat Crackers out of them as an experiment. So, Kelsey pressed out the cold Oatmeal onto parchment paper, coated the top with a little butter (or oil) and then sprinkled on some salt and some herbs and they came out great! I just got sent the picture, so I thought I would share the recipe with you. Oat Crackers are quite common in the UK and there are several good brands. My son thinks they are particularly good with Blue Cheese. Keeping that in mind, Oat Crackers are designed to be a bit on the bland side to serve with spreads that are quite flavorful so the most important thing is that you make them super crunchy. That means taking the leftover oatmeal and spreading it really thin before baking them. All that's required for seasoning is a little Sea Salt or Seasoned Salt and whatever dried herbs you like - Thyme and Rosemary and Oregano are particularly good. You can also sprinkle on Sesame Seeds if you like. These are really simple crackers, but they are also really delicious and the perfect way to repurpose leftover breakfast oatmeal!

Leftover Oatmeal Crackers

2 cups leftover, precooked Oatmeal (preferably Steel Cut Oats - I used 1 cup with 4 cups boiling water and a pinch of salt - we ate half and used the rest for the crackers)
1 Tablespoon Butter (melted) or Olive Oil
1 teaspoon either Thyme or Rosemary Leaves or a combination
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt or Seasoned Salt
Optional:  1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds

Mix the Olive Oil into the Cold Oatmeal.  Then place a piece of parchment onto a baking sheet.  Place oatmeal onto the parchment and press down with your hands and spread until the oats are really thin.  Sprinkle with Sea Salt or Seasoned Salt and Sesame Seeds (if using them).  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes or until dried and crisp on the edges  and no longer sticky in the middle - this may take up to 15 minutes more - they will dry more when they cool off.  Let them cool and then break into cracker sized pieces to serve with cheese or dips.


Five Element Analysis

Oats belong to the Earth Element, but they are also good for the Kidneys because they retain so much water, which is then very good for the Digestive System. The Olive Oil contributes the Wood Element, the Thyme and Rosemary add the Metal Element and the Sea Salt and Sesame Seeds contribute more of the Water Element. Only the Fire Element is missing, so these crackers would be particularly good with a Fire Dip like a Red Pepper Spread like Muhammara (previous post) or you could sprinkle on some Smoked Paprika or Cayenne Pepper to create a Five Element balance in the cracker itself.