My Cooking Culture

george-chochran-shoot-086.jpgMy Cooking Culture

We lived all over the world, moving about every 3 years to another place on the planet. From Morocco to Spain, Canada to Japan with a few of the United States in between.

My father is an avid gardener; we used to joke about having a corn field in our back yard no matter where we lived. Fresh snow peas were the gardeners treat. They got eaten in the garden and never quite made it to the table. I used to eat snow peas instead of potato chips. After school, I would head to the garden and sneak a few off the vines then help my dad after work with weeding and tying vines to eat more.october-15-2011-farmers-market-015.jpg

To this day, I love garden grown green beans and home-grown tomatoes seem to be better than anything you can buy at a store.

My mom is Canadian; grew up in Nova Scotia where they grew a lot of their food. She fed us with garden grown fresh foods, or frozen. She tried cans on us once and we rejected them as repulsive so she didn’t try that again.

In the foreign countries, mom always managed to hire a native cook to prepare meals for us a few days a week. My parents made sure no matter what country we lived in, we learned about the culture, food and language. When we lived in Japan, the family that lived behind us was the same size. The mom there and my mom made great friends with each other. On Wednesday night, they would each prepare a full meal for the family, put it on trays; walk out the back door and swap meals. They got a traditional American/Canadian meal and we got a traditional Japanese meal. I loved it! My dad, not so much.

Imagine, from my Dad’s point of view, the aroma of pan-fried pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy wafting through the air. Ah, the smell of the roasting garlic whetting the appetite. The coming to the table and finding plates of various sushi, rice, miso soup and tofu with cucumber seaweed salads. Surprise!

We have always eaten a ton of fresh vegetables, local meats and foods. What is horribly frustrating is seeing the decline in the quality of our food supply. In addition to the decline in quality, there is also the fact that so many people really don’t know what they’re eating, or how to eat well or make good food choices.

This is where I want to make a difference!

My dad, who is 87, still grows a garden and has the best tomatoes in the world. He also makes a terrific gyoza, thanks to “Mamasan’s” recipe.

Final Harvest!

Final Harvest!

I am one of the lucky ones. My parents didn’t take us to McDonald’s. Even though as kids we begged for it. I remember looking at the McDonald’s signs and noticing how the numbers of how many hamburgers they sold kept increasing. (Yes, they kept count in the early days!) I wondered if I would ever be lucky enough to be part of that statistic. Then came the day when the signs changed to “millions served” now it might be “billions served”. Yes, I finally got one. They must have, among other things in this category, the worst bread on the planet.

My son used to say my meals were always the same: 1 starch, 1 or two vegetables (1 always green), and a protein with a sauce of some kind. I have to admit it is a type of formula.

Today my Typical Dinner Consists of:

1 Green vegetable (1 cup)

Leafy greens, broccoli, cabbages, peas, any variety of beans, snow peas, there are so many! If you’re not familiar, pick something you don’t know, ask about it, look up recipes on the internet and play with cooking it.

Fresh picked kale

Fresh picked kale

1 Vegetable of another color (1/2 cup)

Any veg that is not green, peppers, onions, cauliflower, squashes, this is to make the plate visually interesting and it also adds a punch of nutrition!

Corn Crusted Grouper

Corn Crusted Grouper

Grain or starch of some kind (1/2 to 1 cup)

Whole grains like brown rice, exotic rice, lentils, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, millet, mung beans, quinoa, farro, cous cous. I love how much the level of choice in this category has grown. There is so much more than just rice and potatoes.

1 High quality protein – not always animal based (4-6 ounces)

Guidelines for animal proteins:
  • No beef
  • No pork (but I love bacon! ) 😉
  • No farm raised fish except catfish or trout
    • No Tuna, Sea Bass or Redfish

Note: we no longer eat any fish from the Pacific ocean.

  • Organic poultry
  • Organic eggs
  • Organic Dairy

    Multi colored Carrots (I bought these!)

    Multi colored Carrots (I bought these!)

1 Sauce (1-2 ounces)

Can be made from de-glazing the pan or reserved cooking liquids or stock or vinaigrette. This provides a bit of moisture and can add another dimension of flavor. I avoid using fat and flour thickeners and cornstarch. Instead I thicken by reduction (enhances flavor), adding mustard or miso which also contribute to flavor.

1 Side dish of raw vegetable salad (1/4 -1/2 cup)

This can be a green salad, carrot salad, cucumber, onion, Caesar, or lightly blanched vegetable and may contain a fermented/ pickled vegetable like pickled beets, cauliflower or onions. A homemade vinaigrette dressing, sometimes lemon juice and olive oil and cracked black pepper.

Anaida's Beans

Anaida’s Beans

This side does not need to be a big portion. 1/4 to 1/2 cup is a typical serving.  It can be used as a palate cleanser between tastes on the main plate.

Lunches:

Sandwiches with a chip and pickle of some kind. I’m working on improving the chip option but I really am fond of a handful of chips with a sandwich. I’m trying nori chips and kale chips. . . I may still go back to potato once in a while.

Light bits of left over dinner

Soup with good bread (I’ve made the bread we eat in the house for the past 10+ years)

Noodle stir fry

Grill pan dinner“Ploughman’s lunches” using what we have on hand

Vegetable Sushi

Breakfast:

On our own for breakfast. Most of the time I’ll grab something with protein.

This meal is usually quick , easy and light. Unless it’s oatmeal.

What we always have on hand:

Buy Organic whenever possible

Chicken stock, 1/2 & 1/2 for morning beverages and sometimes chai, fat-free milk, fresh greens, eggs, fruit, tetra-pac tomatoes, variety of beans, canned and dried, various rice and grains, legumes and potatoes. We will keep a stock of chicken and sometimes fish in the freezer for meals during the week.

I shop whenever we need fresh vegetables; I try to use fresh vegetables over frozen.

I leave processed foods on the shelf and process my own condiments, pickles and breads.

That’s it! My cooking culture, in a nutshell. A bit of many cultures rolled into a multitude of meals.

I believe everyone should be able to make healthy food choices and healthy food should be affordable and available to all.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

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Miso Vegetable Soup

There are times when a nice warm bowl of miso vegetable soup is just the right thing.

Fresh organic veggies for miso soup

Fresh organic veggies for miso soup

This soup is very easy to make and is delicious through and through. I find the warming earthy flavor of miso to be comforting on a very deep level. Sipping the broth just feels nourishing to the core!

Miso Vegetable Soup

  • 1 quart organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 1 carrot, shredded or sliced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 broccoli florets
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 radish, cut into thin matchstick like pieces
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons organic miso

Finely chop the vegetables. I find this size is most compatible with this soup.

Bring the broth to a boil, add the finely chopped vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Stir in miso until dissolved. Top with sliced scallions and serve.

A spoonful of organic white miso

A spoonful of organic white miso

Re-heat soup gently, as miso will lose many of the wonderful properties  it provides under high heat. Typically, I make just what I want so there are no left overs.

A word about miso: There are many varieties of miso. I prefer the white one which has fewer soy beans ans is mild in flavor.

Miso provides great probiotics which promote a healthy gut, is a source for vitamin B-12 and has all the essential amino acids which makes it a complete protein. However due to the salt level, it is not a great source of protein.

Because miso contains beneficial living organisms, high heat will kill them so stir the miso into the soup just before serving.

Watch for more recipes using miso!

Here is a video all about the making of South River Miso, fascinating to watch and learn.

What I love the most is how they do the process.

Ciabatta Rolls

I’m  sucker for good bread and these easy ciabatta rolls are simple and delicious, soft and chewy too!

This is a two-step recipe: one for a “biga” and the second step is making the dough using the biga.

The day before you want the bread is the time to start as the biga needs to ferment overnight.

Ciabatta Bread

Ciabatta Bread

Easy Ciabatta Rolls

For the Biga:

  • 1- 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 /8 teaspoon yeast

Mix these ingredients into a bowl, cover and let sit in a warm area for at least 12 hours, up to 24 hours. the mixture will be wet and bubbly.

The Biga when ready to use

The Biga when ready to use

Transfer the entire biga to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer then add:

For the dough:

  • All of the biga
  • 2-1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Mix all of the ingredients in a mixer on low-speed until well incorporated. Knead on low-speed for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium and knead for an additional 4 minutes.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours. Once the dough is risen, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Shape the dough into a rectangle about 6″ x 12″.

Use a serrated knife or pizza wheel to cut the rectangle into 8 equal portions.

Ciabatta rolls ready to rise on a peel

Ciabatta rolls ready to rise on a peel

Place the rolls, flour side up onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Let rise for 45 minutes.

If you have a bakers peel, sprinkle it with corn meal and place the rolls on that to rise. Slide them onto the hot pizza stone after they have risen.

While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 450°F. If you have a pizza stone, preheat that too at this time.

Slide the rolls from the bakers peel onto the stone and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown.

Cool on a rack and enjoy!

These make great sandwiches and sop up soup like a champ, or slice them open for a quick pizza.

What’s your favorite way to use ciabatta rolls?

Ciabatta Bread

Ciabatta Bread

Learning to Love Yourself

Hearts in the snowLoving ourselves isn’t always easy.

Most of us don’t treat ourselves as if we even like ourselves let alone love ourselves.

We find ourselves running around doing things for others, our friends, family, children, spouses and fall short on finding time for ourselves. The scary part is being alright with no time for yourself.

When do we pay attention to ourselves, it’s usually a comment directed to a reflection in a window or mirror.

“Ugh, I need to lose weight; hate my hair, my thighs are fat, wish I had clear skin or straight hair or better sense of fashion.”

“Why am I short, tall or why does my top ride up over my backside like that? One day you’ll start exercising, look at that belly!. . .” and the messages go on and on, continually.

It makes no wonder so many have self-esteem and confidence problems!

The first step we need to do in order to accept ourselves just the way we are is to  take a look at what is in your heart.

Most of us are kind, loving human beings who choose to do the best we can as we go along.

Take a deep breath. Try to listen to your heart and recognize that feeling. Pour the same love you have for your spouse and children all over yourself.

How does that feel?

Can you allow yourself to feel good and wonderful from receiving love from your own self?

Why are we surprised and flattered when someone expresses interest in us? Why do we wonder why they like or love us? Why can’t we simply accept the feeling and feel like it’s good, deserving and wonderful?

Why do we put ourselves last? We ALL matter, each in our unique way. When we learn to love ourselves, it becomes easier to be happy. It becomes easier to be brighter and as we all know a bright smile and happiness is easy to spread.

When you learn to love yourself and accept who and how you are right now, everything you do from then on will celebrate that.

The food you eat will change to nourishing because you make better choices, you body will change because you choose to take care of it by exercising, your mind will change because you will have lost that negative self talk that poisons everything.

Take 10 minutes, just ten quiet minutes and listen to your heart. You may love people or animals, but accept that you deserve some of that love energy directed at you too. You deserve it, you are worth it.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself: “I am worth it!”

It makes it easier to put that doughnut down and go out for a walk.

Catch yourself next time you find yourself criticizing anything about you. Find one thing you like about yourself at that moment and dwell on that. It could be how fast you got errands done, a good hair day, how you helped someone, anything you feel good about and hold on to that thought and feeling for a few minutes, if you can.

Do not allow any negative self talk, or if only’s or whens. Now. Just now.

So this Valentines Day, whether you have someone else to love or not, take a nice long look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself from your heart, “I Love You”.

  Start there, it’s a good beginning.Rose

In My Kitchen February 2014

I was on the fence about doing an In My Kitchen post this month, I didn’t think I have time. BUT, this morning, I made time to share a few things. Thanks to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting! This is what is in my kitchen. . .

I’ve been studying herbalism the last few months. One project required making a strong lavender tea. When ever we have “spent” herbs left over from infusions, decoctions, tinctures or tea, it is recommended to compost the spent herbs. Well I adore lavender, every part of it. I couldn’t quite bring myself to bury the mass of spent lavender buds in the compost.Lavender Heart

Instead, I mixed them with a small bit of Modge-Podge and formed the flowers into a heart using a mold lined with plastic wrap. I let it dry overnight then brushed a bit more modge-podge over the surface and added a layer of dried lavender buds that weren’t spent to the outside surface. I added a bit of ribbon and a few drops of lavender essential oil and hung this lovely heart by my desk. I’ll probably place it in my lingerie drawer after a while. It is very comforting to be studying at my desk and have the lovely lavender aroma wafting by.

I’ve been consuming a lot of tea this winter! One of my favorites is Flowering Tea by Numi. Placing a hand tied tea bud into a glass pot, pouring boiling water over it provides a lovely unfolding of the tea bud. As the leaves unfold, sometimes there are tiny flowers tied inside that get released. it is quite a beautiful show for those who appreciate tea.Numi Flowering Tea Numi Flowering Tea

Monday I start a course in Integrative Nutrition! I am so excited and motivated. In my welcome box, they sent me this ever-so-cute velvet heart, filled with Lavender!

I keep an artist model on my desk. Why? Not sure but I change the poses all the time. Right now it is finding lots of ways to hold on to the heart.Mannekin and heart

One day I’ll start sketching the human body again.

In My Kitchen are these lovely bowls collected from Soup On Sunday events over the years. I think they make great small bowls for all kinds of things.Soup Bowls

This bread mold was ordered thinking it was a pate or terrine mold. I’ll be working this later today to see just how bread turns out.

Bread mold for making round bread for hors d'oeuvres

Bread mold for making round bread for hors d’oeuvre

I’ve started to drink a glass of water with lemon (no sugar!) in it not only the first thing in the morning, but all day long. I’m working on getting up to 8-10 eight ounce glasses a day.

Drink several glasses of lemon water each day

Drink several glasses of lemon water each day

The big thing with beverages is to watch the sugar content! I’d bet that most people don’t realize how much sugar they are consuming through beverages alone. How about you?refreshing lemon water