Saturday, August 29, 2009

When in Costa Rica

My poor daughter. She's going to have a hard time adjusting to post-vacation life where I don't let her do the following: eat potato chips at 9:30am, watch TV and movies, ride in shuttle vans without a car seat, have her pacifier other than at bedtime, swim 2 or 3 times a day, and eat ice cream nearly every time she asks for it. Some of the treats have been in response to feeling bad (that guilt, Margaret) that she's been injured. She's cutting her third molar since we left and has been stung by a wasp, had two skinned knees, one badly scraped leg, some random bangs and bruises, and bad diaper rash (tmi?). Despite these things, it's been an amazing trip and she doesn't know how lucky she is!

What she is looking forward to when she returns is her 2nd birthday. My daughter LOVES birthdays - mostly other people's since she can't remember her one and only birthday so far in her short life. At the beach, she makes birthday cakes instead of sand castles and is always on the look out for a leaf or stick that might double as a candle. We regularly sing "happy birthday" to her stuffed animals, dolls, or characters in her books. Any book that has a birthday in it is an instant favorite.

I'm sure I'll be posting about some birthday treat that I bake for her soon enough, but for now, here are a few vacation photos.

At a working coffee plantation:

Feeding Victor the lizard:

What's a trip to the rainforest without a monkey??

If you're ever headed to Costa Rica, drop me a note. I may not be able to tell you everything you need to know because we usually go to the same places, but I sure can recommend some good restaurants! Here's a photo of the Langosta feast at El Hicacao in Jaco Beach:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Soaked Oatmeal Two Ways

I know if you read this blog you're already wondering, "how many ways can there be to make oatmeal?" but hear me out. Awhile back I was reading about soaking your grains and why you can absorb more nutrients that way and how difficult grains can be to digest when they haven't been soaked. Check out this for a good, easy explanation.

I wanted to try it, starting small. I began with soaking oats overnight before making oatmeal in the morning and the result was great - we liked the texture and flavor and the regular rolled oats cooked really quickly.

Soaked Oatmeal (2 servings)

1 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cups of water
1/2 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons of wheat or spelt flour
1 cups of water
a dash of sea salt

The night before (12 to 24 hours before) place your oats, flax seeds, wheat flour and 1 cup of water in a quart size mason jar or bowl. Mix it all together and cover.

The next morning, dump into a pot with 1 more cup of water and a dash of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook just a few minutes and it’s done! I like to add cinnamon and dried fruit (cranberries or raisins) to the water when I simmer it that morning and serve it with some honey on top.

The second thing I've been making is an oatmeal pancake recipe that I just found. It's sort of the same idea - soak the oats overnight in buttermilk before making the pancakes. While oatmeal pancakes sound a little heavy, these aren't and I think that's partially due to the soaking. I just got turned on to this blog by my sister and that's where I originally found the recipe.

Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes (4 servings)

Stir together 2 cups rolled oats and 2 cups buttermilk and put in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, melt 1/4 c. butter, let it cool, and stir it into the oats with 2 eggs.

In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 c flour, 2 T sugar, 1 t baking powder, 1 t baking soda, 1/2 t ground cinnamon and 1/4 t table salt. (You could also mix the dry stuff the night before . . . ). Add flour mixture to oat mixture and stir until moist.

Heat a griddle or pan and use about 1/4 c. batter for each pancake. When you see air bubbles, flip the pancake. It makes about 12-14 pancakes (sometimes I halve it for 2 servings). Serve with your favorite pancake toppings!

Buttermilk Substitute: Combine 2 T white vinegar or lemon juice with 2 c milk and let sit for five minutes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Los Mariscos del Dia

We're in Costa Rica on vacation and I've been doing a lot of cooking in our condo. So far, I've made these eggs, these enchiladas, and a variation of this pasta (only mozzarella cheese and no sausage). My biggest grocery story quandry was figuring out which bag of dairy-looking-white-stuff was sour cream for the enchiladas.

Yesterday I went down to the marina near us to a little gourmet import food shop to inquire about buying some fresh fish. After a bit of a go-around (there's nowhere good to buy it in town, we only have frozen fish so just thaw it out, what about eating chicken), the owner told me he had wahoo in the back that was caught the day before and he'd clean it for me. We had four filets of wahoo (also called ono, especially in Hawaii) and I used a really easy preparation that I've had a lot of success with in the past.

Here's what you do: Melt 1 T of butter per piece of fish (4 in my case), take it off the heat and add half as much lemon juice (I used 2 T of lime juice because I had no lemon). Then, dip the fish in it and sprinkle cajun seasoning (or roll it in the seasoning) to coat the filet. At this point, we grilled it and it was awesome. For salmon at home, I often put it in a hot pan on the stovetop until both sides are seared and blackened and then finish it in a 350 degree oven (until it's opaque and flakes with a fork in the middle).

I served it with coconut rice and a salad - delicious!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sonia's Stir-Fry

Up next: My sister-in-law Sonia. I learned a lot about food and yeast when she was doing the Candida diet this past year - and a lot about perseverance! We share a love of cooking and I'm excited to try this - the combination of coconut milk and red curry sounds great.

Don’t be alarmed that one would follow a recipe for a meal as simple as a stir-fry. When I was on the Candida cleanse diet (for 7 long months) we all got really tired of rice, veggies, and meat “for meat” each night. But you might be surprised at all of the different ways to approach a stir-fry. I was inspired by Food and Wine’s May 2009 issue that presented a variety ways to cook veggies and meat in a fry pan prior to tossing it onto a plate full of white or brown rice. The following is a great stir-fry recipe that compliments a Candida cleanse diet (God forbid any of Bec’s foodie readers ever have to do that) and it proves that you do not have to have sugar or gluten or yeast or broth or mushrooms to enjoy a tasty stir-fry.

Thai Chicken, Zucchini and Tomato Curry Stir-Fry 4 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ¼ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts sliced ½ inch thick
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion sliced ¼ inch thick
2 zucchini cut into 2 by ½ inch sticks
1 ½ cups of cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk (I ended up using about 1 tablespoon more, and the real stuff is better than the LIGHT)
2 tablespoon water
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ cup chopped cilantro
rice for serving
optional garnish: cashew pieces

1. In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until just white throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

2. Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add the onion and stir-fry over moderately high heat for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and cherry tomatoes and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the curry paste, coconut milk, water, lime zest and lime juice and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and stir for another minute or two. Sir in the cilantro. Transfer to bowls and serve with rice.
WINE: Strawberry-scented rose: 2008 Domaine du Bagnol. Or in our household, a chilled glass of white Charles Shaw does the job.

Don’t be scared off by the curry either… it is mild enough for those who can’t handle spicy food (however, I make it spicier). I like to add cashew pieces for garnish (they also sweeten it a little). And because you don’t use soy sauce, this recipe is also low in sodium. My husband douses his with table salt (I try not to be offended).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The No Eggplant Veggie Lasagna

Summer vacation is winding to an end and I'll be back to teaching at the end of September (quarters - aren't I lucky?). For the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some posts & recipes from friends. First up is Lisa. I've tried this lasagna and it's awesome!:

Let me just say I am not a fan of eggplant. Sorry if you love it, but I can't make myself enjoy it. And have you noticed how so many vegetarian options in a restraunt include eggplant? (Or portabello mushrooms - another thing I don't like, I like my mushrooms small). I know, I am picky. So I have to make up my own recipes. And I'll be honest, they're probably less healthy.

I find most non-meat lasagnas are either made with way too much cooked spinach or eggplant. So I made up this recipe. You can change it if you like, substituting which vegetables you want. I pretty much feel like I am busy all the time, so most of my 'recipes' are made with easy ingredients. Meaning no sauce from scratch.

Lisa's No Eggplant Veggie Lasagna


1/2 box of lsagna noodles

Est. veggies (I am guessing because I just dumped it in until I was happy)
1-1/2 cup frozen white corn
4 oz frozen spinach in a bag (I use it frozen so the bag is easier to separate than that frozen brick)

2 jars Francesco Rinaldi Marinara Sauce (you can use whatever marinara sauce you like)
1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
4 cups of shredded mozzerella
1/2 cup of parmesean cheese (I use the one at trader joes)
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl combine ricotta cheese, 3 1/2 cups of mozzerella (saving 1/2 cup for later), parmesean cheese and eggs. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain and separate. While the noodles are cooking, heat up 1 1/2 jars of sauce with the corn and the spinach in a sauce pan.

Spray a 13x9 dish with nonstick spray. Spread 3/4 marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan. Place 4 lasagna noodles over the bottom, slightly overlapping. Spread half of the cheese mixture over the noodles. Then cover with 1/2 the veggie sauce. Repeat layer. Cover last layer with noodles and remaining marinara sauce.

Sprinkle with mozzerella cheese. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Excuse me while I lick the counter

It might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. I made cinnamon ice cream for a dessert tonight and when chunk fell on the counter, I had a moment of serious contemplation before I wiped it up with a towel. I love cinnamony things. My favorite flavor at 21 Choices in Old Town is Snickerdoodle (followed closely by the oatmeal cookie one). Tangent - did you know that if you want one of the flavors of the day, you don't have to wait in that long line? You can go straight to the register. And, you can look up today's flavor on their website (so if they have Snickerdoodle, you can be sure to make a trip). I learned all this when I was pregnant.

But I digress . . . cinnamon things are wonderful. For dessert tonight, I'm making homemade ice cream sandwiches which I've never attempted before. I was telling my mom that I was making these and she said (and I agree) that a good ice cream sandwich is possibly the perfect dessert. They're even on the cover of Gourmet this month.

So, here's what I did. I made the cinnamon ice cream (recipe below) and a batch of oatmeal cookies. You can use your favorite recipe - I made a basic one and just added a cup of shredded coconut (no nuts, raisins, or any other mixed in things). Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack and then stick the ones you want to use in the freezer a few hours before assembling them.

Once the cookies and the ice cream are good and cold, put a scoop on top of a cookie, put another one on top, use a spatula to scrape the edges smooth, and stick them on a plate in the freezer. You have to do this right away with them individually so the ice cream doesn't melt. I originally planned to wrap them (individually) in plastic wrap but it was much messier. Then, just leave them in the freezer until dessert time (as if you can wait that long!).

You could roll the edges of the ice cream in something but other than coconut, I couldn't think of anything creative that went with my cinnamon-oatmeal combo. I bet chocolate chip cookies, mint-chip ice cream and chocolate sprinkles on the edges would be awesome!

Cinnamon Ice Cream (makes 5 cups)

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 2-inch piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 T vanilla extract

Combine cream, milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape the vanilla from the pod into the cream mixture and then toss the pod and the cinnamon sticks in the mixture. Heat it until it almost boils - about 6-8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. While the cream mixture is heating up, beat yolks, sugar, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract in a small bowl until it's smooth and creamy - about 2-3 minutes.

Temper the yolk mixture by adding 1 tablespoon of the cream mixture to the yolk mixture and stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent the eggs from curdling. Do this until you've added 4-6 tablespoons of cream to yolk. Gradually add yolk mixture to the cream mixture (still over low heat), stirring constantly. Cook over low heat until the mixture is slightly thickened and the mixture coats the back of a spoon - about 3-5 minutes. Put the whole thing in the refrigerator until it's cold (leave vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks in it). When you're ready to freeze it, strain it into your ice cream maker and follow your ice cream maker's instructions.

Note: If you don't have a vanilla bean, just add 1T of vanilla extract to the cream mixture (and 1 T to the yolk mixture). The two types of cinnamon gave me good results. When I tasted the mixture before putting it in the ice cream maker I thought the cinnamon was really strong but it mellowed out when it was frozen. In general, flavors are less intense in the final product (the ice cream won't be as sweet as the mixture tastes before freezing)

Ice Cream Maker on Foodista

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Two Summer Side Salads

My husband is not a big potato lover and I usually make some sort of grain as a side dish. When it's just us, that's usually brown rice or quinoa. When we have company, I try to make something more interesting. I've made the orzo salad below for years and it was an adaptation of a Greek Rice salad that I've tweaked quite a bit. I recently started using whole wheat orzo but any type will do.

The lentil salad is a newer addition to my repertoire and it's a pretty informal recipe. The lentil salad comes together much quicker (especially if you use the already cooked brown lentils in the refrigerator section at Trader Joe's) but the orzo is not very laborious either. My favorite part about serving these both of these salads is the leftovers - they taste great the next day (and the next) and it's a great lunch to take to work.

Rosemary Lentil Salad serves 4
Mix 2 cups of cooked brown lentils with 1 T chopped rosemary, some chopped tomatoes (I used 1 cup of mini heirloom tomatoes, halved), 2 T (or more) chopped green onion (I've also used shallots). Stir in 1 T olive oil, and 2 T of red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Orzo Salad 6-8 side dish servings

1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo
1 cup boiling water
3/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
6 cups baby spinach (about 6 oz)
1 T olive oil
8 oz. crumbled feta
1/4 c. chopped, pitted kalamata olives
3/4 c. marinated artichoke hearts (as is or you can chop them into smaller bites)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 T pine nuts, toasted

Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain, and cool to room temperature and set aside. Combine boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl Let them stand until soft (15-30 minutes) and then drain, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Chop the spinach (like if you were making a chop salad). Stir the orzo, the spinach, the sun-dried tomato pieces, and all the other ingredients together in a big bowl. Save some pine nuts and feta to sprinkle over the top. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate it until you're ready to eat it.

Variation: Sometimes I saute the spinach leaves in olive oil and a little garlic until it's wilted and then stir it into the salad. The leftovers are a little slimy if you do it this way but it's good if you're going to eat it right away.