Colour & Balance

October 2, 2011

Morning Greens

My little blog has gathered dust. Time to blow it off, give it a light polish and add something fresh. So here it is then, fresh, though a dubious green. This kale shake arrives every morning in varying grades of greens, from the olive-hued one pictured to prettier spring green. Michael blends one together for us each weekday, and everyday he has a different balance of ingredients. What is balanced, I think, is the nutritional value. At the very least, we begin our day properly. And, for the most part, this shake is surprisingly yummy. Everyone that tries it is pleasantly wowed. Maybe their expectations are really low? Sometimes, not often, ingredients are imbalanced and breakfast can taste somewhat grim green. Stick more not less to the recipe below and you, too, will be pleasantly wowed.

Makes 1 tall shake

1 handful of fresh kale leaves

1 handful fresh spinach leaves

1/2 a ripe pear, cored

1/2 a ripe and frozen banana

a scoop of frozen berries

1 scoop of hemp protein powder

about half a cup of water or almond milk

Pack kale and spinach leaves into the bottom of your blender. Add all other ingredients and blend on the fast, faster, fastest setting until smooth and evenly green.

Hot August Night

August 16, 2010

Chilled Noodle Salad

Sometimes when it’s this hot I don’t have much of an appetite. Just joking, I always have an appetite. In summer I usually crave some version of an Asian noodle salad. I have no set ingredient list or method, I put in what I feel like, chilled noodles, crunchy vegetables, fragrant herbs and a balance of sour, heat, salt and sweet. Today’s Asian salad of the day is Vietnamese in inspiration and utterly refreshing and satisfying. It’s best enjoyed on a shaded front porch with friends.

Serves four heartily for dinner with enough for lunch for two at the beach the next day!

lemongrass chicken, shredded, recipe below

vietnamese salad dressing, nuoc cham, recipe below

1 package of rice noodles, any width, cook according to package directions and rinse in cold water; drain and pile onto a serving platter or into large bowls

2 carrots, julienned

lettuce leaves, torn

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 bunch mint, chopped

handful basil leaves, pretty Thai basil if you can find it

2 green onions, minced

lime wedges

1 cup of nuts, toasted, I used cashews but peanuts are the usual

Okay, first things first, marinate the chicken. If you’re not a meat eater, too bad for you, you can leave this step out and substitute with medium-firm tofu. Also, disclaimer, given the use of fish sauce, this is not a super clean recipe. But it’s clean enough.

4 chicken breast halves, sliced in half to make two thin filets out of each half

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

2 tablespoons agave

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 stalks of lemon grass, pale part only, halved and smashed with the butt of a knife

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 shallot, roughly chopped

2 bird chilies, crushed

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Marinate for at least five minutes, if you’re hurried and/or impatient, or up to four hours. To grill, turn your barbecue on to high and heat it as hot hot as you can. You want to get a good char on, the rather high amount of agave will caramelize and scorch, imparting delicious carcinogen-loaded yumminess. The chicken grills quickly, a couple of minutes on each side. Once cooked, set onto a plate to shred when cool. Discard all the marinade.

Now make your salad dressing:

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons agave

1/2 cup water

1 bird chili, crushed, optional

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. Use the chili to further heat up a hot August night. On a side note, have I ever told you how much I love Neil Diamond? I’m talking his 12 greatest hits on an 8 track in a white Cadillac Eldorado kind of love. And the very phrase “hot August night” reminds me of his song Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. The song begins with “Hot August night and the leaves hanging down and the grass on the ground smelling (pause) sweet… ” I know that smell and I love it.

Now you’re kind of done. Arrange all your fresh and fragrant veggies and herbs and such either on a chopping board or individual dishes. You can build your own salad in a big bowl to your taste, I tend to go heavy on the cilantro, for example. Drizzle with the dressing and stir well with chopsticks. Plunk yourself down into your porch chair and crank up the cheesy tunes. I love summer and all that comes with it.

BC Shrimp

May 17, 2010

Spotted

I didn’t know it when I was younger, but I was spoiled with food. From the best futomaki in all the world to fresh-pressed apple juice from our backyard apple tree. Of course, I was appalled at the apple juice that we pressed. It was brown, murky and had a tendency to separate. “Blech, why can’t we buy Sun-Rype like everyone else?! This is gross.” Oh, stupid girl. I wanted my juice clear, sparkling and from a tin. My grandfather was a Japanese-Canadian commercial fisherman, and I was quite accustomed to the best, freshest salmon, octopus and spot prawns. I didn’t know spot prawns were called spot prawns, we just called them shrimp. They would be served, with about 40 other dishes, at most of our family gatherings. Platters of them, piled high, boiled and served at room temperature or cold, in shell. There is not a better meal than a plate of never-ending shrimp with the odd piece of sushi and some ohitashi.

It seems, and rightly so, that spot prawns are all the rage in Vancouver lately. I’m pleased that we’re all learning about a great choice for shrimp in our own backyard. There are a lot of ways to prepare BC shrimp, or spot prawns, and most of our local chefs have some fine recipes. But, for me, the best way to prepare them is simply boiled. Buy them live. They are very energetic, they will twitch and flip their way out of an open bag and try to make a run for it. Their very liveliness might make you scream like a girl. Pull yourself together. Square your shoulders, take a deep breath and get on with the business of a shrimp boil.

For Two

3 pounds of fresh, live shrimp (I think they’re called spot prawns because of the white dots that they sport on each side)

sea salt, about 2 teaspoons

big pot of boiling water

soy sauce

Buy your live shrimp from T&T Supermarket, if you can. I bought some on special this past Saturday for $7.99 a pound, which is a steal. Or you can buy them right off the boats near Granville Island for $12 a pound. Get some, bring them home. The bag that they’re in will lurch and twitch. You should cook them right away. If they sit in the fridge and start to suffer, or die, that’s just mean. Plus, it will make their meat mushy. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add about two teaspoons of sea salt. Open the bag, at least one will try to make a run for it. Swiftly turn your bag of shrimp into the water. I walk away, discard the bag, wash my hands and return to task. I don’t stay to watch them cook. At least 30 seconds will have passed and your shrimp will be done. Empty shrimp into a colander in the sink and run cold water over them until they’ve cooled. Pile onto a plate and serve with soy sauce. A quick swish through a bit of soy is absolute perfection with the sweet, tender meat.

Ready to Peel

Run Spot Run

Oops. Too slow.

Four o’ Clock Bar

March 29, 2010

Your Favourite New Bar

This is the cure for four o’ clock. Four o’clock is the time when your entire day of healthy, conscientious eating can go to hell. It’s late afternoon, you’ve been good, but you’re hungry and, maybe, you’re cranky. And maybe, in your cranky state, you’re contemplating Peanut Butter Cups. Or a Japadog from down the street. Maybe you’re thinking f*#k it, I’m starving. Don’t do it! Be prepared! Make these, your new favourite bars. Now, this bar isn’t for everyone. Take Michael, for example. He’s all “I can’t breathe” when he eats peanuts. You, however, like peanuts. And peanut butter things. A tremendous amount. That’s why you were thinking about Peanut Butter Cups. Think about making these instead. At 4:10 you are not going to feel guilty that you ate convenience store chocolate or a Japanese-inspired hot dog. No, you will feel satisfied and smug. And a little bit sorry for Michael that he can’t eat peanuts.

Makes 12 Bars

45 dried dates

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, plus 1/4 cup more to finish, chopped

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

If you’ve made this, this or that, the method is pretty much the same. Coincidentally, this is the fourth bar. So naming it the Four o’ Clock bar is especially apt. If this is your first bar of mine, here is the method. Soak dates in hot water for a few minutes. While they’re hydrating and soaking in their little bowl of a bath, measure the almonds and first quantity of peanuts into your food processor. Grind away for a couple of minutes. Drain the dates and turn them into the food processor bowl and whir together, just enough to get the ingredients clumping. Blob in the peanut butter and sprinkle in the sea salt. Pulse on and off to combine. You can the round the mixture into balls, or press into a pan. Either way, finish with the chopped peanuts. If you’ve panned them, chill for a while to firm and then portion into bars. Well done.

Salsa, or 1982/83

March 18, 2010

A Little Bowlful of Mexperience

I’m kind of known for my salsa. At least, I think I am. My friends are a tough and opinionated group. Am I right? My point is, I don’t think they’re just saying that my salsa is good. Right, Jay? Jay can easily put back a litre or two of salsa. It’s not pretty, but it happens. His vehicle of choice are those scoopy little bowl-like tortilla chips. Not super clean. He even asked me to show him how to make salsa. Jay is kinda known for his tacos. Sometimes, like always, when he makes salsa, he’ll forget a key ingredient at the store. Bummer. This is not a deterrent and he will forge ahead and make cilantro-less salsa, or cumin-free salsa. And that’s fine. But not good. Technically, of course, it remains a salsa.

What business do I have writing a salsa recipe? Well, this is my blog and I’ll write whatever recipe I want. I’m not Mexican. I have not been taught the classic steps of a salsa. But, back in the day, I worked in a Mexican/Fish & Chip restaurant on the beach. No, not in Mexico. In White Rock. And who cares that I merely heated up a large, orange fat-ringed pot of ground beef and rolled it in a soft shell of a tortilla and microwaved it with a fat handful of orange cheese? I felt close to the border. Of Bellingham. And I dreamed of having my own restaurant. In between the Mexican food orders (there weren’t very many but, if you ask me, this aging and reheating process added to the bizarre deliciousness of this orangey ground beef) I fried up thousands of orders of fish and chips. I really loved this job, loved wrapping up the orders in little yellow cardboard trays and newspaper. I got paid $2 an hour, it was 1982 and, by the end of a weekend, that would buy a lot of chocolate bars. Sometimes I forget that this is a blog on clean eating.

We never made salsa at the fish and chip joint. Some things are unclear about that time. Such as, I don’t think we had a microwave there, I think I made that up. Maybe we turned the shredded cheese into lava under a salamander. I cannot recall. Everyone, almost everyone, smoked when they came into the restaurant it seemed, and I would empty ashtrays as regularly as I would fry chips and wipe down vinegar bottles. The top songs, in my opinion, were by Journey, Toto and Melissa Manchester. I also remember I ate an entire box of these. Not one measly box, one box case of 48 – ugh. Another ugh: as 1982 turned into 1983 Donna Summer released She Works Hard for the Money. Which is not much cause for grief in itself except for the fact that my dad, who drove me to my job every weekend, would sing this song to me.

Given this account of my past Mexperience, here is my salsa recipe. It is clean, fresh-tasting and not at all authentic. I recommend that you don’t use the excellent Italian San Marzano tomatoes, they’re too tomato saucy. I use Aylmer brand tomatoes, and I buy them in a flat of eight from Costco and I’m slightly sheepish about this. But they work perfectly. Much like music from the 1980’s: a bit tacky and cheap, slightly tinny and without much substance. LOVE IT.

Makes about 1 litre, or enough for Jay, I suggest you double the recipe if he’s coming over

1- 796 ml tin of cheap tomatoes, drained

1/4 small red onion, roughly chopped

1/2 small clove of garlic, don’t use more than this or it will be garlicky

1 – 2 jalapenos – be warned. I slice one open and taste-test for heat by pressing the back of a spoon against the cut flesh, seeds and membrane and then tasting the spoon. Then I determine how many I want to use, this probably take some practice. Start with half of one, you can always add more. But I never seed them. It’s the membrane that’s hot, not the seeds, I think. Anyway, don’t handle them and then touch your eyes or face or something silly. If you do, your eyes will sting and water as though you’re sitting in a greasy, smoky fish ‘n chip joint in the early 80’s.

1 bunch cilantro

1 lime, juiced

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, to taste

1 teaspoon toasted, roughly ground cumin seeds

Here I go again, recommending that you put ingredients into a food processor. First, the onion, garlic and jalapeno and pulse to roughly chop. Then add the drained tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, sea salt and cumin. Process briefly. I like to leave it as chunky as possible. Now, this is not a fresh, hand-cut salsa. It is what it is and I like it and my friends like it. You don’t need to eat it with scoopy chips, you shouldn’t. It is excellent on eggs, on chicken and stirred into fried onions and peppers and many, many other healthy things.

My dad is right: I do work hard for my money. Someone needs to pay me for my opinion this blog.

Mustard Yellow

February 25, 2010

Moutarde!

Happiness to me is mustard. I love mustard. It’s a happy condiment, no? Unlike soy sauce, which is dark and serious. And salty. I can take or leave ketchup, I know that’s an unpopular opinion. It’s not that interesting to me. Relish, though, relish is good fun. Tiny confetti of pickle. Though I just got up to check my fridge and I don’t even own any relish. But mustard! I decided to make mustard, and it was so easy and tangy with the right amount of cheeky heat that I thought, why haven’t I made mustard before?

Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed

2 tablespoons brown mustard seed

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon dry mustard powder

1 teaspoon turmeric, optional

1/4 teaspoon agave

a pinch of sea salt

Soak mustard seeds overnight in vinegar and water. I covered mine and left it at room temperature. The next day just turn everything into your blender and buzz it together until it’s emulsified and kind of creamy. It’s quite hot and snappy at first, but mellows after a few days of cooling in the fridge.

Cinnamon Water

February 18, 2010

Cinnamon Water

I think this is such a great idea: cinnamon infused water! Michael and I went for dinner last night to celebrate our 14th (!) anniversary and we were served tap water with a stick of cinnamon in it. I am wowed by its subtle loveliness. I always have a pitcher of tap water on my counter and the first thing I did when we came home was to drop a quill of cinnamon in it. I know there is something here to tie in our anniversary with cinnamon and hearts and spice but I can’t think of it at the moment. Cinnamon water. Mikey likes it, too.

PS – I thought of you, Cinnajen.

Cookie Love

February 15, 2010

First Date

Yummy!

How was your Valentine’s Day? Was it heart-filled and chocolate dipped? If your valentine didn’t spoil you, here’s a recipe so you can spoil yourself with some almost clean, almost classic, chocolate chip cookies. It’s sweetened with coconut sugar, and how appealing is this? Coconut sugar “… is derived from the coconut sap, the sweet juice that is extracted when the budding flower is just about to grow.” Talk about knowing how to woo a gal, and with flowers no less! Coconut sugar is unrefined and rates low on the glycemic index.

Yield: 40 – 2″ cookies

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled

1/3 cup coconut sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup large-flake oatmeal, ground finely in food processor

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1/4 cup fine, unsweetened coconut

2 tablespoons buckwheat

2 tablespoons ground flax

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon xantham gum

1/2 cup excellent quality (extra) bitter dark chocolate bits – yes, this is clean eating cheating, but at its most noble. The darker and best-quality chocolate you choose means that you will consume a chocolate that’s high in antioxidants, organic, fair-trade and often evaporated cane sugar sweetened. So if you’re going to stray…

Pre-heat oven to 375º. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together still-warm liquid coconut oil with coconut sugar and egg. Stir in all other ingredients. Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment-lined sheet pans, I fit 3 x 5 nicely. Bake for ten minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on tray. What do you think? Are you feeling the love?

Food Porn For All You Cookie Dough Lovers

Food Porn For All You Cookie Dough Lovers

Magical Black Garlic

October 12, 2009

Black Garlic

Black Garlic

Sticky. Dark. Sweet. Special. Earthy. Molasses-y. Savoury. Rich. Tangy. Addictive. Magic. I have been introduced to black garlic, and I have a crush on it. No, I am in love with it. Black garlic is fermented garlic, a Korean specialty. The sugars and acids in garlic, when fermented, turn it a dense, rich black. The coal-coloured cloves have a soft-firm texture, sort of like clay, and a sweet-tart garlicky flavour. Mine was a gift. It seems to be somewhat elusive. Keep your eyes open and when it appears, grab it. I’m going to have thin slices of black garlic on fried eggs tomorrow morning. And maybe later in the week I’ll make mushroom soup with black garlic. Ooh, black garlic, the things I want to do with you! I am going to start loitering and lurking in places where black garlic might make an appearance. I am going to stalk it. Because, actually, my love is bordering on an obsession.

Coconut Sesame Chicken

September 30, 2009

Coconut Sesame Chicken

Coconut Sesame Chicken

Oh, this chicken is delicious. I think you can tell just by looking that you’re going to like it. It’s lean chicken gussied up with a fairly healthy sesame paste that’s speckled with shreds of fine, unsweetened coconut.

Enough to coat about 2 pounds of chicken, makes several skewers

2 pounds of chicken breast, sliced into long strips

1/4 cup raw, unhulled sesame seeds

2 tablespoons of water

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

1 tablespoon coconut sugar or agave

1/8 teaspoon stevia

1 lime, juice and zest

2 small shallots, peeled and quartered

2 cloves of garlic

2″ piece of ginger, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fine, unsweetened coconut

Soak several bamboo skewers in water, set aside. Put sesame seeds into the bowl of your food processor with water, vinegar, olive oil and tamari soy sauce. Process until sesame seeds break down and a paste-like mixture begins to result. Add coconut sugar or agave, stevia, lime juice and zest, shallots, garlic and ginger. Pulse to process until the shallots, garlic and ginger look well-minced and incorporated. Scrape this fragrant paste into a medium-sized bowl and stir in coconut. Add the strips of chicken breast and stir to coat. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least a couple of hours or overnight. Pre-heat barbecue or oven to high heat, approximately 425º. Thread chicken pieces onto wet bamboo skewers. Grill or broil for several minutes, turning once partway through. Serve with a fresh salad or garlicky greens and wedges of fresh, bright lime.