Hey guys! I’m sorry I haven’t updated…like…at all? I’m preparing to leave for Shanghai and am changing this blog to a travel blog! That is, if I can even get onto wordpress via China. (Hello Great Firewall!) Will be using Proxies and VPN. I hope everyone is having an exceptional week (I hear Australia is having some issues and so is the East Coast of the US). Please be careful! I will be flying over tonight!

Wish me luck on my 19 hour flight (bawww)


Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Shallots, and Parmesan

Holiday season is here! I’m writing this post in the midst of studying for finals, during class, and nearly dozing off with 5 – 6 hours of sleep so I’ve been incredibly inactive. So sorry, folks. But I thought this side dish applies to any big Holiday meal and is essentially the best thing ever because it involves crispy, fatty, greasy pancetta and salty cheese…oh yeah and brussel sprouts (WHICH are also on my list for best things ever).

ALSO FURTHERMORE, I went through with it and got my tattoo! Lincoln Cafe in IA gave me the inspiration to tack on that message. It’s amazingly simple but important; especially for those who are really concerned with the sociology of food and how sourcing really impacts the health of those who surround you and the environment you live in.

…and free fries for life is kind of a plus.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1/2 lb chunk of good pancetta
15 – 20 brussel sprouts, halved
3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 coarsely chopped shallots
2 tbsp lemon juice
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F

Half all brussel sprouts, length-wise, and place them cut-side down on a large baking dish. Cut pancetta into small bite-sized pieces and, over med-high to high heat, saute them until fat is rendered and meat is crispy. Mix pancetta and rendered fat (if desired) with brussel sprouts along with lemon juice, shallots, and garlic. Make sure all brussel sprouts are still face-down. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes, until bottoms of brussel sprouts are crispy and caramelized on the bottoms. Toss and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Serve immediately.

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Kimchi Fried Rice with Chili-Garlic Sauce and Fried Eggs

So we’ve rolled the clock back and the fact that it’s so incredibly dark all the time is making my body crave carbs and comfort foods. (Particularly bread crusts which I normally don’t care for). Anyways, I have a ton of leftovers in my fridge and what better way to utilize them than to make a homey fried-rice. Normally, fried-rice calls for anything you have left in the fridge but I absolutely urge you to go out and buy some spicy Korean kimchi to make this dish sing: roasted garlic and smokey chili really makes for an amazing bed for saucy stir-fries.

I didn’t have that much kimchi left in the fridge so the proportion of kimchi to rice was off and it wasn’t incredibly spicy but the flavor it imparts was spot on.  And to add to that, I’m not incredibly tolerant of heat (sadface) but I love the smokey flavor of chilis.

Kimchi Fried Rice with Chili-Garlic Sauce and Fried Eggs
2 c. brown rice
1 c. cabbage kimchi, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 – 2 tbsp gochujang (a korean red pepper sauce) or chili-garlic sauce or to taste.
3 eggs beaten, and an additional whole eggs per serving
1 carrot, minced
1 leek rinsed and white parts, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
1 garlic, minced
1/4 c. defrosted peas
3 tbsp (light) soy sauce
2 tbsps sesame oil
1 green onion, sliced for garnish

(1/4 lb ground beef or pork, optional)

In a large wok or deep-dish saute pan, saute carrot, leeks, shallots, garlic, and 1 tbsp soy sauce in 1 tbsp sesame oil over high heat. If you are using meat, saute before the veggies until browned. Add sliced kimchi and juices. Stir and incorporate.  Add additional gochujang or chili-garlic sauce if desired. Mix in brown rice and peas. Stir to incorporate. Do not cook too long or rice will become soggy.

Make a well in the center of the rice. Add additional tablespoon of sesame oil and pour egg into well. Wait until it sets a bit before stirring the well. After egg has cooked mostly, incorporate it into the rest of the rice. Remove rice from saute pan and fry whole eggs to desired doneness. Serve over hot rice, garnish with green onions and additional kimchi or chili-sauce.

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FAIL Crusty Whole-Grain Bread: Attempt #1

My first attempt at baking Artisan Whole-Grain Bread ended in FAILURE!

But KEY POINT: I learned a lot! How yeast reacts and what each step should look like.

The challenge with Whole-Grain bread is probably that it does not rise as well as white flour or any other high-gluten flour. I attempted to balance that with using some Vital High Gluten Flour  but I definitely did not add enough. In addition to that, I added WAY too much flour so the bread turned out dense and heavy– with little gluten to help the air bubbles created by yeast to hold its shape.

If anyone has some suggestions on how to tweak my initial recipe, please let me know. Attempt #2 will be here soon enough… as soon as I finish this dense, dense bread. (Think soft biscotti) I AM WEEPING. 🙂 hehe!

Sponge: 1 c. Rye, 2 c. WW Flour, 4 tsp yeast, 2 c. H2O (rise 1 hr), 2 tsp honey
Dough: Add 1 c. WW 1/2 c. Rye, Roll, 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten rise (4 hrs)
Bake: 400F, reduce 350F (2nd loaf; 350F for 30min)


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Autumnal Root-Vegetable, Chickpea, and Squash Curry with Coconut Rice

I hope all you Americans voted yesterday in the midterm elections! Aside from politics, November is also the official start of the Holidays… aka OVER-EATING. Oh no! It’s okay, we will be careful this year. ha. ha.

Anyways, what’s so great about the Fall is the array of vegetables that are available now and that are in season. A great way to eat sustainably is to eat locally, thereby eating in-season produce. As we enter winter, less fresh vegetables will be available (to my northern and east-coast neighbors) BUT storable vegetables, including root vegetables and squash will remain popular. Let’s not forget frozen vegetables which retain a lot of nutrition, dried spices, and a variety of canned produce; all of which are incredibly important when fresh options that you want are out of season or are too expensive.

Today’s recipe is a late fall recipe which I think is more appropriate for other states because we Californians are still experiencing 80 – 90 degree weather in the midst of an encroaching winter. I love this curry because it really exemplifies how wonderful root vegetables are. It has incredibly complex and developed flavors from slow-cooking, and is good for you. Despite having such an extensive ingredient list, this curry is a mostly set-it-and-forget-it recipe. You can definitely just dump everything in a deep pan and saute it but having made it both ways, using a slow-cooker is absolutely the way to go as all the vegetables were incredibly buttery and there was no sign of powdery potatoes.

BTW, check out my bad-ass jack-o-lantern (although it started to get some cracks in it). That was about 4 hours of work and a bloody thumb. I composted the innards!

By the time I took this (I was working on Halloween!), there was a huge ball of fuzzy mold growing in there and only realize after I dumped a flashlight in there. So nasty.

Autumnal Root-Vegetable Curry with Coconut Rice
Serves 6 – 10

for all canned items, try to find no-salt added or low-sodium
3 tablespoons Madras Curry Powder (spicier, better flavor, imo)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tsp each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled

(optional: 1/2 jalapeno or serrano, seeds removed)
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. low-sodium vegetable stock
1 large yukon gold potato (some people love sweet potatoes/yams), chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped in quarters
2 c. banana squash (they’re in the supermarket sliced into pre-packaged slices because they grow up to 4 feet in length), chopped, or substitute with butternut
1 14 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo) drained
1/2 to whole 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/3 c. frozen peas, defrosted
3/4 c. low-sodium vegetable stock
1 bag fresh spinach
1 14 oz. can light coconut milk
1/2 c. packed fresh coriander, chopped

For the rice:
2 c. brown basmati rice, soaked for 20 minutes and drained
3 c. water (or a combination of water and left-over vegetable stock and coconut juice)
1/2 c. coconut milk (omit if using juice)
1 bay leaf

1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c. fresh coriander, chopped

In a food-processor, combine the first set of ingredients from the Madras curry powder to the vegetable stock. Process until smooth, adding salt slowly. Heat a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Add the processed sauce and saute until it has reduced. Pretty much running your spoon through it will leave a streak. Boil for a minute until fragrant. Add onions and carrots, saute until they just begin to soften. Remove from heat and add to the slow-cooker. Combine the rest of the vegetables and 3/4 c. vegetable stock. Toss until combined, adding more salt as needed. I added another tablespoon and a tsp black pepper.

Cook, covered, in a slow-cooker for 6 hours on high or until vegetables are tender.

For the rice, bring coconut milk, water, bay leaf, and rice to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 30 minutes, until water has been absorbed. I used an Asian rice cooker and did not let the rice soak in water before hand. Brown basmati takes significantly longer and a bit more water than normal brown rice so I had to set it for two rounds in the cooker although it may come out amazingly with 1 round for others. Others, when cooking over the stove, may let it boil for 5 – 10 minutes longer before reducing the heat. When done, toss with coriander and set aside.

Check potatoes, they will be firm but oh-so buttery and delicious. Stir in about half a bag of spinach, fresh coriander, until wilted, and 1/2 14 oz can of coconut milk. Serve over hot basmati rice.

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Eating with Your Other Half

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve started keeping a food journal to keep in check when, and how much I was eating. It has been incredibly useful for me because I’m a nibbler– especially when I’m eating out with friends and ESPECIALLY when eating with a significant other. I look back at my last relationship and I realized that I had been eating, literally, the same portion sizes as a 6’3″ male. I’m 5’5″ with about a 50 lb difference. For example, we’d go out to a restaurant and I’d probably get something of an equal size, oh, let’s say a double-meat burger or a huge bowl of cheesy pasta and I was able clean my plate. Take into account that most restaurants have about two adult servings per plate. I would always end up asking myself, “uh, wow, how did I let this happen?

There have been studies about how married couples tend to gain weight and while I’m definitely not married, this totally applies to people just cohabiting. Since you live together (or at least hang out like all the time), you probably eat the same things at the table for dinner.

Eating out with friends is also incredibly difficult. After everyone is done eating, you are probably all still sitting around the table chatting and conversing. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, chances are that that plate of fries you said you were too full to finish is gone.

Recently, however, I’m lucky enough to have a guy that’s as much of a clean-eater, if not more so (broccoli for dessert? egh), as me. However, this isn’t the case for a lot of women out there and while you can point the finger and force him to change, there are much easier ways to eat healthier while actually keeping relationships with other people whom you can, perhaps, influence to follow suit. Here are some tips that I’ve been practicing that should help.

1. INDEPENDENT EATING. So important is the ability for us to order something different from the people we are surrounded by. Having a different meal from other people and your significant other is okay! Don’t be afraid to order a yummy salad when others are ordering greasy pizza. Don’t be afraid to ask for the dressing on the side, no cheese, extra tomatoes, etc. There’s nothing wrong with picking and choosing what goes into your body. There is only one of you so your health should be taken seriously. You should never feel ashamed of doing so. Besides, when everyone feels like they have stones in their stomachs, you’ll feel much better satisfied than stuffed.

2. ASK FOR A BOX. Like I said, most restaurants give you double, if not more, the serving size that you need to be full or satisfied. For example, T.G.I. Fridays has salads that are about 1600+ calories while Cheesecake Factory’s burger has less calories and sodium than the Chicken Sandwich. Oh yeah, they know nutrition sells and they know that you’re going to get that dish with a cute little heart next to it.  If you’re not sharing a meal, then always, always, always ask for a to-go box and take away half the meal. If you don’t see it, you won’t eat it.

3. SHARE! You’ll have to know how much is enough for you in order to do this one. I (almost) always share a meal when I go out with the boyfran (to the chagrin of the restaurant) and I’m always more than full afterward. Don’t think that it’s enough to eat? Order an appetizer or save room for dessert! That way, you can try out different dishes in a restaurant without over-indulging or overspending.

4. COOK AT HOME. Restaurant food is rarely good for you unless you’re willing to dish out some green. There are some really quick meal options at home. For example, just the other night, Jesse and I grabbed some whole-wheat tortillas, premade hummus, and rolled it up with some salad, protein-rich avocados (for me) and some rotisserie chicken (for him). I LOVE rotisserie chicken! You can literally put it in ANYTHING. Trust. Home-made meals are also customizable. Again, I had veggie-style and he had some meat. DIY if you really want it your way.

Plus when you cook for him, he doesn’t really have room to complain, does he?

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Green Beans with Tofu and Shiitake Crumble

I went to the pumpkin patch recently and talked to the farmer there about owning and humanely killing my own chicken. He said, get back to me on the 31st and we’ll talk about selling you my chickens. I don’t know if he mentioned showing me how to kill and butcher one but my grandma has done it. I’m excited. If I’m going to eat chicken meat, I should be able to kill it myself or at least watch the process. Granted, I’m being pretty over-confident right now. I’m sure it’s going to totally gross me out and I’ll probably just settle for being happy to eat humanely-killed meat that I didn’t slaughter. WOO! …Or turn out like my dad, who watched my grandmother kill chicken, and now does not eat poultry (only red-meat; my father is a terrible person). Anyways, details about this later.

For the last Meat-Free Monday, I experimented with tofu. Braised Tofu was on sale and I grabbed that instead of extra-firm… but I’m sure that extra-firm will be just fine for this recipe. I thought it would crisp up a little but texturally, the tofu didn’t turn out crispy or chewy like meat, however, the reserved tofu strips were nice and caramelized. But just for reference, using ground tempeh or seitan would definitely be a better soy-protein substitute. Tofu still provides tasty results.

Green Beans with Tofu and Shiitake Crumble
1/2 lb fresh green beans, tips removed, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 inch piece peeled ginger root, grated
4 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin or bean sauce
1 tsp mirin or rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 pack braised tofu or extra-firm tofu, ground seitan or tempeh
7 – 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, minced
1/2 tbsp corn starch with 4 tbsp water
sesame oil
cilantro or green onions for garnish

Start by pressing the liquid from the tofu by wrapping it with paper towels and placing a heavy object, like a skillet, over the whole or halved piece of tofu. Let sit for 10 – 30 minutes then crumble 3/4ths of the tofu with your hands. Chop the rest into strips. Mix crumbled tofu with minced shiitake.

In a small bowl, mix together minced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, hoisin, vinegar/mirin, and sugar. Set aside.

Heat a large wok or deep pan over medium-high to high heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil or sesame oil and add the reserved tofu strips. Saute until golden brown, flipping only a few times (~5 minutes). Add the green beans with 1/4 of sauce mixture until green bean skins begin to pucker, about 6 – 7 minutes. Keep moving or they will burn. If you feel they are burning too much, add a little water, cover, and steam green beans. Season with pepper. Remove from wok and set mixture aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil and saute the tofu and mushroom mixture until tofu has browned. Add the rest of the sauce mixture and stir fry for a moment until garlic and ginger are no longer raw, about 1 minute. Add cornstarch and water until absorbed or thickened. Add chopped cilantro or green onion, if desired, and toss for a minute.

Spoon crumble over green beans. Garnish with cilantro or fresh green onions. Serve with a bowl of brown rice.

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